whats always struck me about BAD RELIGION's debut album HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? (EPITAPH, 1982) is how MATURE it sounds for a band so YOUNG. during the recording of such in 1980 the band was still in their teens, some still in high school. yet even at that age, all the hallmarks of their storied career are on full display on tracks like "WE'RE ONLY GOING TO DIE," "VOICE OF GOD IS GOVERMENT," "AMERICAN DREAM," "OLIGARCHY," "LATCHKEY KIDS" and "FUCK ARMAGGEDON... THIS IS HELL".
take a song like the opening track "WE'RE ONLY GOING TO DIE" which neatly sums up mankind's FOLLY throughout history in conquering the world through VIOLENCE and SUBMISSION, only to redirect such VICIOUS intent on themselves. as the ending ANTHEMIC refrain repeats as a SOLEMN mantra, "we're only going to die from our own arrogance." it is pretty INCREDIBLE that a teenage GREG GRAFFIN had the PERSPECTIVE and CLARITY to construct such a POIGNANT statement that takes into account one's own COMPLICITY in the matter.
its my belief that this ability to maintain a LYRICAL POSTURE that included THOUGHTFUL SELF-REFLECTION and SELF-ANALYSIS is what made their brand of MELODIC HARDCORE so different from what was being by their cohort of LOS ANGELES second-wave PUNK ROCK bands in the 1980s. likewise the track "FUCK ARMAGGEDON... THIS IS HELL" embeds this notion of one's own unknowing COLLUSION in supporting political and capitalist systems that lead to our collective DEBASEMENT and DESTRUCTION. makes perfect sense that a young ZACK DE LA ROCHA clamored onto and was influenced by the PRO-INDIVIDUAL and PRO-INDEPENDENT THOUGHT agenda of HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? in particular.
though the follow-up record took a detour into PROG ROCK of all things, this debut served as a template of sort for subsequent releases up until the WATERSHED cultural moment that was SUFFER (EPITAPH, 1988) a few years later. is HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? the best BAD RELIGION album? no. but it is a PROMISING debut well-worth checking out and thinking about as the band evolved to further develop their identity around these STRIDENT POLITICAL THEMES amidst tightly constructed HARDCORE songs of the first order.
ANONYMITY is an attention grabbing device that has been used in ROCK N ROLL for decade now to the point that it is beyond a cliche. ARTISTS ranging from KISS, DAFT PUNK and GWAR to DEVO, MF DOOM and SLIPKNOT have utilized this technique for varying AESTHETIC, POLITICAL and PERSONAL purposes over the years. arguably THE RESIDENTS have pioneered the choice of OBFUSCATION into an ART form. for them this SELF-DETERMINED ARTIFICE that separates their true IDENTITY from the world is ironically about maintaining a relationship with their audience and is the central premise of the recent THEORY OF OBSCURITY: A FILM ABOUT THE RESIDENTS (KTF FILMS, 2015) documentary. if having a documentary about an ANONYMOUS SUBECT seems like a farcically ABSURD concept, worry ye not, for it absolutely is.
for THE RESIDENTS, the theory of obscurity centers around how audiences perceive NEW ARTISTS, in that expectations are LIMITLESS until confronted with the actual work itself. after that something becomes attached to ARTIST and essentially defines their subsequent creative output. THE RESIDENTS, who apparently came out of the BAY AREA psychedelic movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, essentially sought to subvert this relationship by basically presenting as a NEW BAND with every release. this entailed DRASTIC shifts in CONCEPTS, MUSIC GENRES, COSTUMES, INSTRUMENTATION, etc. that UNIQUE perspective and ability to maintain their PERSONAL IDENTITY more than 40 years later has resulted in a highly INFLUENTIAL discography that has affected the likes of generations of musicians, authors and ARTISTS alike, such as those interviewed for this film including JERRY CASALE (DEVO), LES CLAYPOOL (PRIMUS), DEAN WEEN (WEEN), CHRIS CUTLER (HENRY COW), JOSH FREESE (DEVO, THE VANDALS), JERRY HARRISON (TALKING HEADS), DAVE EDWARDSON (NEUROSIS), ERIC DREW FELDMAN (CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, PIXIES), JOE HASSELVANDER (RAVEN), ROB CROW (PINBACK), JOSHUA BRODY (CLUB FOOT ORCHESTRA), MATT GROENING (creator, THE SIMPSONS), GARY PANTER (ARTIST), ADAM WELLER (ARTIST), JIM KNIPFEL (novelist) and PENN JILLETTE (magician, PENN & TELLER) among others.
the core of there legacy seems to be centered on their RELENTLESS creative EXPERIMENTATION which takes them into EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES related to the MUSIC and VIDEO PRODUCTION, COSTUME and SET DESIGN, and even MODERN COMMUNICATION and SOCIAL MEDIA apps. they always seem to use technology as a method of confronting and subverting the expectations of their audience. its INTERESTING because they have a huge discography but remain a band of the moment and are NOT NOSTALGIC in the least. if anything, their embrace makes diehard fans feel that their best work is yet to come.
i want to say just as an aside that i found it real INTERESTING to watch current and past members of THE RESIDENTS' INDEPENDENT label RALPH RECORDS and its superseding likewise private entity THE CRYPTIC CORPORATION speak of them in third-person. i am not sure if these members of the board of the corporation were the band, but it sure felt that way given how much they spoke about the INTIMATE inner-workings of the band over the decades. maybe that was the band hiding in plain sight? maybe? maybe not. does it matter?
i always welcome learning about ARTIST that challenge and provoke and THE RESIDENTS vary much fit into such. although i was familiar with them before, i plan to delve into their extensive discography unsure of the RELEVANT knowledge i picked up from this documentary. perhaps i am being misled, but then thatll work itself out if i come to the music with an OPEN MIND, which is all they or any other band could hope for with their audience. THEORY OF OBSCURITY: A FILM ABOUT THE RESIDENTS is most definitely worth checking out, irrespective of your familiarity with their IDIOSYNCRATIC ARTISTIC legacy or AVANT-GARDE music.
BOOK REVIEW | "THE SPITBOY RULE: TALES OF A XICANA IN A FEMALE PUNK BAND" BY MICHELLE CRUZ GONZALES
i remember when reading SARA MARCUS' GIRLS TO THE FRONT: THE TRUE STORY OF THE RIOT GRRRL REVOLUTION (review linked HERE) about the largely PACIFIC NORTHWEST-based RIOT GRRRL movement a few years back it was evident that there was much thought, intention and goodwill into initiating an arts scene that promoted and supported FEMALE MUSICANS by WOMEN and for WOMEN. specifically the scene at EVERGREEN COLLEGE STATE COLLEGE in OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON reminded me quite vividly of the people i met while attending a NEW ENGLAND boarding school during my high school years. these people were EDUCATED, EMPOWERED, SOCIALLY-CONSCIOUS and on the whole EMPATHETIC, but they all were quite NAIVE and had limited experience living or understanding people that were outside of the social groups they inhabited and were raised around, i.e. WHITE PEOPLE.
