up until 6th grade my family lived in the ORANGE COUNTY city of BREA. at the time being 11 the extent to which i knew of bands from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA outside of THE BEACH BOYS were prominent bands that were being played on the local radio station 106.7 FM KROQ out of LOS ANGELES like BAD RELIGION and THE OFFSPRING. so i was utterly clueless about the underground music scene in and around my hometown during the period of my life when i actually lived in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
it was when i entered high school a few years later (on the other side of the country in MASSACHUSETTS) that i was fascinated to learn about notable HARDCORE bands that were not just from nearby ORANGE COUNTY cities like FULLERTON (SOCIAL DISTORTION, ADOLESCENTS, D.I.), GARDEN GROVE (THE OFFSPRING), PLACENTIA (AGENT ORANGE) and SANTA ANA (THE MIDDLE CLASS), but also neighboring LOS ANGELES COUNTY neighborhoods like LONG BEACH (T.S.O.L.), HERMOSA BEACH (CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG), VENICE BEACH (SUICIDAL TENDENCIES), MANHATTAN BEACH (DESCENDENTS, PENNYWISE) and HUNTINGTON BEACH (THE VANDALS) that i visited often as a child. it was like learning about an alternate cultural history of a place i thought i knew but learned i knew very little about.
so i was pretty excited and thought long and hard about the bands i included on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK show i did back in early 2021. contrary to the name i also included bands outside of the greater LOS ANGELES metropolitan area and included SAN DIEGO (BATTALION OF SAINTS) and POWAY (BLINK-182) as well.
what i found interesting when reading and learning about the original scene in LOS ANGELES in the late 1970s was how INCLUSIVE and EXPERIMENTAL it was. with bands like THE GUN CLUB, THE WEIRDOS, X, THE FLESH EATERS, THE BAGS and THE GERMS you had such a wide array of bands finding their distinct voice through a litany of ROCKABILLY, COUNTRY and POST PUNK influences (well not THE GERMS, they were just abrasive sonic nihilists). very much seemed reminiscent of the nascent PUNK ROCK scene at CBGBs where you had PATTI SMITH, TALKING HEADS, TELEVISION, THE DEAD BOYS, BLONDIE and THE RAMONES all sharing the same small stage and supporting one another. the following NO WAVE and especially the NYHC scene seemed to occupy the seemingly polar opposite positions relative to unbridled EXPERIMENTALISM and PUNK ROCK FUNDAMENTALISM. that same dynamic played out in LOS ANGELES with the advent of HARDCORE and all the bands from the suburbs (like ORANGE COUNTY) coming in and taking over and bringing the angry jocks contingent with them.
this dynamic i have covered in several documentaries and several books listed below. definitely check them out as well as DEER GOD RADIO episode dedicated to the history LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK embedded below. definitely a highlight of my radio show.
DO WHAT YOU WANT: THE STORY OF BAD RELIGION BAD RELIGION & JIM RULAND
VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY ALICE BAG
UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK JOHN DOE
KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA DEWAR MACLEOD
MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR KEITH MORRIS & JIM RULAND
THE HEPATITIS BATHTUB AND OTHER STORIES NOFX
GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG HENRY ROLLINS
CORPORATE ROCK SUCKS: THE RISE & FALL OF SST RECORDS JIM RULAND
CLOCKWORK ORANGE COUNTY JONATHAN W.C. MILLS
A FAT WRECK SHAUN MICHAEL COLON
FILMAGE: THE STORY OF DESCENDENTS/ALL DEEDLE LACOUR & MATT RIGGLE
MY LIFE AS A JERK DAVID MARKEY
PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN: A FILM ABOUT FACE TO FACE MATHEW BARRY & MAUREEN EGAN
REALITY 86'D DAVID MARKEY
WE JAM ECONO: THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN TIM IRWIN
major label debut's dont come much cooler and more fun than WHITE ZOMBIE's LA SEXORCISTO: DEVIL MUSIC VOL. 1 (GEFFEN, 1992) with all of its gloriously and unapologetically SATANIC, PHANTASMAGORICAL IMAGERY via frontman ROB ZOMBIE and the absolutely crushing musicianship via newly recruited guitarist JAY YEUNGER. well, technically this was WHITE ZOMBIE's third record for GEFFEN, as the previous two were released via subsidiary label CAROLINE RECORDS, but in terms of overall cultural impact and popular awareness of the band, this record really is the introductory salvo in a legendary one-two punch that was closed by the celebrated follow-up ASTRO-CREEP 2000 (GEFFEN, 1995).
it was probably either through listening to 106.7 KROQ in LOS ANGELES or watching BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD on MTV at a friend's house that i first became aware of WHITE ZOMBIE via the INFECTIOUS track "THUNDER KISS '65" with its absolutely KILLER opening riff. that song and its day-glo, EXPLOITATION FILM-themed video was instantly MEMORABLE and effortlessly cool. like NIRVANA's "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" before it, the track just hooks you in for life immediately upon your first listen. just a DEVASTATING sonic experience with a highly referential yet OPAQUE set of lyrics that dont get in the way. other standout tracks like "WELCOM TO PLANET MOTHERFUCKER" and the IGGY POP-assisted, muscle car themed "BLACK SUNSHINE" are celebrations of EXTREME experiences, which basically summarize the band's aesthetic in general. ROB ZOMBIE once said in an early interview that his objective in making music was to create something that he himself would be willing to pay for as a fan and that ethos seems all over this record. there is a sense on LA SEXORCISTO that MORE IN FACT IS MORE. MORE ART, MORE GUITARS, MORE DRUMS, MORE SATAN. it all just adds up to a DENSE, EXTREME experience that is almost overwhelming on the initial listen. two decades later i still find myself listening to this record routinely and i have to be careful, because if i am driving i may fine myself 10-15 miles per hour faster by song's end.
