what the documentary ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BADN (DIAMOND DOCS, 2019) examines effectively is the mercurial nature of that special alchemy that makes musical collaborations work. its a mysterious process that is deeply rooted in our most basic need for connection, which is what i feel when i am entranced and under the spell of music.
this documentary is, in essence, a look back at criminally short and influential career of THE BAND from the perspective of ROBBIE ROBERTSON. it examines everything from his childhood split between TORONTO and a FIRST NATION reservation to his introduction to early ROCK N ROLL and beyond. having discovered AMERICAN ROCKABILLY and BLUES artists at a young age, ROBERTSON taught himself guitar and began writing songs while still in his teens. this gift for songwriting coupled with his indomitable drive led him to a gig with RONNIE HAWKINS AND THE HAWKS (where he met future THE BAND bandmate LEVON HELM) that morphed into LEVON AND THE HAWKS before becoming BOB DYLAN's backing band on his famed 1966 "electric" tour and then finally solidified into THE BAND.
what is interesting is how THE BAND's musical chemistry was what enabled their ability to shape-shift so abruptly with such conviction and authenticity, from RHYTHM & BLUES to FOLK ROCK hybrid to what would later be deemed AMERICANA and ROOTS ROCK. the tragedy is that this unspoken bond was challenged and ultimately discarded due to tribulations related to addiction, publishing rights, recognition and family. its a cliche story now but its interesting to look back at a period nearly half a century ago when such traditional interpersonal stress points were not widely known. its also particularly sad that for a musical outfit that succeeded based on their ability to fruitfully and selflessly collaborate, that it was this gnawing of said relationship that led to their downfall.
forget the music, but it feels like that abandoned relationship is the real tragedy elucidated throughout ONCE WERE BROTHERS. it was that connection that made peers gravitate to them immediately, as seen through recent interviews and archival footage of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, GEORGE HARRISON, BOB DYLAN, PETER GABRIEL, TAJ MAHAL, JIMMY VIVINO, JOHN HAMMOND and VAN MORRISON, ERIC CLAPTON, JANN WENER and MARTIN SCORSESE attesting to such.
my sense is that such a connection is frail combustible entity that must be nourished and renewed and sacrificed for. its almost like a surrogate family of sorts. which is odd, because my interpretation of THE BAND was that they were a band of brothers or family of sorts. their music has that intimate vibe of shared experiences, mutual admiration and sacrifice. i guess heroin trumps such more than it doesnt.
this film is well-constructed and worth watching whether or not you are interested in this seminal and revolutionary CLASSIC ROCK band.
the graphic novel EPILEPTIC (PANTHEON, 2005) is a harrowing account of the psychological horror that comes with growing up and watching your family IMPOTENTLY confront the routine seizures of one of its own. celebrated FRENCH cartoonist DAVID B through this recollected memoir of his early development provides incredible insight into the DEBILITATING EMOTIONAL ABYSS of watching his older brother effectively lose his own sense of AGENCY and ability to live a normal life.
the effects of such a trauma on DAVID B are devastating, cartoons and invented realities become a shield of sorts from the harsh reality of the outside world. similar can be said about the efforts of his mother, who seeks out a revolving carousel of ESOTERIC and NONTRADITIONAL medical practices from various global traditions (SHAMANS, ALCHEMISTS, DIETICIANS, MAGNETIZERS, ACUPUNCTURISTS, MASSAGERS, etc.) out of love but all are ultimately in VAIN. nothing works. and what makes EPILEPTIC such a compelling read in my opinion is how effectively it showcases that projection and transference of stunted emotional development onto the family, who as a unit despite all possible efforts, finds themselves imprisoned by this unrelenting foe.
