LOS ANGELES-based THUMPASAURUS is probably the FUNNEST band i have come across in years. their music seems to be distilled hybrid of both EXPERIMENTAL sonic textures, ABSURD lyrical conceits and absolute unadulterated JOY. i cannot listen to their music and not smile by both its sheer INVENTIVENESS and thematic RIDICULOUSNESS. and then there are the videos. all i can say is you have to watch their videos, especially "STRUTTIN'" and "I'M PISSED."
THUMPASAURUS is definitely worth checking out. enjoy.
parodies by nacrowe
its been almost a decade now since i moved to work and lived in VENEZUELA immediately after my service as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA ended in the spring of 2013. feels like a lifetime ago with where i was at as an individual, not to mention it was the pre-TRUMP era. being in SOUTH AMERICA felt TRANSFORMATIVE in that daily life felt so tangible and raw: the CORRUPTION, the SEXUALITY, the FOOD, the MUSIC, the HOPES, the DREAMS, the DISAPPOINTMENTS, the DIVISION, the SACRIFICE, the DEATH and the SOCIAL CONNECTION. it all just felt like everything was at eleven at all times in a way i never really experienced before.
after two years i moved to JAPAN and then later MYANMAR where i gained some knowledge about basic BUDDHIST principles from varying traditions and perspectives, which was likewise TRANSFORMATIVE but in more of an internal manner. VENEZUELA in comparison just felt like the whole barrage of life coming down at you all at once. it was intense and in retrospect felt like a precursor to life in the UNITED STATES under TRUMP, where extreme social and political strife bifurcated the AMERICAN experience much as CHAVEZ and especially MADURO had done so regarding social and political cohesion in VENEZUELA.
the soundtrack to that experience included many acts (ANA TIJOUX, LA VIDA BOHEME, BOMBA ESTEREO, MANU CHAO, ATERCIOPELADOS) associated with NACIONAL RECORDS in LOS ANGELES, which is a clearing house of sorts for LATIN artists in the UNITED STATES. in recent years they have expanded to placing said artists and their respective catalogues in television and film properties, which is great given the expanded market for such in the UNITED STATES. this is a label that i am constantly revisiting as i look for new artists.
definitely check out the streaming DEER GOD RADIO show embedded below from back in april dedicated to highlights from the NACIONAL RECORDS roster of artists. i had a great time with it and am happy to share that postive energy and love. enjoy.
so 9/11 happened during my senior year of high school and shortly thereafter i abruptly moved from KUWAIT, where my family was stationed at the time, to a suburb of SACRAMENTO to live with an aunt and uncle. obviously that was a tragic and turbulent time for lots of people and my experience was no different, having to navigate both a new school and living with distant relatives. during that year i got my driver's license and while i was taking driving classes my teacher had this thing for having his students drive out by FOLSOM PRISON while playing, you guessed it, AT FOLSOM PRISON (COLUMBIA, 1968) by JOHNNY CASH. for me, driving down US ROUTE 50 and venturing off to the prison is the defining experience i associate with CASH's music. did you know they have an store near the prison that sells art made by the inmates? neither did i.
regardless AT FOLSOM PRISON is the first of two legendary live shows recorded at NORTHERN CALIFORNIA prisons in the late 1960s. the first, AT FOLSOM PRISON, was not filmed but was photographed by the iconic, peerless photographer JIM MARSHALL. CASH's public persona was always that of a champion for the UNDERCLASS and DISPOSSESSED of AMERICAN society and these two shows very much solidified that association in the public's consciousness. its hard argue against such being the high watermark of his career full stop. standout tracks from AT FOLSOM PRISON include the duet (with wife JUNE CARTER CASH) "JACKSON," "COCAINE BLUES," "25 MINUTES TO GO" and of course, "FOLSOM PRISON BLUES."
written shortly before the concert, "FOLSOM PRISON BLUES" was CASH's attempt at EMPATHETICALLY putting himself in the mindset and perspective of an inmate incarcerated for murder. the much celebrated lined is from the first verse in which the narrator coldly explains he "shot a man in RENO just to watch him die" which heightens the sense callous RECKLESSNESS and MORAL DEPRAVITY at play in the decision-making process of a killer. but my tellingly my favorite line is from the third verse in which that same inmate fantasizes about what could have been his IDEAL life, eating in a fancy dining car, drinking coffee and smoking cigars, but "those people keep a-movin', and thats what tortures me." the world has moved past him without a blip and he is rotting in jail for a horribly misguided past decision, implemented on impulse. its one thing to make a mistake, but the real pain and anguish is having to stew and futilely attempt ATONEMENT for such the rest of your waking life. its a BRUTAL song that is deserved of its legendary and universally celebrated status.
should also mention that CASH here is backed by his band THE TENNESSEE THREE and the immortal ROCKABILLY god himself, CARL PERKINS. if you are into GOLDEN AGE COUNTRY, ROCKABILLY or even PSYCHOBILLY than this is a great record to check out. an outright AMERICAN classic.
