A White House Fantasia (in the manner of William S. Burroughs) by Athanasius Kutcher

The moment Congress passed the law decriminalizing marijuana in the District of Columbia, Vice-President Joe Biden made a phone call, slipped his Secret Service detail, put on a fedora and trench coat, and slunk out into the cold of Lafayette Square before the White House where he scored, gratis, two grams of sinsemilla.

Later that wintry night, the President, Biden and John “Forbes™” Kerry are kicking back in Oval Office with a one-hitter. The lightning is low, the recording systems deactivated, curtains drawn. Each takes a tight draw in the dusky room. Obama gags. Kerry draws deep, holds, sputters and hacks, copiously clears his throat. “I think the DAESH is going to hook up with the Crimean Front and—”

Obama waves. “Please, John—not now.”

They sit back. After ten minutes, they feel nothing. Biden suspects he may have been burned by that dealer, gratis or no. “More,” he says.

They do a second hit. And a third, and a fourth—to be sure.

Throats raw, they wait.

But these men haven’t been stoned on marijuana in decades, nor do they fathom what has occurred with chemistry in the intervening years. They have no idea what a terrible irrevocable thing they have just done: Joe Biden unknowingly obtained a Mutant batch of a hybrid Sour Diesel and Headdog; it happens to be, at the moment, the strongest cannabis indica in the world.

The world’s most THC-drenched burner would contemplate putting the bong away forever after feeling the effects of a single hit.

The high comes on like a wave of pressure, a thickening of the air. Kerry straightens his back and loosens his tie. Perspiration beads his face. He sighs and before his eyes Obama’s face snaps into a series of broken plains, shards of shadows and sinister asymmetries. Adrenaline spikes in his bloodstream. “Good God,” he mutters, jerking. “This stuff is powerful!”

“Oh, man, Baaaarrry,” Biden drawls, “this is good shit…”

But a moment later the high deepens and widens. A feeling of expectancy comes over them, then the first tingle of fear. Biden discovers that his viscera is suffering a vertigo not at all pleasant. “Whew.”

“Another?” Obama grins.

“I don’t think so…Jesus!” Biden starts, rubs at his eyes: John “Forbes™” Kerry’s chin becomes a putty-like Mount Rushmore—and it is singing the chorus to Can’t Get you Outta My Head in four-part barbershop! Biden growls, “S-stop fucking with me, K-Kerry.”

“W-what?” Kerry rasps.

But now Biden can’t even reply. He rises unsteadily, wavers over to the bar and grabs the bottle of Gran Marnier and gulps thirstily. Returning to his chair, he is now so slick with sweat his toupee falls off. The chin-chorus continues to echo next to him. Obama is also perspiring. Biden notices. “You, y-you okay, man?” he gasps, dabbing his face and neck with a handkerchief.

“No. No, I’m not. Hot in here.” Casually, methodically, the President strips down to his undershirt and boxers, unhooks the flag off the standard behind him and drapes it around his shoulders, fanning his face with the edge.

Kerry rises and paces, does a funny little dance. His arms raise and he finds he can’t keep them down. “B-Biden, are you sure that was j-just marijuana?”

But Biden’s suddenly unnerved by the President’s Resolute desk. There is a translucent boy misting in and out of sight in its planking…The flag-draped man behind the desk now has a mane of impeccably coifed reddish hair, twinkling blue eyes, a strong jawline.

He comes to recognize the child as JFK Jr. playing before the desk. Biden’s knuckles whiten on the armrests, pushing back. His head fills with savage smoky light.

This is just the Mutant’s opening salvo, a teasing foretaste.

“The Ukraine can kiss my black ass,” Kennedy sez.

Kerry sits down with his arms still raised high and twitching. Biden hyperventilates. Something is happening to time, to space. He feels a kindred, a deep love for the man behind the desk. It is his brother there—his big brother. Biden blinks. His heart hammers. Through an iridescent mist he sees the dreaded Red Phone undulating on the Resolute desktop. Uncontrollably he blurts out: “Jack, we gottah call in a nucleah strike on Khrushchev.”

“Da hell you talkin ’bout, Joe?” Kennedy replies. “I just scawed a touchdahn!”

“I’m not Joe,” Biden says mournfully. “You know thaht, Jack.”

John Kerry stares in mute terror at the two of them, the incongruence, his mouth dry as parchment, as his arms uncontrollably go through a semaphore exercise.

“Adlai!” Biden paws at his ears. He has had enough of Kerry’s waving arms and that Kylie Minogue barbershop bullshit and with a quick jab punches the Secretary of State, sending him tumbling backwards to the carpet.

Obama Jack leans forward in mild indignation, his eyes cherry red. “What the hell was that fahwr?”

Biden rises from his seat, sits back down. “Christ, I’m…I’m covered in skin!”

And the damned Rushmore quartet is still singing. Biden covers his ears and hums loudly to drown the sound. This does nothing. “Goddamn it, Jack, this was a mistake!”

Obama giggles, still fanning himself with the edge of Old Glory. “Why you keep calling me ‘Jack’?”

The terrible bouncing song-echo is now visible. Biden follows its silvery tendrils down to the prone Secretary of State, who has now sprouted an Amish beard. “Honest Abe Lincoln!” Biden cries. He leaps to Kerry’s side and tenderly shakes him awake, apologizing.

Obama chuckles, waves dismissively. “Damn, y’all rilly can’t handle this bud. Shee…”

John “Forbes™” Kerry jerks to his feet, spasming, blood threading down his chin. But Biden is now gazing suspiciously at this Lincoln—an imposter, obviously. Obviously. Maybe some automatronic Disney thing…But the caterwauling Mount Rushmore has gratefully fallen silent. Biden sinks back into his chair, rubbing his thighs and rocking in the seat. “Khrushchev got me down, man, he got me down! He givin’ me the Fear!”

Obama Jack chuckles, eyes half-open. “Joe, this shit’s really blown yawh lid…”

The savage light has returned. John Kennedy’s left eye is growing. The twinkling blue mandala quickly encompasses his entire head. Biden screams and falls backward out of his chair and stumbles across the room. He fumbles uncomprehending with the Oval Office doorknob, wailing in terror.

“Jesus!” Obama cries, hides the one-hitter. He is spritzing the air with Axe body spray when he, too, is struck with the Fear, that second-level the Mutant scrambles into the brain’s neurosoup…The room wavers in a glowing fog. A sudden pain erupts in his back. He winces and sits down. He does feel vaguely New Englandish, priapic, heroic. “J-Jackie?” he says. “Is thaht you?”

The elegant First Lady comes slinking through the wall but she has tentacles for arms, wielding subsonic voice manipulation. Terrified, Obama leaps up and tries to shimmy up the flagpole but comes crashing down on the Resolute desk.

“Southern fried chicken, muthafucka!” Jackie hisses and vanishes.

John “Forbes™” Kerry has passed out.

Three bewildered Secret Service agents spring into the room at Biden’s shrieks.

“The Men in Blahck!” Biden swings at the first, connecting; his elbow smashes another’s nose. The agents, uncomprehending such behavior, wrestle him to the floor. “I like Ike, goddamn it!” he shrieks. “It’s a malaise! Amy Carter! Amy Carter!” Biden screams as they restrain him. “Chelsea! Watch out for that Klingon sonofabitch! He’s got lips, Amy!”

A swarm of huge long-legged penguins has come rushing into the Oval Office and pinned Jack’s brother Bobby to the floor. “GAAAAH! Hahd to stahboard!” Obama Jack leaps up and grabs the flagpole, climbing on the desktop, swatting at the penguins. “Jackie, help! Gimme some Bouvier powah! I’m a Kennedy, muthafucka!”

“Slap some o’ dat UFO skin on me, Clyde,” Biden yells, struggling with plastic restraints. He is prone, with a Secret Service agent’s knee in his back. A sudden strength rises in him. He bursts the plasticuffs with ease. “Jack, I’m at warp eight! I’m comin’ to save you, bud! PT-109 the cocksuckers!” He throws the agent into the wall like a ragdoll and leaps up only to confront five fuzzy Nation of Islam thugs around his beloved brother Jack, their bow ties flapping like bats. He scans the table for an implement, finds a china cup and tomahawks one of them with it. He grabs another cup. “Pick up the Red Phone!” he shrieks at his brother, fastballing.

Obama Jack snaps out of his trance, picks up the Red Phone and whacks at the penguins.

Agents pile on the President. Joe leaps.

“Bring back Jimmy Hoffa!” Obama Jack yells, smacking at the writhing Arctic birds. Now they’ve morphed into slimy chrome scarabs. “Jeebus he’p me! Bobby, it’s the Nova Mob!”

Biden is having his own troubles with a seething mass of protoplasm that has engulfed him, its black tentacles flailing around his limbs. “Tell Amy I love her! I’m going down, Jack!”

Kerry has been slowly rising from the floor behind the melee. He vaguely senses comrades in trouble, a horrible commotion in the room. Instinctively he picks up a small serving cart and brings it crashing down on an agent’s head and throat-chops a second one. Then an errant elbow knocks him clean unconscious again.