if you are a fan of artistic METAL or ALTERNATIVE ROCK from the 1990s, you really cant go wrong with either WHITE ZOMBIE's LA SEXORCISTO or ASTRO-CREEP: 2000 (review linked HERE). along with PANTERA, those records serve as the high water-mark for what has since been deemed GROOVE METAL. could not recommend either much more emphatically. this is required listening in my opinion.
not gonna lie, when i started watching the documentary LAST DAYS HERE (9.14 PICTURES, 2012) about the rehabilitation of DOOM METAL legend BOBBY LIEBLING of PENTAGRAM, i almost felt implicated in incentivizing of the documentation of somebody's PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL DESTRUCTION.
the dude lived a hard life full of DISAPPOINTMENT and mental ANGUISH that was not helped by a decades-long DRUG ADDICTION to everything from crack cocaine to various opiates. the toll said DRUG ABUSE did to his body is rather profound, with GROTESQUE open soars up and down his body. at the depths of the DEPRAVITY filmed the man was psychosomatically convinced of being consumed by parasites. it was just SAD.
the film follows his manager and friend (and arguably his enabler) SEAN PELLETIER who seeks to revitalize LIEBLING's career and get him back onstage again. in the late 2000s there was a swell of interest from the public in 1970s DOOM METAL thanks to like-minded upstart STONER and SLUDGE METAL groups that gained popularity during this period, namely HIGH ON FIRE, DOWN, MASTODON, EYEHATEGOD and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE among others. whats interesting about PELLETIER is that it is hard to discern his true intentions throughout the film and whether or not here is a benevolent influence. in essence, is he helping or EXPLOITING LIEBLING? the singer was in BAD SHAPE and had spent decades cocooned in his parents MARYLAND basement, wasting away in ISOLATION. the immeasurable toll on his parents who obviously love him is almost too much to bear at times as a viewer. its just PAINFUL to watch.
the fact that the dude pulls of a comeback, plays shows and even gets married proves that there is hope out there for everyone, i guess. but i dont know. if your singular motivation to get up in the morning is to be adored and admired by others then i have my doubts. doesnt feel particularly sustainable. at all. LAST DAYS HERE is a unique film that feels like a cross between ANVIL!: THE STORY OF ANVIL (ABRAMORAMA, 2008) and SOME KIND OF MONSTER (review linked HERE). definitely worth watching for fans of the DOOM METAL genre, but also comeback narratives in general
BOOK REVIEW | "LAST NIGHT AT THE VIPER ROOM: RIVER PHOENIX AND THE HOLLYWOOD HE LEFT BEHIND" BY GAVIN EDWARDS
RIVER PHOENIX is a perplexing HOLLYWOOD figure even decades after his untimely passing in front of the VIPER ROOM in 1993. his echo can be felt in the interesting career choices of like-minded actors who have transformed the profession in his wake. from peers like ETHAN HAWKE, KEANU REEVES, BRAD PITT and CHRISTIAN SLATER to those that came just after like LEONARDO DICAPRIO and even his own brother JOAQUIN. but by and large he has been forgotten by general audiences, except those that look back with 1980s nostalgia at the kid's adventure STAND BY ME (COLUMBIA, 1986) or the TRANSGRESSIVE nature of his young adult turn in MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO (FINE LINE, 1991). his death was overshadowed six months later in the wake of the suicide of KURT COBAIN, a major cultural event that still has deep reverberations to this day. unlike COBAIN, it would seem in retrospect that PHOENIX was on the cusp, much like JAMES DEAN before him and HEATH LEDGER long after him, of his definitive work. his story is one of unfulfilled potential.
in LAST NIGHT AT THE VIPER ROOM: RIVER PHOENIX AND THE HOLLYWOOD HE LEFT BEHIND (ATRIA, 2014) author GAVIN EDWARDS does a good job of contextualizing both PHOENIX's career and personal history within the context of YOUNG HOLLYWOOD during the late 80s and early 90s. PHOENIX is positioned as a foreign entity whose youth was experienced not just removed from the HOLLYWOOD system, but outside of AMERICAN CULTURE entirely. he grew up in an itinerate existence all over the UNITED STATES and later in VENEZUELA with a family deeply involved with the CHILDREN OF GOD cult, a predaotry group known for its advocation of INCEST and SEXUAL ABUSE of children among other major moral infractions. as a child, he and his four siblings literally busked around CARACAS, singing as beggars and lived sans-formal education and socialization. more than that, during this period as a child he was SEXUALLY ABUSED and EXPLOITED. it is beyond compelling that someone that removed from an AMERICAN experience was able to develop such an empathetic acumen for acting at a high level.
EDWARDS makes the connection between how difficult the transition was from eldest child to breadwinner while still a teen, effectively supplanting the internal POWER STRUCTURE within his family. for most of his career he was in control, but it came at the cost of having no father figure to guide him through a DRUG CULTURE that ultimately struck him down, as he died after ingesting a speedball at the VIPER ROOM on the SUNSET STRIP. i dont want to go so far as to say that EDWARDS portrays PHOENIX as a martyr, but he does present him as a cautionary figure. someone that made unfortunate choices that he could not turn back from. i think what this book does a good job of is presenting a community enables and preys on youth. i dont know how a young person with that much cultural CHARISMA and SWAY would not be tempted to indulge and partake in the seductive underbelly of the entertainment industry. ETHAN HAWKE is presented as a peer that worried about such issues from an early age and took active measures to mitigate such, writing poignant journal entries to his future self.
the death of PHOENIX almost feels like an ancient allegory, a narrative that is doomed to repeat itself, as our HUMAN NATURE hasnt evolved in the slightest. teh same forces that exploited his FRAILTIES are still in existence, probably even more intently with the advent of modern social media. theres a thought.