ALONG FOR THE RIDE (HAT & BEARD, 2017) is a unique documentary in that it provides a narrative in which the narrator is not the focus. in fact the ANONYMITY of the narrator, SATYA DE LA MANITOU, makes all his observations of his late close friend / collaborator / benefactor of more than 40 years, the towering 20th century cultural icon DENNIS HOPPER, that much more intimate and powerful.
this film is a cultural artifact for the ages about a significant artist from a confidant who wishes to bring to light not only his PERSPECTIVE, but the equally valid threads and perspectives of past producers, actors, directors, architects, painters, musicians and artists that came into his orbit. with that in mind, notable participants in this film include directors WIM WENDERS (THE AMERICAN FRIEND), LAURENCE SCHILLER (THE AMERICAN DREAMER), PHILIPPE MORA (MOD DOG MORGAN) and DAVID LYNCH (BLUE VELVET), actors JULIE ADAMS, LINDA MANZ, CHRISTA LANG, MICHAEL MADSEN, STELLA GARCIA, DEAN STOCKWELL, artists EDWARD RUSCHA, JULIAN SCHNABEL and JAMIE HEWLETT, architect FRANK GEHRY and musicians MARK MOTHERSBAUGH (DEVO), DWIGHT YOAKAM and DAMON ALBARN (BLUR, GORILLAZ) among others.
a cynic could definitely misinterpret and dismiss a figure such as SATYA as that of a garden variety HOLLYWOOD enabler and sycophant on first blush, but such an unfair assessment would not take into account the emotional, personal and artistic support he provided for years when HOPPER was in the wilderness after being blackballed in the aftermath of the release of his post EASY RIDER (COLUMBIA, 1969) directorial effort THE LAST MOVIE (UNIVERSAL, 1971). in fact, he wouldnt direct again until OUT OF THE BLUE (DISCOVERY, 1980). during that interim period it was SATYA among others who helped him navigate such peaks and valleys of his life and career with steadfast, unconditional support. enabler is a cruel term with loaded connotations, catalyst may be better.
THE LAST MOVIE, set in PERU, dealt with the CULTURAL BAGGAGE that cinema places on locations and indigenous peoples whose landscape is ultimately transformed by the experience in the mindset of viewers. in a sense cinema is a new form of COLONIALISM as westerners reassess and reinterpret the CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY of another and transfigure it into something less beautiful and ultimately alien to its inhabitants. i remember visiting CAMBODIA years walking among the wondrous ruins of ANGKOR WAT, which has a deep history in multi-layered HINDU and BUDDHIST iconography, and being told by a tour guide about some scene from a shitty ANGELINA JOLIE film (TOMB RAIDER) that was filmed there. that level of CULTURAL APPROPRIATION just felt sleazy and ultimately a form of theft. the sheer power of the location was immense on its own terms and did not need that extra layer to entice visitors, or so i thought. maybe some people went there because of that film. so in other words, HOPPER made a THOUGHTFUL film in THE LAST MOVIE that intelligently conveyed a COMPLEX theme that was a little too much for HOLLYWOOD and he fought for that vision like hell. that battle ultimately deprived him of the opportunity of making another film for nearly a decade, as studio execs thought otherwise irrespective of his having final cut over the project. HOPPER thus gained the reputation in HOLLYWOOD for being UNREASONABLE, not a team player and worse, UNHINGED.
being a first-rate acting talent saw HOPPER through the 1970s, in which his deep CURIOSITY that informed his directing was not satiated. little known in greater popular culture is the fact that HOPPER was a longtime art collector and had a knack for recognizing and valuing pieces by emerging artists like ANDY WARHOL and JULIAN SCHNABEL early in their careers. to understand HOPPER is to appreciate his multi-faceted ability to excel at various mediums beyond cinema, including as a PHOTOGRAPHER and WRITER. it was this capacity for EXPERIENTIAL INQUIRY about the world around him that made him such a unique artist, one who was constantly on the edge. he was also fiercely loyal as exemplified by his quiet ADVOCACY work in NEW MEXICO on behalf of the local NATIVE AMERICAN population, in fact he is buried in TAOS according to the customs of the PUEBLOAN community.
this film was a lot to take in and i am not doing it justice, but it succeeded in providing a DELICATE multi-perspective portrait of a COMPLICATED, SECRETIVE artist and immense cultural force. i will definitely return to this film as i seek out and watch the remainder of his directorial filmography that i have been unaware of until now. THE LAST MOVIE is most definitely worth checking out.
CHICAGO's FALL OUT BOY was POP PUNK band i was familiar with throughout their peak in the 2000s with but never really a fan of. for me their music was always too clever by half with their OPAQUE and needlessly PROTRACTED lyrics as well as sonic misadventures for seemingly no reason (other than attempts at staying current to market trends) into other genres. i respected them but for me the point of POP PUNK was to be direct (to the point of being CUTTHROAT) and having the main focus be all about the hook. i preferred POP PUNK bands like NEW FOUND GLORY and ALKALINE TRIO on the traditional side and POST HARDCORE bands like AT THE DRIVE-IN and GLASSJAW on a more experimental tip during that period. FALL OUT BOY was a hybrid in my opinion that cut the difference but didnt force multiply the results. regardless i became aware of guitarist JOE TROHMAN as a creative entity through his side project THE DAMNED THINGS, a collaboration with THRASH METAL icon SCOTT IAN of ANTHRAX. to my ears that band creatively was much more ROBUST, the MELODIC hooks HARDER HITTING and they didnt appear worried about being clever or ironic at all. so that is my bias going into this book and i just want to get that out of the way right at the jump.
whats interesting is that the memoir NONE OF THIS ROCKS (HACHETTE, 2022) is not really all that concerned with FALL OUT BOY, it is more about the PSYCHOLOGY surrounding SUCCESS, FAME and POPULARITY and feeling like an IMPOSTER and completely unworthy of one's own success, irregardless of talent, work effort and luck. the memoir dives headfirst into TROHMAN's TROUBLED relationship with his mother and the extended CRUELTY he sustained as a child and the consequences of such on his EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT. TROHMAN fearlessly explains how growing up JEWISH in the midwest likewise isolated him outside of his household much as his mother's PETULANT and UNSUPPORTIVE behavior did so within. to share that MENTAL SPACE with him could be quite CLAUSTROPHOBIC at times and that feels like part of the point. you realize through that TENSION what a RELIEF and TRANSFORMATIVE experience it must have been to discover the CHICAGO HARDCORE scene in his teens. you can sense the freedom that comes when the IDENTITY you inherited marks you as the "other" in one environment and then in a new context you are but one of many in a supportive, ENABLING community with a shared INTEREST and PASSION. in essence your passion defines you.