“He’p me, Obi Wan!” Obama Jack yells. Biden has an ectoplasmic tentacle in a headlock, with preternatural strength slams the thing out cold on the Resolute surface. He picks up the tray of the shattered cart and wings it into another black-suited tentacle, which falls motionless.

Like lightning the two of them pile all the furniture in the room against the two doors. Biden then falls exhausted, voice trembling: “Pappy isn’t gonna like this. I think w-we fandangoed Sahgent Shriver’s army, Jack.”

Obama Jack stumbles over to the coffee machine, opens it and desperately slathers fresh java grounds on his bare chest and face. This will somehow help cleanse his body of the Nova germs.

“I think they’re afta the menstrual blood, Jack,” Biden gasps. “Amy Cahtah’s.” Tears well in his eyes, lip quivering. “Sick bahstards!”

At these words another tsunami of paranoia sweeps through the President. He straightens, mute, in rapt attention to a transmission. The room dissolves and returns. He is receiving information from Elsewhere. “No, Bobby…Someone named ‘Dubya’ got Khruschev to cahll the Nova Mob on us…” He trembles, coffee grounds dripping from his face. “We gotta get outta heeyah, to the Denver ayuhport. That’s the only place we’ll be safe.”

Biden Bobby instinctively understands. “Should we c-call Marine One?”

Obama Jack shakes his head, coffee grounds flying. “Nah, fuck that, we’ll get booglarized! Those Dulce base freaks’ll be all ovah us.”

A banging rattles the barricaded doors and curtained, shatterproof windows. The room swirls into a murky dank aquarium mist as they listen. “It’s the Stasi…”

Biden picks up the Gran Marnier bottle and chugs thirstily. “Ain’t Stasi, Jack—it’s more of those owl-face Muslim bahstahds.”

The room goes neon purple. The pounding intensifies. “Fuck you, Edgah, I got James Bond in heeyah!” Obama Jack yells.

A damaged Secret Service agent stirs on the floor. “Damn black magic cocksucka!” Biden picks up a tax code draft bill from the desk and slams it down, sending the agent back to sleepyland. He grabs his brother’s shoulders and shakes him. “J-Jack, you’ll protect me, right? Right? Tell me you’ll protect me against Nikita? Please?” Obama Jack breathes, eyes penduluming. “Where’s Lurch?” Biden calls out, wildly scanning the room. “He can get Uncle Festuh to burn these sons of bitches outside!”

Kerry groans on the floor. Biden grabs a nearby decanter of water and dumps it on his face. “Lurch! Wake up, we need you!”

Kerry rises muttering from the carpet. “Swift-boat this, you son of a bitch…”

Biden Bobby pleads, “Lurch, we need Uncle Festuh to zap those bastahds out they-ah. You know—the electricity trick Festuh does?”

“I don’t feel so good…” John Kerry wavers and swats at a cloud of iridescent gnats around his head. A horrible smell enters the room. He grimaces. “Do you smell that? Must be a dead body in here somewhere…Where are these damn flies coming from? Barack, was that pot we smoked?”

He pauses to mop his face and inadvertently leans against the bust of Lincoln while pressing down on the beveled southeast corner edge of the Resolute desk. Across the room a bookcase ominously slides open. It reveals a dark space. The three men tense for the worst, then look on in amazement. An electronic fog again descends over the room.

“Goddamn it all!” curses a rasping voice from the darkness, and a whirring sound. A robotic, elaborate exoskeleton wobbles in. The man within it seems a thousand years old, a menacing, reincarnated force down the centuries, now physically immortal. A miniature Hellfire missile unit on his shoulder locks in on them.

It is indeed Dick Cheney.

“Hashtag: fucked,” Kerry sez.

“What is this space crahp?” Obama Jack growls at the robotic nightmare. “Who—what—ahr you?”

“I am your master,” Cheney drones. “The master of you all!”

Biden Bobby squints in horror at the corpse in the machine.

“Good evening, gentlemen,” Cheney snarls. “You have done well against the so-called Islamists…But as the Black Zodiac once enlightened you, the real threat is the American people.” He hisses twice, clapping his flipper-hands. “Junior!”

Dubya comes stumbling from the passage, dressed in rags, filthy. “Yes, Lord?”

“Was 9-11 an inside job?”

Dubya snickers. “Depends on the meanin’ of ‘inside,’ don’t it!” He produces a small Chinese gong from his ragged cloak and whacks it in punctuation.

Jack and Bobby eye each other in confusion. What is this 9-11?

“Very good, Junior. Indeed it does. Inside? Outside? Who can clarify what these mean? Who is who, and what is what in the shadows the Black Zodiac has created? Who can—ach! Motherfucker!” he grimaces. “Christ, my ass…Ach! Junior, the lube!”

The trio looks away in embarrassed horror as this Dubya produces a tube of Perianal and goes to work inside the robot-man’s tortured buttocks. The hammering on the doors and windows is increasing in intensity.

“Call off your hounds out there, Palpatine, and we’ll talk,” Kerry shouts, nodding at the door. “I’m a diplomat, you know. That means I’m good with words.”

The cyborg presses a button and in seconds the Agents’ pounding stops.

Kerry says, “If it wasn’t for you and Dubya’s fuck-ups we’d be—”

Cheney stabs another button on his metal wrist and Kerry jerks stiff. His arm swings up into a frozen Nazi salute.

The duo is flummoxed. The robotic man points at Obama Jack. “You have done well. You have kept the system running just as we ordained. Our neuro-melding worked. But the energy grid has gone down just in the past hour. The Solomon beam has unaccountably weakened. Something happened.”

“Neuro-what?” Biden Bobby squeaks. “Energy grid? The wha?”

Cheney sneers. “Pierre L’Enfant’s Virgo grid, fool!” He whirs forward. “The construction boom in DC has compromised the Mer-Ka-Ba channels Grandmaster L’Enfant designed our streets to amplify…This stuff was in the Scottish Rite guidebook, Biden, didn’t you read it when you became a Senator?”

Bobby Kennedy is flummoxed at this statement.

“If the Solomon beam in the Capitol ceases, all our plans three hundred years in the making will be for nought. We will not be able to control anyone. Least of all the beams into Soetoro here.”

“I knew it!” Biden Bobby yells. “Jack, I knew you wouldn’t sign all those executive orduhs without good reason!” He barks at the menacing cyborg. “You’ve been in thaht closet all this time beaming shit into my brother’s mind—”

“No, Biden, you dense Delaware ass, you don’t understand. There was the matter of the birth certificate, and the deal that was made.”

Biden trembles. “The birth certificate…what’s the matter with it, Jack?”

“Erm,” Obama Jack stammers, his mind dissonant with vague memories.

Cheney’s smirk makes a shambles of his skeletal face. “He cut a deal with us to let us, the Black Zodiac, backstop his biography to create doubts about his birthplace in exchange for the big seat.”

“For God’s sake, why, Jack? We’re as Boston Irish as they come! And I thought dad hahd Illinois all sewed up for you!”

Dick Cheney sneers. “It was to create a smokescreen, Biden. Doubts about his birthplace could conveniently whip all those cretinous hick sonsofbitches into a froth. They’ll believe absolutely anything.”

Cheney holds a button on his exoskeleton and Obama’s spine stiffens, arms falling rigid. The President monotones, “…To waste their political activism on lies while the truth went unnoticed.”

Biden shakes his head. “Which was…?”

Obama’s head pivots mechanically. “I am a genetically engineered being, specially made for the Presidency.”

Half of Cheney’s face smiles. He releases the button and Obama sags, the control field gone. He chuckles. “Yes…Bubba Clinton was the first success out of dozens in the Beta test. He did swimmingly. He did very well. But his penis had second thoughts. It was unstoppable. Dubya here was also part of the earliest Black Zodiac program but it was a botch. I mean, look at him…”

The clownish Dubya is giggling to himself.

“41 insisted his spawn only needed a little special help, and could be salvaged. Frankly, we were surprised at the progress the eggheads made with him at Andover and Yale,” he says contemptuously. “They tweaked the code to make him just able enough to tie his shoes and do some basic math. 41’s connections did they rest.”

Biden Bobby is distraught. “Why?”

“There is to be world war. DAESH. Israel. Russia. Saudi Arabia. China. The timetable has been accelerated, but there’ll be a world war. And martial law here.”

“You lie!”

The cyborg stares at Obama. “If there is any problem, the Clone will be brought in to replace you, Soetoro. We have two more of you waiting in the wings.”

“Soetoro?” Biden Bobby tears up. “Jack…tell me it ain’t so, Jack.”

Obama Jack is silent. Cheney whirs and buzzes. “But the war will not happen if the Capitol’s Solomon beam fails. You have changed the course of everything with this night of revelation,” he growls. “You know the truth. And for this you must pay the price.” The tiny Hellfire launchpad wheezes, its light blinking.

“The serving plattuh, Jack,” Biden whispers sideways at his trembling brother, nodding at the service table. He picks up a coffee mug behind him. “I’ll aim for thaht missile-looking thing.”

