LOS ANGELES rapper YG is everything i love about TRADITIONAL WEST COAT HIP HOP. he is unapologetically OPINIONATED lyrically with BARBED missives against both his competition and his enemies, while maintaining a WICKED sense of HUMOR. he is easily the most intellectually DEXTEROUS LYRICIST to come out of the region this side of KENDRICK LAMAR and ICE CUBE. whereas LAMAR takes full lyrical flight in IMAGINATIVE NARRATIVES with involved SCENARIOS, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and COMPLEX METAPHORS, i'd liken YG's style more to that of CUBE and his school of directly relating the pulse of the street in a NO BULLSHIT PRESENTATION. if anything YG ups that directness with UNRESTRAINED FLAIR, BRAVADO and SELF-AWARENESS of the inherent ABSURDITY of it all. his music videos often play up this SURREAL nature of his LYRICAL CONTENT, which involves the HORROR, KINSHIP and MORAL QUANDARIES that define GANG LIFE in south central LOS ANGELES.
i wouldnt state that he is necessarily celebrating or glamorizing GANG LIFE, but merely reporting on it in a MATTER-OF-FACT MANNER. it is what it is and such is his COMMUNITY. if outside people want to draw conclusions and judge such than they should consider their own culpability in the manufacturing of a society over generations of AMERICAN history that has limited opportunity and gutted the social fabric of minorities of every spectrum. if anything, his COMMUNITY is a source of IDENTITY, EMPOWERMENT and ART in his LYRICS, MUSIC and VISUAL PRESENTATION.
his work may be a bit CONTROVERSIAL but i feel strongly that YG is one of the most EXCITING rappers to come along in recent memory and is most definitely worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
sometimes you come across bands that are too clever by half.
classic case for that is PROGRESSIVE ROCK where VIRTUOSO musicians (cough, cough, DREAM THEATER) are liable to loose the plot and go down CONVOLUTED MODAL and SCALE rabbit-holes with no sense of ARTISTIC INTENT, PASSION or ACKNOWLEDGMENT of the wellbeing of a listener who potentially has to listen to this CHAOTIC, PATRONIZING mess. of course, there are notable exceptions like TOOL, RUSH and KING CRIMSON that use this EXPANDED color-box of TECHNIQUES and MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE sans SELF-INDULGENCE with SPECTACULAR results.
in the 90s there was an explosion of genre-blending at hand where PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES related to HIP HOP and ROCK AND ROLL found new JUXTAPOSITIONS and EXPRESSION. some took that PASTICHE idea and really went for it with ADVENTUROUS expansions into LOUNGE, FOLK, JAZZ, LATIN MUSIC, COUNTRY, PSYCHEDELIA, FOUND SOUND, CHAMBER MUSIC, COMMERCIALS, BLUES, TROPICALIA, AFROBEAT, MUZAK and so on like the BEASTIE BOYS, BJORK and BECK arguably most famously. but i think that STEREOLAB may have done the whole EXPANDED PALETTE thing the most cohesively as their ECLECTIC SOUND and AESTHETIC decades later still sounds MODERN and cutting edge.
part of that is the EXTRAORDINARY quality of the songs themselves and the UNIQUE, SOOTHING SINGING TONE of FRENCH vocalist LÆTITIA SADIER. whatever the SOUND-BED in the background, her VOCALS put you immediately at ease and envision a nice BRISK walk on a BREEZY, MAJESTIC summer afternoon. the MUSIC itself clears away from HARSH JUXTAPOSITIONS a la BECK and the BEASTIE BOYS that consciously drawn attention to themselves in favor of an ALTERNATE aesthetic whereby you are aware of the UNIQUENESS of the PRODUCTION and SONIC TEXTURES at play, but they are blended so adroitly that you arent consciously sussing them apart like a puzzle. instead you just let it all wash over you.
i find the music of STEREOLAB relaxing, which is insane because musically they are particularly TECHNICALLY ADVANCED relative to their peer-base at the time and somehow manufactured a STARTLING achievement of making wildly DISPARATE SONIC ELEMENTS sound COHESIVE and even NATIVE and AUTHENTIC in relation to one another. i know INDIE ROCK snobs love this band, and ive met my share, but this is a band worthy of exploration in spite of such. like MASSIVE ATTACK, DEPECHE MODE or APHEX TWIN, they exceed their own hype.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes a playlist celebrating the intensely ECLECTIC and FUN music of STEREOLAB. enjoy!
