i remember getting REPEATER (DISCHORD, 1990) by FUGAZI at the recommendation of a childhood when i was visiting ORANGE COUNTY during the summer before my senior year of high school back in 2001. i believe i bought it at RADIATION RECORDS in FULLERTON. regardless, to my ears this record was a revelation because of its aggression, experimentation and sense of melody. since i was uninitiated into the world of POST-HARDCORE, at the time the nearest analogue i could think of was NIRVANA's IN UTERO (DGC, 1993). this record felt like a progression from that.
it wasnt until a few years later that i became acquainted with other bands like RITES OF SPRING, GLASSJAW, THE REFUSED and other seminal POST-HARDCORE bands that REPEATER gained a more apt context.
i can only count a handful of times where my world changed when hearing something unique for the first time. that happened in NIGERIA when someone who worked for my parents played FELA KUTI nonstop, specifically the ITT (WRASSE, 1980) and CONFUSION BREAK BONES (WRASSE, 1989) cassette tapes. it happened when i first heard both NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) and RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990) by JANE'S ADDICTION on the same trip in SOUTH AFRICA. it also happened when i discovered DEVO in high school or THE SMITHS and THE STRANGLERS from track meet trips with my dad during my elementary school years.
i always wonder how much of your media diet is a reflection of your openness to new sounds, images and ideas during specific moments in your life. and who you surround yourself with. growing up moving all the time ive been around a lot of people with varying tastes and outlooks and i feel sometimes my exposure reflects such. in the case of FUGAZI, i was years late to that party. but i still find myself listening to this record especially standout tracks like "MERCHANDISE," "BLUEPRINT," "GREED," and of course "REPEATER" that all have a raw earnestness around them that is reflected in the lyrics and pummeling yet nuanced dynamism of the guitar assault.
now i hear their sound in other bands all the time, so it has dated a bit since i firts heard it, which of course was more than a decade after its release. great record i highly recommend checking out for fans of PUNK ROCK and HARDCORE.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i first came across SLOWDIVE while watching GREGG ARAKI films like THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) and NOWHERE (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1997). their sound had this ethereal atmospheric quality with soaring waves of looped feedback winding and unwinding itself around a floating female/male singing tandem mixed way back in the mix. it was the perfect audio bed for films about largely centered around reckless young adults and their ever-evolving identities, attitudes and emotions that seemed to swell and dissipate. that was pretty much when i got interested in SLOWDIVE.
the documentary SOUVLAKI (PITCHFORK, 2015) is an oral history of the seminal SHOEGAZE band as described by members NEIL HALSTEAD, RACHEL GOSWELL, SIMON SCOTT, NICK CHAPlIN and CHRISTIAN SAVILL, as well as CREATION RECORDS founder ALLEN MCGEE, producer CHRIS HUFFORD and mixer/engineer ED BULLER. it reveals the process behind the development behind their transcendent SOUVLAKI (CREATION, 1993) album and how the recently dissolved romantic relationship between HALSTEAD and GOSWELL informed the record. pretty standard fair for music documentaries.
what resonated with me was how they describe the scene at the time, pre-GRUNGE and BRITPOP, when bands like THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, SPACEMEN 3, COCTEAU TWINS and MY BLOODY VALENTINE were playing small gigs in rural ENGLAND. when the sound was still underground. the band itself was made of the decidedly INDIE HALSTEAD, who grew up in a household where music other than CLASSICAL was verboten, and two local GOTHS in GOSWELL and CHAPLIN; all agree on THE SMITHS. knowing that i can definitely hear a POST PUNK thread in their sound from GOTH ROCK bands like BAUHAUS (i.e. DANIEL ASH), JOY DIVISION, BERLIN-era DAVID BOWIE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. they all used sound and looped effects to make deeply evocative music that resonated on both on an emotional and visceral level.