the RIOT GRRRL scene of the early 1990s lacked an understanding of what is now understood to be INTERSECTIONAL FEMINISM. in other word they treated womanhood as a monolithic identity and didnt consider how RACE, CLASS, LGBTQ and other MINORITY statuses influence such. that particular scene, though WELL-INTENTIONED, was largely BLIND to the complexities and differences in hardships facing WOMEN of various INTERSECTIONAL IDENTITIES by PATRIARCHAL STRUCTURES. this miscalculation was rooted in their unknowing assumption of taking their own experiences as WHITE WOMEN to stand for that of ALL WOMEN everywhere.
all that being said, part of what makes THE SPITBOY RULE: TALES OF A XICANA IN A FEMALE PUNK BAND (PM PRESS, 2016) by MICHELLE CRUZ GONZALES (a.k.a TODD of SPITBOY) so interesting is how i knowingly provides a counter-narrative to the popular understanding of FEMALE bands of this period (undoubtedly influenced by the RIOT GRRRL scene). SPITBOY was an stridently political BAY AREA HARDCORE band from the same GILMAN STREET scene that brought about NEUROSIS, GREEN DAY, CRIMPSHINE and ECONOCHRIST among many others. being composed entirely of WOMEN, their music was AGGRESSIVELY CONFRONTATIONAL based on their experiences dealing with the bullshit brought on by AMERICAN PATRIARCHAL STRUCTURES. the band identified as a HARDCORE band and consciously did not associate SPITBOY with the CONCURRENT RIOT GRRRL scene.
GONZALES is a UNIQUE and COMPELLING figure given her status as the only non-white member of SPITBOY, rendering her essentially an OUTSIDER in a band of OUTSIDERS. PUNK ROCK had a way of blanketing and superseding all other forms of one's previous IDENTITY, which suited her just fine as an OUTSIDER both ETHNICALLY and GEOGRAPHICALLY in the BAY AREA scene. unlike her band members, she also grew up POOR with a single mother. music, first with BITCH FIGHT, later with SPITBOY, was a means of ESCAPE, EXPRESSION and TRANSFORMATION. as her career moved forward and she became recognized with the scene, and even internationally, there was a sense of tension within herself about her IDENTITY as a WOMAN OF COLOR in a scene where such was a novelty. feeling like an OUTSIDER in a band that identified itself as an OUTSIDER is quite the feat and makes this complicated book entirely fascinating. even ALICE BAG of THE BAGS in a previous generation, as written about in her memoir VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY (review linked HERE), had others within and outside her band and that original late 1970s LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene that identified and were proud of their LATIN heritage. some even incorporated such into their music explicitly, like THE ZEROS and THE PLUGZ. its interesting that such was not the case with the more arguably more influential HARDCORE scene that followed by and large.
just reading through GONZALES' experiences touring on the road really makes you consider how much being in a PUNK ROCK band requires an all-encompassing, OBJECTIVE-ORIENTED GROUP MENTALITY. its a machine that needs to work efficiently in order to function and survive in environments far from home. it makes total sense that one's sense of INDIVIDUALITY is COMPARTMENTALIZED and DISCARDED in such a seeming extreme situation. this memoir feels like a working through of such experiences and sheds light on the personal repercussions of such a complicated state of affairs, especially when there is an audience that projects so much of their sense of IDENTITY on to you. that is a veritable carnival house of mirrors level mindfuck to deal with that i cant imagine.
THE SPITBOY RULE is one of the more FASCINATING memoirs by an artist or musician i have come across in recent years. it is most definitely worth checking out.
its safe to say that SAN DIEGO POP PUNK icons BLINK-182 were the soundtrack to my high school years. even before their commercial breakthrough ENEMA OF THE STATE (MCA, 1999), burned copies of DUDE RANCH (MCA, 1999) had exchanged hands throughout the radio station at the NEW ENGLAND boarding school i was then attending. there was something about their sound, which seemed to take the arpeggiated melodies and concise single-line leads of BAD RELIGION and married them with the juvenile HUMOR sans politics of NOFX. on DUDE RANCH the band was kind of a lighter, less overtly controversial, more POLISHED and POP-FRIENDLY version of those two LEGENDARY LA PUNK bands. i feel strongly that what set them over the top was the addition of a new drummer they poached from THE AQUABATS, TRAVIS BARKER.
BARKER is a generationally TALENTED drummer both in terms of his TECHNICAL MUSICIANSHIP, as well as his COMPOSITIONAL PROWESS as a songwriter. on ENEMA OF THE STATE he elevates TRADITIONAL PUNK ROCK songs with his DEFT inclusion of LATIN, JAZZ and AFRO-CUBAN polyrhythms and a HIP HOP sense of dynamics. i remember reading guitar magazines in the early 1990s and there was always discussions of THE SMITHS' JOHNNY MARR and how even if you couldnt stand MORRISSEY, everyone respected and was in awe of the TECHNICAL ABILITY and supernatural COMPOSITIONAL CHOPS of MARR. same with BARKER. he is very much a drummer's drummer with seemingly UNLIMITED RANGE and PERSONAL STYLE to spare. it is not hyperbole to state that his inclusion in the trio was REVOLUTIONARY for their sound as well as their career trajectory. it turned them from a promising but derivative also-ran POP PUNK group to a POWERHOUSE cultural phenomenon that transcended that of their early influences (i.e. BAD RELIGION, NOFX, DESCENDENTS, THE VANDALS, PENNYWISE).
standout tracks include the tracks like "DUMPWEED," "GOING AWAY TO COLLEGE," "ALIENS EXIST" "DYSENTARY GARY" and the singles "WHAT'S MY AGE AGAIN?" and "ADAM'S SONG." overall thematically the songs relate to GENERIC POP PUNK fair such as the COMBUSTIBILITY and CONFUSION related to relationships, being MISUNDERSTOOD by parents/adults/society and life after high school. in my opinion its not until their self-titled BLINK-182 (review linked HERE) album that songwriting duo guitarist TOM DELONGE and bassist MARK HOPPUS really branch out beyond such seemingly OBVIOUS standard themes. the lone exception on ENEMA OF THE STATE being "ADAM'S SONG," which despite being a reference to a MR. SHOW sketch promoting such, deftly touches on the topic of suicide and what motivates such an extreme action from an EMPATHETIC and THOUGHTFUL first-person narratorial perspective. the misguided but achingly desperate idea that people "will be sorry when i'm gone" despite the fact that the narrator is reluctantly counter-arguing that in "another six months i'll be unknown." the song gets into the psychology and VULNERABLE emotional state that pushes teens over the edge. unquestionably the song has probably helped millions of kids feel heard and understood, albeit from afar.
is ENEMA OF THE STATE a perfect record that deserved pushing BLINK-182 to the upper echelon of POP PUNK royalty alongside GREEN DAY. probably not, but it isnt a bad record in the least. i think it served its purpose in generating interest in PUNK ROCK writ large and undoubtedly had a trickle down effect on the touring prospects for many older and newer bands BLINK-182 lionized and toured with such as PENNYWISE, NEW FOUND GLORY, FALL OUT BOY, THE VANDALS, PARAMORE, BAD RELIGION, GOOD CHARLOTTE, SCREECHING WEASEL, DESCENDENTS, A DAY TO REMEMBER and ALKALINE TRIO among countless others. and i cant fault them for that.
