this POP PUNK band out of SOUTHERN ILLINOIS called THE COPYRIGHTS recently caught my ear. they have a HIGH ENERGY, HOOK-LADEN sound that is reminiscent of vintage LAGWAGON, MILLENCOLIN, GREEN DAY and MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK. its a tried and true formula going back to THE BUZZCOCKS, but when done well it slams, and THE COPYRIGHTS absolutely hit hard.
definitely worth checking out.
its hard for me to overstate how foundational the music of R.E.M. was for me as a music listener, as some of my earliest memories of experiencing new music was both the OUT OF TIME (WARNER BROS, 1991) and MONSTER (WARNER BROS, 1994) albums. ironically it was the former record that got me interested in playing guitar as a first grader. its ironic because that was the specific album in their discography where guitarist PETER BUCK essentially abandoned the instrument in favor of mandolin.
i think with those initial OUT OF TIME singles like "SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE" and "LOSING MY RELIGION" there was a sense of both pop abandon and real pathos in the LYRICS, MANNERISM and VOCALS of singer MICHAEL STIPE. its interesting that he was one of my earliest introductions to a 'rock singer' given his AMBIVALANCE to fame and his highly IDIOSYNCRATIC presentation that showcased a COMPLICATED figure with strong ideas and a seemingly UNDEFINABLE sexuality, this in addition to his obvious INTELLIGENCE and CHARISMA. STIPE was (and still is) a real MERCURIAL and COMPELLING figure, especially for a curious seven year old.
when MONSTER came out the tone was more SOMBER and AGGRESSIVE with singles like "STAR 69," "BANG AND BLAME," "WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH?" and "CRUSH WITH EYELINER." all the guitar feedback and lyrics about DISLOCATION, strained relationships and potential VIOLENCE was a world away from "SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE" and was more in keeping with the NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN and PEARL JAM songs i heard on the radio station 106.7 FM KROQ out of nearby LOS ANGELES that bordered ORANGE COUNTY where i lived growing up. both visually and aurally, MONSTER was a major record for me growing up and was somewhat of an introduction to the aggressively REFLECTIVE and SELF-DISPARAGING aesthetic of ALTERNATIVE ROCK much as OUT OF TIME was an introduction to the PLAINTIVE, direct songwriting stylings of INDIE ROCK.
whats interesting to me as an adult looking back is how arguably the STRONGEST R.E.M. record ever made, AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE (WARNER BROS, 1991), which came out between OUT OF TIME and MONSTER, was not in the mix for me during that period. until discovering it later in my late teens i had no memory of the record whatsoever. back in the early and mid 1990s there was no SPOTIFY or YOUTUBE, just the tail end of a national cassette trading network that i was not privy to at that age. i was literally only aware of what was on the radio and what my parents, usually my father, added to their CD collection. getting compact discs was a REVELATORY ritual up until the birth of MP3 trading and disc burning that began when i was in high school in the late 1990s and later the adoption of the iPod that came about a few years into the new millennium. prior to such i was TRANSFIXED to the ARTWORK and details of PACKAGING and their connection to musical content. that experience with OUT OF TIME and MONSTER was as TRANSCENDENT an experience as the music itself in many ways. that eye to visual ICONOGRAPHY, TYPOGRAPHY, LAYOUT and GRAPHIC DESIGN vocabulary in general was an education in and of itself and my earliest VIVD memories of experiencing such, again are probably those two records (as well as LIVING COLOUR, SOUNDGARDEN and PEARL JAM releases from that same period).
i find it more than amusing that since i began parodying album covers in an effort to promote my regular DEER GOD RADIO show at nonprofit radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC, the only pushback i ever got back was from 'angry' R.E.M. supporters. i was told on INSTAGRAM by a random person that STIPE didnt take kindly to people stealing from him and would sue me to oblivion. my hope and expectation is that if he did discover my promotional parodies he would be delighted by them as a LOVING homage to a band i ADORE and have respected since childhood. i certainly make no money from such and nor does the station. all that being said, R.E.M. please dont sue me.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from the spring of 2022 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to the music of R.E.M. from throughout their extensive catalogue. enjoy!
the summer before my senior year of high school in 2001 i visited a childhood friend in ORANGE COUNTY who i learned upon arrival had very much taken the deep dive down into 1980s HARDCORE PUNK ROCK and never came out. specifically he turned me onto SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA bands from the surrounding area like THE ADOLESCENTS, TRUE SOUNDS OF LIBERTY, THE BAGS, YOUTH BRIGADE, CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG, CHANNEL 3, DESCENDENTS, BAD RELIGION, FEAR, THE VANDALS, RICH KIDS ON LSD, X, AGENT ORANGE, D.I., WASTED YOUTH and so on. it was during this period that i was introduced to SOCIAL DISTORTION who were literally from the next town over in FULLERTON. that whole summer was very much an education in HARDCORE and the recent musical and cultural history of the area i grew up in, which was beyond compelling for me at the time. nearly twenty years later, i did a radio show specifically on this PUNK ROCK scene on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK episode of DEER GOD RADIO.
i mention all this because SOCIAL DISTORTION has a unique trajectory relative to their cohort of bands and the scene they came from. as time moved forward some local bands, most famously SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, adopted aspects of the concurrent THRASH METAL movement and effectively creating a crossover hybrid. most others in true steadfast RAMONES style never evolved and stuck to their sound. as main songwriter MIKE NESS grew older and got clean from a devastating heroin addiction, his music showcased a wider palette of influences that included ROCKABILLY, FOLK and COUNTRY elements that came from his newfound appreciation for art and enjoying life.
SOCIAL DISTORTION's debut MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER (13TH FLOOR, 1983) is quite the opposite of that later MULTI-FACETED creative output. these FASCINATING songs find a GIFTED songwriter early in the process of finding his initial bearings and seeking out his voice. on PROPULSIVE, now ICONIC tracks like "TELLING THEM," "ANTI-FASHION," "THE CREEPS," "ANOTHER STATE OF MIND" and "MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER" there is a palpable sense of INTENSE passion and FURIOUS intention with little in the way of FINESSE. that would come much later as NESS would mature and develop his voice as a songwriter along with his FEROCIOUS stage persona. the career trajectory and evolution of SOCIAL DISTORTION is what i find most INTERESTING. MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER doesnt sound dissimilar or any less accomplished from other recorded efforts of the period like THE ADOLESCENTS' ADOLESCENTS (FRONTIER, 1981), BAD RELIGION's HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? (EPITAPH, 1982) or THE VANDALS' PEACE THRU VANDALISM (EPITAPH, 1982). an INTRIGUING cultural artifact from this period is the ANOTHER STATE OF MIND (TIME BOMB, 1984) documentary that finds SOCIAL DISTORTION on an early tour with YOUTH BRIGADE as they make their way through house parties and VFW halls along the west coast. its a document that finds NESS establishing himself as an artist and taking chances both on and off stage during a time when HARDCORE and PUNK ROCK was DANGEROUS and could get you in a bruising scuffle with dumbshit local rednecks on sight. it would be years before NESS took to his guitar and develop his songwriting chops in earnest but the PASSION and INTENT is most obviously there from the start. its pretty cool to witness that spark.