i hate SACRAMENTO with a PASSION.
i spent my senior year of high school living with a relative in a WHITE-BREAD suburb of the state capital in the wake of 9/11 and was just appalled at the IN-YOUR-FACE JINGOISM, RACISM and just NAKED IDIOCY on full daily display. and that aftertaste very much still lingers. at the time, i kept thinking that nothing of CULTURAL VALUE has come from the area with the lone exception being the SEMINAL ALTERNATIVE METAL band DEFTONES. over the past two decades that list has been amended a bit with INNOVATIVE and IMPACTFUL acts such as HELLA, CHELSEA WOLFE, TERA MELOS and DEATH GRIPS.
when i first came across the debut mixtape EX MILITARY (THIRD WORLDS, 2011) by EXPERIMENTAL HIP HOP act DEATH GRIPS i was completely emotionally sideswiped. it didnt process. it was like this ABSURD hybrid of the highly MANIPULATED, IMAGINATIVE FOUND SOUND-enabled UNPREDICTABILITY of APHEX TWIN, the OBLITERATING sonic BRUTALITY of CONVERGE and the CONFRONTATIONAL, NO-BULLSHIT, STREETWISE LYRICISM of the WU-TANG CLAN. these component parts should not exist together, and yet they do and the sound is CHAOTIC and BEAUTIFUL in its TECHNICAL WIZARDRY, COMPOSITIONAL COMPLEXITY and EMOTIONAL RELEASE. EX MILITARY was easily one of the most ADVENTUROUS releases i had heard in decades. the whole VISUAL and AURAL AESTHETIC of DEATH GRIPS is absolute uncertainty conceived and played with UNRIVALED PRECISION. it is BRILLIANT.
the three-piece is made up of MC/vocalist RIDE, drummer ZACH HILL and keyboardist/programmer ANDY MORIN. HILL of course is a PRODIGIOUS, generationally TALENTED musician that came to UNDERGROUND prominence in the PROGRESSIVE MATH ROCK band HELLA. his METRONOMIC PRECISION on the kit is ABSURD, which is prefect in the context of DEATH GRIPS and their EXTREME DYNAMICS with EVER-SHIFTING AND COMPLEX TIME SIGNATURES and TEMPO SHIFTS designed for the maximum juxtaposition of DISSONANCE and AURAL DISLOCATION. key tacks included "BEWARE," "CULTURE SHOCK," "GUILLOTINE," "LORD OF THE GAME" and "KNOWN FOR IT." RIDE comes across as the most INTENSE and PRIMAL of ringleaders of a DEMENTED circus youd never wish to attend, guiding you through a sonic mind-field that is both OVERWHELMING and EXASPERATING in detail and UNRELENTING BRUTALITY alike. i see his function within the MUSIC as making it feel COHESIVE by providing a FOCAL POINT and an INTENT, even if such is purely CATHARTIC and EMOTIONAL in scope initially. his VOICE pulls you in and directs you through the CHAOS.
not sure what else to say. i absolutely adore this band and this mixtape. an absolutely ESSENTIAL release that is well worth checking out, much like other OPAQUE yet highly IMAGINATIVE and ORIGINAL releases of past decades like NINE INCH NAILS' THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (INTERSCOPE, 1994), SWANS' CHILDREN OF GOD (CAROLINE, 1987), CAPTAIN BEEFHEART's TROUT MASK REPLICA (STRAIGHT, 1969) or MF DOOM's VAUDVILLE VILLAIN (SOUND-INK, 2003).
nearly two decades ago i was introduced to the work of MARK ROTHKO at 20th century retrospective of AMERICAN ART at THE WHITNEY at its old UPPER EAST SIDE location. i remember it with clarity because i attended this event with my parents and grandmother, who became visually and verbally upset when confronted with one of his RENOWNED COLOR FIELD PAINTINGS. she could not handle the fact that this painting was varying shades of black. for me there was no turning back. anyone that pissed off my grandmother was alright in my book and thus my interest in ROTHKO began in earnest.