CHECK OUT THIS BAND | GOJIRA
the modern FRENCH METAL band GOJIRA is an absolutely MASSIVE band that are basically as universally celebrated as PANTERA, SLAYER, MASTODON and LAMB OF GOD at this point. i am under no preconceived notion that they are in any need of promotion by anyone these days, much less me and this blog. my reason for writing about them is their UNIQUENESS in the history of modern METAL and ROCK N ROLL in general.
the whole notion of being an 'outsider' and holding some type of personal grudge against society at large, or specific groups therein, is an essential element of modern AGGRESSIVE music going back to BLACK SABBATH or even further to DELTA BLUES. its just an ingrained part of the DNA of music. with GOJIRA, that anger and vitriol is redirected as most of their songs deal with the UNSPEAKABLE RAVAGES against the NATURAL WORLD through CLIMATE CHANGE. they write, by and large, from the perspective of the PLANET which is incredibly interesting when one considers how such redefines notions of in-group/out-group dynamics. as humans we are the root of all planet DEGRADATION and INSTABILITY like a CANCER on the natural cycles and established balances that have served WILDLIFE and the seasons for literally millions of years. we are war with the NATURAL WORLD in essence, they are the out-group. when i listen to GOJIRA, it is essentially the figurative PRIMAL SCREAM of a world in TURMOIL. like ELIZABETH KOLBERT's THE SIXTH EXTINCTION: AN UNNATURAL HISTORY (book review linked HERE) come to fruition. interestingly, the music videos from their most recent album FORTITUDE (ROADRUNNER, 2001) has seen them expand such to include minority societies like the TIBETANS and AMAZONIANS that live in harmony with NATURE but are victimized and put in incredible PERIL by those same INDOMITABLE forces of modern GLOBAL CAPITALISM and STATE POLITICS, whose influence have similarly DOOMED the PLANET and us all in its wake.
GOJIRA is basically merited FRUSTRATION and ANGER on an ELEVATED PLANETARY level. its an INTRIGUING redeclaration of a conservative genre not known or celebrated for its INTELLECTUAL conceits. in my opinion this perspective along with their preternaturally next-level technical rhythmic gifts has made them one of the most DYNAMIC and emotionally INTENSE METAL bands of all-time.
it also makes them well-worth checking out.
author F SCOT FITZGERALD is famous for having once quipped that there are no SECOND ACTS in AMERICAN lives. once you SELF-IDENTIFY and SELF-DEFINE yourself it is DIFFICULT to transition to an alternative in the PUBLIC PERCEPTION. i was a secondary school teacher and now im pursuing a business degree which could not be more different in terms of mission, sentiment or perspective. i can see it in my classmates. i still question whether i have shifted in the process or if i still see myself years after the fact as an educator. in some ways this blog and the bi-weekly radio show is a continuation of that previous WAY OF LIFE.
i enjoy it.
when i think of the ENGLISH band NEW ORDER, they appear to be the prime cultural example of turning a page and pursuing your PASSION anew, irrespective of who you were before or how PUBLIC PERCEPTION has compartmentalized your identity in a tidy box. the ICONIC MANCHESTER POST PUNK band JOY DIVISION begat the DEFINITIVE NEW WAVE band NEW ORDER through a DEATH in the lineup. the death of IAN CURTIS ended one set of opportunities and HARSHLY and ABSURDLY opened others. you listen to the former's final album CLOSER (FACTORY, 1980), the tone and sonic aesthetic of the later's POWER, CORRUPTION & LIES (FACTORY, 1983) seems UNCONNECTED and completely ARBITRARY, but in fact its the same rhythm section. the band through COLLECTIVE PERMISSION or sheer PIGHEADEDNESS allowed themselves the ability to EVOLVE and TRANSFORM. forget DAVID BOWIE, the transition from JOY DIVISION to NEW ORDER is one of the most UNLIKELY and FRUITFUL musical transitions in recorded memory.
for me it is an example to KEEP READING, KEEP LISTENING, KEEP COMMUNICATING and allow myself to not feel defined by my past. i hope that is the case for others as well.
embedded below is the second DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC, which originally aired a little over three years ago. the playlist includes music from throughout the CELEBRATED NEW ORDER catalogue. enjoy!
when i discovered MARILYN MANSON and the ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (review linked HERE) album in seventh grade, it felt at the time like the perfect expression of my tortured teenage existence living amongst a bunch of AMERICAN SOUTHERNERS abroad in NIGERIA. that record showcased a distilled and unadulterated NIHILISTIC viewpoint that was CAUSTIC as much as it was RIGHTEOUS about the HYPOCRISY of the AMERICAN way of life and its DUPLICITY regarding matters of RELIGION, SEX and POLITICS. MANSON had his finger on a pulse that i would come to understand all too well living abroad and the returning stateside yearly to hear about DILUTED, PHONY and downright QUIXOTIC notions of AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM and our supposed CULTURAL and MORAL DOMINANCE on GLOBAL AFFAIRS. it remains to date an IMPORTANT and CONSEQUENTIAL album for me.
funny enough, i cam across the debut PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY (NOTHING, 1994) album a few months later while in FLORIDA (MARILYN MANSON was formed in FORT LAUDERDALE) of all places on a school trip centered around marine biology. it was a completely INCONGROUS experience listening to the EXTREME imagery and NIHILISTIC takedown of AMERICAN LIFE in tracks like "GET YOUR GUNN," "LUNCHBOX," "DOPE HAT" and "CAKE AND SODOMY" while in a scenic science camp in the FLORIDA KEYS, but that was how it went down.
i remember noticing immediately how sonically and lyrically PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY felt more CARTOONISH, less polished and more ABRASIVE than ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR (both produced by TRENT REZNOR of NINE INCH NAILS fame). arguably this record is the CREATIVE high point of founding guitarist DAISY BERKOWITZ, whose slinky and economic riffage are a signature of this era of the band, more angular POST PUNK than grooved-out METAL that the band would later evolve into on subsequent releases. bassist TWIGGY RAMIREZ serves as a fitting counterpoint to BERKOWITZ with his propulsive sense of groove that is further reinforced by drummer GINGER FISH's off-kilter sense of meter. lastly keyboardist MADONNA WAYNE GACY is in SINGULAR form on this album, with probably more freedom on record than anytime since, as he introduces INDUSTRIAL-inflected haunting loops and vintage horror film samples that basically established the shtick for countless bands since (i'm looking right at you INSANE CLOWN POSSE).
you can see the potential the band had with PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY, which feels like a less conceptually fleshed out and sonically more SPARE version of the later ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR. in my mind those releases are spiritually and thematically connected. as a teenager both of these records were completely EMPOWERING and served as a springboard into discovering other like-minded INDUSTRIAL acts in high school such as FRONT 242, THROBBING GRISTLE, MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT, SKINNY PUPPY, FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY, MINISTRY, ATARI TEENAGE RIOT, GODFLESH, CABARET VOLTAIRE, VNV NATION and KMFDM among others. PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY is not an INDUSTRIAL record per se, but it utilizes aspects of its sound to showcase a vision of an AMERICAN CULTURE in decline by the weight of its own ARROGANCE. its almost like it foresaw the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION a decade and a half in advance.