Obama Jack murmurs low: “Whatevah happens, Bobby, meet out on the north side of Lafayette, on K. Got me?”

The cyborg adjusts a knob on his exoskeleton. His voice rises to a Mickey Mouse squeak. “For-me-to-spare-your-lives-you-must-go-to-the-Capitol,” then with adjustment drops to a basso profundo: “Enngaage thee Merr-Kaaa-Baaa booossterr oonn thee Issis sstatuue.” He regains the correct growling frequency. “This will restore the Solomon beam’s power, and reenergize the Virgo grid.” Dubya is picking his nose. The cyborg slaps him to attention. “I’d ask Junior here to do it, but he can’t even wipe his ass without help anymore.” Cheney’s lip curls in disdain.

Behind the chrome monstrosity suddenly appears Donald Rumsfeld in pink wrestler’s tights, man-tits sagging terribly.

“Gollum!” Biden cries.

“So you minor-leaguers busted us at last, eh?” The shriveled wrestler sneers. “Dick, listen: Dubya here swallowed the only flash drive that had all the Virgo codes recorded—every one of them. The only copy.”

Cheney: “Jesus Christ!”

“He thought it was a piece of chocolate,” Rumsfeld whispers. “So I gave him a box of Ex-Lax and told him it was more candy. He made faces but he ate the whole box. The results should be imminent.” He nods at that Dubya, who has in fact been shifting his weight from leg to leg, doubling over, his face a rictus of discomfort. “Tummy hurt! Gotta go!”

Rumsfeld jerks a thumb towards the dark recess in the White House walls from where they emerged. “Junior, go back there and go boom-booms in the toilet like I showed you.”

Dubya adamantly shakes his head.

Rumsfeld tries to drag Dubya into the tunnel, encountering fierce resistance, then gets him in a headlock, twists him down into a classic Boston crab then—POP. “Christ, my hip!” Rumsfeld shouts. “Dick, help me!”

Cheney scowls. “What the hell can I do? I’m like fucking Robocop now. Dubya, help uncle Donald get up! And get the fuck back there and go boom-booms!”

“Don’t wanna! Gotta go bad!” Dubya leaps whining to his feet.

He’s now pulling at his buttocks, sweating.

Rumsfeld gasps, “Do it, Junior, or no more nose candy. Go boom-booms back there in the bowl.”

The former Defense Secretary rolls in agony, clutching his hip. Dubya bends down to help Rumsfeld when there’s an awful wet ripping sound. “Oopsie!” Dubya wiggles, throwing off his ragged cloak and reaching back and plunging his hand down into his pants. “Oopsie-daisy!”

The cyborg slams a fist into the wall, plaster exploding. “Junior, take off those pants! Now!”

Dubya reaches down to grab Rumsfeld’s waistband.

“Not me, you idiot!”

The moron is hopping, his dropped pants at his ankles, exploding brown constellations across the carpet. Obama retches. Joe tsks in disgust.

“Ouch!” The flash drive pops out covered in thick brown gumbo.

“The codes!” Rumsfeld grimaces, reaching for the mass.

“Don, grab it!”

“Now!” Biden Bobby cries.

Obama Jack grabs the silver platter and Frisbees it beautifully, ducking. It catches the man in the metal suit in the throat. Biden rises, fastballs the mug and knocks the mini-Hellfire sideways and dives behind a couch. The small rocket launches straight into the far door and explodes. The shock wave slingshoots Cheney backwards into the closet, a twisted wreck of suet and titanium. Biden leaps and clotheslines that “Rumsfeld” in the face and the wrestler falls, spitting out dentures.

Biden Bob does a Curly, slap-wiping his own face in celebration, “Wuhwuhwuh!”

Half the Oval Office is in flames. Smoke billows into the room. The duo pulls the prone, unconscious, and still entranced Kerry across the space, his arm still stiff in a Sieg Heil!, and cower behind the Resolute desk. Biden Joe slaps his face and he shudders awake. The explosion has sent adrenaline peaking through Obama’s body. THC molecules transmute his synapses; that cyborg’s mind-warp has ceased but the Mutant’s high roars back in, changing his brain chemistry once again. He now feels put-upon, misunderstood. The world is against him…In seconds, he thinks, the Nova Stasi will enter through the wreckage and arrest them all. Kerry snaps from his Nazi catatonia and looks on in amazement at the President: A sudden five o-clock shadow has erupted on Obama’s face, his nose lengthening, jowls hanging, shoulders stooping. The changed man emanates a foul miasma of bad psychic vibrations that overcomes Kerry in an instant: Kerry’s face puffs full, hangs heavy with jowls, his hair waving tight to his scalp: “Zat Palpatine vas right—de grid is veakenink, Mr. Pvesident,” Kerry says, heavy-Teutonic now. “Dat enerchee booster he vass talkingk about, it’s in de Isis statue on top of de Capitol!”

Obama wrings his hands. “But it could reverse the grid’s flow, too, Henry, can’t it? Can’t it?”

“Yes, I zuppose vee kut turn de whole thingk off,” Kerry replies.

“Could it generate good energy?”

“Ja, I belief so.”

“Goddamn Establishment wizards!”

Kerry squints, adjusts invisible glasses. “Vare is Haldeman? Vee vill neet him!”

The black suits again come pouring into the room with fire extinguishers and try to drag them out, to fierce resistance. An errant fist knocks Kerry unconscious a third time. Obama does a violent full-body fish-flop. On the way down he grabs a Taser from a goon’s shoulder holster and fires, planting 10,000 volts into the thing. Two others accidentally touching the suited creep also go down convulsing. The room is a hurricane of wild arcing colors. Obama grabs a Sig Sauer and waves it at the remaining goon. “You’re a part of the Amway Comintern!”

The agent’s voice is five octaves too low for a human. The goon’s head swells into a blue pumpkin. “Presidente, no!”

Obama Dick now backs towards the fireplace and orders the creature out. “You won’t escape alive, cocksucker…I have special agents here to protect me.”

“Mi Excellence, Senor, yo soy uno de ellos!” eyes blazing, ears flapping.

“That’s what they all say!” he screams, firing a warning shot. “Get out!”

The agent bolts. Richard Milhouse Nixon now hears H.R. Haldeman, his loyal Chief of Staff, screaming from the colonnade outside the Office.

JOE STRUGGLES beneath the pile of Agents on the cold marble. “Amy and Chelsea’s menstrual blood! That’s what you’re after, isn’t it! You sick bahstards! Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t a lesbian for nothing!” His left forearm is bent at a right angle but he doesn’t feel a thing.

Bullets rip into the marble column above them. The agents spin around to confront Obama Tricky Dick packing two MP5s slung over his shoulders. “How do ya like me now!!”

Kerry, having awakened, concussed, comes shuffling down the colonnade, his arms extended out, hands dangling limp. “Braaaiiins!” and takes a full tackle from an agent, smashed through the French doors and is gone.

“Abe!” Biden screams.

Obama waves the agents off Biden. He holds the MP5s steady. “Haldeman, come here.” Backing up. “We’re getting the fuck out of Dodge.”

Biden rises and limps over, winded. “What about Abe?”

“Abe? Abe Fortas?”

Biden points down the colonnade. “Honest Abe Lincoln! Those sonsofbitches just dry-gulched him!”

“That’s Kissinger, HR, are you blind? Henry!” He and Biden back up. “Go help Henry.” Turning now to the at-bay agents: “You cocksuckers get outta my sight! Everything I did was within Constitutional bounds. Now scram!” He squeezes off some rounds into the floor, geysering a line of marble dust. The agents run off into the snow. All the cameras in the press tent in the distance are trained on him, flood lights blazing. Obama throws up his arms with the double victory signs and dashes inside.

He enters the wrecked Oval Office where Biden has two Secret Service agents in headlocks. Something superhuman has overcome him. He gives them a simultaneous piledriver to the carpet, knocking them out then punches his way through another group of agents.

Obama grabs a fire extinguisher and blasts three of the suited fascists. They paw at the foam on their faces as he swings the extinguisher wildly, three donks. Biden is continuously dropping atomic guillotines with his elbow on a poor agent, manic, over and over, enjoying himself.

“Haldeman!” Obama barks. “That’s enough.”

Kerry rises groggily. “Tank you, Haldeman, Mr. Pvesident.”

A twisted human-shaped metal wreckage lies spent in the corner beside an open panel in the wall—but the man they dimly remember having caused this chaos is gone from the exoskeleton….

THE MUTANT is still going strong as they exit the Oval Office into the hallway. With its supernatural neurotwisting, born of the exigencies of their plight, some kind of psychokinetic mind-meld occurs between the besieged trio. Their psychic powers amplify and join: Two agents running at them go limp, falling to the floor. Biden kicks a third the groin and the man thanks him in screeching falsetto. Obama Dick bitch-slaps a fourth agent who spins like a top and crashes into the wall.

They find a secretarial office deserted.

“You’re like goddamn Superman out there, H.R.!” Obama Dick says. “We need to get out. Now.”