back when i took an introductory psychology course in college, i remember their being much discussion about the profound effects of one person's chronic condition (i.e. DEPRESSION, PTSD, EATING DISORDER, PERSONALITY DISORDER, etc.) on their family. that sense of helplessness that comes with being unable to ease a loved one's trauma, which over time wears one down. a version of this narrative can be seen in the doomed efforts of the late imperial ROMANOV family (TSAR NICHOLAS II and ALEXANDRA) when attempting to seek assistance for their son's HEMOPHILIA. this desperation led them to seek out nontraditional practitioners, and mercenaries, like GREGORIO RASPUTIN. i point you to ROBERT K MASSIE's NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (review linked HERE) for further information. for me, this book is less about the often competing and complex emotions DAVID B felt towards his older brother, as well as the intense GUILT involved in that process, and more about the toll of said condition on the family. a family whose efforts were done out of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
the other work this graphic novel with all of its PHANTASMAGORICAL, MYTHOLOGICAL and stark FANTASY-inspired imagery recalled for me was SPIKE JONZE's film adaptation of the children's book WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (review linked HERE). the chaotic, seemingly unraveling imagery that DAVID B produces gives us a sense of a child's perspective who is unable to verbalize and process feelings of deep TRAUMA. much like how the temper tantrums of MAX in the film are his way of expressing that which is OVERWHELMING and inherently INEXPRESSIBLE, DAVID B has similarly provided a visual analogue to that same phenomena. the visuals in this manner do not clarify or elucidate meaning, more they are there as emotional markers of ANGER, CONFUSION, DESPAIR and REMORSE projected at a cruel adult world with no innate sense of fairness or moral center.
EPILEPTIC is a deeply fascinating graphic novel that asks more than it answers and leaves one contemplating their own TENUOUS relationship with REALITY and how we as individuals construct an internal MYTHOLOGY to deal with our own STRUGGLES and SHORTCOMINGS. highly recommended.
narrated by celebrated RANCID/OPERATION IVY frontman and modern PUNK ROCK icon TIM ARMSTRONG, the NOISEY series UNDER THE INFLUENCE was a short-lived documentary series on their YOUTUBE channel that investigated three influential 20th century music scenes.
what stands out about this series to me is the loving care the producers took to more or less let the participants of the scene take control of the narrative, where ARMSTRONG's voice drops in from time to time to clarify or connect a few points. his famed marbled-mouthed voice is both JARRING and UNCONVENTIONAL, yet works its magic as it forces you to actively listen to his words.
obviously with regards to RANCID, the NYHC and 2-TONE SKA scenes are two essential ingredients to their sound and it is interesting to get a sense of the HISTORY and POLITICS, both within the five boroughs as well as the receding sunset of the BRITISH EMPIRE, that informed how these musical forms and communities came about. in the case of NYHC and 2-TONE SKA it was a clash of cultures, an amalgamation of styles that created evolution. with KRAUTROCK you had a whole post-WWII generation of WEST GERMANS that wanted a collective CULTURAL YEAR ZERO. they wanted new forms that indebted NOTHING to the previous GERMANIC culture that had been pilfered and bastardized by the NAZIS. a new sound for a new WEST GERMANY.
whats also cool is how they connect these past scenes to RIGHT NOW. its not academic so much as it is prologue for vital CREATIVITY currently happening. these segments are just as INVIGORATING and UNEXPECTED as the original scenes themselves.
definitely check out these three episodes. they are beyond INFORMATIVE and well-produced and are definitely worth your time.
ive written before about what a unique film DAVID BYRNE's TRUE STORIES (review linked HERE). in essence its a multi-tiered fictional narrative from the perspective of a NEW YORKER about various idiosyncratic characters from TEXAS. growing up on a compound in NIGERIA surrounded by TEXANS and LOUISIANANS, TRUE STORIES was a godsend in attempting to understand their backwards ways. and i say that with full contempt.
but the music from the film is what drew me in as a child and had me rewatch countless times. as to be expected, in the movie the characters more or less sing all of the songs, with a few exceptions. the release of the TALKING HEADS' album TRUE STORIES (SIRE, 1986), however, is sung entirely by BYRNE. the songs are forever intertwined with the film, and what is striking about the songs is the range of genres and perspectives captured in these songs. from the good ol' boy perennial bachelor and man-about-town played by a young JOHN GOODMAN singing the lap steel-inflected country ballad "PEOPLE LIKE US" about small town values to TITO LARRIVA (of LOS ANGELES PUNK band THE PLUGZ fame) singing a CHICANO-rock ode to the glory, majesty and mystery of transistor radios (and by extension the computer chip industry) in "RADIO HEAD"; the album is a showcase of the width and breadth of TEXAN culture circa the 1980s. other notable examples from the film range from topics such as the conspiratorial brand of EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY taking shape at the time ("PUZZLIN' EVIDENCE" sung by JOHN INGLE & THE BERT CROSS CHOIR) to crass CONSUMERISM both in commercials ("LOVE FOR SALE") and in newly constructed malls ("DREAM OPERATOR").