and for me MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER is a documentation of that initial creative spark that would later blossom into one of the most ACCOMPLISHED and SOULFUL ROCK N ROLL songwriters of his era, PUNK or otherwise.
in the recent documentary THE KATE BUSH STORY - RUNNING UP THAT HILL (BBC, 2014) about the TRANSFORMATIVE BRITISH songwriter KATE BUSH, there is much EFFUSIVE PRAISE for such a SINGULAR artist who was seemingly fearless in her experiments to bend aspects of FORM, SONIC TEXTURE and LITERATURE to her will. this aspect of her work is reiterated time and again throughout, as the range of her discography feels as though there was LIMITLESS POTENTIAL at hand and that the rules of pop culture did not infiltrate her CREATIVE PROCESS. she seemingly transcended such considerations and focused on nurturing and expanding her craft and voice as an artist. taking in and synthesizing disparate influences ranging from BRITISH FOLKLORE to LITERATURE (J.M. BARRIE, EMILY BRONTE, JAMES JOYCE, WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN) to even the 1970s GLAM ROCK she was raised on as a child. the participants alone in this film are a veritable murderer's row of recording artists and thespians that have likewise held experimentation as a core of their ARTISTIC IDENTITY, namely ELTON JOHN, PETER GABRIEL (GENESIS), TRICKY (MASSIVE ATTACK), DAVID GILMOUR (PINK FLOYD), VIV ALBERTINE (THE SLITS), BIG BOI (OUTKAST), JOHN LYDON (THE SEX PISTOLS, PUBLIC IMAGE LTD), NATASHA KHAN (BAT FOR LASHES), ST. VINCENT (THE POLYPHONIC SPREE), BRETT ANDERSON (SUEDE), TORI AMOS, GUY GARVEY (ELBOW) and comedians STEPHEN FRY, STEVE COOGAN and JO BRAND as well author NEIL GAIMAN (THE SANDMAN) and the celebrated late dance and mime artist (and teacher of both DAVID BOWIE and KATE BUSH) LINDSEY KEMP among others.
i remember the first time i heard THE HOUNDS OF LOVE (EMI, 1985) by KATE BUSH at the recommendation of a friend in graduate school and was immediately taken by the sensory overload of her UNIQUE singing style, the lyrics and the LUSH production. it was just too much to take in during one sitting and was eerily reminiscent of my initial experiences coming to terms with other SONICALLY CHALLENGING and EXPLORATORY artists like FELA KUTI, MF DOOM, APHEX TWIN, FRANK ZAPPA, BJORK, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, PATTI SMITH, MIKE PATTON, GRIMES, JANE'S ADDICTION, DAVID BOWIE, MIKE OLDFIELD, KRAFTWERK, LOU REED, TRENT REZNOR, BRIAN ENO, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, JOHNNY MARR, FUGAZI, PETER GABRIEL, DEVO, GEORGE CLINTON, MASSIVE ATTACK and CHILDISH GAMBINO. at first listen, all of these artists sounded ALIEN to me, but over time contributed to an expanded sonic lexicon of SOUNDS, TEXTURES and IDEAS. what makes BUSH SPECIAL for me is that i feel like in some ways i am still very much in the process years later of coming to terms with her discography. its all enveloping aural density and lyrically EXPRESSIVE intensity means that i am constantly finding new aspects of her music to appreciate and inhabit. it is a SINGULAR experience that is difficult to describe.
of course BUSH is also known for her reclusiveness, especially her late career which saw her leave the entertainment industry after THE RED SHOES (COLUMBIA, 1993) to move to the countryside and have a family. there is a sense in the film that this choice to abandon her PUBLIC PERSONA was a means of preserving her sense of IDENTITY and that self-narrative of her existence. it is difficult to not respect such, especially in the modern oversharing digital attention economy (of which this blog is subject to) where there is much ado about presenting oneself rather than being oneself. her life of private quiet contemplation and the shielding of her CREATIVE PROCESS from public consumption until new material is presented strictly on her terms seems fitting for an artist of her caliber.
its a gift. it really is.
with an absolute minimum amount of exposition, NORWEGIAN cartoonist LARS FISKE in his mostly wordless graphic novel GROSZ: BERLIN - NEW YORK (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2017) vividly depicts the life and career of noted GERMAN DADAIST painter GEORGE GROSZ in a style that expertly imitates his EXAGGERATED, CARICATURISTIC style. there is a certain NIHILISM to the work of GROSZ, especially that from the 1920s in which he showcased the PSYCHIC, MORAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL and PHYSICAL DAMAGE of the first world war on the collective GERMAN psyche. this was shown through a series of BRUTAL paintings depicting the DEBAUCHED nightlife of the WEIMAR REPUBLIC and all the opportunists, prostitutes and elites that frequented the bars and cabarets.
often compared to MODERNIST GERMAN peers like OTTO DIX and MAX BECKMANN, GROSZ had a harsh SARDONIC tone all his own which seemed to depict humanity as CORRUPTED and easily MANIPULATABLE, almost like DISCARDED marionettes once their value to the war machine has expired. this unbridled ability to hold a mirror to GERMAN society got him fined numerous times during this period, leading him to jump ship to the UNITED STATES in the early 1930s right as the NAZIS came to power. not surprisingly, HITLER had GROSZ's bitterly CAUSTIC paintings confiscated and deemed "degenerate art" alongside EMIL NOLDE, ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER, PAUL KLEE, MAX BECKMANN, MARC CHAGALL, OTTO DIX, WASILLY KANDINSKY, JOAN MIRO, OSKAR KOKOSCHKA, FERNAND LEGER and MAX ERNST as well as that of more famous artists like HENRI MATISSE, PABLO PICASSO, EDVARD MUNCH and VINCENT VAN GOGH.
what i love about FISKE's style is that it cleverly utilizes GROSZ's style in order to pass JUDGEMENT on his character and life decisions. id argue that this decision places GROSZ as a key part of a much larger tableau of GERMAN society, not separate from it as an outside observer. it seems to suggest that his experiences, perspectives and sense of FRACTURED IDENTITY are an outgrowth of this society that is largely in a state of FLUX. meaning here is fluid and so are the rules that govern society and the relationships that makeup politics and personal relationships. in this book it feels like everything pre-NAZIS is CULTURALLY, SEXUALLY, and ARTISTICALLY up for grabs. almost a year zero mentality that sees the forces that led to the CATASTROPHE of the first great war of being worthy of SCORN and DISMISSAL. but therein lies the problem of what to fill the void with and that is the world depicted in GROSZ: BERLIN - NEW YORK. at least in the early first half of the graphic novel before he moves to NEW YORK.