They throw on dark sunglasses. Biden rips a part of his toupee off and Scotch-tapes it to his upper lip. Kerry puts on his bifocals and quickly teases out his hair to a fright-wig.

They run down the halls towards the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. Biden’s fingers flutter in front of the Marine guard’s face like a Three Stooges routine. The guard’s eyes follow, his mouth going slack in wonderment. Biden traces a triangle in the air then pokes the guard’s eyes and he goes down howling. Kerry Henry knees the second guard in the groin. “Thank you, sir,” the fallen man groans, “may I have another?”

They sprint down the driveway through the open gate and split up, crossing the snows of Lafayette Square.

“That little display back in the Garden wudden no good for a gun control bill, Jack.”

“Stop calling me Jack, Haldeman! You know it’s Richard! I hate that shit! And screw gun control, HR!”

They meet up in front of Sweet Georgia Brown’s, breathing frost and shivering. Kerry Henry squints. “I remember zomethink…Veren’t ve just talkink to Richard Cheney in de Oval Office? Or, or somethingk resembling him?”

Obama Dick gasps. “My God, that’s right!”

“He tolt us about de Solomon beam, Mr. Pvesident. Vee have to shut it off! It’s at de Capitol, in de Columbia-Izis statue, on top.”

Obama Dick pinches his overcoat and pulls it over his head. He runs into the street, hailing a cab, hopping from stocking foot to foot on the icy street. A Diamond cab pulls to the curb. Biden H.R. says anxiously, “Are you a friendly?”

The driver is confused, shrugs. “Yes, sure.”

Haldeman piles in first, helping Nixon. “That’s excellent. Very important. Hope this guy’s a friendly,” he whispers.

The driver grins wide. “President? President Obama?”

“’Obama’? No!” They both shout.

The man gushes. “I must take picture! May I?”

“No!” the trio choruses.

“Just take us to the Capitol, cabbie!” Obama Dick bellows.

The DC streets are a sinister, blurry snow-swept noir. Joe starts a gentle rocking again. He feels an electronic buzzing between his eyes. Haldemanic vibrations from the duo are taking over. “Shit…I-I think the New York Times put something up my nose…with a needle. I remember now! A tracker or some shit.”

Nixon gives a sharp look, jowls flapping. “Then that’s it. Christ, I need a cigarette! Manolo, pull over!”

The driver doesn’t respond. Biden H.R. violently wiggles his nose, probing. “We gotta get to the Capitol!”

Police cars are going full bore around them, sirens everywhere. The streets are quickly gridlocking.

“No, this is no good, Henry,” Obama Dick scowls.

“Let me zink,” Kissinger replies.

Biden H.R. chews his bottom lip. “W-w-what should w-we do? I-I remember reading Abbie Hoffman and he said there’s a way you can-”

“Makes sense you’d listen to that dirty hippie, Haldeman,” Obama growls.

“Bikes!” Kissinger cries.

“Oh, Jesus, no!” Nixon pounds the seat with a fist.

“Pull over, sir. It’s de only vay,” Kissinger replies, throwing a hundred dollar bill at the driver. “Mr. cab driver, keep kviett about dis, ach, please?”

“Bikes, Henry?” Nixon moans.

“Those aliens vuld never zuspect it. It’s only ten blocks, Mr. Pvesident!”

“Freezing out there, Henry,” Obama Dick shivers.

They slide out of the cab in the winter night. Police sirens wail in all directions. The entire city is on high alert. Biden H.R.’s superhuman strength quickly liberates three bikes from a nearby rental rack.

They pedal off towards the white dome in the distance. Thrice Biden fishtails on the slushy Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk and goes down. Kerry pedals with ease, hands knitted behind his head. Obama Dick keeps thinking he’s on a tricycle. “Damn Nazi hippie engineering! Henry! How do you operate this goddamn thing?”

It takes them forty minutes to go ten blocks—forty minutes of sirens and whooshing helicopters and stopping to dive hiding behind planters and cars.

THE ENGINEERED THC in the Mutant has third and even fourth acts, freakish high-intensity longevity. The Capitol looms over Biden H.R. like the old American International Pictures logo. Its surface goes flesh-colored before his eyes, an erect pink nipple at its peak. He stares in awe as it flops and heaves. Then the tip resolves itself into the object of their quest: the Columbia statue. He blows into cupped palms. “H-how are we gonna get in? Those owl bastards on the perimeter look like they’re packing thermonuclear, boss!”

“Henry,” Obama growls, “can you escort us in…like in the old days?”

A shard of reality returns to Biden. He squints. “I-I seem to remember…I’m…I’m President of the Senate or something, aren’t I?”

“I tink dat is corvect,” Kerry Henry says. “But dey must have some kind of All Points Bulletin out for us, after dat clambake ve caust at de Vhite House.”

Nixon wrings his hands behind his back, pacing. “How are we going to do this?”

Kerry Henry pushes up his bifocals. “I remember it now…it vas in de guidebook, vay back ven I first came to DC…”

“What, Henry, what?” Obama Dick paces furiously.

“How de Virgo enerchee system vorks. Ve haff to go all de vay up dere to operate it. Right up to de Isis statue at de top. Under de hem of de Native American shawl is a contrvol pan’l. Vunn has to touch a palm scanner in de thing, vhile touching a tassel at de same time above de olive wreath near her shield…de second tassel on her hem. Und somevun has to touch her index finger while de tassel is skveezed. Dis activates de Solomon beam.”

“This some Dan Brown boosheet,” Biden H.R. curses.

Obama Dick is hopeful. “And we can reverse the cocksucker, right?”

“Ja, vee can manually override de setting and svitch de beam off.”

Obama’s Nixonian jowls quiver as he chews his cheeks. He goes philosophical. “Do you think this could be our atonement, Henry? For all the bullshit we pulled?” He mops his brow with the overcoat. His five o’clock shadow has already become a mild beard.

Kerry shrugs. “I zink bombink Cambodia und Laos und the golt standard and all zat we did is beyond de reach of karmic balance…For dat, ve are scvewed, Dick. Forever.”

Obama-Nixon hangs his head, muttering. But Biden has half-morphed. He is in-between and is gathering confidence. “Why are you down, Jack? Things ah looking up! You’ve been under the Zodiac spell! Once we shut off this Virgo grid thing those bastahds won’t be able to interfere.”

“H.R., shut up with that Boston accent, will you? I’m not goddamn KENNEDY!”

The three of them duck behind a bush-filled planter as a line of helicopters dip over the Mall, their searchlights swinging down. Kerry Henry says, “Bob McNamara vunce mentioned an untergroundt passagevay down ze block here, ach, in ze Metro escalator!”

“Take us to it, by God,” Obama Dick winces.

They run the two icy blocks to the Capitol South entrance.

“If you press ze top here,” Kissinger intones, out of breath, “und vee slide down on ze metal between de escalators, ze passage opens und vee vill kind auf slalom down into ze tunnel.”

“Do it!” Nixon screams.

Here comes a Metro commuter on the ascending track dressed as Paul Revere, complete with tricorn hat, followed by a gaggle of Tea Party protestors bearing placards and posters, sliding up the moving stairs, bound for a Lafayette Square shindig. They gawk in amazement. “Look! It’s the Kenyan! Obummer!”

Kerry Henry pounds out a rhythm on the brushed steel surface and taps a code on the Metro logo. A faint green light appears.

The trio leaps one after the other onto the smooth metal slide between escalators as the protestors begin swinging placards. Butts bumping onto the steel, the three accelerate rapidly downward. Below, part of the metal slides downward revealing a tunnel and they shoot into the darkness, a smoothly-polished track that increases their velocity through the chute. It appears to be made of frictionless material and the tunnel curves obligingly towards the Capitol underground.

One, two, three they go flying into a dim space, slamming onto a concrete floor. Florescent lights on motion-sensors flicker awake.

“Christ, my back!” Nixon grunts. “Helluva ride, Henry.”

“That was fun!” Biden chimes. “Let’s do it again.”

“Down dis hallvay is the lower tunnel beneath ze Senate ving. Ve must hurry!”

They run through the musty Cold War passageway and come to a rusted metal door that Biden dropkicks and sends flying off its hinges with a thunderous clatter. A cobwebbed spiral staircase twists upward into darkness. In a minute they jimmy a concealed door behind the shelves of a janitor’s closet. They enter the hall and run up the stairs, coming to the small Senate rotunda next to the Great rotunda.

“Shhh!” Nixon cautions.

They race through the halls. Ghost trails leak from every light they pass, every sound amplified. A janitor mopping the Rotunda floor looks up stunned.

“Excuse me, do you know how to…how to…” Biden is having a brain fart. He points up at the cupola, does a pantomime with his fingers of walking up steps and gestures.

“Whatsa matter with you?” The janitor chuckles. “You high as a kite, aintchya?”

“We need stair power, man!”

Kerry and Obama stumble into the chamber. Obama still has the overcoat pulled over his head, trembling from the cold.

“Mah God! Presidaint Obama! Sir!”

“We gotta get up the titty-nipple!” Biden points.

Squinting: “You mean the cupola, on top?”

“Yes! Yes!”