RIP RIVER PHOENIX.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the BRITISH ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC juggernaut THE PRODIGY!
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!
i distinctly remember purchasing TINY MUSIC... SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (ATLANTIC, 1996) by the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS at the FNAC in PARIS on a family trip the same year we moved to NIGERIA. talk about a whirlwind year that was. at the time i was very familiar with their previous two releases CORE (review linked HERE) and PURPLE (review linked HERE) and i recall being surprised by the change in direction of this then-new release. in fact, i originally thought there must be a mistake but then i checked the liner notes (this being pre-internet) and was confirmed otherwise.
i think part of the reason for this reaction was the dearth of heavy distorted guitars throughout, in fact, this record is very much in keeping with the aesthetics of early GARAGE ROCK, POWER POP and even hints of late 60s PSYCHEDELIA. this record came from a completely different place than the first two records, which was probably a good thing. it seemed that with every release the band got WEIRDER, ARTIER and more CREATIVE. sadly that trend ended here as the delayed follow-up was more of a calculated return to their previous more aggressive sound. for this reason i look back fondly at TINY MUSIC as my favorite STONE TEMPLE PILOTS release. standout tracks include foot stompers like "BIG BANG BABY," "ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND," "POP'S LOVE SUICIDE," "SEVEN CAGED TIGERS" and"TRIPPIN' ON A HOLE IN A PAPER HEART" as well as more subdued affairs like "SO I KNOW" and "LADY PICTURE SHOW." to my ears this record sounded a world's away from their ALTERNATIVE ROCK peer group and made such comparison's seem insipid and lazy in retrospect.
it was during this period that frontman SCOTT WEILAND began flexing his creative muscle with regards to songwriting despite bouts with the law related to his burgeoning and soon to be full-blown heroin addiction. this affliction began years earlier in 1993 during the BAR-B-Q MITZVAH TOUR in support of the BUTTHOLE SURFERS, but according to his biography things started to spiral during the recording of TINY MUSIC. previous to its recording, WEILAND had gained confidence with his side project THE MAGNIFICENT BASTARD's celebrated addition to the TANK GIRL (UNITED ARTISTS, 1995) soundtrack in "MOCKINGBIRD GIRL." that carefree, soulful ROCK N ROLL swagger definitely found its way into the new material as well as his subsequent underrated solo album 12 BAR BLUES (ATLANTIC, 1998).
as stated before, this is my favorite era of the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS' career and i consider TINY MUSIC one of the most UNDER-APPRECIATED albums of the 1990s. i consider it required listening for anyone interested in ALTERNATIVE ROCK. highly recommended.
i was late to the game with TORO Y MOI. i discovered his ambient, laid-back approach to ELECTRONIC MUSIC when i did a recent DEER GOD RADIO episode focused on the WASHINGTON D.C. independent label CARPARK RECORDS. to my ears his music was the standout discovery.
SOUTH CAROLINA's CHAZ BUNDICK, a.k.a. TORO Y MOI, has a classic crooner's sense of melodic phrasing while utilizing understated, washed-out pad synth sounds that give an almost psychedelic impression to the listener. its a very interesting sonic juxtaposition and makes his music well worth checking out.
its funny, the DEER GOD RADIO episode i did on the fabulous modern DARKWAVE band DRAB MAJESTY was only a few months ago, but the idea about a doing a show on their small output of releases was at least two years coming. and it represents a dilemma i have when constructing a playlist based on a promising new band: its quite possible their best is yet to come. i have playlists (and artwork parodies) currently waiting for bands like CHILDISH GAMBINO, LA LUZ, THE COATHANGERS, KENDRICK LAMAR, PANDA BEAR and NEW FOUND GLORY among others that im not quite sure whether or not to pull the trigger since its possible their next is the culmination of all their past efforts, like say the previous A DAY TO REMEMBER album (which was released well over a year after the EPISODE 75 show dedicated to them). its a small, insignificant quibble of mine, but its probably the reason i dont do many shows on upcoming bands.
im always rethinking such.
i learned about the band via my brother's ex-girlfriend a few years back. thanks LOURDES! what i love about DRAB MAJESTY is that their music is beyond sonically intoxicating and conjures up all the seductive textural guitar elements i adore from guitarists like JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), DANIEL ASH (BAUHAUS, LOVE AND ROCKETS, TONES ON TAIL), BERNARD SUMNER (JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER), MARTIN GORE (DEPECHE MODE) and especially ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE). in my mind DRAB MAJESTY is a part of that legacy of 80s INDIE and POST PUNK bands who put a premium on songwriting and emotional weight through blending idiosyncratic sound textures. their power is in their ability to evoke a sound without sounding contrived or derivative, which is my personal gripe with DARKWAVE in general. those ringing, ambient guitar lines that wash over one another and culminate brilliantly in a sonic climax also find common bedfellows with the likes of SHOEGAZE icons KEVIN SHIELDS (MY BLOODY VALENTINE) and NEIL HALSTEAD (SLOWDIVE). so basically i was absolutely destined to love DRAB MAJESTY since they remind me of the contagiously melodic, experimental end of all my favorite bands!
my hope is that their next record blows all the others apart. maybe ill just have to do a follow-up or part two. why not?
i cannot encourage you enough to check out their music. DRAB MAJESTY is easily my favorite band of the last 10 years. the recent DEER GOD RADIO dedicated to them is embedded below.
there is an unbridled joy and childlike amorality in the simple melodies and often nonsensical lyrics of MARC BOLAN throughout the T. REX classic ELECTRIC WARRIOR (REPRISE, 1971). during a period of listless and ever-indulgent PROG ROCK and its attendant unfocused masturbatory virtuosity, T. REX and the GLAM ROCK movement it inspired was a back-to-basics affair that very much put the onus on the groove and the sentiment being conveyed. in this sense the music was both transgressive and revolutionary in its paired-back aesthetic, laying the cultural and sonic foundation for the PUNK ROCK that followed later in the decade.