it is quite an achievement that such a dense depiction of such a notable artist was rendered efficiently utilizing such a minimum of words and almost completely through the power of GESTICULATION and TABLEAU. by presenting the multiple perspectives that made such a WARPED, FRAGMENTED reality possible very efficiently showcases the potential of the post war period and how that sense of fluid opportunity also gave way to the unleashing of the DARKEST RECESSES of the human id and our collective susceptibility to such. in the era of boundless GRIEVANCE and digital platforms that monetize such that is the DONALD TRUMP era, GROSZ and his artwork feels all the more RELEVANT and even PRESCIENT, probably more so than in the many decades past the second world war. GROSZ: BERLIN - NEW YORK is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of MODERNISM and DADAISM or even that of EFFICIENT and thoughtfully executed storytelling constructs.
in an effort to maintain relevancy in a marketplace that had long looked at their celebrated guitars as INACCESSIBLE showpieces for the wealthy rather than working musicians, GIBSON BRANDS initiated a multi-prong charm offensive through its YOUTUBE channel with various video series such as THE COLLECTION (linked HERE), ICONS (linked HERE) and THE SONGBOOK (linked HERE) that sought to reconnect the storied brand to their core audience. this was especially need in the wake of the ILL-CONCEIVED and staggeringly DEVASTATING 2019 misfire that was the PLAY AUTHENTIC campaign which came off both PATRONIZING and knuckle-draggingly BOORISH that alienated musicians from the brand.
THE SCENE is another MARK AGNESI-hosted video series on GIBSON's YOUTUBE channel that sought to connect the brand to various famous venues, guitar shops and even record stores that promote and support the musicians that utilize their wares. my personal opinion is that i cannot get enough of the history and working knowledge of all three of those institutions, in any context. so in that regard i am a complete pushover when it comes to this material. i only major gripe is that fact that everything covered is only in NASHVILLE and LOS ANGELES, which feels more than a little SHORT-SIGHTED and MYOPIC in scope. there is more than a valid argument for the inclusion of LOS ANGELES, but no offense to NASHVILLE, actually scratch that, all offense to NASHVILLE because the place is beyond OVERRATED. the musicians, the industry, the music. nothing of distinction emanates from that town, in fact, it is not even the most important "music city" in TENNESSEE, that distinction easily goes to MEMPHIS. my guess is that these two locations were easy film in, but it seems very odd that historically prominent cultural incubators like NEW YORK CITY, DETROIT, NEW ORLEANS, CHICAGO, AUSTIN or even SEATTLE were not included in this series. very curious indeed.
maybe they just never got around to it as the series seems to have flamed out two years ago. my guess is that being comprehensive was never the point, more that GIBSON BRANDS was making the actual effort to share their spotlight and platforms with the greater economic ecosystem that supports the musicians that support them. all these video series are meant as a means of conveying the message that they "get it" and are not the out-of-touch corporate ogre overlords that they positioned themselves as with the brand image-punishing PLAY AUTHENTIC campaign of a few years back.
i own a few GIBSON guitars. i use them and cherish them on a near daily basis but my hope for their marketing is not for them to keep reminding me of their historical and cultural relevance, my wish is that theyd showcase current practical innovations that demonstrate how they are still a vital brand that is worthy of the lineage of past innovators like TED MCCARTY, WALTER FULLER, ALVINO REY, LES PAUL and SETH LOVER and further justify their status as an industry standard (along with FENDER and PAUL REED SMITH). this marketing initiative to remind consumers about the legacy of the brand seems rather low-stakes and more-than-a-little PATRONIZING. my sense is that the GIBSON line is a bit STALE with innovations nobody recognizes or wants (automatic tuning and blue sunburst paint jobs) and thus this effort towards legacy is the cry of a company that ran out of ideas. maybe instead of suing their competition into oblivion, they should stop with these videos and maybe just work on making superior instruments that people want to purchase. again, i love my standard SG and custom shop tv yellow LES PAUL JR. i dont this low stakes window dressing of a marketing campaign to remind me of such.
my wish that the brand will expand and innovate and continue to make quality products. or else i will move on and get my fill elsewhere from quality substitute instruments from other manufacturers like GUILD, ESP, YAMAHA, PAUL REED SMITH, JACKSON or even HERITAGE. just sayin.
in the elite pantheon of all-time SUPER HUMAN METAL singers, there really are only three names: RONNIE JAMES DIO, ROB HALFORD and KING DIAMOND. no disrespect to OZZY OSBOURNE (i adore him), but his appeal is not necessarily based solely on his voice but rather his unique PERSONALITY, PERSONA and WORLDVIEW that positions as a sort of EVERYMAN. his power is in his ability to have his audience project themselves onto him and thus it makes sense that generations of musicians have his example and started a band. counter that with DIO, HALFORD and KING DIAMOND and there is absolutely no hope of us mere mortals matching or even approaching their SINGULAR vocal gifts. to me they are almost FANTISTICAL and UNAPPROACHABLE comic book characters in that regard.
with KING DIAMOND in particular, on what is considered his magnum opus ABIGAIL (ROADRUNNER, 1987), that CARTOONISH persona takes on a QUASI-LITERARY form with his concept record centered around the extended narrative of the ghost of a stillborn baby in a HAUNTED mansion during VICTORIAN-ERA ENGLAND. high concept indeed. i wont get into the actual story itself, but standout tracks include "THE FAMILY GHOST," "ARRIVAL," "THE 7TH DAY OF JULY 1777," "FUNERAL," "THE POSSESSION" and of course the EPIC title track "ABIGAIL." sonically these songs are buttressed by PUMMELING double-bass drum assault by MIKKEY DEE (later of MOTORHEAD) a dual lead guitar assault led by ANDY LAROCQUE and MICHAEL DENNER that acts as a fitting counterpoint to the ICONIC FOUR OCTAVE COUNTERTENOR FALSETTO screams of KING DIAMOND. equally important are the GALLOPING rhythm guitar parts that propel and roll the momentum of the album forward without becoming stagnant. it makes total sense that the SYNCOPATED twin lead and rhythm guitar work associated with KING DIAMOND records, and especially his previous NWOBHM-adjacent band MERCYFUL FATE, have influenced THRASH royalty like SLAYER and METALLICA and most of the extreme METAL that followed thereafter.