ive read i dont know how many memoirs and biographies of musicians and artists since beginning this blog and NONE OF THIS ROCKS differentiates itself through its conversation of what people now term IMPOSTER SYNDROME, which is that UNEASY feeling of not being qualified for a position or level of SUCCESS. having lived half my life abroad (JAPAN, NIGERIA, ALBANIA, KUWAIT, VENEZUELA and MYANMAR) and returning stateside to venture into varying industries (starting a recording studio, making music videos, going back to school for my MBA) and interests (starting a bi-weekly internet radio show, writing semi-publicly about various content); i am all too familiar with that intense feeling of being fearful of being exposed as a COMPLETE FRAUD. i really feel that TROHMAN is quite COURAGEOUS in writing a book largely concerned with contextualizing why he feels this way (CRUEL mother, JEWISH "otherness," not being "sporty" or having fancy college degrees) and how it led him down a FRACTURED, non-functioning path with his INTIMATE collaborators in FALL OUT BOY that led him to drug abuse and other outside palliative efforts that didnt get at the core of his NEUROSIS and DYSFUNCTION. i also believe just as COURAGEOUS is how, ironically, it is his family that serves as his SALVATION. specifically the grounding effect of his wife and two daughters as well as the perennial support and guiding example of his father, not to mention friends and peers like SCOTT IAN who had the STRENGTH and EMPATHY to call him out directly during the depths of his chemical downfall.
for me this book is not about the career trajectory of a band, but the evolution of a musician to transcend aspects of his childhood and upbringing of which he had no control over and break the cycle moving forward as a creative adult fully aware but not defined by his mistakes and deficiencies. i found it all rather TOUCHING. my only gripe is stylistically the CONFESSIONAL, almost DIARISTIC fashion in which the book is written can feel meandering and in need of editing at times. also structurally much of the same plot points in his life are repeated several times for no identifiable reason. these are small concerns and inevitably they are AUTHENTIC to TROHMAN since i have no doubt he is the actual author of this book. a ghostwriter would never have allowed such to transpire so for better or worse, this is unequivocally his true and salute him for putting himself out there in such a NAKED fashion.
much like the DIY ethos of the HARDCORE scene, his example makes me feel like i should get off my ass already and start writing about my time living abroad already. i get asked enough to do such as it is. like TROHMAN, i just need to get over myself and just go ahead and do it.
i recently came across the longstanding GERMAN live performance series CARDINAL SESSIONS on YOUTUBE that showcases singer-songwriters in UNIQUE settings (parks, backstage, sound-checks, side-streets, restaurants, etc.) with very much scaled-back, MINIMAL setups. from what i could gather online, CARDINAL SESSIONS is a series conducted by a private company IMPRINT at whose SPARE production aesthetic puts the focus on the songs themselves and the HUMAN ELEMENT. no reverb, no EQ padding, no trickery, bullshit.
i remember in an interview DANIEL LANOIS once spoke about the fact that when musicians play together in ACOUSTIC settings sans amplication, they are able to naturally balance themselves relative to each other organically through mutual INTERACTION and active listening. for me this series is built on that level of INTIMACY and really celebrates the power of the HUMAN VOICE. minus all the usual sonic decorations and embellishments, its interesting to see if the songs themselves and their performances still stack up to the originals. from what i have experienced watching this series, such is the case.
CARDINAL SESSIONS is definitely worth checking out, especially performances by the likes of PETE DOHERTY (of THE LIBERTINES), MAC DEMARCO, THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE, MIKE HERRERA (of MXPX), CONOR OBERST (of BRIGHT EYES), IRON & WINE, THE AVETT BROTHERS, TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB and STELLA DONNELLY among many others. very cool stuff.
i came across THE WHITE STRIPES during my sophomore year in high school, which was spent at a boarding school in western MASSACHUSETTS. friends of mine that were massive INDIE ROCK heads saw them play small clubs in nearby NORTHAMPTON and AMHERST as they were promoting their self titled THE WHITE STRIPES (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 1999) debut and follow-up DE STIJL (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 2000) albums at turn of the millennium. to me they seemed like one of many celebrated but firmly UNDERGROUND groups at time like NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL, THE FLAMING LIPS, THE DELGADOS, THE MAGNETIC FIELDS or PAVEMENT. the most noteworthy aspect of their band was their UNCONVENTIONAL, MINIMALISTIC presentation and sonic aesthetic. two players with three basic elements: guitar, drums and vocals.
i had moved to KUWAIT my junior year to live with my family when WHITE BLOOD CELLS (SYMPATHY FOR THE RECORD INDUSTRY, 2001) blew up behind the single "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL," and i had the damnedest time trying to figure out why. to me that song and the record as whole was not entirely different than that of its two predecessors. there was FOLK / BLUES hybrid thing going on with plaintive ballads and introspective stompers in "HOTEL YORBA," "DEAD LEAVES ON THE DIRTY GROUND" and "WE'RE GOING TO BE FRIENDS." maybe it was the fact that MICHEL GONDRY sprayed his INVENTIVE cinematic pixie-dust all over the LEGO-animated "FELL IN LOVE WITH A GIRL" video or maybe it was just good timing as their seemed to be a whole slew of like-minded 2000s ROCK REVIVAL bands bubbling up and gaining popularity at the time like THE STROKES, THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS, MGMT, THE LIBERTINES, INTERPOL, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS, TV ON THE RADIO, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, THE DARKNESS, BLOC PARTY and ARCADE FIRE among many others.