the documentary, like others in the PITCHFORK CLASSIC series, has the band members elaborate on standout tracks like "40 DAYS," "WHEN THE LIGHT HITS," "SOUVLAKI SPACE STATION," "DAGGER," and "ALISON." it also showcased BRIAN ENO's ability to serve as a catalyst for soundscapes that formed the basis for other songs as well. in ENO there is a figure that is purely interested in the creation of interesting sounds, period. he served as a catalyst during writing sessions with HALSTEAD, who hilariously and fortunately didn't know much about him at the time, and left. ENO's production techniques are fodder for another entry, so i wont go into that here, but needless to say his unconventional approaches and deep penchant for sonic experimentation is all over SOUVLAKI. it marks a new direction for the band which fascinatingly was influenced by DUB REGGAE and new AMBIENT acts at the time like APHEX TWIN. its all in there, you can definitely hear it.
in recent years the band has reformed and even released the stellar SLOWDIVE (DEAD OCEANS, 2017), but the SOUVLAKI record should not be missed by anyone. requisite listening for anyone interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK or even AMBIENT or ORCHESTRAL music. really just great music for anyone moved by emotionally affecting sounds in general. at least it gets me every time, right back to being a teenager living in KUWAIT, an oppressive country with little freedom or ability for self-expression or creativity.
NOTE: also, the post-SLOWDIVE band MOJAVE 3 is also worth your time, although they are a completely different vibe altogether.
in the aftermath of the his departure from NEW ORDER, legendary bassist PETER HOOK wrote three books: THE HACIENDA: HOW NOT TO RUN A CLUB (IT BOOKS, 2009), UNKOWN PLEASURES: INSIDE JOY DIVISION (IT BOOKS, 2013) and SUBSTANCE: INSIDE NEW ORDER (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2017). each tackling a different era of his career, the first tackling the failure of the era-defining MANCHESTER club and by extension FACTORY RECORDS, the second his time in the iconic POST PUNK band JOY DIVISION and his relationship with troubled frontman IAN CURTIS (reviewed HERE).
SUBSTANCE: INSIDE NEW ORDER recounts his time in NEW ORDER, which in terms of years, material output, miles traveled and tours completed, was the focus of the better part of half his life to that point. i won't compare NEW ORDER to JOY DIVISION, in my mind they are separate entities each distinct in their own sound and legacy. like UNKOWN PLEASURES: INSIDE JOY DIVISION, the format HOOK provides includes a narrative based on his experience plus a timeline complete with gigs, product releases, technology utilized and noteworthy events, all annotated and provided promptly at the end of each chapter. it is lovingly done with a knowing nod towards the fanatical, completist nature of his fanbase. much respect to him for that.
what struck me most about this book is the combative relationship between BERNARD SUMNER and PETER HOOK. in JOY DIVISION, both were competitive to a fault but largely acquiesced to the artistic will of IAN CURTIS and producer MARTIN HANNETT. with both of those creative forces now out of the picture early in the NEW ORDER story, there is a brief formative period where new roles are tried on and experimented with, only to calcify later and lead to pugilistic internal dynamic that led to much strife and self-sabotaging. in essence this book is about dysfunction and power.
perhaps it was a toxic masculinity rooted in their upbringing in an economically depressed MANCHESTER during a particularly bleak period where in typical ENGLISH fashion men were expected to just "get on with it" and not express themselves. again and again during crucial fulcrum moments in the narrative when they should have communicated, they just "got on with it" and trudged along blindly, oblivious to the pain inflicted on each other with an almost sadistic delight. for such an iconic group that had a singular sound and reputation for innovation (twice!), they really were individuals at the end of the day worried about their own self interests. to an extent, because even as they were jockeying for power internally, externally they were aware of being ripped off by the greater apparatus, FACTORY RECORDS and their doomed investment in the HACIENDA nightclub. on one hand they had a common mission in the record label and all of the independent ethics that they supposedly stood for, yet at the end of the day this group constantly stabbed each other in the back. or in some cases in the face.
a subplot throughout is HOOK's alcoholism and abuse with hard drugs and eventual recovery with the same tenacity and gusto that got him into them. his departure from NEW ORDER is very much seen as a shedding of his old public persona and identity for a newer one that was sober and awake to what was happening around him. his work in PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT is representative of that new positive focus, away from the codependency and dictatorial whims of SUMNER. and on SUMNER, he comes off looking really bad in this book. repeatedly described as a dark cloud who poisoned the atmosphere among the crew and support staff as well as suffering mightily from LSD (lead singer's disease). i'm looking forward to reading his account to see how he describes HOOK.