speaking of which i was fortunate enough to see KING DIAMOND take out ABIGAIL on the road a few years back in PITTSBURGH when the opened for SLAYER on their extended farewell tour. the GARISH and often SATANIC imagery and set pieces were completely over the top but in keeping with a CREEPY victorian aesthetic (i.e. candelabras, creaky grand staircase, stained glass windows) that was pure KING DIAMOND. and i have to say, witnessing his voice in person is another matter entirely. it absolutely cut through the mix and was a sight to behold. youd think that those PIERCING HIGH FALSETTOS would grow tiresome throughout a set but they didnt, which is a largely a testament to his band and the original compositions themselves. whats INCREDIBLE is that i went to the show at the behest of my dad, whod seen them with my brother a few months earlier while i was still at a teaching gig abroad. for him, a baby boomer raised on BRITISH INVASION and CLASSIC ROCK, to find enjoyment in the musicality of someone as extreme as KING DIAMOND is the highest compliment i can think of. the POWER of his voice and the INTENTION of the music far outreached the schtick of it all.
not that i dont love the satanic imagery. who doesnt? ABIGAIL in my opinion is required listening for any METAL head interested in any of the myriad of subgenres, from NWOBHM, DEATH METAL, BLACK METAL and THRASH to METALCORE, GRINDCORE, DOOM, PROGRESSIVE, SLUDGE, POST METAL and beyond.
the SOUTH LONDON three-piece PVA is one of the more INTRIGUING bands ive come across in recent years, with a HYBRID sound that entails everything from ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC and POST PUNK to INDIE ROCK and INDUSTRIAL MUSIC. at the center of the action is the vocal interplay between ELLA HARRIS and JOSH BAXTER, which brings a STOIC, HAUNTING quality to the kinetically charged, PROPULSIVE energy of their MEMORABLE songs.
definitely PVA is a band i am on the lookout for in the coming years and their recent debut BLUSH (NINJA TUNE, 2022) is most definitely worth checking out.
i was thinking the other day about WHITEWASHING in AMERICAN culture over the years. how ELVIS PRESLEY unfairly gained undue adulation with the general public that was probably more appropriately due to LITTLE RICHARD and CHUCK BERRY. same dynamic could be argued with EMINEM, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, BENNY GOODMAN, BEASTIE BOYS and so on. seems to be a bit of a tradition that a genre or style only gains mainstream acceptance and critical recognition once a white musician does it with some competency. i dont know about BENNY GOODMAN (whose music i am not a fan of at all - much prefer DUKE ELLINGTON), but the majority of these artists were all steeped in the musical traditions that they pursued and had the utmost respect for the artists that came before. for EMINEM this means explicit shoutouts on tracks mentioning the likes of celebrated lyricists like RAKIM, 2PAC, NAS, ANDRE 3000, JAY-Z, REDMAN, THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G., LL COOL J and ICE CUBE among others. my problem is not with the artists but with the general public's COLLECTIVE AMNESIA towards and HISTORIC DISREGARD towards BLACK CULTURE until a white body inhabits such. its bullshit.
this led me to thinking about the 2-TONE SKA movement out of the UNITED KINGDOM in the late 1970s at the height of THATCHERISM and the VILE, RACIST, ANTI-IMMIGRANT perspective that her government embodied. since the post war era there had been a massive influx of immigrants from THE CARIBBEAN, known as the WINDRUSH GENERATION, who worked in northern factories alongside their CAUCASIAN counterparts and grew to establish a similar working class lifestyle. this close racial proximity in both living and work contexts saw cultural and musical innovations from JAMAICA, part of THE COMMONWEALTH, find active listenership in ENGLAND from both their descendants and their white counterparts. SKA, ROCKSTEADY and later REGGAE became a facet of BRITISH culture not dissimilar from other inherited artifacts like tea (INDIA), polo (IRAN), baked beans (UNITED STATES), ST. GEORGE (SYRIA), tennis (BASQUE), penny farthings (FRANCE), marmalade (PORTUGAL), pubs (ANCIENT ROME) and fish and chips (SPAIN). that penchant for CULTURAL APPROPRIATION is a distinctly BRITISH tradition in my opinion.
whats cool about 2-TONE SKA is how it explicitly indicates in its names its roots as the common meeting point between two cultures and musical traditions. in the face of the AUSTERE domestic and seething ANTI-IMMIGRANT policies employed by MARGARET THATCHER and the rising tide of RACISM that such engendered in the larger culture and body politic, these musicians showcased an ALTERNATIVE vision that valued INCLUSION, COOPERATION and celebrating DIVERSITY. these bands include iconic BRITISH multi-ethnic acts such as THE SPECIALS, THE BEAT, THE SELECTER, BAD MANNERS and THE BODYSNATCHERS as well as aligned all-CAUCASIAN acts like MADNESS among others. it is nearly impossible to not see 2-TONE SKA as a distinctly POLITICAL act within the BRITISH context it was birthed under. i think people today, especially in the UNITED STATES, just see it in retrospect as derivative dance music that takes its cues from JAMAICAN culture. they dont see the intent or evolution of a sound. dont believe me, just listen to third-wave AMERICAN ska bands from the 1990s (like LESS THAN JAKE, REEL BIG FISH, CHERRY POPPIN' DADDIES, BUCK-O-NINE, VOODOO GLOWSKULLS and THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES) that took the sound but none of the politics and made something VIBRANT, SOPHISTICATED and INTOXICATINGLY ENGAGING to something BLAND and easily DISPENSABLE.
of course there are a number of bands that thoughtfully (like EMINEM) paid homage to the history of the form and felt comfortable further INNOVATING on top of such. i want to give a shoutout to the modern bands i feel are in keeping with the true legacy of 2-TONE SKA such as the FISHBONE, DANCE HALL CRASHERS, THE SUICIDE MACHINES, NO DOUBT, THE SLACKERS, THE AQUABATS, GOLDFINGER, STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO, CATCH 22, THE AGGRO-LITES, THE INTERRUPTERS and SAVE FERRIS among others.
i just wish AMERICAN audiences would care more about issues related to CULTURAL APPROPRIATION and WHITEWASHING. maybe as our country becomes less white this unfortunate dynamic will shift in a generation or two. here's hoping!
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from the fall of 2019 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to 2-TONE SKA and the thoughtful hybrid bands that came thereafter. enjoy!