what has really knocked me sideways in the years since is how their unconventional yet lean and highly potent two-person format has gained popularity in the years since, most famously with bands ranging from THE BLACK KEYS, DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979, SHE & HIM, PHANTOGRAM, CHAIRLIFT, NO AGE and LIGHTNING BOLT to JAPANDROIDS , THE KILLS, CULTS, PURITY RING, BEST COAST, SLEIGH BELLS and ROYAL BLOOD. someone out there is more knowledgable than me could probably name a precursor to this format, but i cant name or think of one. its pretty stunning that THE WHITE STRIPES got the ball rolling with the idea of ROCK N ROLL duo.
like all their records, WHITE BLOOD CELLS is a THOUGHTFUL, heavily BLUES-based album that brings together the best of GARAGE ROCK and INDIE ROCK in a SPARSE, MINIMALIST package by design. also like their whole discography, this record is an INTERESTING experiment in creating MEANINGFUL art from imposed LIMITATIONS that force the artist to transcend their CONSTRAINTS. that aspect of their work i will always find COMPELLING. definitely worth checking out.
to my ears, the DUBLIN-based band FONTAINES D.C. sound a like a THROWBACK in both tone and presentation to the INDIE ROCK scenes of the 1980s and 90s across the pond. im talking about bands ranging from THE SMITHS and OASIS to THE FALL and even THE LA's. a sound that resonates with clean MELODIC guitar lines and SARDONIC, passionately delivered vocals without compromising their native accent. and that has always been one of my pet peeves: BRITISH and IRISH bands that sing with an AMERICAN accent. i understand the perception that it makes them more commercial, but its always a welcome sight when new bands stay true to themselves in that regard.
really digging FONTAINES D.C. as they hit the sweet spot of one of my favorite cultural movements in ROCK N ROLL history, while carving a niche for themselves. definitely worth checking out.
parodies & text by nacrowe
with the tragic passing of TAYLOR HAWKINS and the second tribute concert set to take place in LOS ANGELES within the week, it got me thinking about how bands and creative entities in general move past the loss or death of a PROMINENT member. its a very tricky thing. HAWKINS himself was the drummer of the FOO FIGHTERS, usually a backup supporting role, but in the context of that band he was the second most visible and charismatic member next to DAVE GROHL himself.
the most recent example i could think of in which a band successfully moved on form the untimely passing of a CELEBRATED member is ALICE IN CHAINS with the ascension of WILLIAM DUVALL for the late ALTERNATIVE ROCK icon LAYNE STALEY. for me, ALICE IN CHAINS was a foundational band (along with FAITH NO MORE and JANE'S ADDICTION) that very much defined the soundtrack of my adolescence, so the idea of them reforming with a new unknown singer during my mid-twenties was... let's just say i was SKEPTICAL. that is until i heard BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE (VIRGIN, 2009) and was beyond moved by the proper loving send-off they gave their fallen brother. such was done in true AC/DC BACK IN BLACK (ATLANTIC, 1980) fashion, meaning they acknowledged their loss and publicly mourned such in a manner fitting that member (i.e. making music of QUALITY and INTENTION).
obviously ALICE IN CHAINS and AC/DC lost their frontmen, but in the case of LED ZEPPELIN and THE WHO, like the FOO FIGHTERS, they lost their drummer. ZEPPELIN famously called it a day after JOHN BONHAM passed and THE WHO continued with diminishing returns in the wake of KEITH MOON's death. both drummers were larger than life exemplars at their craft. my gut says that GROHL will continue FOO FIGHTERS, but only after a long period crafting a fitting tribute to his fallen brother. i dont think this is the end of their story.
with the case of ALICE IN CHAINS, DUVALL held his own as his own man and showed a long suffering fanbase that he had his own gifts to bring to the role and help resurrect a genre-defining band from cultural extinction. his MUSICALITY (STELLAR VOICE, GUITAR-PLAYING ABILITY and SONGWRITING) spoke for itself and won over skeptics, like myself, over. like DUVALL, HAWKINS was the only member of his group to be primarily recognized for his work in that band, as all others were notable members of previous groups: DAVE GROHL (NIRVANA), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), NATE MENDEL (SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE), CHRIS SHIFLETT (NO USE FOR A NAME) and RAMI JAFFEE (THE WALLFLOWERS). its doubly tragic since in recent years HAWKINS was on the cusp of spreading his wings on several high profile solo and side projects (NHC and THE COATTAIL RIDERS) that were beginning to gave his singing and songwriting talent its well-earned time in the spotlight. given his long association with the FOO FIGHTERS, i feel like his lasting sendoff and ultimate legacy will be on a future FOO FIGHTERS release dedicated in his honor a la BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE and BACK IN BLACK. that is my hunch at least, because itd be unfortunate if the group went the way of LED ZEPPELIN or even worse, THE WHO.