taken as a whole i always appreciated how the songs themselves showcase a perspective on small-town AMERICAN life that celebrates both the ARTIFICE of mainstream CONSUMER CULTURE and the value of the community that springs for from it. to be AMERICAN in this milieu just means being plugged in to the latest fashion trends, going to church, eating with your family and working at a nearby production plant. its a film that celebrates conformity, specifically the surface-level safety of buying in to the AMERICAN DREAM without worrying about the finer details of history, inequality or racism.
when i watch TRUE STORIES now as an adult it feels like a searing takedown of all those naive and hopelessly quixotic ideals surrounding AMERICAN CONSUMER CULTURE from the inside out. or maybe i am misreading it. i'll never know which is probably why i continue to keep rewatching it and listening to the soundtrack..
formerly a member of the now defunct SEATTLE INDIE ROCK outfit CARISSA'S WIERD, JENN CHAMPION (who also records under the S moniker) is a talented songwriter who is not afraid of having fun. i love independent music but oftentimes the rock world can be a tad bit insular and joyless. what strikes me as interesting with her dual CHAMPION/S output is how she jumps head first into SYNTH-laden pop music (and seems to be have fun doing it) without losing her identity in the process. S is more of a traditionally intimate LO-FI bedroom recording type project. both seemingly allow her to pursue both ends of her musical identity.
to me JENN CHAMPION just comes off as a fearless musician and i definitely think her catalogue is worth checking out.
one of the highlights of my run of DEER GOD RADIO shows on nonprofit MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC has undoubtedly been the GRINDCORE episode. ive been back stateside now for about five years after being overseas for nearly a decade. and it has been brutal.
its been extreme in the sense that AMERICA has been bifurcated along economic, religious and (absurdly) partisan lines to the point that i dont speak with once-close relatives. since my return DOMESTIC WHITE ETHNIC NATIONALIST TERRORISM sanctioned by one the two prominent parties has found a foothold in the AMERICAN consciousness thanks to former PRESIDENT TRUMP that has reared its head in CHARLOTTESVILLE, THE JANUARY 6TH INSURRECTION and several mass murders in PITTSBURGH, BOULDER, ORLANDO, LAS VEGAS, PARKLAND, EL PASO and BUFFALO. not to mention the hate crimes and lynchings at the hands of cops against the likes of BREONNA TAYLOR, PHILANDO CASTILE, AHMAUD ARBERY and of course GEORGE FLOYD among too many others before and since.
coupled with crises like CLIMATE CHANGE, the war in UKRAINE, the impending reversal of ROE VS. WADE and the creeping slow dismantling of our national voting apparatus; it very much feels like nothing is progressing in this country. we are backsliding. we are becoming like some of the broken nations i lived in abroad where dogma and political affiliation are more important than universal jurisprudence or any sense of moral code.
when i think of GRINDCORE what i hear is a PRIMAL SCREAM. its EXTREMITY and BRUTALITY matches the deep FRUSTRATION i feel about my home at this historical, cultural and political moment. as AMERICAN abroad i wore my nationality every day in public, sometimes in inhospitable locations. and i cant help but feel anger at what we have become. its beyond embarrassment at this point. its just PATHETIC how little we care for each other. when i hear GRINDCORE bands it helps me channel that UNBRIDLED RAGE at this stupidity and those institutions (politicians, talking heads, etc.) that enable and profit from it.
GRINDCORE is mainlined ANGER in its purest form. enjoy.
as a music fan i find it compelling to consider the extent to which i project my emotions and psychic energy into the art created by total strangers. maybe that is just the reciprocal nation of art in general. in my experience there is an inherent expectation or sense of trust in the artist to not let the listener down by being inauthentic or explicitly market driven. it is my opinion that WEEZER's second album PINKERTON (DGC, 1996) is one of those select few recordings which collapses that notion in on itself, since many ALTERNATIVE ROCK fans probably wish songwriter RIVERS CUOMO would have been a little more guarded with his lyrics at the time. listening to it today still feels a bit cringe-y and most definitely TMI.