RIP TERRY HALL.
photo & text by nacrowe
SOUNDSYSTEM (CAPRICORN, 1995) is a compelling TRANSITIONAL album as it was the second post-fame 311 album after the PSYCHEDELIC and EXPANSIVE TRANSISTOR (CAPRICORN, 1997) and their commercial breakout self-titled effort 311 (CAPRICORN, 1995). i dont see SOUNDSYSTEM as a back-to-basic return to form, as their sound is by definition a HYBRID of ALTERNATIVE ROCK with heavy doses of DUB, ROOTS REGGAE and HIP HOP among other ingredients. its a formula that all 311 releases share in common to varying degrees, their sound in essence is the UNIQUE balance of such influences. what i will argue is that with songs like "EONS," "FREEZE TIME," "SEVER," "COME ORIGINAL," "LIFE'S NOT A RACE," "MINDSPIN," "LARGE IN THE MARGIN" and "FLOWING", this album was a more DIRECT, COHERENT and COHESIVE effort than its consciously all-embracing predecessor. if anything, i see the remainder of the 311 catalogue as being a refinement on the balance achieved on SOUNDSYSTEM.
i was a sophomore in high school at a NEW ENGLAND boarding school when this record was released and the cultural context in which it was received included several like-minded ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands in INCUBUS, DEFTONES and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, all of whom who had new releases in and around that period (in fact, MAKE YOURSELF and THE BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES were released the same month as SOUNDSYSTEM). all of these bands make a point of pride in creating unique soundscapes utilizing NONTRADITIONAL and oftentimes EXPERIMENTAL production techniques. thematically 311 distinguish themselves from this pack with their dedicated focus on SOCIAL INCLUSIVITY and promoting the benefits of maintaining POSITIVE MENTAL ATITUDE on life. it may sound CORNY and comm off a bit FORCED, but the band has a stated objective to UPLIFT their audience and BUILD COMMUNITY through music. ive seen the band live half a dozen times and the audience at their shows is one of strangers looking out for one another, rather than a random collection of potentially (actually more than likely) debauched assholes. in comparison, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and SYSTEM OF A DOWN definitely had a public-facing aggression that was POLTICALLY-FOCUSED so the CONFRONTATIONAL, MULTI-FACETED music was a MISSION-ORIENTED weapon in that regard. DEFTONES and INCUBUS, like 311, where introspective and self-aware acts whose lyrical bent was INWARD-DIRECTED, hard fought and ultimately CATHARTIC in nature. i dont see SPIRITUAL or EMOTIONAL catharsis as a deliberate feature of 311, instead a conscious wish to ENLIGHTEN, INSPIRE and PUSH FORWARD their audience.
for me, boarding school was a cold, isolating, unsupportive place so discovering all of these bands was useful as an emotional and psychological shield, protecting me in a hostile environment. this proved even more so my junior year when i moved to rejoin my family in KUWAIT. with sonically adventurous and politically savy bands like RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and SYSTEM OF A DOWN there was a confidence in knowing ones history and their empowered position as an informed, outspoken citizen. with DEFTONES and INCUBUS there was an emotional and spiritual sophisticated where that outward orientation was inverted in on themselves. as if being in control of one's own emotions and stimulus-response systems was a a value in and of itself. in 311 i took something much simpler, that being OPTIMISTIC was a choice. i could choose to be miserable in a confrontational set of circumstances, or just accept it and try to make the best of my situation. only i could decide how i would respond to the world. nothing especially NAIVE or CORNY about that, that sense of SELF-EMPOWERMENT is the truth. im not saying i bought in 100% of the time, but their music in general and specifically on SOUNDSYSTEM was like a case in point example of the benefits of such. undoubtedly with all of these bands, their status as aural ICONOCLASTS bought them some extended social cache on these subjects or so i interpreted as a late teen.
probably still do.
it is hard to overstate the importance of the former HACIENDA nightclub in MANCHESTER cofounded by NEW ORDER and their manager ROB GRETTON, as well as FACTORY RECORDS label head TONY WILSON, in the early 1980s. the documentary THE HACIENDA: THE CLUB THAT SHOOK BRITAIN (WISE OWL, 2022) recently featured on BBC2 delves into that unique legacy of this unique nightclub decades on. initially THE HACIENDA was meant to recapture the energetic, all-inclusive vibe of the MANHATTAN nightclubs that NEW ORDER members had witnessed while on tour immediately in the wake of the abrupt fall of JOY DIVISION. unlike the stuffy nightclub scene in ENGLAND at the time, where people drank lager and paraded themselves around in the hopes means of finding company, the point of the NYC scene was a fun night out with enjoyment of the music at the center of the agenda. it was also created with the hope of providing a center to a new generation of MANCHESTER artists and musicians.
THE HACIENDA came out around the time of early SYNTH-POP but a few years later dovetailed with the rise of HOUSE MUSIC out of DETROIT that when paired with the new drug ECSTASY essentially created ACID HOUSE. with THE HACIENDA at the epicenter there was a brief moment where the culture shifted towards an inclusive, comes-as-you-are mentality with participants felt a sense of unity and collective humanity through rhythm, motion and dance music. even INDIE ROCK got pulled into the orbit of ACID HOUSE with MADCHESTER bands like the HAPPY MONDAYS and THE STONE ROSES borrowing both aesthetic and sonic elements from the local scene. OASIS are considered a traditional BRITPOP rock band that borrowed heavily from classic BRITISH INVASION bands, but no less an authority as NOEL GALLAGHER spoke about in this film about the way the scene opened him up to all music.
and that seems to be the point of the film. it was not about the bad business decisions that led to its creation or the fact that its demise ruined relationships with NEW ORDER. the real legacy of THE HACIENDA was how it liberated those who came in its confines and provided safe harbor for discriminated minority groups. in so many ways it was a UTOPIA that was destined to fail, but its run is still felt and missed to this day by those fortunate enough to participate.
throughout her recent memoir FINGERS CROSSED: HOW MUSIC SAVED ME FROM SUCCESS (NINE EIGHT PUBLISHING, 2022), LUSH front-woman and co-songwriter MIKI BERENYI presents a HARROWING personal narrative that frames her career as a CELEBRATED SHOEGAZE icon as one of survival. by definition, the BRITISH SHOEGAZE movement was dreamed up by a cadre of SUPPORTIVE, like-minded musicians that created HAZY, INTROSPECTIVE aural landscapes that seemingly washed over their audience into a mantra-like state of ecstasy. at least that is how i feel when revisiting noteworthy bands from period like SLOWDIVE, CATHERINE WHEEL and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. with LUSH and BERENYI in particular i was just startled by the deep well of TRAUMA, ANXIETY and SUFFERING that rooted her identity and was exorcised through their music. i had always considered their music as DELICATE, EPHEMERAL and optimistically BOUYANT.
without diving deep into the details, BERENYI had a DIFFICULT childhood mired by the psychological and physical traumas of DIVORCE, growing up BIRACIAL (HUNGARIAN/JAPANESE) to non-native parents in ENGLAND and repeated SEXUAL ABUSE at the hand of her grandmother. that whole section of the book is amongst the most BRUTAL and TRAGIC i have come across in any memoir by a musician. it reminded me of a book i read over a decade ago called NIGHT FALLS FAST: UNDERSTANDING SUICIDE (VINTAGE, 2000) by KAY REDFIELD JAMISON of JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY which at the heart of it was about trauma. long story short, for those that experience childhood sexual trauma longterm effects include asexuality as well as chronic PROMISCUITY. both are about the need for physical CONTROL and COMFORT. this phenomena was explored pretty explicitly in the GREGG ARAKI's film MYSTERIOUS SKIN (DESPERATE PICTURES, 2004). so it came as no surprise that BERENYI throughout he years of fame was caught in that cycle. she had been effectively abandoned by her parents who parked her in private schools while they pursued their careers elsewhere.