RIP TAYLOR HAWKINS, LAYNE STALEY, MIKE STARR, BON SCOTT, JOHN BONHAM, JOHN ENTWISTLE and KEITH MOON
enjoy this episode of DEER GOD RADIO with a playlist celebrating ALICE IN CHAINS shot from my brother's couch during the pandemic way back in march 2020.
in the wake of the breakup of JANE'S ADDICTION, frontman PERRY FARRELL and drummer STEPHEN PERKINS both collaborated with guitarist PETER DISTEFANO and bassist MARTYN LENOBLE (who was later replaced on the next album by MINUTEMEN/FIREHOSE veteran MIKE WATT) on a project called PORNO FOR PYROS. like most of the splinter groups related to JANE'S ADDICTION, their is a sense of both continuation and departure with the former group. whereas guitarist DAVE NAVARRO (of JANE'S ADDICTION) had a majestic sense of textured dynamics and guitar heroics that was equal parts JIMMY PAGE as it was DANIEL ASH and ROBERT SMITH, in DISTEFANO there is a decidedly more traditional approach with LATIN influences and even FLAMENCO stylings thrown in the mix. i can only imagine how daunting it must have felt to essentially be replacing ALTERNATIVE ROCK royalty, but DISTEFANO more than held is grown, especially on the subsequent GOOD GOD's URGE (WARNER BROS, 1996) follow-up release.
lyrically on their debut PORNO FOR PYROS (WARNER BROS, 1993) recording FARRELL ditches the pseudo-CATHOLIC hagiography of SEXUAL DESIRE predilections of his former group and paints a decidedly direct picture of early 1990s LOS ANGELES, complete with EMPATHETIC profiles on prostitutes ("CURSED FEMALE") and those that solicit their services ("CURSED MALE"), gang violence ("MEIJA") and even the LOS ANGELES RIOTS ("PORNO FOR PYROS"). the band's moniker is a reference to such widespread PANIC, VIOLENCE and ARSON in the wake of the RODNEY KING verdict. what makes the records fun is the EXPERIMENTAL yet chill and free-flowing nature of the music, no doubt indebted to DISTEFANO's layered guitar textures and PERKINS mantra-inducing grooves, as well as the IDIOSYNCRATIC obsessions of FARRELL. these include thoughts about the waves of emotion that induce depression ("SADNESS"), or what it would be like to be subjugated by extraterrestrials as playthings ("PETS"), or date someone from another culture ("BLACK GIRLFRIEND") or even the finer points of inducing the female climax ("ORGASM"). despite himself these self-referential narratives are quite profound and would be sleazy in lesser hands.
with FARRELL its all a celebration of life, the good and the bad. and in a way that celebration is a reflection of his deep affinity for LOS ANGELES and all its contradictions. fascinating record by a group that was just getting started. highly recommended.
i first became aware of CLEVELAND-based artist DEREK HESS by way of the album covers he produced in the early 2000s for ascending POST-HARDCORE bands, notably CONVERGE and UNEARTH among many others. his EXPRESSIONISTIC, SKELETAL drawings often depicted CONTORTED, faceless bodies in a moment of PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL DISCONNECT. i found his work to be emotionally charged and unflinchingly VISCERAL. like CARAVAGGIO, its art that is very much concerned with the individual's connection to the PHYSICAL BODY as a vessel that bears intense emotions of ANXIETY, GRIEF, SORROW, REGRET and PAIN. in many ways, it fit the potent HONESTY and PATHOS of those albums like hand in glove.
FORCED PERSPECTIVE: THE STORY OF ARTIST DEREK HESS (COAT OF ARMS, 2013) is a poignant documentary that reveals the artist and his connection to not only art as CATHARSIS, but art also as a vehicle for DISCOVERY and CONNECTION. it tracks his evolution from comic book aficionado to trained figure artist to concert poster designer to celebrated fine artist and serial entrepreneur whose work is part of the LOUVRE's collection among others. it really is quite the career trajectory but the essence of this film is not so much on his career milestones, but his dual connection with the CLEVELAND-based cultural scene he helped nurture and foster as well as his own relationship with his SOBRIETY and BIPOLAR DIAGNOSIS. coming to AUTHENTIC, hard-fought terms with his own physical limitations and learning of the impact his actions have on those around him is at the heart of what this film is about. it is the basis and foundation from which his art can develop and self-renew without being clouded by CHEMICAL DEPENDENCIES. his work is so powerful it almost requires an UNBLINKING, unadulterated gaze straight into the soul. his work is the seeming very definition of SOBRIETY in how it depicts and evokes the COMPROMISED PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL nature of the HUMAN CONDITION without wincing or turning away. it shows the distance between our ASPIRATIONAL selves and our own dreary reality as is. and that DUALITY is something i very much appreciate about HESS' work.
i had no idea going in how much an inspiration SILVER AGE OF COMICS pioneer GIL KANE had on his work, especially with his dramatic use of foreshortening and forced perspective in order to evoke scale in a representational composition. KANE and his peers utilized such techniques as a narrative device in order to draw the viewer into the PSYCHODRAMA at play in the comic book. it feels like HESS utilized such as an EXTREME means of depicting INTERNAL, often SELF-DIRECTED CONFLICT at scale. its an INVENTIVE and CLEVER inversion.
ultimately HESS' ability to visually depict powerful INTERNAL PROCESSES related to INTENSE EMOTIONS is what he is renowned and celebrated for. in that he is a SINGULAR visionary. this film gets at the man behind the artist and his own personal struggles that feed his art. i found this documentary to be quite courageous in its depiction of HUMAN FRAILTY and would recommend to anyone interested in art as well as recovery from CHEMICAL DEPENDENCY and MENTAL HEALTH-related issues.
there is no stigma. only the determination to be yourself and showcase your own truth.
in the fall of 1998 i entered my freshman year of high school at a BOARDING SCHOOL in MASSACHUSETTS. the previous three years i spent living and going to school in NIGERIA, where my parents relocated for work and were still living at the time. before AFRICA, i grew up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. its funny to look back on everything now, but arguably the CULTURE SHOCK of attending a BOARDING SCHOOL was a bigger DISRUPTION to my system than moving to AFRICA. for all of its cultural and political differences with the CALIFORNIA, NIGERIA was really not that different. sure you had to adjust to things like overt corruption when dealing with the police and reduced access to clear water and electricity, but really life in AFRICA was a variation on a theme.