standout tracks include "JEEPSTER," "COSMIC DANCER" "LIFE'S A GAS," "MAMBO SUN," and of course the classic "BANG A GONG (GET IT ON)." much like the impressionistically evocative and phantasmagorical childlike lyrics of SYD BARRETT from a few years prior, most T. REX songs are less about the literal meaning of said lyrics and more about the complex feelings they transmit in tandem with the music. it is that alchemical interplay between the music and lyrics of BOLAN that make his T. REX output so compelling and influential decades after his untimely passing in 1977. that sensibility of possibility very much harkens back to the rudimentary beginnings of early BRITISH INVASION and even earlier to the birth of ROCK AND ROLL with legends like CHUCK BERRY, LITTLE RICHARD and even JERRY LEE LEWIS. when i listen to T. REX i am very much reminded of that progression and that creative lineage.
ELECTRIC WARRIOR is an absolute classic of a recording that is seemingly universally celebrated by generations of musicians since, including INDIE ROCK, POST PUNK, SHOEGAZE, TRIP HOP, NEW WAVE, ALTERNATIVE ROCK and PUNK ROCK devotees including the likes of JOY DIVISION, THE RAMONES, TRICKY, THE SMITHS, R.E.M., BAUHAUS, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and THE NEW YORK DOLLS among countless others. its the type of seminal record, much like REVOLVER (PARLOPHONE, 1966), AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE (TRACK, 1967), LED ZEPPELIN IV (ANTLANTIC, 1971) or NEVER MIND THE BULLOCKS (WARNER BROS, 1977), that i consistently hear traces of in modern music. most definitely required listening. definitely worth checking out.
when you consider the longevity and wildly EXPERIMENTAL nature of the music, it is hard not to be impressed by the career of seminal SLUDGE / ALTERNATIVE ROCK / PUNK ROCK band MELVINS. as the documentary THE COLOSSUS OF DESTINY: A MELVINS TALE (HELLSMORE MEDIA, 2016) attests, the narrative of the group is very much centered around the enduring friendship and artistic alchemy between BUZZ OSBOURNE and DALE CROVER. and its interesting that the film uses said friendship as its defining unifying structure as OSBOURNE is renowned for his UNCOMPROMISING, often BRISTLY public persona. the dude no doubt comes off like a born contrarian in interviews. but in a sense that distance to public perception or press critiques is what keeps his band free to chart their own course.
as a business man, OSBOURNE goes on in great detail about how producing limited run in-house publications and vinyl re-pressings is their core strategy for long-term SURVIVAL as a business venture. they acknowledge that their music is available for all in this modern digital world of streaming services and video sharing social media platforms. and that is alright. the free widespread distribution of their music is a mute point, so their focus is on artistic extensions and hands-on limited pieces for their hardcore fanbase. OSBOURNE at length defends this practice, which seems entirely reasonable to me. i cant imagine what PUNK purist would see such as beyond reproach, the dude needs to make a living.
its funny that for a band that defends their art and need for control with a ZEALOUS fervor matched by few, the first thing i think of when i consider the band themselves is their unique ability to seek out collaborations. the nearest analogue to this well outside of the rock world in that id very much liken it to the NON-PRECIOUS, IMPROVISATIONAL and highly COLLABORATIVE realm of JAZZ. the documentary goes into the bands various lineups and incarnations that has included members of CLOWN ALLEY, LUSTMORD, RED KROSS, BIG BUSINESS, MR. BUNGLE and THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS as well as collaborations with everyone from JELLO BIAFRA to LEIF GARRETT. whatever incarnation, whether expanded or contracted in terms of instrumentation, it is that core musical identity of OSBOURNE and CROVER that prevails. and they are UNIQUE in that they are fearless in their ability to try anything.
for me it is that dichotomy of extreme control of their product and their RELENTLESS devotion to the COLLABORATIVE nature of music that defines their cultural significance 30 years into their career at the time of filming. its pretty ridiculous that a truly exhaustive list with the likes of JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), SCOTT KELLY (NEUROSIS), DAVID YOW (THE JESUS LIZARD), GENE SIMMONS (KISS), MIKE PATTON (FAITH NO MORE, MR. BUNGLE, FANTOMAS), J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR), MARK ARM (MUDHONEY), JG THIRLWELL (FOETUS), CHRIS CORNELL & KIM THAYIL (SOUNDGARDEN), MATT PIKE (SLEEP, HIGH ON FIRE), KRIST NOVOSELIC (NIRVANA), PAUL LEARY & JEFF PINKUS (THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS), JOSH HOMME (QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG, CIRCLE JERKS, OFF!), SCOTT "WINO" WEINRICH (THE OBSESSED, SAINT VITUS), BRENT HINDS & BRANN DAILOR (MASTODON), LOU BARLOW (DINOSAUR JR, SEBADOH), DONITA SPARKS (L7), KID CONGO POWERS (THE GUN CLUB, THE CRAMPS, THE BAD SEEDS), COREY TAYLOR (SLIPKNOT) and countless producers, artists and former band members who all agreed to testify to such artistic and cultural relevance in interviewed segments. it seems the secret to success is surrounding yourself like-minded people with similar values and treating your business like an extended family. despite being dropped by a major label (ATLANTIC RECORDS) after three stellar records (HOUDINI, STONER WITCH and STAG), the band had advocates and friends with independent labels (AMPHETAMINE REPTILE, IPECAC) which helped support their long-term artistic endeavors.