considered by many to be a landmark album that was an inspiration for the EMO movement a decade later, PINKERTON is renowned for CUOMO's diatribes about his DISSATISFACTION with life, specifically the SEXUAL ISOLATION of being frontman for a successful band. himself an object of desire, in a strange inversion he projects his own obsessed sexual ideations on young letter-writing female fans in JAPAN in his lyrics. that interpersonal DISCONNECT and overall DISSATISFACTION with the ALIENATING NATURE OF FAME, in which one becomes a caricature of themselves and lose their IDENTITY to a PUBLIC PERSONA, is all over this record and at times CUOMO seems to be losing that battle for control. his honesty regarding his SEXUAL PREDILECTIONS is maybe a vehicle for reestablishing such IDENTITY from a rabid fanbase that feels they know him, but obviously dont. its a very interesting dynamic and a subject that comes up from time to time, mostly in concept records by the likes of prog-rockers like PINK FLOYD or GENESIS. but not INDIE ROCK bands with no artifice or concept shielding them from criticism. PINKERTON is bare and brutally honest in its execution, especially in songs like "ACROSS THE SEA," "PINK TRIANGLE," "TIRED OF SEX," "THE GOOD LIFE" and "EL SCORCHO." the fact that these songs are ultra-catchy (thanks in no small part to the back-up vocals of bassist MATT SHARP - his last with the group), only makes the vinegar with the sugar that much more potent.
i should mention that the title is a reference to the AMERICAN naval officer in the opera MADAME BUTTERFLY. the character of PINKERTON has a JAPANESE wife while stationed on the island and then promptly abandons her when recalled back home. the opera is about her extreme torment and ritual suicide after being shamed by the relationship and her pregnancy. its a very curious allusion for an album dealing with obsession, mainly because the plot of said opera is rather racist and anti-female. is CUOMO idealizing that level of loyalty from his fans or objects of affection? who is PINKERTON and who is MADAME BUTTERFLY in this scenario?
having lived in JAPAN, i will say that CUOMO was correct in his observation about half-JAPANESE girls being gorgeous. i only bring that up since there is a major cultural taboo about NATIONAL IDENTITY only being recognized in those who parents are both JAPANESE. those that are half something else are often culturally looked down upon and even harassed. its one aspect of their CULTURE i never understood since objectively women that were half JAPANESE and half KENYAN or TURKISH or FRENCH or CHILEAN where absolutely stunning. but such is their CULTURE that anything deviating from the norm is discarded and effectively shunned. case in point was a MISS JAPAN a few years back that was half BLACK, who was brutally harassed online.
i dont know if id recommend PINKERTON to the uninitiated. its a very idiosyncratic record that followed-up a universally praised modern ALTERNATIVE ROCK classic. it makes perfect sense that this record marked an end to his oversharing on record and marked the end of the beginning of their career that brought on a years-long sabbatical in which he re-enrolled in college and rediscovered himself. i support the dude and his efforts, but this record marks the end of WEEZER's time as a cutting-edge band. subsequent efforts seemed to be highly derivative of the sonic template of the first two records.
i sought out the documentary AS THE PALACES BURN (9.14 PICTURES, 2014) after reading LAMB OF GOD frontman RANDY BLYTHE's memoir DARK DAYS (link to review HERE). its an interesting film in that it was originally intended to focus on the metal community and specifically fans of the band living in difficult situations (cartel violence in MEDELLIN and rigid gender prescriptions upon women in MUMBAI specifically) and using music as an outlet. what ended up happening is roughly halfway through filming BLYTHE was charged with manslaughter in the CZECH REPUBLIC for the death of a fan that happened two years before. rather than focusing on the fans, the film instead transitions into a compelling real-life drama revolving around concepts of personal RESPONSIBILITY and EMPATHY.
the fact that BLYTHE returned to stand trial after a few months after spending 38 days in the notorious PANKRAC PRISON is a testament to his character and his sense of honor and obligation to the family of the departed. it also served as a focal point for the wider global metal community to rally behind, as noted with interviews with the likes of SLASH and COREY TAYLOR. bassist JOHN CAMPBELL mentions that the album they were touring on during this whole debacle, RESOLUTION (EPIC, 2012), was named in honor of BLYTHE's mindset regarding maintaining his sobriety (the downside of which are made famously apparent in the previous band documentary KILLADELPHIA). each band member individually corroborate how the experience made them as a unit stronger as BLYTHE had absolutely "walked the talk."
what started as a documentary about FANDOM and the healing and rejuvenating power of music instead became one about the band's sense of duty to their community. this documentary is well worth seeking out or rewatching, irregardless of whether or not you have read BLYTHE's equally impressive memoir of his insane prison experience.
what's interesting about the narrative of iconic professional skateboarder TONY HAWK's career is that it parallels the story of SKATEBOARDING in general. his success and notoriety is the result of a burgeoning, bubbling subculture finding its moment in the media imagination and spotlight, when corporate sponsors and the sporting world effectively caught up. sort of.