THE SILENCE OF MARK ROTHKO (ICARUS, 2016) is a recent documentary that attempts to present the ABSTRACT PAINTER and his work as he intentioned it. assisting with this endeavor is his adult son CHRISTOPHER, who reads aloud his words and acts as a stand-in narrator of sorts. it is mentioned that he has a similar voice to that of his father. all this being said, ROTHKO and his COLOR FIELD PAINTINGS are deliberately OPAQUE and AMBIGUOUS to being with. it is as if the ARTIST is painting EMOTION on a purely SUB-COGNITIVE level. ever the CONTRARIAN, the film states that according to ROTHKO an ACADEMIC FORMAL ANALYSIS of his work via discussion of TRADITIONAL aspects like FORM, COLOR, TECHNIQUE, REPRESENTATION or ABSTRACTION are WELL-INTENTIONED but WRONG. he hoped for his work to be experienced, not watched. it feels like his work is an attempt at DECONSTRUCTING and REFRAMING the entire discussion surrounding WESTERN ART in an almost MARCEL DUCHAMP-ian manner. what is ART and who decides?
my experience when confronted with ROTHKO's PAINTINGS is the INTENSE MEDITATIVE QUALITY to them, where in these meticulously labored over border regions are subtle borderlines that seem to intimate INFINITY. i think ROTHKO saw his PAINTINGS as a PURE DISTILLATION and EXPRESSION of HUMAN EMOTION, including our individual capacity for VIOLENCE and FEAR of DEATH. i look at them and i feel like i am in the presence of the SUBLIME. my hope is to one day visit the ROTHKO CHAPEL outside of HOUSTON, arguably the only existing presentation of his work sanctioned by the ARTIST.
not sure what to make of THE SILENCE OF MARK ROTHKO. i came into this documentary CONFUSED about MARK ROTHKO and i left CONFUSED, but that probably says more about my SHALLOW inability to intellectually COMPREHEND the VAST META-NARRATIVES that the ARTIST is involved in. or maybe all that conceptual and philosophical talk is SUPERFLUOUS to the UNIQUE EXPERIENCE of just walking up and taking in one of his DISTINCT COLOR FIELD PAINTINGS with an open mind and open heart. you know, unlike my grandmother. thats my opinion at least.
the impetus for his SURRENDER: 40 SONGS, ONE STORY (KNOPF, 2022) memoir may have been a SERIOUS HEALTH SCARE, but the story presented therein is far removed from TRADITIONAL ROCK N ROLL star fare. if anything, BONO's memoir is a deep exploration of the RELIGIOUS, MORAL and METAPHYSICAL themes that guided and informed his LIFE'S WORK, both within and without the confines of his FAMOUS band, U2. what is INTRIGUING is the level of which his ADVOCACY WORK is rooted in his CHRISTIAN FAITH and the MORAL OBLIGATION to BEAR WITNESS and BE OF SERVICE, to AFFECT CHANGE, and the INSEPARABLE interplay that dynamic bears fruit in the lyrical content of his band throughout their PARALLEL MUSICAL JOURNEY. that connection is further structurally expressed and reinforced by the very fact that the NARRATIVE is told one song at at time.
but before i get too ahead of myself, i should just state my bias upfront. talk of RELIGION in cultural matters always makes me UNCOMFORTABLE. just the appearance of potential PROSELYTIZING makes me CONCERNED and sometimes ANGRY for the sheer gall of that TRANSGRESSION. its why i was particularly nasty to CHRISTIAN missionaries during my times as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA, since they further conflated the already BLURRED line between CHRISTIANDOM and the UNITED STATES. made it seem like joining them made you somehow more AMERICAN. but the PIETY and GOOD WORKS of BONO seem more in keeping with the legacy of ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI in which one attempts to walk the walk of JESUS CHRIST and not so much talk about it. its about being of GENUINE SERVICE to the UNDERSERVED and UNDERREPRESENTED without want or need of recognition or influence. the act of GOOD WORKS done with HUMILITY is being a TRUE representative of the FAITH.
BONO fully and unequivocally admits to MISJUDGMENTS and MISSTEPS in his long ADVOCACY CAREER. things like early MISGUIDED EFFORTS where he worked on behalf of AFRICAN interests (debt relief, HIV/AIDS vaccine, etc) instead of in partnership with AFRICAN stakeholders, thus continuing a COLONIAL DYNAMIC of NAKED PATERNALISM into the new millennium. some of these MISTAKES cut deeper than others, but to his credit, BONO seemingly always LISTENED, LEARNED and ADJUSTED based on the EXPERIENCE and WISDOM of those in his ever broadening ring of allies. his life journey can be boiled down to his struggle to become a BETTER, more ACTIVE and EMPATHETIC LISTENER.