of course i have to mention that the DISTURBING sexual predatory allegations against MARILYN MANSON the individual (as well as TWIGGY RAMIREZ) have been very DISAPPOINTING and DISILLUSIONING. MARILYN MANSON felt like an avatar for the collective id of UNBRIDLED teenage ALIENATION and INSECURITY. it felt like he was authentically channeling something DEEP and possibly TRAUMATIC through his ART, which despite its NIHILISTIC and BITING delivery was nothing if not POSITIVE and AMELIORATIVE on balance. the fact that he could have deliberately hurt so many women through his elevated status due to his ART is beyond UNCONSCIONABLE.
and SAD. and i stand with his victims. i hope he gets whats coming to him.
i took this PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS my senior year. it was at a public school in a SACRAMENTO suburb that my uncle taught at and i was there in the wake of 9/11 as my family decided it was better for me not to be with them in KUWAIT during that tense GEOPOLITICAL MOMENT. i remember being beside myself with boredom in this class and feeling ISOLATED. there was this assignment i had to complete which entailed taking someone's portrait. now at the time i didnt know anybody so i turned that relative ANONYMITY to my advantage. right before the shutter opened id gently toss a candy bar or tennis ball i stole from physical ed at my subject. what i got were these looks of genuine SURPRISE and/or FEAR in my photographs. funny enough i won an award for them at the end of the year.
THE INCOMPARABLE ROSE HARTMAN (GRAVITAS VENTURES, 2016) follows the NOTORIOUS celebrity photographer ROSE HARTMAN, known for her ability to take exquisitely COMPOSED and EMOTIVE photographs under less-than-stellar lighting conditions at OPENINGS, GALAS and PRIVATE PARTIES, some she was invited to and others not so much. in some ways her objective was not dissimilar than my own, capturing that PERFECT MOMENT when the subject has UNVEILED themselves and made apparent, however briefly, their TRUE SELVES and not some PREPARED MASK or PRACTICED PUBLIC PERSONA. the details of the NYC NIGHTCLUB, GLITERATI and HIGH SOCIETY events is not something i find terribly interesting or COMPELLING, but the idea of subterfuge and pressing forth into EXCLUSIVE SPACES where one was not invited to capture a FLEETING MOMENT perfectly seems absolutely THRILLING. it should be noted that HARTMAN is not a member of the PAPARAZZI in that she is not looking to embarrass, diminish or expose her subject for short term gain in a low-brow tabloid. she is much more interested in documenting the nighttime FANTASY WORLD that she has come to term the "CHIFFON JUNGLE" of which she is involved in but a exactly a part of. its quite an INTERESTING dynamic at play.
the other COMPELLING dynamic on fully display throughout the documentary is her unrelentingly DOMINATING personality. HARTMAN comes off as a force of nature as she browbeats the director as well as revelers at her own showing, making sure full well that she and her work at the forefront of everyone's attention. its a personality quirk that is easy to mock and betrays some deep need for CONFIRMATION, as if controlling people is a substitute for AFFECTION. there is something DISTURBING and even TRAGIC about that dynamic, as if HEISENBERG's UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE is put into practice in the SOCIAL SPHERE, i.e. she can affect people's behavior but at the core is still on the periphery never really connecting in any sort of INTIMATE sense.
ive looked through her work and it is beyond INCREDIBLE, almost HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON-esque in capturing that "DECISIVE MOMENT." its just at what price? it all feels like a distraction from some deep UNSPOKEN personal TRAUMA.
BOOK REVIEW | "GABBA GABBA HEY!: THE GRAPHIC STORY OF THE RAMONES" BY JIM MCCARTHY & BRIAN WILLIAMS
the unlikely story of PUNK ROCK originators THE RAMONES is one for the ages. coming out of the QUEENS cultural wasteland known as FOREST HILLS, the group was made up of three social outcasts that could not be more different in demeanor and personality, i.e. the FRANTIC speed freak bassist DEE DEE, the RECALCITRANT RIGHT-WINGER guitarist JOHNNY and the NERVOUS and SOCIALLY AWKWARD BIPOLAR singer JOEY. original drummer TOMMY was their initial manager and producer who took up the sticks as a means of necessity and made way for MARKY after a two albums. the fact that such a VOLATILE and IN-COHESIVE mix of clashing personalities managed to survive as a creative unit and have the LONG-LASTING impact on AMERICAN culture writ large as they did.
THE RAMONES did nothing less than revitalize a DEAD, BLOATED corpse and breathed AUTHENTICITY and confrontational INTENTION back into the form, paving the way not only for PUNK and HARDCORE, but virtually every major ROCK N ROLL variant and sub-genre thereafter, from ALTERNATIVE ROCK, POST HARDCORE and POP PUNK to STONER ROCK, METALCORE, INDIE ROCK and GRINDCORE.
the graphic novel GABBA GABBA HEY!: THE GRAPHIC STORY OF THE RAMONES (OMNIBUS, 2013) very much gets at the heart of the DYSFUNCTIONAL inner-workings and INTIMATE inter-relational dynamics of the LEGENDARY band. most of which center around JOEY and JOHNNY who for decades didnt speak after the latter married the former's ex-girlfriend. that SCHISM was one which never got repaired. how the unit functioned was one of differentiated labor in which JOEY's sphere of influence was the lyrics and vocal melody and JOHNNY (with help from DEE DEE and drummer/producer TOMMY) as the de facto musical director. that is not to say that such a state of affairs is UNUSUAL in ROCK N ROLL history, where CELEBRATED songwriting tandems from ELTON JOHN and BERNIE TAUPIN, HENRY ROLLINS and GREG GINN to MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR had differentiated responsibilities in the process.
there is a thread throughout of the FUTILITY of such a BROKEN MARRIAGE within the band. the fact that they never achieved the financial success that they felt they earned, despite decades of touring and creating consistent quality records. watching up-and-comers like NIRVANA, GREEN DAY and the like take their innovations to the bank was an ever-present FRUSTRATION, despite the EFFUSIVE and constant PRAISE of both for THE RAMONES in the press. the picture presented of their career almost feels analogous to that of NEW YORK YANKEE great MICKEY MANTLE, who in his rookie season he infamously tore his ACL on a drain pipe while deferring a pop up to JOE DIMAGGIO in centerfield at YANKEE STADIUM during the fifth inning of the second game of the 1951 WORLD SERIES. as hard as it is to believe, in essence MANTLE's whole HALL OF FAME career was conducted on one good leg, thus creating one of the biggest "what ifs" in sports history. it just makes you wonder how the career of THE RAMONES may have been DIFFERENT if the two leaders of the group actually spoke with one another for the majority of their career. maybe such would never happen given their INCONGRUOUS personalities, but one would think they may have been better able to take on new opportunities if there was a better meeting of the minds rather than kicking those decisions to outsiders like managers. feels like their whole career is HANDICAPPED in retrospect.
and with that self-imposed limitation in place, they are still on a short list of the most INFLUENTIAL ROCK N ROLL bands of the 20th century, easily right up there with THE BEATLES, THE ROLLING STONES, LED ZEPPELIN and BLACK SABBATH. which is an INCREDIBLE accomplishment for a few glue-sniffing pinheads from the eternal cultural abyss known QUEENS.