“Follow me.” His walkie-talkie crackles with desperate shouting official voices.

“Turn that thing off!” Obama Dick snarls.

The janitor complies. Kerry musses his wiry hair and adjusts the moustache and Obama adjusts his wig. “President Obama,” the janitor says, offering a hand, “gotta say, I’m a great admirer of you.”

“’Obama’?” Biden H.R. puzzles. “That’s the second time someone’s called you—”

“I’m zorry, President Nixon has a bat coldt,” Kerry interrupts. “How do cleaners get up to de Columbia statue on top, to clean it?”

“Aw, now, well that takes special climbing equipment.”

Biden shadow boxes with an imaginary Man in Black. “We have to get up there, Kissie. Gonna kick us some Reptilian ass!”

The janitor strokes his beard. “Well…there’s a special way up there a few of us know about, in the colonnade just below it…”

They take an elevator, then climb a reinforced ladder. The keys given by the janitor easily open the hatch. Cold air gushes down upon them. The climb into the night, backs pressed against the marble, and make their way around the perimeter.

The wind viciously whips at them. DC sparkles on the horizons. Four helicopters circle the Mall searching for the trio, their spotlights raking the lawns. Drones sing past. The crimson and blue glow of a hundred active police cars lends a spectral haze just at the rooftops.

“It’s beautivul,” Kissinger observes.

“Stay focused, Henry. We’ve only one shot at this.”

Biden hangs on for dear life. Kissinger guides them through the procedure. Biden grabs the statue’s laurel wreath and pulls himself up and squeezes the imprinted tassel. Kerry reaches up the statue’s hem and places his palm into the hand-scanner. Obama, sweating, panting, grips the sword handle and pulls Columbia’s index finger. The wind howls.

A panel slides open before Kerry. He sees the Red button. OFF. He pokes it, jabs wildly at it then holds it down. A humming, ever-present as to be unnoticed, descends in pitch. Kerry eyes the panel. There is a blue button marked CROATAN. He jabs it.

Above them, the Columbia statue’s eyes glow opalescent. The Croatan beam is instant: it hits the capstone of the Washington monument across the Mall which sends out a shimmering green light wave that spreads from horizon to horizon. The trio feels something depart from their bodies, a heaviness, like a dam bursting. In the Virginia distance, the Pentagon begins to glow intense orange, then red, then white.

The ancient Masonic spell is broken—but not the Mutant’s fecund fizzlings.

“What the hell are we doing up here?” Barack Obama at last says, teeth chattering. “I got no fucking clothes on!”

John Kerry is terrified, clinging the iron hem. “I have no idea, Barry…something just happened…”

Joe Biden looks at the glowing Pentagon, as it fades wavering into some semi-to-non-existence. “Oh, man…AIPAC’s not gonna like that.”

“Look!” Obama yells.

A massive black triangular craft is floating silently above the Mall, three diamond lights on each tip, a pulsing red light in its center.

“An Astra!” Joe waves frantically and they all shout.

“Is that thing even real?” Kerry sputters, squinting. “I…I’m high as a fucking kite, Barack. My balls are ice cubes.”

Obama shudders. “Me too…Jesus, what did we smoke?”

The craft silently glides over them and dips down.

“What in hell is that thing?” Kerry yells. “I’m scairt, guys!”

“It’s one of those Air Force black-budget dealios, John,” Biden yells. “I think…I got this friend who told me about a secret space program that’s above top secret…How the fuck did we—”

A rectangle of light slides open and a blue-white tractor beam hits them, sucking the three one by one off the surface of the statue.

The room is circular, with a gentle humming as the door closes. Uniform light with no visible source. But it is cold.

“Hello!” Biden yells. The Mutant waves back.

 

 

The Best Goddamned Music List for 2013

 

Music critics have now gushed out their best-of-2013 lists.

Our critics at Nolo Contendere are not impressed, so we’ve compiled our list the year’s overlooked pearls in the oil-slick sea.

2013 was the year our staff of writers missed more real trends than they tried to invent. First, the major perpetrators:

~This was the year pyromaniac and firecracker enthusiast Michael Bay teamed with Baz Lurhmann to remix Shakespeare’s plays into a hip hop invasion-from-space romcom musical bloodfest that was exposionier than last year’s “All’s Well that Ends Dead,” Kenneth Branagh’s reimagining of the Bard’s comedy as a Swedish serial-killer noir. Bay’s choice of foregoing CGI for the wunderkind ammonium nitrate as his director of photography stood him in good stead, despite leaving a gaffer, key grip and two best boys dead—a small price to pay for regressing Shakespeare’s collected works into the nameless hells of the 21st century trainwreck known as A MICHAEL BAY FILM. But Luhrmann’s soundtrack is our concern, and what a strenuous ordeal it was—Elizabethan verse interrupted by jarring freestyles over fresh beats from sampled World War 2 sounds that spawned a dozen way better imitators…who we won’t even try to go into here.

~It was also the year the 8-second “microdrama” debuted on all platforms, from YouTube to Twitter to ITunes—tiny films directed by such legends as Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, and that tattooed guy with the big glasses who’s always at the coffeeshop. The shopulation downloaded millions of these “emotional sound bites,” and the music behind them—from such varied artists as Coldplay and Coldplay—did boffo biz at $5.99 a crack. Did we care? Did any of it really happen? Who cares—it may as well have, right?

~Product diversification of mega-millionaire pop-stars came into its own with Beyonce foregoing a second surprise album for another fragrance disaster, the rancid Insulte: Ridge Street & Delancey, which is like having a boot smash your nose into a Manhattan subway station platform fouled by mole people on a 100-degree day. Other pop artists quickly flooded the market with their own scents as well, with Sting leading the pack with his foul Sweat Lodge and Kanye with My Dark Twisted Workout Ambrosia #7.

~The neo-trad old-jazz mix-trend known as the “tar-hiccups” shouldn’t have caught on in the hipper Brooklyn venues, but it did, expanding from Bushwick to capture DJs from coast to coast—only to strangle them on their own credulity, because it never actually existed. Shrouded in legend, the supposed trailblazer Effin Foo was said to have literally mixed his great-grandparents’ collection of turn-of-the-century Edison cylinders with Victrola 78s in a superheated smelting vat and died from the resultant fumes—but not before recording the process, which became the defining ethos of the movement: effects processing of the listener’s mind instead of the music. This might sound like old-hat 1960s mumbo-jumbo, but it wasn’t: The music of the future (Foo said in his only manifesto, written hieroglyphically on a napkin with a pink sharpie) will not be aural but chemical: Take the worst drugs you can find and listen to Mantovani & Percy Faith & Vangelis, or the collected Rick Wakeman. Fuck it. It is far more interesting if you just fuck up your mind on petroleum fumes and listen to crap than attempt to create music yourself. Give up. It’s all already been done, or someone else is doing it right now. Regardless, DJs across the nation attempted to meld King Oliver and vintage Okeh pancakes with electro-chill, garnered middling to homicidal effect. For this “trend,” go to the original—go to the Foo’s gold. But don’t forget to smoke some designer bath salts marinated in ammonia first.

~Spoken word resurged with Make no Mistake: Mistakes will be Made a compilation from Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, and U2 re-enacting famous politician sting operations, bathroom gloryhole busts, and mea culpa press conferences (Bruce left the others in the dust with his spot-on rendering of His Highness Marion Barry’s “Ge-yot Dayum Bitch Set Me Up!”). And let’s not forget Daniel Day-Lewis’s Grammy award for his moving 79-CD reading of Dr. Bronner’s Soap label oeuvre. Metaphysics has never been so…gritty.

~The “Music? Not for you, junior” ethic was a rumor at first, then it turned up in LA, Brooklyn, Nashville, and Austin seemingly overnight to challenge the hegemony of the bearded, flannel-wearing set. Economics played a role: the ripples of the financial crash had forced many of these surly vegan cyclists to sell their prized vintage instruments for another tattoo and thus go without meals for weeks, resulting in many arrests for wearing dangerous, unlicensed cheekbones. Left with nothing but their spoons and washboards (in the more affluent circles), “not for you” ethic stepped into the space in a series of reputed InstaTumblTubeFaceFeed PSAs about the burgeoning craze: You’re a hipster, but music—like those 5-pound glasses on the bridge of your now-bent nose—isn’t cool anymore. Don’t resume that mandolin/banjo/uke/fiddle career. Grow kale instead. Brew at home. Make furniture. Just don’t. Ever. Try. Music. Again…Some say it was a record industry plot to stop the direct-to-public interfaces like Soundcloud. Others claim that “not for you, junior” was a plot by a shadowy black metal mafia to destroy acoustic folk music once and for all. We’ll never know, because again, it never existed except in the minds of critics and punditsand approximately 1.5 million brain-dead “non-conformist” hipster idiots.