and it is that tension between the SELF-DEFINING, DO-IT-YOURSELF PUNK ROCK ethos of an underground culture with the demands of corporate AMERICA in a pre-internet age that make the autobiography HAWK: OCCUPATION: SKATEBOARDER (HARPERCOLLINS, 2000) such a compelling read. in essence the books central claim is that SKATEBOARDING is an ACTIVITY and LIFESTYLE pursuit that has no inherent need for competitions or external judgement. it is its own PURPOSE and needs no outside validation. however, what initially differentiated HAWK and his crew in the original POWELL & PERALTA sponsored BONES BRIGADE (i.e. STEVE CABALLERO, MIKE MCGILL, TOMMY GUERRERO, RODNEY MULLEN and LANCE MOUNTAIN) was their domination of the nascent vert and freestyle competitions of the 1980s. HAWK's ability to master technical tricks and apply a freestyle aesthetic to vert skating and expand its lexicon of tricks was his road to notoriety. this is not to say that he was the most innovative or consequential skater (my vote would be MARK GONZALEZ or RODNEY MULLEN), but he was among the most popular.
the fact that HAWK was able to bridge the cultural divide between the world of BIG BROTHER, TRANSWOLD and THRASHER with that of ESPN is probably the GIFT/CURSE of his life. the former publications have a vested interest in the continued promotion of the SELF-DETERMINING, SELF-PERPETUATING and SELF-MADE aspects of the SKATEBOARDING subculture. cable sports networks are interested in selling beer commercials, which means they have no interest in the culture of SKATEBOARDING and every incentive to promote nonexistent rivalries and hold up individual personalities in order to fulfill their lucrative agenda. HAWK is about the subculture and its SELF-MADE ethos, but he is also undoubtedly a byproduct of the competition circuit (which is anathema to such values). he also is the face of SKATEBOARDING in the popular mindset and has garnered marketshare that has undoubtedly helped popularize the sport and allowed opportunities for countless skater-owned companies to flourish.
its an interesting dilemma and something i found quite compelling to parse through and consider in his autobiography. learning about how the culture concurrently shifted ECONOMICALLY and STYLISTICALLY based on outside ENVIRONMENTAL pressures was interesting as well. much less interesting were the exploits of his travels, his fascination with meeting DONALD TRUMP (way back in the day) and the ups and downs of his personal relationships.
nearly 20 years later we are still very much living in an ecosystem influenced by the BIRDMAN, as well as MATT HOFFMAN and KELLY SLATER respectively. whether or not that sense of purity remains with all that inevitable exposure is a matter of opinion. in the age of social media omnipresence this is probably all a mute point anyway. all compelling to consider.
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i remember being back in NEW JERSEY for winter break after my first semester in boarding school up in WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS and first hearing the propulsive and infectious "NEW SKIN" single off of INCUBUS' wildly inventive S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (EPIC, 1997) album on the local NYC ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 92.3FM KROCK. being in boarding school was kind of like being on a religious retreat, i was intently focused on my studies and pretty much unaware of anything outside the confines of the campus. it was an intense period.
INCUBUS was signed to the IMMORTAL imprint at EPIC RECORDS that seemingly specialized in the burgeoning ALTERNATIVE ROCK / NU-METAL scene of the period. other signees included KORN, SNOT, THE URGE and later THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS. its funny now to think that such a multi-faceted group as INCUBUS was lumped together with label-mates KORN, but back in the late 1990s such was the case.
to my ears INCUBUS was sonically adventurous from the get-go. guitarist MIKE EINZIGER seemingly never met a PHASER or PITCH-SHIFTING pedal that he never liked as the band seemed to revel in conked-out interstellar soundscapes and bouncing, melodic textures, which coupled with the FUNK METAL of the incredibly tight rhythm section of ALEX KATUNICH and JOSE PASILLAS made for quite the formidable sonic experience. and then there is BRANDON BOYD, the lead singer. lyrically and conceptually the dude was obsessed with everything from BUDDHISM and EASTERN PHILOSOPHY to SCIENCE FICTION and the philosophical ramifications of living in an infinite universe with a finite set of sensory tools to facilitate any meaning from them. in a sense, id argue that BOYD's outer-body lyricism and potent stage presence actually grounded the band.
more so on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. then all later releases, this album found the band coming to terms with their own intense musical and interpersonal connection as a unit and found them really pushing their boundaries, especially on tracks such as "A CERTAIN SHADE OF GREEN," "VITAMIN," "CALGONE," "REDEFINE" and especially "SUMMER ROMANCE (ANTI-GRAVITY LOVE SONG)." later on their focus was much more attuned to song-craft and cohesive structures that more effectively support a central concept, both sonically and lyrically. but on this record its all out there which is why it is one of my favorite records from this period, right up there with DEFTONES' WHITE PONY (MAVERICK, 2000) and MR. BUNGLE's CALIFORNIA (WARNER BROS, 1999).