GABBA GABBA HEY is lovingly written by JIM MCCARTHY and illustrated by BRIAN WILLIAMSON and is most definitely worth checking out.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating NYC DANCE-PUNK independent label DFA RECORDS!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
RECORD REVIEW | "NOLA" BY DOWN
its not a big secret that PANTERA frontman PHIL ANSELMO joined that TEXAN group with a bevy of influences that veered well past the NWOBHM, THRASH and GLAM-inspired 80s METAL that the band had been rehashing up until that point. this included a pronounced HARDCORE AESTHETIC, not to mention a penchant for BLACK METAL, DEATH METAL and what would become SLUDGE METAL out of his hometown in NEW ORLEANS.
in-between the cycles for FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (EASTWEST, 1994) and THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL (EASTWEST, 1996), ANSELMO pursued a NOTABLE side-project in DOWN that was a veritable ALL-STAR lineup of the burgeoning NEW ORLEANS SLUDGE METAL scene that included PEPPER KEENAN of CROSSOVER HARDCORE band CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, KIRK WINDSTEIN of CROWBAR and JIMMY BOWER of EYEHATEGOD. their debut NOLA (EASTWEST, 1995) is a watershed moment in METAL history as it is a SEAMLESS CONFLUENCE of influences from SOUTHERN ROCK to STONER ROCK and of course, SLUDGE METAL. their sound is in a lot of ways the antithesis of PANTERA, whose records were METICULOUSLY PRODUCED with a sense of unmatched GROOVE, INTENSITY and TECHNICALITY. DOWN had a UNIQUE SOUND and SONGWRITING AESTHETIC that was more laid back (and even loose) that really seemed to revel in the EMOTIVE power of a DISTORTED guitar through a BLOWN-OUT speaker in a manner later mined by POST METAL bands like SUN O))) and ISIS. tracks like "BURY ME IN SMOKE," "LIFER," "STONE THE CROW," "REHAB," and "TEMPTATION'S WINGS" find ANSELMO singing in a manner somewhat devoid of the HYPER-MASCULINE posturing of his other famous outfit.
i remember in 2001 when PANTERA broke up and ANSELMO pursued a string of perceived side projects like SUPERJOINT RITUAL, VIKING CROWN, CHRIST INVERSION and so on that played up his passion for various METAL sub-genres. the understanding by fans was that such was a temporary DISTRACTION before the next PANTERA record when inevitably come. obviously that never happened and the communication between ANSELMO, bassist REX BROWN and the ABBOTT BROTHERS deteriorated to NOTHING. it was a real pity because if anything NOLA provided an INTERESTING calming aside from the CAUSTIC BRUTALITY that was THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL. felt like that debut DOWN record was a worthwhile pursuit and something he had to get out of his system, as well as shed light on a much CELEBRATED adjacent scene in LOUISIANA. it should also be said that DIMEBAG and VINNIE PAUL were friends with all these dudes as well and understood the benefit of giving each other space. that was hack when the band communicated. 1996 saw ANSELMO overdose on heroin after a DALLAS PANTERA show and that pretty much was the beginning of the end of that open correspondence.
when i listen to DOWN i hear an artist on a white hot streak at the pinnacle of their powers and i see a potential that never came to pass, at least with PANTERA. DOWN would continue to make absolutely SICK SLUDGE METAL records to date, but they are cursed to being perceived publicly as a PANTERA side project even decades after that former bands IMPLOSION.
NOLA is required listening for any METAL fan. its a VERITABLE MASTERCLASS of how much POWER there is in taking the TEMPO and pulling it way way back in the name of GROOVE.
CHECK OUT THIS BAND | BLACK MIDI
not even sure where to begin with the LONDON-based MATH ROCK / AVANT JAZZ / INDIE ROCK band BLACK MIDI. their sound is ever EVOLVING from track to track and is marked by rapid shifts in tempo and textural juxtapositions. once you are seemingly comfortable in one GROOVE it is abandoned. this band sounds like ORNETTE COLEMAN crossed with CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB.
no idea what i encountered here, but BLACK MIDI is well worth checking out if only to hear the future of EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC collapsing in on itself (in a good way).
i was listening the today to long-time noted tech journalist KARA SWISHER's interview with biographer WALTER ISAACSON about ELON MUSK, the subject of an upcoming, as yet untitled book. for those who dont know, ISAACSON trades in narratives about INNOVATIVE SCIENTISTS, POLITICIANS, PHILOSOPHERS and ENTREPRENEURS who left their mark on society; everyone from BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, LEONARDO DA VINCI, HENRY KISSINGER and ALBERT EINSTEIN to JENNIFER DOUDNA (pioneer of GENE EDITING and CRISPR) and STEVE JOBS. his work leans towards HAGIOGRAPHY and his arguably UNCRITICAL approach spares things like the CHARACTER FLAWS and PROBLEMATIC viewpoints of his subjects in order to shed light on the achievements that differentiate them from their peers.
SWISHER admittedly takes ISAACSON to task for glossing over the TROUBLING aspects of MUSK's NARCISSISTIC personality and SOLIPSISTIC worldview, such as his wanton CRUELTY on TWITTER, punching down on less POWERFUL people with repeated VILE HOMOPHOBIC, MISOGYNISTIC, TRANSPHOBIC, XENOPHOBIC and RACIST garbage. he's beyond a troll. he's an ASSHOLE of TRUMPIAN proportions and ISAACSON is SYCOPHANTIC towards him because he has a space ship and manufactures electric cars. it got me thinking about how as a society we treat this class of ENTREPRENEUR differently, going back to HENRY FORD, HOWARD HUGHES and THOMAS EDISON. that in a sense we are all COMPLICIT in this whitewashing of history and that over time MUSK will be no different. a century from now his net positives for humanity related to TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENT in SPACE EXPLORATION and BATTERY STORAGE CAPACITY will supposedly outweigh the copious MISANTHROPIC BILE he continually spews upon the most VULNERABLE populations on TWITTER. according to APOLOGISTS and ENABLERS like ISAACSON.
when issues like this are raised i always think about my own COMPLICITY in the matter. being a participant in a CAPITALIST SOCIETY, by definition i am benefiting on the EXPLOITED LABOR of some NAMELESSS, FACELESS person in a faraway land. unlike most AMERICANS, ive seen this dynamic at play up close in SOUTHEAST ASIA, LATIN AMERICA, EASTERN EUROPE and WEST AFRICA during my time overseas. its the underbelly of CAPITALISM nobody wishes to acknowledge.
in a way the same goes for music and film. there are countless ASSHOLES in each industry that have done some terribly MONSTROUS things and we are all COMPLICIT, knowingly or unknowingly, in their cultural ascension by admiring and taking to heart their creative work. the second DEER GOD RADIO episode was about this very COMPLICATED dilemma of attempting to compartmentalize the artist from the art. i dont think we differentiate such, but we do and in the long arc of history the films of WOODY ALLEN and ROMAN POLANSKI and the music of R KELLY, MICHAEL JACKSON and CHUCK BERRY will undoubtedly outlive us all.
i am in SWISHER's corner but ISAACSON sadly might be on to something. and thats TRAGIC and UNFORTUNATE. i just try to think past and ignore DEGENERATE MISANTRHOPES like MUSK who ironically have MARTYR COMPLEXES and EPIC DELUSIONS regarding personal crusades and corporate missions to save humanity. just leave me out of it!
embedded below is the second DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC, which originally aired this week five years ago in march 2018. the playlist includes some unquestionably SENSATIONAL music created and performed by some truly UNSAVORY and AWFUL human beings. enjoy!
this veritable shitlist of musicians does not include THE CRAMPS.
viva POISON IVY y LUX INTERIOR para siempre!