SURRENDER: 40 SONGS, ONE STORY throughout its 500+ pages goes deep into many topics worthy of mention related how one seeks to live a GOOD LIFE, even while in the midst of a particularly CHARMED one. the through-line seemingly is that of FAMILY and the TRUE NATURE of FRIENDSHIP and LOVE. his CREATIVE and ADVOCACY WORK seemingly is rooted in such at its core, and his CHRISTIAN FAITH an even more ELEMENTAL layer beneath the buttresses those FUNDAMENTAL structures. it is one thing though to use said FAITH as a BLUNT cudgel to separate one from those around them and another entirely to use such CONVICTIONS to attempt to widen that FAMILIAL RING through PERSONAL SACRIFICE (time away from family, money, etc.) and extend LOVE and FRIENDSHIP to an ever widening audience, even (and arguably especially) political enemies and those that categorically disagree with you. to me, that FORCE MULTIPLIER effect is what makes the ETHICAL CORE of U2's appeal UNIQUE, as well as that of its frontman.
even though from time to time i wish BONO would just focus on the next album and let someone else attempt to save the WORLD, im glad he's still at it, always pushing forward and trying and i know secretly he is very much an ongoing point of PRIDE and ADMIRATION for much of the greater IRISH DIASPORA, of which i am a part of.
BIG BROTHER & THE HOLDING COMPANY's CHEAP THRILLS (COLUMBIA, 1968) album is basically the STUNNING major label debut of the LEGENDARY POWERHOUSE singer JANIS JOPLIN. building off the hype that followed her in the wake of her ELECTRIC performance at the MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL the previous year, JOPLIN on CHEAP THRILLS showcases her PRETERNATURAL ability to channel both a sense of GUT-WRENCHING VULNERABILITY and HARD-WON SELF-AWARENESS that is as INTENSE as it is RAW. her UNMISTAKABLE voice today is every bit the PRIMAL SCREAM that it was back in the late 1960s. it is completely INIMITABLE and uniquely JOPLIN. when i consider the thought of similar like-minded singers, the FEROCIOUS yet UNGUARDED genius that was early BLUES singer BESSIE SMITH comes immediately to mind. with both singers there is UNBRIDLED and UNCOMPROMISING AUTHENTICITY to their voice that feels like they reached deep down and took their heart from their chest and placed it on a platter for you to observe. no show business trickery, just PURE INTENTION and DIRECT EXPRESSION.
the STANDOUT tracks from CHEAP THRILLS include renditions of both "BALL AND CHAIN" and "PEACE OF MY HEART." "BALL AND CHAIN" is an EMOTIVE cover of an absolutely BRUTAL BIG MAMA THORNTON song that dwells in the pits of despair over the PAIN, SUFFERING and SELF-DIRECTED ABUSE that comes with LOVE gone SOUR. in a BLUES setting it is an UNSETTLING number and JOPLIN carried that tradition forward in her BLUES ROCK interpretation of such. she is so CONVINVING in her delivery and presentation that it is difficult to not be moved by it. youd have to by a sociopath or dead to be unmoved by "BALL AND CHAIN." likewise "PIECE OF MY HEART" is arguably the most BELOVED song in JOPLIN's short catalogue, which besides a forgotten SUB-PAR, poorly produced debut on the INDEPENDENT MAINSTREAM RECORDS, entails two CELEBRATED solo albums, I GOT DEM OL' KOZMIC BLUES AGAIN MAMA! (COLUMBIA, 1969) and PEARL (COLUMBIA, 197`), before her untimely TRAGIC passing in 1970 from a heroin overdose. written by songwriting duo JERRY RAGAVOY and BERT BERNS, "PEACE OF MY HEART" was originally composed as a R&B/SOUL ballad for ARETHA FRANKLIN's sister ERMA, of all people, but in the hands of JOPLIN became something of a generational 1960s ROCK AND ROLL anthem. again, JOPLIN deftly projects a SEXUAL and PERSONAL CONFIDENCE by basically commanding the ROMANTIC object of the song to take a peace of her heart. its a confidence that is baked in a PALPABLE sense of VULNERABLITY. that UNNERVING CONFIDENT / VULNERABLE dynamic that JOPLIN so incredibly balances is arguably the reason she is such a RENOWNED 20th century icon and undisputedly one of the great MODERN singers of any genre. her voice just taps something PRIMAL and moves people to their core, even decades and generations later.