S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is a great starting point for anyone interested in investigating the more adventurist and idiosyncratic of 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
first off, the ENGLISH INDIE ROCK band WET LEG is one of the best band names ever. right there with CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, PIG DESTROYER, THE THE and PORNO FOR PYROS.
that out of the way, the band's debut that came out this spring is one of the most enjoyable INDIE ROCK records i have heard in quite some time. reminiscent of the best moments of everyone from INDIE ROCK forbearers like THE BREEDERS and SONIC YOUTH to SHOEGAZE pioneers like SLOWDIVE and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. angular quirky songs with sardonic and intelligent lyrics make WET LEG a band i am looking forward to following for years to come.
they are definitely worth checking out.
so i was talking with my father the other night about this recent UNREQUITED INFATUATIONS (HACHETTE, 2021) memoir by STEVE VAN ZANDT (of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's E-STREET BAND fame) that he is currently finishing up. in it VAN ZANDT at some point talks about the fact that DOO WOP is one of the LEAST CELEBRATED AMERICAN musical forms in modern culture. in fact, the only places ive come across it specifically being played on terrestrial radio are retro-themed AM stations that seek to provide a stale facsimile of a "wholesome" 1950s AMERICANA experience. in essence the art form of DOO WOP and ACAPELLA VOCAL GROUPS in general are effectively DEAD.
and that got me thinking. why is that?
my guess is that recording technology has advanced and the taste and culture has moved along with it. DOO WOP to me represents a group creative effort in which the accompanying music is made up of vocal harmonies with MINIMAL, if none altogether, actual instrumentation. it was an art form that one could perform on a street corner, no stage needed. that is the roots of the genre in my estimation and in some sense modern HIP HOP has taken over in that EGALITARIAN regard. theoretically one can rap anywhere without an accompanying beat and provide a VIRTUOSIC experience, or they can have a friend accompany them by beatboxing with them. seems very similar in that street-level, back-to-basics ETHIC with the roots of DOO WOP. that interplay is also similarly intimately nuanced with much active listening involved.
i also think that in some sense DOO WOP does still exist, it just morphed into modern R&B with its integrated BLUES, GOSPEL and ROCK N ROLL elements as well as production techniques. aesthetically, groups like BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY, BOYZ II MEN, NEW EDITION, TLC or any of the myriad of so-called "BOY BANDS" of the late 90s/00s are not as unadorned and minimal as their DOO WOP forbearers, but the DNA is undeniably still there.
just like RAGTIME was outmoded by JAZZ and 80s HAIR METAL was supplanted wholesale by 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK, cultural progression will always be a fluid phenomena. to expect a genre to come back or be appreciated on its own terms by a newer generation with no emotional connection to it is a bit NAIVE, PATRONIZING and more than a little UNREALISTIC. i believe the best shot at relevance is to connect it to something happening right now. contextualize those harmonizing techniques in music production techniques still in use to this day. that strategy would provide incentive for further deep dives and investigations into old sounds that may sound fresh in today's cultural context.
just a thought.
embedded below is the DEER GOD RADIO episode #110 from late 2020 which focuses on DOO WOP and vocal groups form the 1950s and 1960s. enjoy!
there is this seemingly effortless fluid LYRICISM to JOHN COLTRANE's sound up until he shot into space in the late 1960s and explored the outer reaches of his saxophone. i am well aware that his dynamic playing style was a testament to his preternatural abilities of IMPROVISATION, COLLABORATION and ACTIVE LISTENING. to merely state that he was a genius is to cut such efforts short, as was the case with the beat writers, who when confronted with BEBOP hailed such gifted musicians as COLTRANE, DIZZY GILLESPIE and CHARLIE PARKER with praise of being physically gifted which in itself was a tad bit racist. it denied them their own agency in the process.