THE COLOSSUS OF DESTINY: A MELVINS TALE is most definitely worth checking out if you have any interest in the music of the MELVINS or their philosophy of making it in the music industry as currently constructed. their example is a powerful one, both in business and in terms of building a community.
my introduction to SST RECORDS as a teenager, like i presume with most people, was through the AMERICAN HARDCORE icons BLACK FLAG. for me the record label, much like DISCHORD, EPITAPH, ALTERNATIVE TENTACLES or FAT WRECK CHORDS, was the symbolic representation of the DIY ethic and the attached value system of SELF-DEPENDENCE and COMMUNITY-BUILDING that 80s HARDCORE epitomizes. BLACK FLAG, more than any other band of that era, trail-blazed and literally fought for a nationwide network of alternate venues that later bands of multiple genres benefitted from.
so for me reading CORPORATE ROCK SUCKS: THE RISE & FALL OF SST RECORDS (HATCHETTE, 2022) by JIM RULAND was pretty eye-opening in that it very much showcases the CONFLICTED, DUAL LEGACY of a legendary label that both opened doors for untapped talent (from DINOSAUR JR, THE MEAT PUPPETS, HUSKER DU and SONIC YOUTH to SAINT VITUS, THE MINUTEMEN, SOUNDGARDEN and OXBOW among countless others) yet effectively exploited them in turn. and it is that second legacy of EXPLOITATION that feels incongruous with the initial ETHOS and CULTURAL WEIGHT of BLACK FLAG, as the band exemplifies more than any other of its era the idea of uncompromising INTEGRITY. such is the crux of this incredible book.
the band and the label both came out of a bloated 1970s cultural scene in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA that saw radio and means of promotion being corporatized to the point that all ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINTS were seemingly edged out of the conversation. what GREG GINN accomplished with his band and label was to promote an ALTERNATIVE COMMUNITY that appreciated different perspectives and musical ideas. his label very much promoted emerging scenes from seemingly unrelated genres of INDIE ROCK (DINOSAUR JR), MELODIC HARDCORE (THE MINUTEMEN, HUSKER DU, THE DESCENDENTS), DOOM METAL (SAINT VITUS), PSYCHEDELIA (THE MEAT PUPPETS) and even experimental NOISE ROCK (SONIC YOUTH). in turn, the CULTURAL LEGACY of the label was one of being at the forefront of culture, well beyond its HARDCORE roots. these bands mentioned are the well-known ones, for the label put out many, many more by more OBSCURE and AVANT-GARDE musicians that ran the gamut from JAZZ and ELECTRONIC experiments to IMPROVISATIONAL SPOKEN WORD performances. the label was very much over the map.
which gets at the current state of SST RECORDS. a dormant label that has largely been abandoned by its founder and has not nurtured the immense cultural legacies of its artists with comprehensive re-releases of landmark albums. worse, there are rumors that it has either misplaced or improperly stored master tapes. it just feels tragic that for a label that gave so many artists access to a community it fought so hard to initiate, that in the end they left it all to rot. or worse stagnate and fester as GINN refuses to voluntarily give artists their music rights back. music that his label has chosen to sit on, in some cases, for decades.
its that dual notion of GINN as both a RIGHTEOUS SUPPORTER and a CORPORATE GOON that is difficult to swallow for those on the outside. just the idea that SST RECORDS is as much a part of that soulless corporate business-as-usual approach that they supposedly were fighting against.
it is unfortunate.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the INDIE ROCK icons R.E.M.!
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!
i know people get all hyperbolic when talking about BRITISH ALTERNATIVE ROCK band RADIOHEAD and especially their seminal record OK COMPUTER (), but for me discovering this band was a highly EMOTIONAL and TRANSFORMATIVE affair. in my way this record expanded what i thought a rock band could get away with sonically and conceptually so i think of it more in the vein of KING CRIMSON or PINK FLOYD rather than influences like R.E.M., THE CURE or THE SMITHS or even peer bands like OASIS, NIRVANA or THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. RADIOHEAD are very much their own animal.
its kinda crazy to think back on now, but i bought OK COMPUTER on a school trip in SWITZERLAND back in middle school. the french department at the international school i attended in NIGERIA had an annual trip to FRANCE and SWITZERLAND as an extended part of the curriculum. i believe i bought at a FNAC in GENEVA as i have clear memories of listening to this record on a bus when we arrived in nearby LEYSIN as part of the trip. past students from NIGERIA attended the LEYSIN AMERICAN SCHOOL which was small but had jaw-dropping views of the SWISS ALPS as well as access to sports facilities that were built as part of a failed attempt at pursuing the 1994 OLYMPIC GAMES that eventually were awarded to LILLEHAMMER in NORWAY. so that is the backdrop.
i can recall listening to the sweeping soundscapes of "SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES," "PARANOID ANDROID," "ELECTIONEERING," "NO SURPRISES," and "AIRBAG" while gently falling asleep to unobstructed views of the SWISS ALPS while careening through mountain roads on a bus headed north to ZURICH. i have an intense sense memory of just being overwhelmed by the visual and aural beauty of it all. and its not just those celebrated lush, sweeping guitar tones that drew me in, even the down-tempo, mellow tracks like "LET DOWN," "KARMA POLICE," "EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)," and "LUCKY" are all deeply affecting in no short order due to the incredible vocal talents of frontman THOM YORKE whose voice belied a palpably INTIMATE sense of all-encompassing unadulterated PAIN, RESENTMENT and UNDERSTANDING all at the same time.
thematically the record is committed to understanding the extent to which the modern individual is deluged with information and ultimately DEHUMANIZED through industrial processes of AUTOMATION and COMPUTER INTEGRATION to more and more of our daily lived experience. to me this record is sonically and lyrically concerned with that uneasy yet inevitable integration. its beyond ahead of its time in that regard as the internet was still relatively in its infancy back in the late 1990s. more than 20 years later it feels like a clarion call about the potential political, cultural and interpersonal DISRUPTION that awaited us all in this new digital global order. its fascinating.