CHEAP THRILLS is required listening. end stop. for me personally the music of JANIS JOPLIN always reminds me of my mother, who i see channeled to another time and place every instance she hears her voice. i believe she still very much mourns her death like many from her generation. what a UNIQUE TALENT.
the HAMBURG-based ELECTRONIC MUSIC duo DIGITALISM have been around for more than a decade, but i only recently became aware of their CONTAGIOUS NEW ORDER-esque sound. to my ears, the tandem DJ / production duo JENS "JENCE" MOELLE and ISMAIL "ISI" TUFEKCI have created with their SYNTH-heavy sonic aesthetic something reminiscent of other MODERN ELECTROCLASH acts like LADYTRON, CUT COPY, HOT CHIP and THE KNIFE. that being said, all these acts have adopted a SYNTH POP sound that incorporates SAMPLING and TRADITIONAL pop SONG STRUCTURES into something that sounds both EXPANSIVE / EXPERIMENTAL and FAMILIAR, which is an INTRIGUING dynamic.
DIGITALISM is definitely worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
so much of the BRITISH INVASION mythology is tied up with BAY BOOMER coming-of-age nostalgia that it is hard not to view it in retrospect from a skewed, decidedly nonobjective perspective. dont believe me, just look at ROLLING STONE magazine founding editor JANN WENNER's STARTLING recent admission that BLACK and FEMALE artists were not INTELLECTUALLY CURIOUS or ARTICULATE enough to be part of his recent publication of past interviews featuring several WHITE MALE members of bands from this period. im a 90s child born in the 1980s so this CELEBRATED BRITISH INVASION cultural movement and its lasting pixie-dust over the imaginations of BOOMERS is thankfully a generation removed from me, providing me some distance on the topic.
undoubtedly musicians in these bands from BRITAIN took inspiration from a variety of AMERICAN musical forms during that period, from ROCKABILLY (EDDIE COCHRAN, DUANE EDDY, ROY ORBISON, CARL PERKINS and ELVIS PRESLEY) and early ROCK N ROLL (BUDDY HOLLY, CHUCK BERRY, JERRY LEE LEWIS, THE EVERLY BROTHERS and LITTLE RICHARD) to CHICAGO BLUES (MUDDY WATERS, LITTLE WALTER, JUNIOR WELLS, WILLIE DIXON, BIG BILL BROONZY) and DELTA BLUES (SKIP JAMES, SON HOUSE, ELMORE JAMES, HOWLIN' WOLF and ROBERT JOHNSON). the list rolls on. the BRITISH INVASION movement of the 1960s was a COMPELLING cultural phenomenon because in a very literal sense it was an admission and a reflection of AMERICA's musical cultural mirrored and staring right back at itself. this is especially the case with the FORGOTTEN BLUES artists of the period. THE ROLLING STONES in particular took several repeatedly on tour and much later in life, it has been reported that they even quietly paid for their funeral expenses. there is a direct link and an acknowledged debt to BLACK CULTURE that is UNQUESTIONED.
what is interesting is that it took WHITE ARTISTS from another english-speaking country to turn on an EMERGING WHITE AUDIENCE to BLACK CULTURE. and arguably even that WELL-INTENTIONED exchanged of musical ideas literally got white-washed over the decades in the process, with much of the UNSCHOOLED listenership conceiving ROCK AND ROLL popularly throughout the ensuing decades as a largely CAUCASIAN genre. to the point that the emergence of a band like LIVING COLOUR in the the late 1980s is interpreted by said WHITE AUDIENCE as a bit of a CURIOSITY. anecdotally i remember certain BOOMER parents (not my own) DISMISSIVE reaction to early HIP HOP at the beginning of the 90s. of course three decades later HIP HOP is as ENTRENCHED and OMNIPRESENT as ROCK AND ROLL was a generation earlier. the cycle continues.