what i found so intriguing about FINGERS CROSSED was her ability given such trauma to endure a career as a public entertainer with all the slings and arrows that come with it. especially as a female musician during a musical era (BRITPOP) in ENGLAND that lionized LAD CULTURE and MISOGYNY as a lazy past time akin to football. i dont know how navigating those waters and the messages by sent about her status werent internalized and calcified into a negative self image. i just get the sense that BERENYI has an intestinal fortitude beyond us normal mortal beings. especially as she got older with the gender DOUBLE-STANDARDS at play, the whole charade feels downright MASOCHISTIC in nature.
i did appreciate her description of the INTERNAL dynamics between her bandmates, especially the CONTENTIOUS creative interplay with gifted songwriter EMMA ANDERSON, and the relationship of the band with the greater SHOEGAZE and 4AD RECORDS scene, but to me the central gambit of this memoir was BERENYI's struggle to secure LOVE, AFFECTION, CONNECTION and a sense of FAMILY, however IMPERFECT. LUSH obviously seemed to be one attempt at such. its nice to know that she found such in her CHILDREN and a STABLE relationship with a SUPPORTIVE partner. fingers crossed.
this was one of the better written memoirs ive come across in recent years and wholeheartedly recommend it even if you are not interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, BRITPOP or ALTERNATIVE ROCK. its a startlingly COMPELLING story about SURVIVAL in the face of UNSPEAKABLE TRAUMA.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the VAN HALEN!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
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i remember being a freshman in high school when i first came across PRIVATE PARTS: THE ALBUM (WARNER BROS, 1997), which was the soundtrack to the film adaptation of HOWARD STERN's book of the same name about the relationship between his personal life and career as a TRANSGRESSIVE radio personality. i cant recall if i had seen the film at that point. what i do know is that by high school i was completely obsessed with ALTERNATIVE ROCK icons JANE'S ADDICTION and the lead single "HARD CHARGER" from the soundtrack was the PERRY FARRELL-led PORNO FOR PYROS with a guest solo by DAVE NAVARRO. for me that was worth the price of admission.
as an album itself PARTS: THE ALBUM comes off a bit REDUNDANT in spots and only makes sense for its connection to the film, since "I WANT YOU TO WANT ME" by CHEAP TRICK, "CAT SCRATCH FEVER" by TED NUGENT, "PINHEAD" BY THE RAMONES, "SMOKE ON THE WATER" by DEEP PURPLE, "JAMIE'S CRYING" by VAN HALEN, "YOU SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG" by AC/DC were all staples of CLASSIC ROCK and ALTERNATIVE ROCK stations at the time. this makes some contextual sense since STERN is famously associated with national terrestrial radio stations (such as the former 660 AM WABC and 92.3 FM K-ROCK stations) that no doubt played played these songs. that said, those songs are staples of their genre and nothing exciting. the new tracks were what made that record interesting at the time, specifically OZZY OSBOURNE's collaboration with TYPE O NEGATIVE on a STATUS QUO cover "PICTURES OF MATCHSTICK MEN," GREEN DAY's cover of THE KINKS' "TIRED OF WAITING FOR YOU," MARILYN MANSON's "THE SUCK FOR YOUR SOLUTION" and ROB ZOMBIE's "THE GREAT AMERICAN NIGHTMARE". many of these recording artists (ROB ZOMBIE, TYPE O NEGATIVE, MARILYN MANSON, OZZY OSBOURNE) had CONTROVERSIAL career trajectories that found them at the center of debates regarding free speech, so their involvement makes absolute perfect sense thematically. as a broadcaster, STERN is noteworthy for his ability to stretch out what was acceptable on public air and in the national discussion, whether that be political, cultural, racial, intergenerational or sexual topics.
again, for me the standout track of this film cash-in is the PORNO FOR PYROS track, but overall its an interesting repackaging of AOR format favorites from the 1970s and 1980s as well as more relevant efforts by then-contemporary bands pushing the cultural envelope much like STERN did pre-satellite radio.
sometimes you come across something that is well outside of your comfort zone that you find COMPELLING but cant quite put your finger on it. it is by nature ELUSIVE and MYSTERIOUS. that is how i feel about the pop trio A-WA, which is made up of three YEMINITE ISRAELI sisters and is an INTRIGUING hybrid of their community's TRADITIONAL MUSIC mixed with MODERN ELECTRONIC and HIP HOP production.
i spent a little over a year in KUWAIT and was exposed to music from the region, both in and outside of class, but its been a question thats dogged me for years about what confluence of events led me not to investigate further that musical tradition. was it the language barrier? that didnt stop me in JAPAN, VENEZUELA, MYANMAR or ALBANIA. was it the inhospitable social environment that was KUWAIT? maybe, but NIGERIA and VENEZUELA were both physically DANGEROUS places when i was there and again, that didnt deter me. maybe i just wasnt ready at the time. the closest i ever got to appreciating such was probably my interest in the serenely ELEGANT vocals of NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN on the epic PETER GABRIEL PASSION (review linked HERE) soundtrack from decades ago.
regardless, A-WA is quite REFRESHING and i look forward to further investigating them. at the very least they are well worth checking out.
MASSIVE ATTACK was an absolute game changer for me.
maybe it was because of the household i grew up in or the decades-old myopic vestiges of the "DISCO SUCKS" mentality from a generation before, but for whatever reason ELECTRONIC MUSIC was not really a part of my upbringing and nobody i was around listened to it or took it seriously. in fact, for something to be electronic-based was effectively code for inauthenticity and lack of musicianship (unlike say string, percussion or woodwind instruments) and therefore utterly discardable. which of course is all complete utter bullshit.
when i moved to KUWAIT for high school in 2000 i discovered MASSIVE ATTACK and APHEX TWIN, both of which shifted everything. MASSIVE ATTACK was the spearhead collective of BRITISH TRIP HOP scene that was concurrent with BRITPOP movement of the 1990s, though the COOL BRITANNIA that they exemplified was one of an musically ECLECTIC (HIP HOP, REGGAE, HOUSE MUSIC) and racially INTEGRATED community made up mostly of recent immigrants rather than posh, thin-skinned art school wankers (SUEDE, BLUR, ELASTICA) and unintelligible and uncultured northern oiks (OASIS). APHEX TWIN innovated EXPERIMENTAL electronic music and were exemplars of GLITCH (along with SQUAREPUSHER and AUTECHRE) and their sound was sound TRANSGRESSIVE and REVOLUTIONARY that people are still catching up almost three decades later.