if you are unfamiliar with OK COMPUTER, definitely stop reading this and go listen to it now. it is that rare celebrated record that lives up to the hype and even surpasses it. required listening in my opinion.
years ago when i was a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA, i used to take public transportation around the country. these overstuffed buses that doubled as the mail and delivery system for regular people transporting goods and foodstuffs from village to village. because of these stops, rides would almost certainly extend to double the time it would take to get anywhere in a straight shot.
what i loved doing on these long bus rides (anywhere from 4-10 hours depending on where i was going) was listen to DRONE METAL pioneers SUNN O))) records. their sound is an EXPERIMENTAL, mostly extended mix of INSTRUMENTALS set at a GLACIAL pace with long RINGING open chords and MINIMAL percussion in a something akin to a slow paced DIRGE that provides a psychic space to consider the big questions in life. i can recall leaving a beachside city (VLORE) and watch the hills gradually recede and make way to a series of open plains (TIRANA) that would abruptly become interceded by jagged mountains (KUKES) as i careened my way up to the lush fields of KOSOVO. i very much identify the sound of SUNN O))) with the gradual, impartial variations of the nature world.
great band well worth checking out. highly recommended.
every now and then on DEER GOD RADIO i like to pepper in some artists that i feel are CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED, including BROADCAST, THE STRANGLERS, DEVIN TOWNSEND, ELASTICA, LADYTRON, TRICKY and DANIEL ASH. i feel strongly that standout 1960s singer-songwriter HARRY NILSSON is of that variety as well. none other than THE BEATLES name-dropped in early interviews and considered him a peer (much like BRIAN WILSON of THE BEACH BOYS later on). my introduction to his music as a child was thought-provoking children's animated film THE POINT! (review linked HERE).
what i appreciate about him is the unique INVENTIVENESS of his lyrics and upbeat SOPHISTICATION of how he constructed his melodies. he could convincingly make any song topic compelling (even a desk!) and was able to evoke seemingly any emotion with a unique voice that was as IMPASSIONED as it was ANGELIC. if you are unfamiliar with his catalogue, then please check out this episode i did on NILSSON back at the beginning of 2021.
i definitely consider it a highlight.
as with all things LOU REED, the late career return to form with release of NEW YORK (SIRE, 1989) is as COMPLEX as it is INSCRUTABLE. the man was famously INCONSISTENT with his creative output, at once drawing his audience in with singularly POIGNANT insights and diatribes about the complications of MODERN LIFE, only to push them away with subsequent throwaway releases that seemed concocted to either cash in on or refute his previous success. such a dip and dive can be seen in the wake of all his classic releases, from TRANSFORMER (review linked HERE) and CONEY ISLAND BABY to THE BELLS, THE BLUE MASK and NEW SENSATIONS. all were followed up with INCOHERENT, less successful releases that seemed designed to ALIENATE and winnow down his audience (i.e. METAL MACHINE MUSIC).
such was his career.
NEW YORK is a late career revisit to the beloved UNDERGROUND community that he celebrated during his early to mid 1970s heyday. this nostalgic world included his friends that were STREET HUSTLERS, TRANSVESTITES and HOMOSEXUALS who in the intervening years had largely passed on due to the HIV/AIDS crisis. this HARROWING sense of loss and regret can be best seen in the highlight track "HALLOWEEN PARADE" which recounts those left behind during a PRIDE PARADE. in my mind, this track in particular with its direct insights that cut through bone over a MINIMALIST backing track is what REED does best. no bullshit, just a straight sniper shot to the heart. the singles "ROMEO HAD JULIET," "DIRTY BLVD" and "BUSLOAD OF FAITH" all follow a similar tableau of STREET LIFE characters doing what they can to survive in the urban jungle of NEW YORK CITY. but it is that sense of lost opportunity and the transformation of a community that feels like the core thread of this record. ironically at the time REED was living happily with his first wife in rural NEW JERSEY, so the physical and psychic distance between him and this UNDERGROUND world from a decade past is an interest dynamic. the theme was further explored on his follow-up MAGIC & LOSS, which contrary to form was another stellar effort.
there are times where i feel like everything in ROCK AND ROLL has been stated or examined and that everything is just a rehash, a copy of a copy. and then i go back and listen to REED records like NEW YORK and i am confounded by how REVOLUTIONARY his music was, much like the output of peers in LEONARD COHEN, NEIL YOUNG and JOHN FOGERTY, with just his voice and a guitar. it makes me think that what is missing in today's ROCK AND ROLL is not a dearth of sonic exploration, but rather a lack of vicious self-reflection. SOCRATES is said to have stated that an "unexamined life is not worth living." well REED lived a thoroughly examined life and we are all the beneficiaries of such DARK, self-directed entreats.
NEW YORK is most definitely worth checking out. required listening in my opinion.
with the revelation in recent years of his diagnosis with PARKINSON'S DISEASE, the cable documentary THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE (A+E, 2020) has the feeling of a long-form EULOGY about the beloved and celebrated singer. PARKINSON'S is a long-term auto-degenerative disease (much like life itself) that attacks the nervous system and is highly debilitating. so stands to reason that now is the best time speak with the man and have him reflect on his life in depth.
to its credit, THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE is as much concerned with the narrative surrounding the iconic and massively influential career of OZZY OSBOURNE as it is with his private relationship with his family, with special attention to his wife/manager/business partner SHARON. notable participants in this documentary include three of his adult children (AIMEE, KELLY and JACK) as well as former bandmates RUDY SARZO, TONY IOMMI and GEEZER BUTLER and industry peers like ROB ZOMBIE (WHITE ZOMBIE), JONATHAN DAVIS (KORN), MARILYN MANSON, POST MALONE, ICE-T (BODY COUNT) and record producer RICK RUBIN.