i have nothing against bands like THE ANIMALS, THE BEATLES, THE WHO, THE YARDBIRDS, THE ROLLING STONES or THE KINKS. i was raised on them. in large part they are the bedrock of my appreciation of music culture having been raised by BOOMERS. more than half a century later what i take issue with is this constant lionizing of that generation above all others by an aging publishing class holding on to cultural relevance for dear life, pushing so hard that they lose all utter perspective. rendering themselves OBSOLETE in the process, which is just SAD and pretty PATHETIC. i am all for putting JOHN LENNON, PAUL MCCARTNEY, KEITH RICHARDS, PETE TOWNSEND, JIMMY PAGE, JEFF BECK (R.I.P.) and RAY DAVIES on an ELEVATED plane of critical praise, but i feel strongly that even they would want to include artists like CHUCK BERRY, B.B. KING, ETTA JAMES, LITTLE RICHARD, ALBERT KING, FATS DOMINO and JOHN LEE HOOKER in the discussion. if only to be identified in the context of their ranks as SHINING beacons and continuations of their REFLECTIVE genius and legacy. and i dont even know where to begin on the NAKED and ENTRENCHED MISOGYNY against including WOMEN in the mix for WENNER's book. you're telling me that past and present DIVERSE, INNOVATIVE and PIONEERING songwriters and recording artists like PATTI SMITH, SADE, ANA TIJOUX, LAURYN HILL (THE FUGEES), CAROLE KING, WATA (BORIS), AMANDA PALMER (THE DRESDEN DOLLS), ST. VINCENT, POISON IVY (THE CRAMPS), TINA TURNER, CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), KATE BUSH, FATOUMATA DIAWARA, JOAN BAEZ, RONNIE SPECTOR (THE RONETTES) MISSY ELLIOTT, ALISSON MOSSHART (THE KILLS, THE DEAD WEATHER), ROBYN, PATTI LABELLE, ELIZABETH STOKES (THE BETHS), QUEEN LATIFAH, WARPAINT, KATHLEEN HANNA (BIKINI KILL, LE TIGRE), JANIS JOPLIN, ARETHA FRANKLIN, LA LUZ, AMY WINEHOUSE, TIONNE WATKINS (TLC), MADONNA, BONNIE RAITT, ALANIS MORISSETTE, SALT-N-PEPA, JONI MITCHELL, SOL PEREYRA, FIRST AID KIT, ANNIE LENNOX (EURYTHMICS), KATE PIERSON & CINDY WILSON (THE B-52's), LOVEFOXXX (CSS), JUDY MOWATT, LYKKE LI, LOUISE WENER (SLEEPER), EXENE CERVENKA (X), PEACHES, WANDA JACKSON, DEBORAH HARRY (BLONDIE), ERYKAH BADU, TERI GENDER BENDER (LE BUTCHERETTES), BEYONCE, JASAMINE WHITE-GLUZ (NO JOY), KARIN DREIJER (THE KNIFE), EMMA RUTH RUNDLE (MARRIAGES), ELLA FITZGERALD, STELLA DONNELLY, WETLEG, TOVE LO, LOUISE POST (VERUCA SALT), TETIANA SHMAILYUK (JINJER), SINEAD O'CONNOR, ALICE GLASS (CRYSTAL CASTLES), SHIRLEY MANSON (GARBAGE), POLY STYRENE (X-RAY SPEX), RIHANNA, KIM DEAL (PIXIES, THE BREEDERS), FIONA APPLE, BETHANY COSENTINO (BEST COAST), TAYLOR SWIFT, FKA TWIGS, REBA MEYERS (CODE ORANGE), MALA RODRIGUEZ, HELEN MARNIE & MIRA AROYO (LADYTRON), BILLIE HOLIDAY, SAVAGES, CHANTAL CLARET (MORNINGWOOD), KIM GORDON (SONIC YOUTH), COSEY FANNI TUTTI (THROBBING GRISTLE), BESSIE SMITH, NATASHA KHAN (BAT FOR LASHES), DOLORES O' RIORDAN (THE CRANBERRIES), CARLY SIMON, MON LAFERTE, AMY TAYLOR (AMYL & THE SNIFFERS), PJ HARVEY, EMMYLOU HARRIS, BRODY DALLE (THE DISTILLERS), ETTA JAMES, COURTNEY BARNETT, JUSTINE FRISCHMANN (ELASTICA), JAVIERA MENA, KAREN O (THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS), FOXES, ANN WILSON & NANCY WILSON(HEART), LIZ PHAIR, NINA SIMONE, LYDIA LUNCH (TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS), MICHELLE ZAUNER (JAPANESE BREAKFAST), JOAN JETT, DONNA SUMMER, TORI AMOS, COURTNEY LOVE (HOLE), ALICIA KEYS, SIOUXSIE SIOUX, CHELSEA WOLFE, LIDO PIMIENTA, ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), STEVIE NICKS (FLEETWOOD MAC), CHARLIE XCX, DONITA SPARKS (L7), SHARON VAN ETTEN, BJORK, VIV ALBERTINE (THE SLITS) and DOLLY PARTON arent INTELLECTUALLY CURIOUS or ARTICULATE enough for your STUPID publication? you really couldnt find one interview? are you serious?! youre a fool.
