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The Musical is Political 

Forget policies and party affiliations, choose your next Mayor based on his top five favorite albums

Wednesday, Dec 3 2003
The other day I was talking to a writer friend of mine about the fact that Matt Gonzalez has rallied what seems to be every last member of S.F.'s local music scene behind him, as evidenced by the half-dozen or more benefit concerts happening around town this week and last featuring performances by acts ranging from smirking altrock heroes Cake to copyright-hating electronic freak Kid606. Why, we asked ourselves, is Gonzalez more attractive to these creative types than Newsom? Do they know Gonzalez's policies? Or are guerrilla street art and "progressive" endorsements enough to win them over?

My conclusion, sadly, is that the latter is true. More than likely, these musicians and their fans are drawn to Gonzalez's "authenticity," the way he comes off as some Beat poet fresh off a boxcar jingo jango come to infuse this city with some real dharma. Which may very well be the case. My point, though, is that artists and progressives are as big a bunch of suckers as anyone. For all the left's carping about Schwarzenegger's ability to garner support based on nothing more than image, they sure have bought the Gonzalez package hook, line, and drinker.

I, for one, find these kinds of decision-making tactics just dandy. As weird as it is having the Governator up there in Sacto (or wherever his spaceship touches down), it serves an image-obsessed culture right to have to live with the natural outcome of its prejudices. If it's superficiality you want, it's superficiality you'll get. That's why, for those of you still undecided on the whole Newsom vs. Gonzalez imbroglio, I've obtained the two candidates' Top 5 all-time favorite albums, which should give you all the info you need to make your choice. Since politics is complicated, I recommend that you read this list and nothing else, and from that make your decision on whom to vote for on Dec. 9. Granted, you won't have the whole picture, but you'll probably get a better idea of who thinks what and why than if you paid $15 to let Cake tell you.

(Note: While I asked both candidates to provide comments about their picks, only Gonzalez did so; Newsom just sent me his list. Maybe Gavin wanted the choices to speak for themselves. In any event, they do.)

No. 5:

Gonzalez: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin [I]

Newsom: any KFOG: Live From the Archives CD

You know when you ask someone what kind of music he's into and he says, "I like pretty much everything"? Well that translates to, "I have no opinion, but I'm scared to admit it," and it seems like what the News is doing with this pick, only in this case it's "I like pretty much everything on KFOG," the rock 'n' roll station everyone can agree on. How democratic – and kind of pussy, if you ask me. Compare that to Matt's choice, which he calls, "Good music to ride your bike to." That's some kick-ass bike riding there, Gonzo. I'll be sure to get the fuck out of your way if I see you flyin' through Golden Gate Park rockin' to "Communication Breakdown" on your Schwinn.

No. 4:

Gonzalez: Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted

Newsom: Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

I can't really knock either of these picks. Next to Chet Baker Sings, Kind of Blue is one of the best make-out records ever made. It's also slow, pedestrian jazz, whereas the Pavement disc is a schizoid jarble that's still puzzling more than a decade after its release. It's hard to know if a taste for the unstable is a good thing. I'd rather have a more even-keeled mayor than someone who's liable to break into a Stephen Malkmus-esque freakout in the face of a challenge. Then again, the lyrics for Pavement's "Conduit for Sale!" are as good an excuse as any for not following through on campaign promises: "I'm tryin'/ I'm tryin'/ I'm tryin'/ I'm too tired."

No. 3:

Gonzalez: Joy Division, Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979

Newsom: Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head

Now this one's almost so strange as to be subversive. Is this just Gavin's thinly veiled attempt to curry favor with teenagers and Gwyneth Paltrow? Or is he honestly saying that Coldplay's latest is that good? Yeah, it's good, but No. 3 fave of all time? Then there's Gonzo's pick, which he describes this way: "Emotive. Innovative. Over-looked." Three words that sum up the dream life of every underground musician – and, apparently, some politicians. Joy Division's Ian Curtis hanged himself after two albums; Coldplay's Chris Martin dates a Hollywood bombshell. You tell me who's the better role model.

No. 2:

Gonzalez: The Clash, London Calling

Newsom: Santana, Supernatural

While allying himself with one of S.F.'s most famous and well-respected bands isn't a bad idea, couldn't Gavin have picked one of Santana's classic albums, instead of this blatantly commercial 1999 comeback record? Supernatural was overly polished, excessively hyped, and made possible by the industry's deepest pockets – hey wait, that sounds like a certain someone's campaign. Look, I hate to bash on the News so much, 'cause unlike über-progressives and Christian fundamentalists, I prefer to be fair. But shit, the guy is making it so easy. Meanwhile Gonzo's throwin' out one of the most seminal punk albums of all time. Sorry Gavin, but you're just not cool.

No. 1:

Gonzalez: John Coltrane, Live Trane: The European Tours

Newsom: R.E.M., Automatic for the People

This is hilarious. Has no one on the Newsom team taken a course in (or even heard of the concept of) semiotics? The guy who's most commonly associated with "machine politics" is naming, as his favorite album, Automatic for the People! Sure, it's a great record – "Night Swimming" is still one of my favorite R.E.M. songs – but what are we supposed to take away from that title? Then there's Gonzo's No. 1, equally amusing for the fact that Live Trane – until its rerelease in 2001 – was one of the most obscure Coltrane collections out there. You couldn't get more boho-fabulous than that. And to think this guy claims he doesn't smoke weed.

To tell you the truth, I was hoping that Newsom and his people would ante up, maybe research my request and dish out some picks that would be on a par with Gonzalez's notorious hipster tastes. It's hard to say which would be worse: that Newsom and friends did consult experts and this is what they came up with, or that this list really represents Gavin's taste in music. Either way, what's most clear is that if elections were decided by DJ battles – and with the direction politics is headed in these days, I see no reason why they shouldn't be – Matt Gonzalez would be the next mayor of San Francisco, and his office would have one hell of a soundtrack.

About The Author

Garrett Kamps


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