L7's BRICKS ARE HEAVY (SLASH, 1992) is one of the most NO BULLSHIT ROCK AND ROLL records of the 1990s and puts most of their PUNK ROCK and ALTERNATIVE ROCK cohorts, MALE or FEMALE, to total shame. the title sums it up PERFECT since PUMMELING tracks like "WARGASM," "SHIT LIST," "EVERGLADE," "SCRAP," "SLIDE" and "PRETEND WE'RE DEAD" are completely UNRELENTING and HEAVY beyond belief, both lyrically and sonically.
growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA i was introduced unwittingly to the group in early elementary school via their single "PRETEND WE'RE DEAD" which was a staple on the local INFLUENTUAL ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 106.7FM KROQ in LOS ANGELES but wasn't really aware of the group until much later in high school. upon rediscovering them and becoming reacquainted with the absolute TORNADO of PUNK ROCK energy that is the MONSTROUS voice and persona of DONITA SPARKS just blew me away. this was a figure that was not looking for male acceptance and demanded RESPECT on her terms a la PJ HARVEY, PATTI SMITH, BJORK, etc. to tell you the truth i was actually pissed off that i hadnt heard BRICKS ARE HEAVY sooner since i was familiar with most of the other major players from the early 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement, or so i thought. L7 was basically a reeducation for me and a lesson in my own MYOPIA as a music listener, since i was unaware of the gaps in my own listening diet from that period. it makes you consider how many other similar bands didnt breakthrough for not succumbing to OUTMODED and RESTRICTIVE SOCIETAL DISTORTIONS regarding GENDER NORMS and what is considered FEMININE. L7 and SPARKS in particular didnt have time for that BULLSHIT on BRICKS ARE HEAVY, they were too busy showing their peers what actual PUNK ROCK looked and sounded like.
much is made about BUTCH VIG's production on classic ALTERNATIVE ROCK staples like NIRVANA's NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) and the SMASHING PUMPKINS' GISH (CAROLINE, 1991) and SIAMESE DREAM (VIRGIN, 1993), but id argue that BRICKS ARE HEAVY and its UNYIELDING aural onslaught is arguably his greatest moment as a producer. or at the very least on par with his more CELEBRATED efforts.
lyrically BRICKS ARE HEAVY deals with everything from MALE CHAUVINISM, THE GULF WAR and REDNECKS to the multitude of pressures that come with being a stridently INDEPENDENT FEMALE in a society that wants you to go home to your supposed DOMESTIC SPHERE and remain QUIET and PASSIVE. the whole album comes off like a PRIMAL SCREAM and giant MIDDLE FINGER to MIDDLE AMERICAN values and a cultural malaise that renders WOMEN as UNWILLING second-class citizens. its interesting that much of L7's CAUSTIC response to MALE AGGRESSION aligns intimately with that of the concurrent RIOT GRRL movement of which they were not a part of. the difference i see is that the OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON and later WASHINGTON, DC-based RIOT GRRL movement was more of a CEREBRAL affair focused on fanzines and giving FEMALE audience members a voice both in and out of the club, whereas L7 was more CONFRONTATIONAL and sought to push the BOYS around in their own playground. the PRIME example of such is DONITA SPARKS ICONIC throwing of her used tampon at the UNRULY READING FESTIVAL crowd in 1992. i literally cannot think of any gesture being more PUNK ROCK than that, done anywhere, ever.
BRICKS ARE HEAVY is a classic album that is worthy of all the hype its gotten in the wake of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the early 1990s. it is still EXCITING and absolutely eviscerates most ROCK AND ROLL music from any period in terms of its CATCHINESS, ENERGY, CONVICTION and sheer FEROCITY. most definitely worth check out.
its difficult for me to watch the highly AFFECTING GOODNIGHT BROOKLYN - THE STORY OF DEATH BY AUDIO (GRAVITAS VENTURES, 2016) documentary, it being a lovingly INTIMATE eulogy to a performance space that brought CULTURE, JOY, MUSIC, ART and COMMUNITY in a DILAPIDATED WILLIAMSBURG warehouse to a new generation of MUSIC fans, and not think of the similar real estate-related demise of my cousin's nearby [the end] recording studio in nearby GREENPOINT. in both cases the property values went to high for landlords not to convert the land into high-end retail office and/or residential buildings. if anything, both facilities were playing with borrowed time.
i learned about DEATH BY AUDIO via their TOTAL SONIC ANNIHILATION guitar pedal that i heard about but couldnt secure until i took a trip up to MAIN DRAG MUSIC in WILLIAMSBURG. the pedal basically sends the signal back into the previous chain and all i knew was that combined with my PROCO RAT and DIGITECH WHAMMY pedals it made everything sound like an ornery pterodactyl in its final death throes. i still love that pedal. at the time i knew nothing about the band A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS or their headquarters which doubled as the focal point for DEATH BY AUDIO's manufacturing efforts or the INFLUENTIAL performance space that shared the same name.
GOODNIGHT BROOKLYN basically documents the final few weeks of the DEATH BY AUDIO performance space and showcases the ART and MUSIC that made it such a VITAL part of the BROOKLYN CULTURAL scene for its 2007-2014 run. it very much concerns itself with two main threads. the first and far and away the most important is the scene itself that the nonprofit live venue integrated and ingratiated itself into, as manifested by the quality of the EXPERIMENTAL bands DEERHOOF, THEE OH SEES, GROOMS, LIGHTNING BOLT, FUTURE ISLANDS, LES SAVY FAV, PROTOMARTYR, DAN DEACON, JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD, TY SEGAL BAND and (of course) A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS that played there over the last few weeks as a proper send off to the venue and the COMMUNITY DEATH BY AUDIO built. likewise interview participants for this film ranged from various former EMPLOYEES, music JOURNALISTS and AUTHORS (BILL PEARIS, MICHAEL AZERRAD), as well as PROMINENT MUSICIANS (KYP MALONE, SAM HERRING, LAUREN STERN, BRIAN CHIPPENDALE and TY SEGALL) , ARTISTS (NICK KUSZYK) and local CONCERT PROMOTERS (TODD P). all make self-evident the impact of the whole venture. the second thread deals with VICE MEDIA, who while expanding their reach soon after its influx of major capital investment in 2013 form the likes of RUPERT MURDOCH and DISNEY, decided to rent out the building and effective push DEATH BY AUDIO out. VICE likened itself as an outsider publication that had its ear to the CULTURAL UNDERGROUND. its lost on no one that by snuffing out DEATH BY AUDIO they were effectively smothering an artistic and musical DIY COMMUNITY that they were supposedly championing. safe to say that if you take money from the likes of FOX NEWS executives, you have no credibility or cultural urrency to effectuate any change and are essentially a vulture.