regardless, COLTRANE's take on popular standards on MY FAVORITE THINGS (ATLANTIC, 1961) such as "SUMMERTIME," "EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE" and the title track do have an a lilting and lifting feeling within the listener. his playing is highly lyrical as if his saxophone is intimately singing to you in hushed somber tones from across the room. its RELAXING and an absolutely INTOXICATING experience. i believe that it is this LULLING effect which allows him to glide through such complicated arpeggiated measures with little aplomb, slight diversions on a smooth journey through our inner consciousness. i personally enjoy it when i hear a musician make artistically merited yet highly technical musical decisions without such getting any special fanfare in terms of the composition. these are not guitar solos that are setup to be admired and obsessed over, COLTRANE's saxophone runs are more part of an overall experience or aesthetic that just washes over and subsumes you. once you notice something its on to the next thing.
like a lot of people, i thoroughly enjoy this period of COLTRANE's discography and highly recommend investigating not only MY FAVORITE THINGS, but also GIANT STEPS (ATLANTIC, 1960) and of course BLUE TRAIN (BLUE NOTE, 1958). not to mention his other collaborations with the likes of MILES DAVIS and MILT JACKSON during this period. you will not regret it.
i was pretty frustrated watching the documentary THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (THREE COUNT FILMS, 2015) about the legendary first-wave BRITISH PUNK ROCK band. i've never been much of a fan of THE CLASH so in my eyes the two seminal groups of that movement in ENGLAND were always THE SEX PISTOLS and THE DAMNED. whereas THE SEX PISTOLS were all about NIHILISM, SELF-DESTRUCTION and the piss and vinegar embodiment of a seething underemployed and underrepresented underclass of BRITISH youth in a time of economic and social upheaval, THE DAMNED were the ARTIER, IDIOSYNCRATIC cousins who were better musicians and songwriters, and more than a little bit more interesting. that's just my opinion obviously.
ii thought this film was a missed opportunity. the majority of this documentary gets into the minutiae of THE DAMNED's career and the ensuing lineup changes over the years, which truthfully was not that compelling and felt like one bitter ROCK N ROLL cliche after another. none more dull that the selfish allure of money. there was also this undertone of self-pity due to their career being less profitable than that of their peers. i understand how such is interesting for them, but as a viewer that is not really my concern. we all know THE OFFSPRING, GREEN DAY and BLINK-182 made more than the bands they copied (cough, cough, THE DAMNED, THE BUZZCOCKS and DESCENDENTS). nothing new about that story.
the film only really got into their legacy in the last 10 minutes of the film, specifically their influence on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene of the late 1970s and into the 80s HARDCORE scene thereafter. THE DAMNED famously played in LOS ANGELES at THE STARWOOD in 1977 that got the ball rolling for influential bands like THE GERMS, THE WEIRDOS, X, THE SCREAMERS, THE GUN CLUB and THE BAGS who in turn paved the way for second-wave HARDCORE bands like BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS, ADOLESCENTS, T.S.O.L., SOCIAL DISTORTION, FEAR, DESCENDENTS and BAD RELIGION among countless others. remember, THE SEX PISTOLS final gig was in SAN FRANCISCO in 1978 and they never made it to LOS ANGELES. THE DAMNED was the de facto PUNK ROCK entry point for musicians during that period in CALIFORNIA and thus the scene is undoubtedly a major part of their legacy. the underutilized interview participants alone showcases a murderer's row of major players in the history and evolution of PUNK ROCK including the likes of CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), MICK JONES (THE CLASH), LEMMY KILMISTER (MOTORHEAD), CHRIS STEIN (BLONDIE), GLEN MATLOCK (SEX PISTOLS), NICK MASON (PINK FLOYD), JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT / FUGAZI), DAVID GAHAN (DEPECHE MODE), JACK GRISHAM (T.S.O.L.), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), BILLY IDOL (GENERATION X), GAY ADVERT (THE ADVERTS) and DEXTER HOLLAND (THE OFFSPRING) among others. for more information on the topic definitely check out the following books: JOHN DOE's UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK (reviewed HERE), ALICE BAG's VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY (reviewed HERE), HENRY ROLLINS' GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG, (reviewed HERE), KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE (reviewed HERE), and KEITH MORRIS' MY DAMAGE: A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (reviewed HERE),
so yeah, i thought they should have leaned into what made them unique amongst their peers and what managed to translate into the next generation of bands. it is that LINEAGE that i find more interesting than petty squabbles over songwriting credits and royalty payments. its too bad the director didnt lean harder into such as that topic was by far and a way the most interesting at the closing at the documentary.