in the end like all fans, HOOK's melodic bass-lines is a defining feature of NEW ORDER, as well as JOY DIVISION. its hard to swallow the idea that his participation in albums were not prominent and often sidelined, especially on post-REPUBLIC. its mind-boggling to entertain the idea that his bass-lines weren't viewed as an asset or even necessary internally in their camp. just unbelievable. to me its his bass, SUMNER's voice and the ingenious use of synths that distinguish them from their peers.
in summation, this is a long book (over 700 pages) but it went quickly thanks to HOOK's strong narrative voice and wicked sense of humor. very dry. very ENGLISH. the sardonic tone was similar to that of the ERIC IDLE memoir ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE (BROADWAY BOOKS, 2018) i reviewed recently (linked HERE) and definitely had me laughing at several times throughout, usually at his own expense. in a way, that self-effacing humor only makes you trust his perspective that much more, although again im waiting to read the SUMNER book in all fairness.
great informative, invigorating read on one of the most interesting bands in modern music history. a must-read for anyone interested in PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, NEW WAVE, ELECTRONIC MUSIC or technology in music as well.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the addictively kinetic HIP HOP and R&B production work of TIMBALAND.
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!
its funny now, but i remember that summer in 1996 when METALLICA's LOAD (ELEKTRA, 1996) was released. people forget now, but those five years between THE BLACK ALBUM (ELEKTRA, 1991) and LOAD were fairly consequential. NIRVANA and ALTERNATIVE ROCK in general had exploded and METAL was feeling a bit tired and antiquated in comparison. forget HAIR METAL, which was effectively exterminated post-1991, for it seemed like huge METAL bands of the past either followed suit and limited their guitar solos and dressed differently (cough, cough, cut their hair) or just broke up altogether. there was just one band it seemed that was flying the flag for METAL at the time: PANTERA.
in NIGERIA when i was in middle school there were a fair amount of older METAL heads from basically everywhere. places like VENEZUELA, LEBANON, GHANA, UNITED KINGDOM, SOUTH AFRICA, etc. it felt like pre-LOAD everyone was split down the middle between PANTERA and METALLICA being the best METAL band on the planet. post-LOAD everyone conceded that METALLICA were effectively over and PANTERA was it by default.
just compare LOAD and THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL (EAST WEST, 1996), or rather there is no comparison. it is almost embarrassing.
arguably that claim to being a heavyweight first started with PANTERA's major-label debut album COWBOYS FROM HELL (ATCO, 1990). yes, i know about the self-releases and nobody cares about them. PANTERA effectively began as a cultural entity in 1990 when COWBOYS came out. at the time singer PHIL ANSELMO was very much in his ROB HALFORD phase with the screaming falsetto's on songs like "SHATTERED" and the "THE ART OF SHREDDING." he had yet to discover his the lower octaves of his voice and his own inner HENRY ROLLINS/MIKE MUIR which became his persona and sound thereafter. "CEMETERY GATES" is an orchestrated, epic multi-part standout ballad (and a sly reference to the similarly titled SMITHS song). who knew that ANSELMO was a closet admirer of MORRISSEY? i sure didn't at the time.
the real star of the show however is DIMEBAG DARRELL, or rather DIAMOND DARRELL as he was known then, and his insane guitar work and solos which were both technically proficient and had feel for days. to my ears his grooves are like ZZ TOP on methamphetamines. listening to this album just induces headbanging. it could even be described as danceable. its addictive, contagious and really creeps up on you. case in point are my two favorite tracks "DOMINATION" and "PRIMAL CONCRETE SLEDGE." it absolutely crushes, even by today's standards.
i remember when LOAD came out just how much of a let down it was. what i dont get is how anyone compared THE BLACK ALBUM favorably with COWBOYS FROM HELL, which came out within a year of each other (PANTERA coming out first). in my mind, METALLICA backed out long before 1996. but hope springs eternal i guess.
if you arent familiar with PANTERA, COWBOYS is a great starting point. i'd also point you to VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER (ATCO, 1992) and FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (EAST WEST, 1993) which took their sound to even more extreme heights. seminal records by a seminal band. rest in peace brothers in METAL, DIMEBAG and VINNIE PAUL.