but such is BROOKLYN. and NEW YORK real estate in general going back to the likes of JACKSON POLLOCK in CHELSEA. cheep rent and real estate cycles are what draw artists into new COMMUNITIES which are in turn swallowed up by the money and investment set. no more CBGBs. no more DEATH BY AUDIO. same story, different decade.
its PAINFUL nonetheless. when [the end] closed it very much took a toll on my cousin. a few years later when the physical building was demolished it left a deep PSYCHIC and EMOTIONAL scar i have no doubt, even though his POSITIVE temperament and default mode was to push forward and seek out new opportunities elsewhere. the DEATH BY AUDIO pedal company moved to QUEENS and is still very much part of a new breed of mutually SUPPORTIVE boutique small pedal manufacturers such as EARHQUAKER DEVICES, OLD BLOOD NOISE ENDEAVOURS, MR BLACK, CHASE BLISS, JHS PEDALS, WALRUS AUDIO and so on. it may be me, but i feel that this CREATIVE network of like-minded, EXPLORATORY sound engineers carries the same DNA of the celebrated former performance space. although technically in competition, these brands all seemingly promote each other via their social media accounts. venues come and go, but for me that sense of COMMUNITY and LOVE of NOVEL ART and MUSIC for its own sake is the cool lasting legacy of DEATH BY AUDIO. you really get the sense that their pedals are tools for nurturing and promoting future CREATIVITY and independent SELF-EXPRESSION out in the ether. just pushing that EMPATHETIC energy forward.
its a good thing.
BOOK REVIEW | "SMALL VICTORIES: THE TRUE STORY OF FAITH NO MORE" BY ADRIAN HARTE
SMALL VICTORIES: THE TRUE STORY OF FAITH NO MORE (JAWBONE PRESS, 2018) is an exhaustively RESEARCHED and adroitly CRAFTED biography of the expansive GENRE-DEFYING creative unit that is FAITH NO MORE. since discovering the band via a BRITISH classmate's taped copy of ANGEL DUST (SLASH, 1992) back in middle school shortly after arriving in NIGERIA in 1996, the band has continued to be one of my all-time FAVORITE groups (along with DEVO, THE SMITHS, MASSIVE ATTACK and JANE'S ADDICTION) through all of its iterations. reading this book was a bit of REVELATION, as it truly ENLIGHTENED and EDUCATED the reader to the inner personal dynamics of the group and the INSPIRATIONS and ALLUSIONS present in much of their EXTENSIVE catalogue. reading this book is not necessary to properly appreciate the music of FAITH NO MORE, but it brought their CAREER and LEGACY into a proper focus that i had hitherto not fully appreciated.
like most fans, i am obsessed with the work of MIKE PATTON, in and of his involvement with FAITH NO MORE. he's been on a CREATIVE STREAK for years with his myriad of COMPELLING yet DISPARATE projects like the seminal MR BUNGLE as well as FANTOMAS, TOMAHAWK, LOVAGE, PEEPING TOM and COLLABORATIONS with the likes of ZU, HANDSOME BOY MODELING SCHOOL, THE DUB TRIO and composer JOHN ZORN among many others. PATTON is very much a singular entity in modern music well beyond the confines of ALTERNATIVE ROCK and is UNIVERSALLY CELEBRATED by most modern rock musicians, end stop. SMALL VICTORIES makes the INTRIGUING CONNECTION between the CHARACTER STUDIES he inhabits in his lyrics and his formal pre-band STUDIES as an ENGLISH major in college, which i was most definitely not aware of. but it makes total sense since his FEARLESSNESS as a VOCALIST and writer come from a PERFORMATIVE need to due the MATERIAL justice (regardless of its author), not of SELF-EXPRESSION per se. case in point, PATTON's abundant ENTHUSIASM to sing "BE AGGRESSIVE" on ANGEL DUST, a song about the pleasure of homosexual oral sex as written by bandmate RODNEY BOTTUM about his own experience with the subject. for PATTON, this was a SINGULAR professional OPPORTUNITY and CHALLENGE presented to him that he did hesitate from, instead throwing himself into the track. something arguably most IMAGE-CONSCIOUS frontmen from the period would have second thoughts regarding, not wanting to associate themselves with what was then still very much a TABOO subject that would raise questions about their MASCULINITY (which we all know is bullshit). it is a FASCINATING dynamic that the singer, usually the focal point of a band, within the context of FAITH NO MORE, is just ANOTHER INSTRUMENT. in fact, the core of the creative unit is essentially BASSIST BILLY GOULD and KEYBOARDIST BOTTUM (who were childhood friends) and DRUMMER MIKE BORDIN. this means that one of the truly INNOVATIVE and INVENTIVE modern rock bands was steered in general not by the GUITARIST or lead SINGER, but rather by the RHYTHM SECTION. its a wholly UNIQUE situation in that regard and a sign of each members' ability to control their ego for the sake of the whole, especially the VOCALIST.
that being the case, the band was blessed with two entirely DIFFERENT yet highly EFFECTIVE generationally TALENTED frontmen in CHUCK MOSELY and MIKE PATTON. this was after years of a rotating cast of stand-ins that even famously included COURTNEY LOVE at one point. for GOULD, BOTTUM and BORDIN the focus was on the quality of the INSTRUMENTALS and the VOCALS was an ancillary necessity in order to secure live gigs. same with GUITARISTS. if you listen to ANGEL DUST the CRUSHING guitars fo not take center stage but act as a rhythmic bed for the EXTENSIVE PRODUCTION elements like the PROMINENT SAMPLES and KEYBOARDS and processed VOCALS. that immersive aural landscape is what provided contextual COMPLEXITY for the more traditional DISSONANT guitar tones of JIM MARTIN, and is what made that record such a MIND-MELTING experience for the listener. FAITH NO MORE were not a straight METAL band, or arguably a METAL band at all, but their SOUND transformed sonic expectations for the genre through such EXPERIMENTATION, as well as their SPECIALIZED sense of HUMOR and CONTRARIAN penchant for ABSURDISM that bucked audience and industry expectations. ultimately it is that STUBBORNNESS that has led them to be such a BELOVED cult(?) band.
SMALL VICTORIES shines in its attention to important details and its fondness for SESQUIEDALIAN passages that immerse the reader into the MINDSET of individual band-members through time. i recommend this book to anyone interested in FAITH NO MORE or the cultural underpinnings and history of the pre-NIRVANA ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement of the late 80s and early 1990s. i am most definitely going to seek out more publications by the author ADRIAN HARTE. SMALL VICTORIES is quite an achievement and one of the better biographies i have read since beginning this blog.