FUCK JANN WENNER.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes an ECLECTIC playlist of BRITISH INVASION bands, both obvious and obscure. enjoy!
in the summer of 2001 i went back to my hometown in ORANGE COUNTY for the first time in years to stay with a childhood friend and it was during that stay that i was enlightened (or more like indoctrinated) into the world of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK. of course i was familiar enough with BLACK FLAG, DESCENDENTS, BAD RELIGION, X, CIRCLE JERKS, THE VANDALS and SOCIAL DISTORTION and the 90s bands from the area but was unfamiliar with IMPACTFUL but lesser high-profile groups like WASTED YOUTH, D.I., FEAR, ADOLESCENTS, DR. KNOW, MINUTEMEN, RICH KIDS ON LSD, THE GERMS, CHANNEL 3, T.S.O.L., BATTALION OF SAINTS, THE MIDDLE CLASS and AGENT ORANGE. in fact it was during that trip that i got to see a reunion ADOLESCENTS show with CHANNEL 3 opening in SANTA ANA as well as FEAR at WARPED TOUR in VENTURA. and T.S.OL. at a gig in POMONA. it was an INFORMATIVE and thoroughly EDUCATIONAL summer to say the least.
amidst the pack of HARDCORE acts coming out of the region in the 1980s, AGENT ORANGE stood out primarily because of their highly IDIOSYNCRATIC hybridization of PUNK ROCK with SURF MUSIC. such an INTRIGUING mix with those long MELODIC, DICK DALE-inspired barrel-roll guitar runs at HARD-CHARGING tempos is heard all over their debut LIVING IN DARKNESS (POSH BOY, 1981) on IMPRESSIVE tracks such as "EVERYTHING TURNS GREY," "LAST GOODBYE," "BLOODSTAINS," "A CRY FOR HELP IN A WORLD GONE MAD," and of course, a cover of "MISERLOU." there is a PROFESSIONALISM and TECHNICAL PRECISION and ELEVATED level of MUSICIANSHIP at play throughout LIVING IN DARKNESS that is UNMATCHED from bands of the period, who tend to sound MUDDLED if not AGNOSTIC to basic recording aspects like PRODUCTION VALUE or playing in time or in key. founding bassist STEVE SOTO left AGENT ORANGE to cofound arguably the other main group of the period with a similar penchant for MUSICIANSHIP and CRAFTSMANSHIP, ADOLESCENTS.
this propulsive, kinetic sound naturally found a kinship in the nascent SKATE scene of the period and provided both a soundtrack to the pastime and a sonic template, along with MELODIC HARDCORE bands like BAD RELIGION, to the UPTEMPO SKATE PUNK bands that rose to prominence over the next decade. most notably PENNYWISE, NOFX, FACE TO FACE, NO USE FOR A NAME, MXPX and so on. i just find it INTRIGUING that a sound that is a variation on SURF MUSIC served as the sonic backdrop to an activity and lifestyle that itself was a variation and innovation on SURFING itself. it is an ODD and FRUITFUL synergy of sorts that seemingly could only take place in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. because of this, for me AGENT ORANGE is the very embodiment of an ORGANIC and wholly AUTHENTIC version of PUNK ROCK from the area. the other vein is the more NIHILISTIC, DRUG-ADDLED and VIOLENT variant exemplified by THE GERMS and FEAR that was more-or-less continued (sans drugs) by AGGRESSIVE bands like BLACK FLAG, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES and the BELLIGERENT and CONFRONTATIONAL COASTAL cohort. both breaks in the family tree are VALID and have their proponents. for me, the example of AGENT ORANGE is one that offered a polished version of PUNK ROCK that was IMPACTFUL due to its reigning in of excess and creating a record with a POWERFUL, DELIBERATE sonic impact.
LIVING IN DARKNESS continues to be required listening in my opinion for anyone interested in HARDCORE or PUNK ROCK in general. definitely worth checking out.