what caught my ear about MASSIVE ATTACK was the sheer EMOTIVE potential of their sound. it all felt DRAMATIC and entirely CINEMATIC, like this was widescreen color cinemascope in a theater and before i was only used to a household black-and-white television. their was a DEPTH and GROOVE and sense of WONDER and ADVENTURE. its difficult to describe but discovering their music was a REVELATION and taught me to really expand my musical palette in search of new EXPANSIVE sonic landscapes, which is essentially what i did the next year when i moved to SACRAMENTO for my final year of high school and effectively got into SHOEGAZE (SLOWDIVE, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, LUSH, SWIRLIES), NO WAVE (SWANS, SUICIDE, GLENN BRANCA), INDUSTRIAL MUSIC (SKINNY PUPPY, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, GODFLESH, THROBBING GRISTLE, MINISTRY, FRONT 242, KMFDM),POST PUNK (BAUHAUS, THE CURE, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, JOY DIVISION, COCTEAU TWINS), 90s HIP HOP (WU-TANG CLAN, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, THE PHARCYDE, DE LA SOUL, SOULS OF MISCHIEF) and KRAUTROCK (KRAFTWERK, NEU!, CAN, BRIAN ENO, TANGERINE DREAM). more so than that, through MASSIVE ATTACK and APHEX TWIN i really jumped into the deep end of electronic music with AMBIENT acts like ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER, TELEFON TEL AVIV and BOARDS OF CANADA, as well as other more ACCESSIBLE groups like AIR, THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, DAFT PUNK and THE FLYING LOTUS.
MASSIVE ATTACK and APHEX TWIN were the gateway band to a whole separate wing of my listening experience life. and for that change in trajectory i am eternally grateful.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from late 2021 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to BRITISH TRIP HOP icons MASSIVE ATTACK. enjoy!
ever since i first discovered them at OZZFEST in 1999, i was all about SYSTEM OF A DOWN. especially their eponymous debut record SYSTEM OF A DOWN (AMERICAN, 1998), which had the same FRENETIC bordering on MANIC ENERGY and CRAZY TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY of what i heard live that summer. and that lineup was absolutely loaded with MEMORABLE sets by DEFTONES, SLAYER, PRIMUS, FEAR FACTORY, BLACK SABBATH, ROB ZOMBIE and the emergence of not just SYSTEM OF A DOWN, but also STATIC-X and SLIPKNOT. but they stood out not just for the reasons described, but they seemed to be playing out of a completely different PLAYBOOK. it was later i learned that they were a LOS ANGELES band being of ARMENIAN descent and that their music proudly incorporated the TRADITIONAL SCALES, POLYRHYTHMS and compositional influences of the FOLK MUSIC of their ancestral homeland. for me that debut record was a TRANSFORMATIVE experience on par with discovering RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE abroad as a middle schooler because it brought to bear a fresh UNIQUE perspective and approach to METAL in general. it was ORIGINAL.
thats why when the follow-up and commercial breakthrough TOXICITY (AMERICAN, 2001) was released two years later during my senior year of high school, it felt a bit UNDERWHELMING in comparison to their debut. yes the singles from this record were STELLAR, tracks like the BROODING "AERIALS," the stop-go FRANTIC CRAZINESS of "CHOP SUEY!" and the multipart epic "TOXICITY." but other tracks like "PSYCHO," "DEER DANCE," "NEEDLES," "ATWA," "FOREST" and "PRISON SONG" all felt like paint-by-numbers retreads of the first record. maybe its unfair in retrospect but my expectations for the record were pretty sky high at the time. it felt to me like a slightly reigned-in version of their debut to market better at powerful national ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio stations like 106.7 FM KROQ in LOS ANGELES. the SYSTEM OF A DOWN sound was there but was not DISSONANT or CHAOTIC enough to stand out relative to old standbys like the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS or PEARL JAM. it reminded me that there is a reason that MR. BUNGLE and FISHBONE never got played on those stations, namely how much such confrontationally IDIOSYNCRATIC and COMPLEX songs would inevitably stood out in a playlist which is probably a no-no when selling listenership ratings to potential advertisers. TOXICITY at the time seemed ECCENTRIC, but not to the extent that it would stand out from the crowd like their debut did. i assumed such was by design.
plus in 2001 i moved from KUWAIT to SACRAMENTO and the CLUELESSLY PRIVILEGED kids at this white flight suburban high school were all into SYSTEM OF A DOWN . they thought it was pretty out there stuff and sadly that association with those losers made me instantly rethink SYSTEM OF A DOWN on the spot and especially their recently released second album at the time. that was the period that i got into POST PUNK, SHOEGAZE and INDUSTRIAL MUSIC for the first time which i cant help but believe that such outside investigation was somewhat influenced by being at a school full of NICKELBACK and GODSMACK fans. even in retrospect, that whole scene at my high school in SACRAMENTO was beyond LAME. hard to believe that incredible local musicians like CHELSEA WOLFE and NICK REINHARDT, who are roughly my age, where right next door in ROSEVILLE at the time.
time has proven that TOXICITY is one of the better albums of that era that i would put favorably in terms of songwriting INVENTIVENESS and sonic EXPERIMENTATION with the likes of peers like INCUBUS, MUSE, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, MASTODON, DEFTONES, MODEST MOUSE and TOOL. i think it was ridiculously unfair of me to originally see them on the level of knuckle-dragging outfits like DISTURBED, P.O.D., DROWNING POOL or STAIND.
in the feature documentary HOCKNEY (BLAKEWAY, 2014) about the revered 20th century BRITISH painter DAVID HOCKNEY there is a quote attribute to him that paraphrased essentially argues that a transformation in viewing leads to a transformation in feeling. this conceit is the central thread that connects a life of creative work that really runs the stylistic gamut from ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM through POP ART. at heart HOCKNEY's work is concerned with perceived reality and is figure-based, but the aesthetic expressions of such showcase a talent concerned with SELF-ANALYSIS and SELF-EXPLORATION throughout his life: especially regarding his own relationship to his SEXUALITY. as his self-discovery through ART blossoms, so does his feelings towards such and the community that supports him.