RIP CHUCK MOSLEY
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the production catalogue of veteran record producer / engineer / mixer ERIC VALENTINE!
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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RECORD REVIEW | "MUSIC" BY 311
upon discovering the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band 311 in the mid 1990s in middle school through classmates in NIGERIA via their self-titled 311 (CAPRICORN, 1995) album, i shortly began the search for other records by the band. being in AFRICA during the pre-internet era, this meant waiting for school breaks and trips abroad where inevitably myself or someone else would return with a compact disc that could be transferred to cassette tapes for mixes. this was basically how everyone came across new music with no access to radio at the time which ended up covering everything from FEAR FACTORY, PORNO FOR PYROS, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST and SEPULTURA to SLAYER, FAITH NO MORE, SMASHING PUMKPKINS and 311. this delayed anticipation made discovering previous 311 albums GRASSROOTS (CAPRICORN, 1994) and MUSIC (CAPRICORN, 1993) that much more SATISFYING in the end i believe.
their CAPRICORN debut MUSIC from the jump is a COMPELLING release in that it had many of the DRIVING, UPBEAT tracks like "VISIT," "FAT CHANCE," "PARADISE," "MY STONEY BABY" and "HYDROPONIC" from their INDEPENDENT HYDROPONIC EP released the previous year. even in those five initial songs carried over to this new release you get a sense of the musical VERSATILITY of the band, who could pull off JAZZY interludes just as seamlessly as ferociously ANGULAR, riff-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK. the common foundation for both is a UNIQUE sense of rhythm and SWING between drummer CHAD SEXTON, bassist P-NUT and guitarists TIM MAHONEY and NICK HEXUM. this unspoken MULTI-FACETED technical connection is the DEFINITIVE hallmark of the band in my opinion, no doubt achieved through woodshedding in the band's previous incarnations going back to high school between some members. its pretty cool that such is palpable at so early a stage in their discography given that such is so prominent through the next few decades of their career. other STANDOUT tracks include the likes of "FEELS SO GOOD," "WELCOME," "DO YOU RIGHT," "FREAK OUT," "PLAIN" and "NIX HEX" which all share this aforementioned approach and musical DNA that combines the likes of JAZZ, DUB, HIP HOP, FUNK and ROOTS REGGAE along with rhythmically complex start-stop ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
lyrically the band earnestly trades on themes related to maintaining a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE, which makes sense given their lionizing of WASHINGTON DC HARDCORE legends BAD BRAINS. this OPTIMISTIC sentiment can be heard most prominently on the track "UNITY" (which was the moniker for a previous iteration of the band) as it promotes COMMUNITY and GOODWILL through the social connective tissue that is music. this POSITIVE OUTLOOK likewise will be a foundational element of the band moving forward and most definitely a point of differentiation from other similar bands of the period (KORN, SLIPKNOT, LINKIN PARK, STAIND, PAPA ROACH, LIMP BIZKIT, etc.) who tend more towards wallowing in SELF-PITY or acting out in public acts of SELF-FLAGELLATION, both undoubtedly for attention. despite rare actions to the contrary over the years (most famously drummer CHAD SEXTON's head-scratching support of both DONALD TRUMP and RUSSIA during the initial invasion of UKRAINE), the band as a whole is earnestly about promoting GOODWILL and POSITIVITY at their shows and in their CREATIVE and CHARITABLE efforts (aligning them with more THOUGHTFUL and CONSIDERATE peers such as RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and INCUBUS). it sounds phony on paper but given their LAIDBACK personalities and WARM, EMPATHETIC demeanor towards fans and peers alike it has long felt like such comes from a place of AUTHENTICITY and genuine SINCERITY.
that UNIQUE COMMUNITY and sense of CONNECTION they have cultivated in their audience is probably why ive seen them play live several times in the past two decades. their whole discography is STELLAR and MUSIC is as good a place as any other to start. it definitely has some bangers that havent aged a day in thirty years. shit, its been 30 years. now thats CRAZY.
over the course of two ENERGETIC records, SEATTLE-based songwriter SCOTT REITHERMAN via his solo project PILLAR POINT has concocted some of the most contagiously UPLIFTING and HYPER-CHARGED SYNTH-based INDIE POP i have come across this side of LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, HOLY GHOST!, FOUR TET, CUT COPY and HOT CHIP. just really thoughtfully composed DANCE MUSIC with driving, KINETIC grooves that make you enjoy life.
i also cant lie that the video for "DOVE" also makes me instantly NOSTALGIC for my time getting lost in SOUTH AMERICA, as it has a LIMBER dancer making her way seemingly through various parts of BOGOTA. a perfect presentation of a great track. definitely check out PILLAR POINT.
i think like a lot of people i feel a certain sense of COMPLACENCY in my listening habits at times, especially as i get older. what was once NOVEL and INNOVATIVE inevitably becomes part of a growing catalogue of interesting diversions in my mind's eye. it feels like when the proper MOOD or situation arises, i am readily equipped to curate the proper soundtrack, if only for myself. at times i feel JADED by my own taste and seeming inability to appreciate new music.
what i love about the NO WAVE bands is that they are stridently UNCOMPROMISING and aggressively NONCOFORMIST. its almost like discovering that SONIC ANARCHY that was ORNETTE COLEMAN after a lifetime of initiation into the contemplative melodicism of JOHN COLTRANE, the sincere poignancy of LOUIS ARMSTRONG or technical dexterity of SONNY ROLLINS. COLEMAN was pure UNGUARDED, UNADULTERATED EXPRESSION unencumbered by traditional constraints of form or theory.
such is NO WAVE as well. when i want my musical palette cleansed, i listen to SWANS or DINOSAUR L, JAMES CHANCE & THE CONTORTIONS, LYDIA LYNCH, DNA or SUICIDE. it makes me realize that limitations are self-induced and the symptom resulting from a lack of COURAGE and/or IMAGINATION. listening to NO WAVE groups is a CONFRONTATIONAL EXPERIENCE that makes me consider what my own self-imposed limitations are not just as a music listener, but as an appreciator of art and as a CONSCIOUS HUMAN BEING in general. these artists were absolutely on the edge of something. sometimes im not even sure what. its like that classic line from THIS IS SPINAL TAP (EMBASSY, 1984), "it's such a fine line between stupid and clever." at times i dont know what side of that threshold some of these bands are on, or myself for that matter. does it even matter? who decides and who cares?
and that dynamic is pretty much the FUN and enduring appeal of NO WAVE bands. in the modern era where seemingly every flavor of music is MARKETED, COMMODITIZED and ultimately rendered DISPOSABLE, these EXPERIMENTAL groups from the late 70s and early 80s somehow found a way to stay RELEVANT and RESISTANT to being pigeon-holed more than four decades on. its like a cultural CHEAT CODE or something. im endlessly fascinated by the idea that these bands defy easy categorization, and yet their music remains VITAL and ENJOYABLE to consume.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from the winter of 2020 on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to the music of the brief NO WAVE era in NYC. enjoy!