BOARDING SCHOOL, however, was another beast entirely. it was an OPAQUE system filled with UNSPOKEN POWER HIERARCHIES and agreements. i found this period to be incredibly CONFUSING and still do to this day, especially given how it later fed into an equally mysterious college system that favored the BYZANTINE influence structures of the elite.
which brings me to J.D. SALINGER's THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (LITTLE, BROWN & CO, 1951), a novel seemingly everyone has read in high school. funny enough, this was one of a dozen books i was assigned to read the summer before freshman year. it was a funny choice: a book about a kid who hates the PHONINESS of BOARDING SCHOOL that was being read by a kid about to enter an elite BOARDING SCHOOL.
i had a hard time identifying with HOLDEN CAULFIELD. i couldnt figure out the source of his complaints and his gripe with his peers. maybe that was the point. maybe he was like MARLON BRANDO's character in THE WILD ONE stating "what have you got" when asked what he was rebelling against. maybe he is a cypher for youthful rebellion in general, unable to verbalize or locate his anger within the context of a COMPLICATED ADULT WORLD he is about to enter. i got that sort of existential dread, as i was soon to be leaving my parents a hemisphere away, but not the ANGER. not that sense of projection of FEAR and SELF-LOATHING misdirected at his peers.
as i stated before, my original context of reading this book was within the confines of living and attending a BOARDING SCHOOL. as a primer to that experience, i didnt share his reaction. his fictional experience was that of a PRIMAL SCREAM directed outwards. mine was completely internal. the unrelenting competitiveness, the arcane rituals, the unspoken agreements, the double standards all led me to doubt myself. i entered a fish out of water and i left equally unsure of my place. i remember an older student in my dorm was busted for selling PCP on campus, but was quietly reinstated after a brief suspension, his father after all was a famous businessman from NEW ENGLAND and a soap magnate. i guess they wouldnt want to sour his reputation with public knowledge of his son's extracurricular activities. to make it worse the school had the father give a speech soon after about the business implications of BUDDHIST precepts surrounding the NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH. it was the height of hypocrisy. i could go on. a 'C' student was one of a handful that got into YALE UNIVERSITY, his father being a corporate lawyer in the auto industry.
it was all CONFUSING and UNJUST. it was a great entry point into the real world. for me THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is about that moment when childhood ends and one becomes numb, jaded and less IDEALISTIC about their place in the world. maybe i wasnt that different from CAULFIELD after all.
the pandemic obviously killed the ability of bands to tour and generate income. the LEVITATION SESSIONS is an ongoing livestream series of live performances by various EXPERIMENTAL and PSYCHEDELIC INDIE ROCK bands that has the extra benefit of being committed to vinyl for posterity. its a pretty cool concept since it reintroduces that bit of DANGER that comes with live music that seemingly is lost with crowd-less performances. give the fact that bands are on sound-stages means that PROFESSIONAL recording standards are in play and the sound quality here is pretty STELLAR.
past participating bands include OHSEES, ACID DAD, RINGO DEATHSTARR, SLIFT, NIGHT BEATS, FUZZ, POST ANIMAL, FRANKIE & THE WITCH FINGERS and DEAD MEADOW among many others. since the pandemic has wained these sessions have transitioned to NONTRADITIONAL locations and performance venues in front of actual audiences. definitely worth checking out.
given the similarities between his name and mine, i was basically indoctrinated by my parents from an early age by much of NICK LOWE's discography. which i am thankful for. this includes his incredible debut JESUS OF COOL (RADAR, 1978), which was renamed for the AMERICAN market PURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE (COLUMBIA, 1978) over concerns of our overzealous religious sensibilities. god, how depressing is that? its almost like we cant take a joke (we can't).
despite his influential career, LOWE still feels to me like a criminally UNDERRATED songwriter who never really got his due amongst the music consuming public (unlike NEIL YOUNG, TOM PETTY, ELVIS COSTELLO, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the like). among musicians he is much beloved as his song "(WHAT'S SO FUNNY 'BOUT) PEACE, LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING" off of his sophomore album has been covered by everyone from ELVIS COSTELLO, AUDIOSLAVE, JOSH HOMME, THE FLAMING LIPS, CANDI STATON and WILCO over the years. at this point it is basically a modern standard. what draws me to his songwriting in general is his preternatural ear for vocal melodies and POWER POP-inspired hooks. not to mention SARDONIC insights into the mundane nature of daily life dressed up in LUSH orchestration and tight, thoughtful song constructions.
standout examples from JESUS OF COOL / PURE POP FOR NOW PEOPLE include "SO IT GOES," "I LOVE THE SOUND OF BREAKING GLASS," "NUTTED BY REALITY" and "MARIE PROVOST." all four songs ive heard throughout my childhood and are embedded permanently alongside songs from THE SMITHS, THE KINKS, THE STRANGLERS, THE WHO, THE ANIMALS and THE BEATLES. whats funny to me is i have no idea what they are specifically about. they seemingly are all full of OBLIQUE references to situations, histories and feelings by ENGLISH communities from over 40 years ago. if anything you get the sense that LOWE is deeply aware of the discrepancies and underwhelming aspects of the human experience, but does not wallow or feel deferential towards it. if anything, his HUMOR shields him, as well as the listener by extension, from taking it on full tilt. that gallows humor feels very ENGLISH to me. just take life as it comes but dont be afraid to laugh at your own misfortune.
i have to get better at that.
look into JESUS OF COOL if you are interested in smart, thoughtful NEW WAVE songwriting or just great ROCK N ROLL craftsmanship in general. definitely worth checkin out.