i will not try to hide my adoration of OZZY. suffice to say i have dedicated not one but two radio show episodes to him and his massive influence (DEER GOD RADIO 12: OZZY OSBOURNE and DEER GOD RADIO 133: OZZFEST). i have also written in the past about watching him perform at OZZFEST JAPAN in 2015 (linked HERE), which in my opinion didnt go well (note: i was not aware of his condition at the time i wrote it). in my opinion the allure of OZZY is his ability to be an everyman. he's not a MYTHOLOGICAL figure like ROBERT PLANT, phenomenal poet like BOB DYLAN or JOHN LENNON or have a preternaturally stellar vocal range / stage presence like RONNIE JAMES DIO or ROB HALFORD. to me he has something more valuable, he makes great music seem TANGIBLE and within reach of his audience. his lyrics are immediate and direct with little need for fancy decorations to show off his cleverness. there is a reason that his work in BLACK SABBATH has influenced every generation of modern rock music since (NEW WAVE OF BRITIS HEAVY METAL, PUNK ROCK, THRASH METAL, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, DEATH METAL, HARDCORE, SLUDGE METAL, METALCORE, POST HARDCORE, BLACK METAL, etc.). and a lot of that has to do with the unique PERSONAL relationship OZZY has with his audience.
so all that being said, i thought it was particularly interesting that THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE moves past the more tabloid-bating aspects of his career (biting the heads off doves and bats, pissing on THE ALAMO, snorting ants on tour with MOTLEY CRUE) and delves into his failings as a father with his first marriage and the time he was so out of his mind on drugs that he attempting to strangle his second wife SHARON. to me that relationship with SHARON is the crux of this film and the central node on which his life and career hinged. the daughter of OZZY's former manager DON ARDEN, it was SHARON that basically willed OZZY to move on with his career after being dismissed from BLACK SABBATH in the late 1970s. her PATIENCE with his ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY which included drugs and infidelity is almost saint-like in some aspects, even as recently as a few years ago. interestingly the very recent public shaming of OZZY for his dalliance with a longtime hairdresser was completely omitted from discussion in the film. that was an interesting decision since here most of his poor behavior is limited to the 1980s.
with that one omission in mind, the film does a pretty good job of providing a portrait of a legendary musician that doesnt delve into HAGIOGRAPHY as is often the case. by his own admission OZZY is flawed human just like the rest of us. maybe his extremes are further out then us mortals will ever go (example: attempting to strangle your wife while intoxicated) but it is precisely his FALLIBILITY that makes him one of the most beloved frontman of all time.
and perhaps one of the greatest as well.
the first time i became cognizant of the LEONARD COHEN song "HALLELUJAH" was a few years back when i learned that singer CHESTER BENNINGTON (of LINKIN PARK fame) sang as a eulogy at the private funeral service of his friend and mentor singer CHRIS CORNELL (of SOUNDGARDEN fame) in 2017. CORNELL had committed suicide a week before and BENNINGTON himself would perish similarly two months later. so given the circumstances there was a certain weight that i attached to this song as it seemed to be used to verbalize and channel this deep well of intense PAIN and SORROW from one close friend to another.
i had owned and was familiar with the first few COHEN releases from the late 1960s and early 1970s, but the popular resurgence surrounding this obscure track from this 1980s track in the 2000s was something i was unaware of. partly due to the fact that i was overseas. so i read ALAN LIGHT's book THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN: LEONARD COHEN, JEFF BUCKLEY, AND THE UNLIKELY ASCENT OF "HALLELUJAH" (ATRIA, 2013), which examines the unlikely trajectory of the song to a modern standard, largely unbiased by personal sentiment toward the song.
what drew me to the narrative surrounding "HALLELUJAH" is the unique FLUIDITY to which the song as a construct has lent itself. it really is incredible that such a well-known song has, in fact, no definitive version. there are lyrical variations with regards to the verses, as COHEN shortly after its release on the VARIOUS POSITIONS (COLUMBIA, 1984) record was still very much tinkering with it in live settings. famously JEFF BUCKLEY recorded a version on his celebrated GRACE (COLUMBIA, 1994) record, which itself was a cover of a previous JOHN CALE cover. to make things even more interesting, the CALE version utilized an expanded "alternate" set of lyrics. most modern covers from the likes of RUFUS WAINRIGHT, K.D. LANG, BON JOVI, IMOGEN HEAP, DAMIEN RICE and BONO are based on this BUCKLEY cover of a cover, so you can see how this game of telephone gets extended indefinitely. the song has been covered over the years by everyone from REGINA SPEKTOR, NEIL DIAMOND, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE and THE OSMONDS to BOB DYLAN, JOHNNY MATHIS, BRANDI CARLILE, MICHAEL MCDONALD and even ADAM SANDLER. its an incredibly unique phenomena that has allowed the song to be utilized by a whole trove of artists and institutions, in both SECULAR and RELIGIOUS settings.
as a former secondary english teacher, this responsive MULTI-INTERPRETATIVE relationship audiences have developed with this song is incredible and utterly unique. it raises questions about the nature of AUTHORIAL INTENTION, as COHEN's original version is just that: a version. it is unlike other modern standards like "IMAGINE" by JOHN LENNON, "LIKE A ROLLING STONE" by BOB DYLAN or "BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER" by SIMON & GARFUNKEL in that new renditions of those songs inevitably become compared and measured to the original. with "HALLELUJAH" the original recorded version is perhaps one of the more obscure versions as it was on a commercially unsuccessful record that relieved little airplay. later iterations are the one's that captured the popular imagination. i cant think of that ever happening elsewhere outside of the GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK songwriters like IRVING BERLIN, JEROME KERN, COLE PORTER or GEORGE GERSHWIN (among many others) who wrote with the intention of public performance. its a very interesting phenomena.