being the child of RADIO from the SLEEPY northern industrial YORKSHIRE town of BRADFORD, HOCKNEY was well aware of the exploits of ESCAPISM that his IMAGINATION could provide, especially after discovering the local CINEMA as a child. movies provided both an escape and a spark that transported him far away from his DREARY routine in a crowded apartment that he shared with his parents and four siblings. its hard not to read that TRANSFORMATIONAL dream-like element into his paintings, almost SURREAL and GIORGIO DE CHIRICO-sque, that was no doubt so aided by both CINEMA and TELEVISION. the later of which he first witnessed as a teenager. even the notion of AMERICA and specifically HOLLYWOOD as a locust for personal expression and self-made REINVENTION seems rooted in this childhood attachment to MOTION PICTURES. my feeling is that its truly difficult to properly understand the REVOLUTION that was CINEMA if you were not a child of the RADIO beforehand. it was an EXPANSIVE and MIND-ALTERING INVENTION probably on par with the INTERNET a few generations later.
whereas his POP ART contemporaries in ANDY WARHOL and ROY LICHENSTEIN were more concerned with the MARCEL DUCHAMP-ian conceit of locating the AUTHENTICITY found in REPETITION and COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING and INDUSTRIAL PAINTING TECHNIQUES, HOCKNEY seemingly was more INTROSPECTIVE in both his focus and his subject matter. he usually painted associates, family and friends utilizing a CAMERA as the basis for his ART. interestingly HOCKNEY saw the emotional limitations of PHOTOGRAPHY as the starting point for his CREATIVE WORK, as he was able to warp elements such as color, proportion, light, composition and especially PERSPECTIVE to his will. though based in TRADITIONAL representational depictions of reality, over time his work confronted the VANISHING-POINT techniques from antiquity and sought out a wider PERSPECTIVE that took in multiple angles. his later work sought to seek the EMOTIONAL TRUTH found in a myriad of PERSPECTIVES on a single subject. almost twisting the idea of REPETITION on its head towards something altogether INSULAR and undoubtedly INNOVATIVE.
in many ways, being a HOMOSEXUAL in BOHEMIAN circles during his career was likewise a bold act of self-determination as such was completely TABOO in polite society. maybe i am reading in too much, but both his ARTISTIC and SEXUAL pursuits were related activities. i can only imagine the tragedy of the 1980s where the rise of AIDS effectively rendered two-thirds of his COMMUNITY gone seemingly overnight, especially in NEW YORK. that deep loss of vitality. that loss of potential. the seeming indifference of a CONSERVATIVE AMERICAN body politic that had yet to come to terms with its own constituent parts. it is still SHOCKING, even in retrospect.
many of HOCKNEY's friends, contemporaries, assistants and business partners participated in this film such as ED RUSCHA, JACK LARSON, DON BACHARDY, JOHN KASMIN, RAYMOND FOYE, TCHAIK CHASSEY, MELISSA NORTH, GEORGE LAWSON, WAYNE SLEEP, PHILIP STEADMAN, JOSEPH CLARK, KENNETH TYLER, CHARLIE SCHEIPS and DAVID OXTOBY. they likewise provide a multi-perspective on the subject himself, who is interviewed throughout. HOCKNEY was an absolutely REVELATORY and extremely WELL-CONSTRUCTED film that i highly recommend to anyone interested in MODERN ART or QUEER STUDIES. required viewing in my opinion.
through an eloquently told and LOVINGLY depicted generations old family narrative about her great-uncle during pre-revolution IRAN, CHICKEN WITH PLUMS (PANTHEON, 2009) by FRENCH-PERSIAN author / cartoonist MARJANE SATRAPI is an extended meditation about the DELICATE relationship between ART and SUFFERING.
NASSER ALI is a TAR musician of note whose life was DERAILED by his INABILITY to secure a desired marriage due to his would-be bride's family qualms about his profession. out of duty to his family he agreed to a LOVELESS marriage of which he felt no sense of KINSHIP or RESPONSIBILITY and after his wife destroys his TAR he wishes only to DIE.
there is an interesting parallel with his mother, who years earlier was held back by DEATH by NASSER's constant praying for her SURVIVAL. after being asked to stop praying on her behalf and let her go, as well as continue playing music outside her window, DEATH is utilized as a form of DEEP COMPASSION. the music that soothed her through the process was informed by this closely felt sense of LOSS but also EMPATHY towards her condition. when NASSER himself seeks DEATH in a SIMILAR manner there is no sense of COMPASSION or EMPATHY, but instead a deep reservoir of SELFISHNESS and SELF-PITY.
its interesting that his master tutor when training to master the TAR catches on to his LOVELORN SUFFERING and that his career, reputation and GLORY as a musician was based on such an INTIMATE sense of IRREDEEMABLE LOSS and CONSTANT MISERY. the destruction of his INSTRUMENT is in essence the loss of his IDENTITY, which itself was just the collected remnants of an UNREQUITED LOVE. its all quite TRAGIC and quite MOVING.
i should also give mention to the POWER of SATRAPI's images which are heavily inked-out in a strict monochrome palette that simultaneously exudes a SEVERE tone of austerity as well as intimates a sense of lyrical mystery. its both MINIMALIST and highly EXPRESSIVE and really uplifts the POWERFUL narrative themes of surrounding the COMPLICATED nature of LOVE, FAMILY and DUTY to a preternatural extent. its a masterclass in STORYTELLING and comes off as a deeply felt coming to terms with a family TRAUMA generations old but as relevant to the current moment as it was back then before society was effectively shut down after the ISLAMIC REVOLUTION. CHICKEN WITH PLUMS is required reading in my opinion.
its always cool to learn about the INSPIRATION for ART. longtime BRITISH music periodical NME on their youtube channel has for several years had an ongoing video series called SONG STORIES in which they have celebrated musicians explain the initial spark and CREATIVE PROCESS that brought about notable tracks. past participants include JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), PETER HOOK (JOY DIVISION), DAVE GROHL (FOO FIGHTERS), TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB, BRETT ANDERSON (SUEDE), PHOENIX, OLI SYKES (BRING ME THE HORIZON), IAN MCCULLOCH (ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN), JOEY SANTIAGO & DAVID LOVERING (THE PIXIES), JIMMY EAT WORLD, GAVIN ROSSDALE (BUSH), ROYAL BLOOD, BOBBY GILLESPIE (PRIMAL SCREAM) and COURTNEY BARNETT among many others.
while i understand that MUSIC, LITERATURE and ART all have unique narratives that brought about their CREATION, the SOLIPSISTIC truth of the matter is that their longevity is how such became intertwined in the countless personal narratives of individuals the world over. for me music is the ultimate time transportation vehicle as i can listen to a STRANGLERS song and immediately be back in my parents old dilapidated HONDA ACCORD being driven to a weekend soccer match in the early 1990s. the POWER OF MUSIC is not in the CREATOR but in the LISTENER, who effectively completes the circuit.
although as a fan of art i still love getting to know how songs were constructed and what value they imparted or exorcised on the part of the SONGWRITER. endlessly INTRIGUING. NME's SONG STORIES is definitely worth further investigation. highly recommended.