~ Detroit’s ascent into receivership dried up pension funds all across Motor City’s wasted landscape. Escape from New York (1981) started looking less an action flick than an ancient act of precognition 600 miles off-target. But the beleaguered birthplace of Motown suddenly became the focus of lefty angst across the nation. Preecher Casy’s existential heroism spearheaded this gesture at relevance, poking the abyss in both eyes with Left Bank café political agitprop 60 years obsolete. Did he care? Hell no—not when audiences can’t tell Camus from Shamu and his Gainsbourgisms were ringing a giant cash register in the aether. The subsequent appearance of new folk-protest acts like Pyotr, Pavel, and Marya, Hi-Fidel Sound, and Leo DiBronstein lending their assistance to the cause didn’t help the image of socialism or folk music but surely increased membership in libertarian survivalist paramilitary hit squads.

~The Hollywood film trailer’s generic sonic anvil-blow came into its own in 2013: 14 Billboard-topping recordings’ worth of variations on the deafening punctuation to which you can buy a strobe light and imagine scenes from your own Hollywood thriller trailer. Which is a pity, because no-one had an imagination left to put the hammer-blows to.

~2013 saw the continuance of the zombie craze, so it was fitting that most major-label artists threw in the towel on actually recording music and instead released their promo pictures through Instagram, their lyrics through Twitter, and let their PR wings sort out the music with the new Obsolute Software 7, by which the public could mix and match beats, samples, and random melodies, mashing the ingredients for each artist into three separate albums apiece that consumers could then choose from. Freedom and all that, right? Mm-hm…Then, in a devastating series of death blows to the recording industry, Mp3 sales continued to eviscerate the CD just as YouTube downloaders destroyed all the Mp3 profits for good, causing the juggernaut to go into government-bailout-mode. But even the most rabid Democrat had no interest in nationalizing these dinosaurs, and when a small Chinese firm snapped up the entire music business for peanuts in June, no-one batted an eye. So this was the year “straight to Soundcloud” replaced “straight to DVD” as the marketplace’s signature of “you’ll never get these moments of your sordid life back, so close your eyes and poke randomly”

But “new” music was also released and we listened to it. Sigh. Here’s our top 20 albums/singles of 2013, plus 10 also-rans:

  1. 20. After their stunning 2012 debut Not in My House, Timmy, the SoapEaters took a leave of absence to regroup after a disastrous Canadian tour in which mandolinist Teddy Banks died after inhaling his beard in his sleep. They since pared back their already spare arrangements to just singer Henry R. Block’s screeching falsetto and random fist-bangs on a toy piano, melding angular compositions based on famous lumber industry accidents with a sensitivity unseen since DSM-IX’s 2009 tribute to the Texas PEPCON ammonium perchlorate explosion of 1988. B+ (8.6)
  1. 19. Duluth’s Black Metal demons Tapewurm returned this year with the devastating Red Tympanumb, an amalgam of Helsinki’s sewerdrop sound bedecked in prime-numbered meters and a dash of the Cape Town Aryan Front micro-thrash scene to produce the year’s most satisfying abdominal distress. You’ll be cleaning your ears with an alcohol-filled WaterPik after this one. For your brain, we recommend a cold barrel between the teeth. Singer Offal Skvenkkellerensbinck’s voice improved dramatically since his total laryngectomy, now a whisper amplified 2,000 times and augmented by kazoo, and Stellan Skarsface’s guitars still have yet to reach the artistry of a drunk three-year old’s slappings. A- (8.9)
  1. 18. Before their live fisticuffs on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts that led to their public meltdown, Batshit, Texas’s Sasquatch Wolf-Bear Yeti seemed destined to conquer subway trains everywhere. Their canny Lomaxian competence with all things Americana on Tie Tight My Flannel Noose was only outdone by their outsized penchant for brawling with each other— anywhere, anytime, baby. There was nowhere for them to go in 2013 but sideways, then sliding downward, slumped, and bleeding profusely—and all in key, too. The percussive sound of banjoist Deek Slayton’s jaw politely breaking on the downbeat of “Ballad of Flannel Joe” on Tiny Desk will live on forever in freak folk’s misty memory. Or until the drugs wear off. A+ (9.3)
  1. 17. K-Tel Mart’s “Single-Arity” lasts less than a second, clocking in at .59:09:07:04:0007 but what a .59:09:07:04:0007 it is, a mash-up of post-mash-up-epoch mashing that one can theoretically play anywhere, anytime, and that’s its appeal: part of it is playing presently right where you are, only slowed down by a factor of 1,205,380 times, because “S” consists of every single album released by every label in the past 100 years condensed to a tiny pinpoint of sound. Unfortunately, K-Tel recorded it at 176 decibels in five-dimensional aural-holographic hyper-sound and on its debut day sent tens of thousands of listeners to the hospital with ruptured eardrums. Consequently the recording was cordoned off from the public and K-Tel was renditioned to a government black site to be brought up on charges for creating a WMD. No fret though—we hear K’s been hired by the Pentagon to head DARPA’s sonic warfare research wing, so expect a new single soon, to be released perhaps when the Middle East heats up again. B- (8.5)
  1. 16. King Tupperwhere’s brand of trailer-park “loserfolk” lends itself more than admirably to meth abuse, a song cycle about a carpet glue-addicted amputee-fetishist blowing his $1 million lottery winnings on a mindless killing spree across the South. Standout track is the gutbucket scratch-blues “New Crocs,” a dirge about the travails of falling in love with a junkie transvestite with a taste for wearing other people’s feet. The rest are a bracingly winning series of tales of marathon turpentine-RedBull-krokodil binges and the poetry of dwindling ice-machine chips. The last track, “Grizzled,” in which veteran producer Bass-o-Matic blenders everything that came before on the album is almost worth the price of admission to King’s carnival of pain. Almost. He’s grown as an artist, true—you’re seeing growth here. Like a polyp. A+ (9.4)
  1. 15. Bleepniks everywhere raved about Pink Needle’s debut Lie, Sergio, Flaccid! Die, Ethel LaMyde!, praising the Sri Lankan duos’ sophomore effort with even more egregious adjectival bluster. 2013’s Floppy Again lashes the Baltic winter sound into a ghost-landscape of sonic textures so low in frequency that adult diapers are legally required with every purchase. Standout track is “Broken HAARP String,” about having one’s junk fried by a remote energy-particle beam and becoming a better person for it—being victim of a secret government death-ray is supposed to build character, after all, isn’t it? A- (8.7)
  1. 14. $hit-$ac worked with nu-fuck singer Mercedes Bense on 2009’s Cuz after producing her debut PluZ Sized Muff and continued the collaboration on “Mmff, Ff-mff, Mmmfff!” a single about a kidnapped woman’s romantic trip to Stockholm Syndrome. In April’s Karpet Burnz, Bense’s Tarantinesque meta-commentary on the experiences of women on record executive’s couches everywhere (and what concealed exacto knives can do about it) rips into the listener’s duodenum. References to her offstage bouts with sobriety intrude at odd moments, such as the soaring chorus to “Flanged Pipes” when she manages to rhyme “absquatulated” with “tongue-slapped”. Blended over an S&M session sampled live in the studio, $ac’s kinetic beats on Karpet caused controversy for a couple of slow news cycles before sweeping the Grammies and the Disney Corporation licensed $ac & Bense’s songs for their new animated kids’ feature, “Forever Twerk.” B- (10)
  1. 13. Brutal punk-funk Loyalists British Evasion were infectious as smallpox and just as poppy. And we mean that: guitarist Snarf was diagnosed with the believed-extinct bug in February, was immediately kidnapped by the CIA, smuggled into Tehran, and released there. But BE’s 7’10’’ frontman Slang not so much sang as intimidated audiences from coast to coast into accepting their blend of Elizabethan imperialist politics and almost put fascist Anglophilia on the map as a cultural force to be reckoned with before his onstage suicide during “GG Allin, Pussy.” “Reunion, Jack” and “Plymouth Rock Trebuchet” nevertheless made a compelling case for capitulation to City of London Masonic hegemony and a return to the British standard meter. A (9.2)
  1. 12. The hot new bubblegum is gasoline-flavored and this year Thee Homewreckers proved capable of pre-chewing a whole pack of it before shoving it down our microbrew-tanged, hand-rolled-harsh throats. After trading in good taste for a gold lame sound drenched in Californian 8.5 aftershock-induced, butt-clenching angst in 2011’s The Gerhard Richter Scale they retooled and brought their sound into 1983 with Johnny Schlepp, then just kept regressing. Their 2013 homage to 1970s glam hard-rock, Split Beanbag Chair Glitter is more than homage, harder than hard, and more than rock: it’s a black-light Slade poster gone three-dimensional. It has wide appeal and even wider lapels. It is a rummage sale masterpiece of retro meanderings in the key of disobedience. Gilbert Pfoph’s Robitussin-slurred readings of censored rent-boy Craigslist hookup postings on standout “Blue Helvetica” only proves that Pfoph should star in John Waters’s next movie. Arff! B+ (8.75)
  1. 11. Riller Kiff’s The Baying of Pigs brings radical social change to the table with (shot-in-the-dark color metaphor here). Kiff’s sophomore effort “Y. Candida Bieberosis” was a canny juxtaposition of (mention Coltrane, dubstep, Simon Reynolds’s Retromania, D.F. Wallace’s take on hip-hop, a choice 1968 Situationist aphorism, and Semiotexte all in the same sub-Proustian sentence). This time he collaborated with Mumbai impresario Kimba the Whyte Lyin for an entheogenical take on the Goa ex-pat scene that (insert wholly solipsistic comment). Kimba’s pointillist turntablisms echo the facile palette of (shoehorn in a reference to a unimpeachably hip visual artist whose mention in this context could only possibly exist in a mind pining for a girl who collects 1950s bicycle pumps). Although Riller’s beach-life ethic swaddled in sound is as morally suspect as it is barely sustainable, a living testament to politics-practiced-as-sand-in-one’s shoes, it also (insert another gratuitous, review-padding solipsistic meandering). The sharp pinging swoops of Kimba’s “hologrammophone” sound system are as angular as the planes of a (namedrop impossibly obscure Weimar-era Bavarian sculptor). Still, the negation of those planes shouldn’t equal the deracination of our cultural moment, our zeitgeist, our sittlichkeit, our buttelicke. With infinite meticulous anti-craft, Kiffs’s & Kimba’s aural moirés (insert whopping great mass of neuron-droppings that have nothing possible to do with any reader’s assessment of this album and make you doubt this guy has ever tapped his foot in his life). As Wittgenstein said, “if a lion could speak, he couldn’t order Chinese food.” So (a lapse into total incoherence, irrelevance, unemployment checks) B (0.0)
  1. 10. Phish and their sleepdrool-on-the-frets jam-band ilk are slagged for their brevity and tight focus in some circles. Those circles know nothing about good music. We do. Gangreenus released their epic Dumpster Lullabyes in March, curtailing nine years’ field experimentation with the sonic potential of slapped meat, ballistics, and the B flat diminished chord for an actual studio recording. 17 minutes into the title track, they noodle their way into a startling 14-second pastiche of every existing Disney song as brutally hammered out by an orchestra of dysenteric Cro-Magnons. It’s worth the wait, as the listener is lulled into somnolence by wash after wash of industrial machines and the occasional controlled demolition before band leader/“inceptualist”/international star chef Bo Tocks drops the hammer on the Magic Kingdom’s musical legacy for that glorious quarter-minute. B+ (8.7)
  1. 9. Fat Baby Bill started this year’s biggest tweet-war when he dissed Lollypop’s “Do You Wuv Mee?” as weak, pandering chart-fodder that “makes Justn Bieber’s poop look like a Baby Ruth.” Lolly, after breaking down in tears at the HEMMIES for this vicious (but true) slander and requiring immediate medication for his “condition,” (which he called in interviews “being alive”) refused to publicly retort Fat Baby but then returned not only with a redesigned persona but one of the year’s best albums, How Do Ya Likee-a Me Now, Bill? a raging paean to righteous revenge on Fat Baby via Apache helicopter and curare blowgun warfare that had all the moral clarity of a bumpersticker. A- (8.5)
  1. 8. After last year’s I’m Standard and Poor, I. Irving continued his daily mash-ups of the Billboard chart-toppers on his billion-hits YouTube channel, then gifted the world with NASDIQ, a slightly pandering but mostly gut-felt shout-out to the celebrity crisis management firm that resurrected his career after 2011’s disastrous Here, Taste This. His latest terrorist attack, Here, Wolftone! is a 67-minute garbage dump of honking saxophones, Chinese violin scrapings, harmonicas, bagpipes, and didjeridoo drones with only peeks of melody and song structure, but cogent and thoroughly contemporary in annoyance. Need we say that even Simon Cowell liked it? B+ (8.1)
  1. 7. New Agers Prolepsed Anuus traded in their soothing synth-based aural wallpaper in 2008 for ringing guitars, then downtuned into a crunching species of black metal in 2009, then an even crunchinger mutated Like, How-Much-More Black-Could-This-Be? metal in 2010 with the drunk text-message concept album FATL SYSTM CRSH, and finally (and crunchingest) with 2013’s The Wrath of Con, a song cycle about Hollywood’s flagging romance with LA’s eponymous annual comics convention that name-checks everyone from Alan Moore to Roger Moore at an imaginary mock memorial service for the very-dead-but-still-quipping-profanely-from-beyond-the-grave Kevin Smith. The ensuing chaos when Smith insults Marvel icon Stan Lee for his Bronx accent is the only kind that matters and that axeman King !Kung can shred so viciously. It hurt us listening to this far more than it hurt them making it. Even Simon Cowell hated it. A- (9.1)
  1. 6. Berlin’s hot Schicklgruberhaus and London’s DJ Klumsifingaz collaborated with notorious Washington, DC street drunk Chicago Jones for the year’s most infectious single, the gloriously incoherent “Bropely Spropes,” whose lyrics are either the confessional tale of a homeless PTSD vet or are the slurred, read-aloud instructions to the Oreck air purifier (which anyone in Jones’s immediate vicinity would reportedly badly need). B (7.8)
  1. 5. Ipecackle’s Auntie Gein is the perfect soundtrack for backtalking a group of sucrose-deficient cops just to see what happens. This is music that Tasers your cerebellum, hogties it, and sloppily throws it in the backseat without a watch-your-head. Meticulous, grimy, onanistic, inquisitive, ignorant, deeply shallow, Ipecackle’s July release was hotly anticipated and then barely tolerated on arrival, a glorious document of movie-trailer pap and unreconstructed Krautrock as reimagined by Lemmy Kilmister’s evil twin, Kemmy Lil’mister. (By+-Ax)z=7.8
  1. 4. Rarely has a record cupped this male listener’s balls so lovingly only to twist them into a resultant shriek of repentant angst for possessing a Y chromosome. Neo post-Riot Grrl octet Knives for Nuts’s Wymanifesto combines a robust rejection of patriarchy with an obsession with the tangled Godelian-mindfuck that was Rolling Stones’s bassist’s potential genealogical relation to his son and wife (for those who forget, Bill Wyman’s son was once engaged to marry Wyman’s18-year old wife’s mother. Would that have made him his own father-in-law? His son his own father-in-law? His wife his own daughter-in-law? Does it make him sick? It makes us sick). B+ (8.1, 9.0, 7.8, 9.8, 8.2. In their bikinis: 10., 10., 9.8, 10., 9.7)
  1. 3. Whorejay claims to have been on ADHD medication since the age of two and it shows in Whatmastumpikastoopidyo? the year’s most unclassifiable and sticky document of chemical bluster. Measure after measure of no-fi snippets seamlessly blended into a musicologist’s vertiginous nightmare, leavened with early-Seussian wordplay and a catalogue of bodily fluid sounds. Twas the year Whorejay’s verbal tics and espousal of the philosophy of “bladhabuldabadab” (which involves massive quantities of Blakean poesy, Salvia Divinorum, and a defibrillator) stole our cheatin’ hearts. A+ (9.8)
  1. 2. Spazz rode the EDM craze til it needed back surgery. On 2011’s Make a BIG Mistake with Me, Baby the Spazzter seemed satisfied resting on his Laurels—and all the Tiffanys, Ambers, Kileys etc. he interminably name-checked over the course of the album. Lawsuits were inevitable. This year’s Sex: Its Jus To Eazy for M.E. (sic) plumbed new heights of narcissistic monomania, the celebration of our times. The hit “Suspicious Package” (about the qualities of Spazz’s unquenchable member) broke all record sales as well as several new child pornography laws, so it’s back to court and probably jail for the Jester from Manchester. Mercifully, the Sex Tour ended when Spazz was rushed to a Minneapolis ER for an inguinal hernia suffered during one of his famed attempts to sing and clutch his electrified plasma codpiece at the same time. B- (2)
  1. 1. DC’s Straight-Edge killjoys Germ Theory were once the kings of impeachable humorless political agitprop: five albums detailing the perils of meat eating, alcohol, drugs & cigarettes, touching fellow human beings, making eye contact with the opposite sex, and labeled clothing in the pursuit of authenticity. It was five albums too many. Then they ran afoul of Austin’s Chemical Enthusiast in 2009, producer, BMX champion, and uber-consumer of Saturnalian compounds. GT’s subsequent transformation into wild-eyed, dirty hippies made them the bane of punk Puritan colonies everywhere, becoming less a rock group than a collection of affectations rendered wholly susceptible to the industry’s image-crafters by all the drugs. Water into wine and all that; the Enthusiast did his work and did it well. But 2011’s “Rock Me, Asmodeus” started weak and then petered to barely a squeak by the last track. How that mouse must have suffered. Then they rocketed back to near-relevance with this year’s “Ariel Pink Floyd the Barbershopgirl Lad’s Strap Fairy-Blue Bongwater” that forced pop-punk apologists to choke on the irony and caused hipsters everywhere to second-guess their choice of eyewear. Think 1967 purple bubble glasses that melt down your face now. A (9.9)

THE ALSO-RANS:

  1. When Christian rock balladeer Brock Elias came out of the closet earlier this year, then retreated, then the closet forcibly ejected him, observers predicted a new culture war in the offing. It never materialized, except for the short-lived boycott that ended when Westboro Baptist, et al finally discovered that it is impossible to boycott anything in our corporate-synergistic hellhole of a world (it was somehow news to them that the company that makes their kids’ plastic Jesus nightlight is owned by the very same conglomerate that puts out the filth they hate). Our response is fight the real power, you haters. But we digress: Elias’s album Is that Hand-Tooled Leather? overtly signaled his new direction, if not orientation, to a stance that embraced both Christian ethics and Frankie Say Money! He came out swinging with the single “Sweaty Benchpress” a tender paean to a remote control, Vaseline, and Season One DVD of “Oz”. Or “Page Me,” the sad tale of a young Virginia rest-stop hustler who ends up gloryholed by a closeted right-wing Congressman, goes public about it to the FBI, and ends up breathing the Potomac. Sad, sad, sad! B- (11)
  1. The conceit of releasing 27 live EPs and 11 best-of compilations after playing Rotary Club meetings, knitting bees and Amway klatches across the Midwest before even releasing a straight-up album would seem daring for a band formed only twenty years ago from the ashes of TriBeCa’s short-lived 1992 “blue rentboy” scene, but Baby Putti Tatt pulled it off with Money: Just a Concept, a politically impeccable screed for extremists who think veganism involves murder and slime molds are sentient. This is music for the Breatharian set and losers everywhere dedicated to toppling the Fed and replacing it with goat auctions. B- (generate random number here)
  1. It was an unusual year for BoHole: miraculously, all nine members failed to violate their probations (drummer Fazer, of course, is in the Angola pokey for attempted Presidential assassination and will languish there until 2,221). But BoHole didn’t tour, either. Neither did they release an album to follow up 2011’s Yes, Sir, Officer. Instead, they individually unleashed a series of 8-track tapes that had to be found by a geocaching game their “mastermind,” producer and ventriloquist Rick “no relation, jerk” Rubin released on CD-ROM for $2.99 from QVC-Ronco. Fuck. When assembled (it took me ten months to find all the goddamn tapes, and in fact I’m finally listening to the completed project only now, December 31st, at a cost of $568.67 for buying 11 vintage 8-track players that actually work, so fuck you Rick Rubin—and the Flaming Lips did “your” concept first, you bitch) and it proves to be a stunning example of what an inflated reputation and borderline personality can do together. Did I say fuck you, Rick Rubin? I’m not even gonna comment on the “music.” Fuck you, Rick Rubin. E- (rated a 10 for everyone else. Reviewer is currently in the Tombs awaiting bail. You got any money you could lend him? Call 212-355-8997)
  1. Hair Quotes’s splendidly yearning tenor massaged our ears and hearts with 2011’s Pen Cap Chewings. Then the company suits got involved. His PR team branded him our first shoegazing nu-folkie in April then branded him again a few weeks later after his bungee jump accident left him a soprano. Nothing left to do put a ukulele in his hands and hope for the best. C- (0.2—in fact, we paid them to take the freebie back).
  1. Landover, Maryland’s Cool “Disco” Dante singlehandedly made the argument for Go-Go’s true provenance in the wilds of suburban Suitland with the June single “Rug Tweaker,” an irresistibly bouncy anthem about bank accounts emptied at gunpoint by night for crack sprees during the Marion Barry-era late 1980s. Pummeled out on amplified pickle drums and echoplexed to infinity, Dante proved disco don’t need no damn do-not-resuscitate order, bitch, but lay some adrenochrome on that shit, stat! with the squelchy and thumping rave-up EP “LANE CHANGE Benning Road Crew WORK AHEAD”. Party hard attack. A- (9.0)
  1. The Grinch struck early this year, but this time he went legit—with a FISA warrant in hand. He planned ahead for his annual Whoville ransacking by using the Patriot Act, PRISM, and a Predator to suss the situation—and Mein Moustache Vax, Hans! was there to make sure the tree-ringing chorus was drowned in a barrage of hellfire guitar riffs to prevent the Nauseous One’s cosmic contact. The ’stache’s November release Die, Democracy, Die! openly welcomed the shadow government totalitarian takeover of America with abrasive bromides against the two-party system, zoning laws, Ralph Nader, conspiracist clown Alex Jones, Yanni, libertarianism, Al Sharpton, and window shades, the whole of it couched in vicious sub-Goebbels rhetoric and set to diminished-fifth buzzsaw guitars. “Die” went over very well at the Justice Department, the Denver International Airport’s subterranean Reptilian city, Buckingham Palace and ever-clueless Kansas. Our hearts shrunk three times that day—and dammit, it felt good. –A (-6.9)
  1. Classic rock reissues, albums, and Viagra-fueled reunion tours after a 45-year hiatus we can understand…But a nostalgia tour from a band whose career was ended by Federal legal action during the last fiscal quarter? Has our collective attention span grown that short? What else can explain the critical and commercial success of Losing My Cortex by Jerkers’ Thumb, a 30-years-late riposte to REM’s “Losing my Religion” that uses voice samples from Stephen Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, Ron Jeremy, Gallagher, Morrissey, Rick James, Jenna Jamison, Richard Dawkins, Richard Dawson, and Emo Phillips as its rhythm tracks? Losing posits ADHD not as illness but the ultimate spiritual awakening, espousing the ultimate New Agey “Be Here Now” ethic through multitasking yourself into an ultimate convulsing mess. C+ (10)
  1. Redneck country quartet then hick-hop converts Moan Kick Me Sum Aiss dove headfirst into 2013 and promptly knocked theyselves unconcho on a brick wall with January’s The South Rises Again in My Pants, Baby, a record which, after our one and only listen, survived our intervening 11-month trauma-induced amnesia to somehow turn up staring hungrily in the window and end up on this list at gunpoint. A product of late 2012’s hick-hop revival nestled within a retro-alt-Nashville sound bred with a hall-of-mirrors post-LA neocrunge-craze breakbeats and set to grinding pre-nu-EDM guitars to…what was I saying? Where am I? D- (1.3)
  1. Not being fans of martial music (except when a platoon of Hueys blast it coming in low out of the rising sun), we’d never thought a compilation of Sousa marches digitized and given the cut and paste treatment would end up anywhere other than as a coaster much less this also-ran list. But it did. S&M enthusiasts Maynard, Zed & the Gimp’s Stars and Straps Forever happily redeemed Independence Day and even started a Sousaphone craze until a few tender young backs were broken (or the New York Times retroactively invented the trend, or both). MZG’s take on the dance floor’s timeless boom-thump meshes seamlessly with the rhythms of Sousa’s Americana gems, and this generates a host of disquieting questions…While those questions will never trouble one’s mind on the dance floor, they would make a good freshman term paper in Cultural Studies 101. Aaaaa yeah! (100bpm)
  1. Salt Lake City’s Church of Latter Day Saints’s BowWow Movement Reckits produced such acts as Got my Stripes, W.I.P.E.D. and S. Kid Mark seemed determined to end any trace of Mormon pimp earnestness in hip-hop once and for all. And BowWow stalwarts MC Haters’s Steal You in yo Mowf continued the trend. The thing kicks off with a drum n bass meltdown in the key of cluster headache and doesn’t let up for 67 agonizing minutes. Syllablesmith $mall Fry’s autotuned caterwauling and ululated rhymes on Joseph Smith’s legacy make a malfunctioning jackhammer sound like James Earl Jones. The textures are abrasive, the timbres creamy; the rhymes boasty, the basslines toasty (and vice versa, of course). Such juxtapositions can only cause dissociative disorder if taken seriously. This leads us to ask what the current ethics exactly are regarding listener schadenfreude when confronted with such glorious toxicity…and the alarming possibility of emotional osmosis. Should we critics share in $mall Fry’s religious agony? Or just laugh because the alternative is just too grim to even think about? B++/A- (3.14)
  1. When in 2011 fugitive trickster sound collagist The Severatrix made Manacled by calling in police tips on imaginary mobile meth labs at the Gathering of the Juggalos (only to have the subsequent bust turn up real mobile meth labs on the site) no-one thought it a toppable stunt—much less an indefensible one—but she did top it and then some: She called in a slew of false allegations on 2012’s Burning Man ahead of the event to the FBI, DHS, and INS just so she could video/audio document the resulting police-bust mayhem and use it as a soundtrack for March’s Uncle Fester’s Iboga Trip. While Burners inevitably heralded Severatrix a real-life super-villain, others applauded her critique of Burning Man’s packaged “non-conformity,” its having to view a hundred hairy ass-cracks before breakfast, and the playa salt in one’s armpits. Uncle Fester and Manacled raised telephone terrorism to high art. Her second “album,” November’s Whoooosh was almost worthy of Banksy: it was a MoMA gallery installation that 40 eager Wall Streeters & Yupper East Siders paid $4,000 apiece to sit in and experience for its single performance, only to be pummeled by a Rolls Royce 747 turbine engine filled with huge kazoos as her plasma-screen paintings filled all four walls with her nightmares. Our smuggled-out bootlegged copy of the music, made at that one glorious showing, is a piece of heaven. As Ringo once sang, good night, sleep tight. A- (10 to the 10th power)