when i learned about the CHILEAN trio ADELAIDA i was already on their side by the sheer fact that they were from VALPARAISO. that coastal city was the most welcoming and naturally beautiful place i visited during my time in SOUTH AMERICA when i worked for two years in VENEZUELA. just culturally rich with artists, artisans and craftsmen abound being CREATIVE. i fell in love with that city on site. so right upfront, that is my bias.
that being said, the band has a POWERFUL sound that borders genres ranging from the more experimentally DISSONANT end of POST-HARDCORE (GLASSJAW, AT THE DRIVE-IN) to sheer NOISE ROCK (BOREDOMS, SONIC YOUTH) to straight up DELICATE, ANGULAR INDIE ROCK (YO LA TENGO, DINOSAUR JR). depending on the release, they very much are an ACCOMPLISHED band that seemingly has no limit to their sound. definitely worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
the more i stop to consider the HIP HOP duo RUN THE JEWELS, the more i come to the realization that they have quietly become the most significant rap group of the past decade. there are so many concurrent threads and movements in HIP HOP, some cane be described as geographic (SOUTHERN, EAST COAST, WEST COAST) while others are socio-political (NATIVE TONGUES) or hyper-literate (WU-TANG CLAN, EMINEM, RAKIM) or just plain entertainment. whats interesting to me is that RUN THE JEWELS seemingly covers all those bases.
i think what got me think about KILLER MIKE and EL-P recently was the fact that they were set to open for RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE on their recent comeback(?) tour that was cancelled due to ZACK DE LA ROCHA's on-stage leg injury. it made me consider that the last time RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE had a high profile HIP HOP tour-mate was when they co-headlined with WU-TANG CLAN in the late 1990s. its safe to say that at this point in time WU-TANG is a cultural institution that has stood the test of time, both for their lyrical dexterity and creative production, but also for what they represent as a unit of black artists who have supported each other for decades. when i consider RUN THE JEWELS and the communities KILLER MIKE and EL-P represent, they seem positioned to be a likewise beacon for creative stability and potent expression on behalf of their audiences as the speak truth to power. literally.
KILLER MIKE is famously from ATLANTA and is associated with OUTKAST during his early career. he has released several solo albums and in the wake of success with RUN THE JEWELS was a vocal proponent of BERNIE SANDERS 2020 presidential campaign. EL-P is a celebrated NYC producer and MC, who previous to RUN THE JEWELS was essentially ALTERNATIVE HIP HOP royalty. his work with COMPANY FLOW and time running the label he founded DEFINITIVE JUX, make him an icon of sorts for underground HIP HOP heads. the fact that this unlikely pairing of respected (but not previously bankable) MCs have become so widely successful is quite extraordinary.
what i appreciate is that their time in the spotlight has been utilized deftly as a platform to promote social change by discussing prison reform, police violence and education policy openly in their lyrics. that stance alone puts them in unique company. makes me think of them alongside PUBLIC ENEMY, ANA TIJOUX, KRS-ONE, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST and TALIB KWELI among others that leverage their popularity to advocate causes they believe in. for me that is their true legacy and i look forward to seeing how their music and politics evolve for years to come.
below is an episode of DEER GOD RADIO from July 2020 on nonprofit NYC radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC celebrating RUN THE JEWELS. enjoy
there is something LOOSE and FUN about listening to the second RANCID record LET'S GO (EPITAPH, 1994). for all intents and purposes the band came on my radar in 2000 when i moved to KUWAIT and fell in with a group of friends that were big on EPITAPH and FAT WRECK bands like PROPAGANDHI, ANTI-FLAG, PENNYWISE, LAGWAGON, RISE AGAINST, MILLENCOLIN, NO USE FOR A NAME, BAD RELIGION and NOFX among others. up until that point my foray into PUNK ROCK beyond the 1970s originators were HARDCORE groups like DEAD KENNEDYS, BLACK FLAG and DESCENDENTS as well as POP PUNK bands like GREEN DAY, BLINK-182 and NEW FOUND GLORY.
so it was a bit of an education. i always think of music as a social phenomenon that is very much centered on relationships and exposure. for me geographically, there was a period of seven years growing up where i attended something like five schools, many times on different continents. so ive always learned about stuff out of cultural context, which is interesting.
for me, the act of discovery for the LET'S GO album is invariably linked to my experience first seeing them play live in VENTURA in 2001 on the VANS WARPED TOUR. there is just something undeniable about the SPARTAN quick-in-quick-out song construction but loose on-the-floor feel of tracks like "SALVATION," "RADIO," "LET'S GO" "THE BALLAD OF JIMMY & JOHNNY," and "NIHILISM" among others. thematically these songs center around stories celebrating their EAST BAY community that serve almost as allegories about living life under the duress of society's thumb. THE CLASH influence is absolutely undeniable in terms of sonics and SOCIO-POLITICAL OUTLOOK but TIM ARMSTRONG in my opinion is a much more TALENTED songwriter than JOE STRUMMER ever was. going back to his days in OPERATION IVY ARMSTRONG has had way with MELODIC and lyrical hooks that are both UPBEAT and EMPOWERING while being intensely EMOTIONALLY CHARGED. even at this early stage he was a force to be reckoned with.
seeing RANCID live and hearing them play these songs shortly after hearing them for the first time was a thrilling experience and a defining cultural moment of my late teens. that summer was amazing and its still crazy to think that only a month later 9/11 happened and the world shifted, as did my time in KUWAIT. listening to this record again just reminds of that period before everything became so tragic and heavy over the next few years.