and then there is the song itself. "HALLELUJAH" utilizes references from several the TORAH narratives to draw out the spiritually redemptive power of SEX, INTIMACY, and ultimately, LOVE. he very much is interested in the idea that SPIRTUAL, some would say RELIGIOUS, power embedded in LOVE is when we suffer and are DEBILITATED and DEBASED by it. when one throws up their hands in the air with confoundment and deep FRUSTRATION at the PAIN and SUFFERING it brings and in defiance look up and say screw it, hallelujah. that "broken" hallelujah is the point of the original iteration of the song. what makes the song so FLUID and PLIABLE is the degree to which interpreters play up the various aspects of the lyrics (its SENSUALITY, CELEBRATION, FRUSTRATION, AMBIVALENCE, etc.) and minimize other aspects. coupled with the variated lyrics and multiple established versions of the song and you have a song that is able to be played at both WEDDINGS and FUNERALS, CHURCHES and SYNAGOGUES, COFFEE HOUSES and ARENAS.
attached below are but a few noteworthy iterations of the song. again, its a compelling trajectory of a lost song, on an album initially rejected by his label, that found a second life as one of the most popularly appreciated, and commercially viable, songs in modern history.
its really mind-blowing. id recommend THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN for anyone interested in the delicate interplay between AUTHOR versus AUDIENCE and AUTHORIAL INTENTION versus INTERPRETATION. it is worth reading for those interested in the CREATIVE PROCESS as well as LITERATURE in general, since COHEN very much was a TRANSCENDENT literary talent.
much like their ICONS (linked HERE), RIFF LORDS (linked HERE) and THE COLLECTION (linked HERE) series of videos on YOUTUBE, THE SONGBOOK is likewise another vehicle for GIBSON GUITARS to promote their product through linking such with the narratives of prominent recording artists. except this time around is a more laidback setting with acoustic performances by the likes of AFI, CAVE IN, PETER HAYES (BACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB) and YUNGBLUD among numerous others that are meant to showcase song-craft.
and i dont hate it.
GIBSON has many storied acoustic models that go back to their origins as a mandolin manufacturer back at the turn of the 20th century. the J200, DOVE, HUMMINGBIRD, L-00 and J45 are all eagerly sought after on the vintage market for their association with WOODY GUTHRIE (L-00), JOHN LENNON (J45), JIMMY PAGE (J200), TOM PETTY (DOVE), BOB DYLAN (DOVE, J45, J200), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (J45), THE EDGE (HUMMINGBIRD), EDDIE VEDDER (L-00), GEORGE HARRISON (J200), BILLY CORGAN (DOVE), BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (J45), KEITH RICHARDS (HUMMINGBIRD), DUANE ALLMAN (L-00), ALEX LIFESON (DOVE), and THE EVERLY BROTHERS (J200). so it makes sense that they would attempt to associate with a more contemporary batch of artists. seems only healthy and a much better vehicle for brand integration than their horribly ill-conceived "PLAYIN AUTHENTIC" campaign from a few years back. jesus, that was a misstep. thankfully GIBSON put themselves out of the way and let the artists add value to their product.
cant wait to see what series they cook up next.
as the lyrical and conceptual genius behind WEST COAST HIP HOP legends N.W.A., all eyes were definitely on ICE CUBE when he released his first solo record AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED (PRIORITY, 1990) after his departure from the group as well as their label RUTHLESS RECORDS.
when the narrative of 1990s HIP HOP is written and talked about, there is often much acceptance of the idea that there were these opposing rival forces regarding the scenes centered around LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK CITY. this is more than largely due to the later tragic TUPAC SHAKUR / NOTORIOUS B.I.G. debacle and the shadow it had over the industry writ large. but AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED really renders that storyline for what it is: complete bullshit.
much like the GARAGE ROCK and GLAM ROCK scenes of the 1960s informed the later development of PUNK ROCK, there is an argument that the direct, in-your-face production work of DR. DRE (along with contemporaries DJ MUGGS of CYPRESS HILL and DJ QUIK) was informed by the example of THE BOMB SQUAD production team associated with PUBLIC ENEMY. and vice versa. these guys were all contemporaries and there was much innovation happening in the late 1980s in both scenes.
what makes ICE CUBE's first album historically interesting is how it is the first record i am aware of (and i am sure there are people out there that will correct me) where a major artist associated with one coast made a record almost exclusively with the production team from the other. the vast majority of AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED is produced or coproduced by THE BOMB SQUAD and given such it is pretty revolutionary. there is even a CHUCK D appearance on the track "ENDANGERED SPECIES (TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE)." like most his work before and since, ICE CUBE the storyteller is absolutely eviscerating in his depiction of a BLACK COMMUNITY under siege by a corrupt political class and judicial structure that materially benefits off the brazen and draconian enforcement policies of the LAPD. and this is pre-RODNEY KING and pre-LA RIOTS, which is incredible to consider when listening to this record. the dude was pretty prescient and uncompromising in his lyrical vision. it is difficult to also not hear echos of ICE CUBE's work in later artists like KENDRICK LAMAR, YG, NIPSEY HUSSLE and VINCE STAPLES in their sober assessments of the same community a generation later. standout tracks include "A GANGSTA'S FAIRYTALE," "WHO'S THE MACK," "AMERRIKKKA'S MOST WANTED" and "THE NIGGA YA LOVE TO HATE," which is probably one of the most confrontational tracks ever, even considering his previous discography with N.W.A. and his later output, including the likewise transcendent follow-up DEATH CERTIFICATE (PRIORITY, 1991).
if you are a fan of WEST COAST HIP HOP or just HIP HOP in general, AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED is required listening. its a searing lyrical firestorm that is relentless in its focus on the dark, racially-motivated underbelly of AMERICAN life. it is also a singular achievement and testament to the art of collaboration from various artistic perspectives, a plot that got lost a few short years later. highly recommended.