in the modern age we are spoiled with examples of both awe-inspiring, mind-bending and deeply challenging ARCHITECTURE. the rate of INNOVATION with regards to techniques and materials is something we take for granted, much like the parallel track that we see with computing technology. unlike digital technology, prominent architecture is not an ephemeral entity, instead it is a tangible representation of our current culture for future generations to appreciate, inhabit and incorporate into their owned lived experience.
what makes ROSS KING's book BRUNELLESCHI'S DOME: HOW A RENAISSANCE GENIUS REINVENTED ARCHITECTURE (BLOOMSBURY, 2013) so compelling is that it relates how the first modern skyscraper, the dome of the CATTEDRALE DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE (i.e. the FLORENCE CATHEDRAL), was built effectively for the first time since antiquity during the middle ages. in the 15th century when the dome was built over an 18-year span, FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI had to bitterly compete against successful rivals (notably LORENZO GHIBERTI) and repeatedly convince the powerful wool guild (who were funding the operation) of unproven techniques such as a 360-degree oxen-driven pulley system, cross-fitted herringbone patterns of bricks with embedded (and hidden) iron rings and a dual layer dome with lighter materials used the further up it went. according to KING, the success of the raising of the dome of SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE sparked an era of innovation that caught the imagination of later artists, sculptors, architects and technical-minded local standouts like MICHELANGELO, DONATELLO and LEONARDO.
for me the most interesting aspect of this book is how BRUNELLESCHI was alone among his peers in taking the time to study the works of antiquity, especially the ruins of ROMA, for REFERENCE and INSPIRATION. during this period the common view was that their was nothing to be gained INTELLECTUALLY, TECHNICALLY or ARTISTICALLY from their PAGAN antecedents, as the regional powers of what later became ITALY were superior in their CHRISTIAN worldview. in fact, marble from old buildings was often repurposed into churches and headstones among other trivial entities. it is hard to believe that BRUNELLESCHI was alone in his efforts to unlock the secrets of creating not only a dome, but one with a hexagonal pattern. he found such an analogue in spa from one of NERO's palaces, and spent years devising a plan to make such work on a larger scale.
it would seem that convincing a massive paying entity to entrust that you're unproven techniques will be successful decades down the line in the most public of forums is quite the achievement. feels like the modern-day analogue to the lunar landing or the construction of the PANAMA CANAL. i couldnt help when reading about BRUNELLESCHI's curt, caustic temperament and sense of innate superiority the contemporary WILLY WONKA / TONY STARK figure of ELON MUSK. makes you wonder how he will be remembered generations down the line.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the legendary production work of the notoriously perfectionist BRITISH record producer GIL NORTON!
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!
being introduced to BROOKLYN INDIE ROCK group ACID DAD was one the great pleasures of filming at MARKET HOTEL a few years back. i remember being immediately hooked on their melodically sophisticated psychedelic sound. i sought out their self-titled debut ACID DAD (GREENWAY, 2018) record not long after and was relieved to discover that such matched the power and intensity of the live performance we had just filmed and recorded.
they have a sound that is at once clean and precise yet lush and distinctly PSYCHEDELIC with a healthy dose of reverb on the guitars and vocals. its a very unique sound that is very much about the layered guitar and vocal interplay between co-frontmen VAUGHN HUNT and SEAN FAHEY. standout tracks include "MR. MAJOR," "2Ci," "DIE HARD," "COME OUTSIDE" and "MARINE," but my personal favorite has long been the PRODDING and BROODING "CHILD," which sounds like it belongs in a modern western. sonically it is quite an understated yet impactful achievement and was an intense EMOTIONAL and PSYCHIC experience the first time i heard it. almost has a "BEETLEBUM"-esque (the epic BLUR track) quality to it in that regard.
if you are into thoughtfully constructed INDIE ROCK with a distinct flair for expansive psychedelia (think THE STROKES meets UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA), then definitely check out ACID DAD's debut. most definitely worth the effort.
been recently listening heavily to the EXPERIMENTAL soundscapes of FOREST SWORDS, a.k.a. BRITISH producer MATHEW BARNES. to my ears his deeply AFFECTING work sounds reminiscent of early APHEX TWIN, MASSIVE ATTACK, DAN THE AUTOMATOR and even DJ SHADOW. real LUSH and MOODY yet WARPED and PSYCHEDELIC enough to keep your attention.
FOREST SWORDS is definitely worth checking out.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the LOS ANGELES-based LATIN MUSIC RECORD LABEL NACIONAL 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!