LET'S GO is a record definitely worth checking out.
there is something identifiably AMERICAN about CANDY DARLING.
as a relatively new country, throughout our history there has always been this unique capacity to SELF-MAKE ourselves in some optimistically divined utopian vision of what we could and should be, unhampered by centuries of triumphs and mistakes. in essence we are collectively in the process of bringing a more perfect vision of ourselves to fruition. the SELF-MADE, projected figure of ANDY WARHOL superstar and cultural icon CANDY DARLING showcases that distinct TENSION that comes between LIVED FANTASY and LIVED REALITY.
born in LONG ISLAND amongst the post-war newly built track houses and stifling suburban CONFORMITY of MASSAPEQUA, CANDY knew from an early age that she was different. watching a relatively recent documentary such as this reminds you instantaneously that the larger cultural discussion regarding SEX and GENDER identity has only become mainstream in recent years (about a decade after this film). the whole concept of not identifying with your assigned GENDER was completely taboo in 1950s AMERICA, where POLITICAL, ECONOMIC and RELIGIOUS CONFORMITY was practically a national value in and of itself. what makes BEAUTIFUL DARLING: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CANDY DARLING, ANDY WARHOL SUPERSTAR (CORINTH FILMS, 2009) such an intriguing documentary is how it showcases a specific downtown NYC arts scene in the 1960s where SEXUAL EXPRESSION was not only tolerated but celebrated. in some ways these WARHOL superstars (JACKIE CURTIS, HOLLY WOODLAWN and CANDY DARLING) along with the likes of LOU REED were the trailblazers that opened the door that we have been walking through as a culture for the past half century. its been in the past five years that mainstream magazines like PLAYBOY and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED have used TRANSGENDER models in their publications and actors such as ELLIOT PAGE and LAVERNE COX have brought their powerful presence to film and television screens. despite modern troglodyte conservatives that wish to drag us back to the stone age with their REGRESSIVE GENDER PRESCRIPTIONS prescriptions and bullshit self-serving, binary moral constructions, we very much live in a new world that takes into account that life is complicated. people are complicated. deal with it.
that being said its interesting to hear writer FRAN LEBOWITZ' opinion on CANDY and the seemingly SUPERFICIAL, PERFORMATIVE conception of FEMININITY she arguably brought to life. as a caucasian CISGENDER man i feel more than a little out of my depth speaking on this subject, but there does seem to be some light in how much of our GENDER is PERFORMATIVE through our ADOPTION and INTERNALIZATION of SOCIETAL CUES and CULTURAL PRESCRIPTIONS surrounding BODY IMAGE, PRESENTATION, VOCAL AFFECTATION and even POSTURE. the fact that CANDY grew up a severely abused child who took SOLACE and ultimately ESCAPISM in the 1950s cinema. her ideation of FEMININITY was informed by silver-screen starlets like MARILYN MONROE, JEAN HARLOW and especially KIM NOVAK. in many ways her INTERNALIZATION and eventual formation into becoming CANDY was performance of such that seeming coalesced into an IDENTITY. again, i am not denying her ability to self-identify as TRANSGENDER, but i do think that LEBOWITZ angle regarding the performative aspects of gender to be compelling if not food for thought.
ultimately for CANDY this was her LIVED EXPERIENCE and her LIVED REALITY, and she paid dearly for it. one of the most heartbreaking aspects of this documentary are the diary entries where she confesses to the DESPAIR and ISOLATION she felt about not being accepted by SOCIETY and not being able to partake in normal life rituals like being in a relationship, having a normal job and even visiting relatives. after her death her mother basically disowned her memory after remarrying.
for me BEAUTIFUL DARLING is just another reminder of how we need to treat each other with a sense of DIGNITY and genuine COMPASSION. very moving film. well worth checking out.
EXIT WOUNDS (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2007) by ISRAELI cartoonist RUTU MODAN is a narrative concerned with the crippling PSYCHIC CONSEQUENCES that come with being SEPARATED from family. much of the narrative follows a cab driver named KOBY who learns that his estranged father may have been killed in a terrorist attack. given his distance from his father, the story unfolds as a series of echos and readjustments of this strained relationship as he meets more and more people that have varying degrees of remembering him, including a young wealthy girlfriend named NUMI. as the two seek out KOBY's father, the two find themselves likewise testing out their own feels of connection for one another.
its a very interesting dynamic that MODAN is adroitly manipulating throughout the graphic novel; that idea of CONNECTION and DISTANCE in a volatile geopolitical space. more than a decade ago i was able to visit ISRAEL and witnessed firsthand the extent to which public safety and calculated risk play a daily part of one's existence in major cities like TEL AVIV, JERUSALEM and HAIFA where i was visiting friends. there is a very real sense that anything can happen at anytime and that one's personal relationships are of paramount importance because there is the palpable concept of each day being your last. and that isnt hyperbole. within EXIT WOUNDS, you have characters that feel varying gradations of CONNECTION to one another, irrespective of this background noise of DANGER and wonton public VIOLENCE.
i think its an interesting choice that (SPOILER ALERT) KOBY never explicitly verifies his father's existence but is calmed and soothed that his new wife is such a pleasant person. it is almost as if the reverberations of his father's past actions and the BITTERNESS and PAIN they extolled are being replaced, effectively in abstentia, by a new set of reassuring echos of GRACE and UNDESTANDING. seeing this wonderful, selfless person who is nourished by her new relationship with his father is enough for him to move on as well and initiate a new sense of aspirational connection with NUMI.
its an interesting dynamic and very much reminded me of people ive met in places like VENEZUELA, MYANMAR and ALBANIA who make the most of life in volatile surroundings. life being experienced as ever more PRECIOUS. its something that i dont feel on AMERICAN soil, especially in recent years with the pandemic and political strife effectively bifurcating my country. maybe as some point we will all come to the same realization. definitely not.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the iconic independent EXTREME METAL label METAL BLADE RECORDS!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
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