INDEPENDENT FILM PRODUCER / DIRECTOR ROGER CORMAN is a SINGULAR HOLLYWOOD legend whose INDUSTRY influence and cultural impact is difficult to sum up neatly, but that is exactly what the recent hour-long documentary ROGER CORMAN: THE POPE OF POP CINEMA (CALIFORNIA PROD, 2021) does.
in a sense, its SUCCINCT overview of his career mirrors that of the FRUGAL no-nonsense aesthetics of his moving pictures, which are often HIGH ON CONCEPT and LOW ON PRODUCTION VALUE. given that he funded his own pictures, CORMAN was incentivized to cut cost where he could, allowing for more films to be created and thus opportunities for profit. his talent pool was often YOUNG and CHEAP and subjects covered exploited the YOUTH CULTURE of the day with MONSTER, SCI-FI, HORROR and SKIN PICTURES. such efforts have rendered CORMAN very much one of the core ORIGINATORS of EXPLOITATION FILMS writ large. his BUSINESS MODEL also allowed for the initial directing opportunities (again, because they were CHEAP) for the likes of such later CELEBRATED talents as PETER BOGDANOVICH (THE LAST PICTURE SHOW), MARTIN SCORSESE (MEAN STREETS, RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS), RON HOWARD (A BEAUTIFUL MIND, APOLLO 13), FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA (THE GODFATHER, APOCALYPSE NOW), JAMES CAMERON (AVATAR, TITANIC), JONATHAN DEMME (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), JOE DANTE (GREMLINS) and JOHN SAYLES (PASSION FISH, LONE STAR). behind the camera, much of his staff were WOMEN, an ANOMALY in HOLLYWOOD where employment skewed WHITE, MALE and OLD. this is INTERESTING given the SEXPLOITATION FILMS CORMAN produced in contrast to the more MUTED, MAINSTREAM fair out of the studio system during the late 1960s and especially throughout the 1970s.
the EXTREME THRIFTINESS of CORMAN is stuff of HOLLYWOOD LEGEND, but seemingly his lasting contribution to AMERICAN CULTURE is the entrepreneurial mythology surrounding the individual with an INNOVATIVE idea in AMERICA has the potential to disrupt an INDUSTRY. his example paved a new lane in the movie business for others to mimic and exploit in later generations, but in today's late stage CAPITALIST ENVIRONMENT it all feels a bit like an ANACHRONISM from a bygone era. today's DIGITIZED and soon to be artificial intelligence-enabled MARKETPLACE has seemingly cornered the market opportunities for new entries who would be swallowed whole or drowned in their infancy before making a bid for economic relevance. my thought is not so much about CORMAN and his innovations, but on what that sort of ICONOCLASTIC FIGURE would be like in today's digital media and highly interactive MARKET LANDSCAPE.
truth is i dont know. but at least this film got me thinking about it.
back when i was teaching high school english, i absolutely loved teaching my students about wonky literary stuff like INTERTEXTUALITY. such being the concept that WRITTEN TEXTS have capacity to make META-COMMENTARIES on each other through mechanisms like PARODY, QUOTATION, ALLUSION, PASTICHE and so on.
one of my FAVORITE texts for showcasing such was REVERED CANADIAN author ANGELA CARTER's QUINTESSENTIAL collection of FEMINIST RE-IMAGININGS of CLASSIC FAIRY TALES, THE BLOODY CHAMBER (HARPER & ROW, 1979). itd start by having my students read the original 17th century versions of "LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD," "CINDERELLA," "PUSS IN BOOTS," "SLEEPING BEAUTY" and "BLUE BEARD" by FRENCH author CHARLES PERRAULT. then i'd have them read the 18th century versions by GERMAN authors the BROTHERS GRIMM. contrary to the DISNEY presentations of these NARRATIVES, what always stood out was how unrepentantly MISOGYNIST and BRUTALLY VIOLENT these stories were. the basic message being conveyed through such (and remember the audience for these tales were children), was that of compliance to your parents and/or husband or else all varieties of harm such as RAPE, TORTURE and MURDER would be set upon you and be justified in society's eyes. there always came a point during the semester when my students would tell me i ruined DISNEY for them, by reading these centuries-old FAIRY TALES. mission accomplished!
what CARTER BRILLIANTLY accomplishes in THE BLOODY CHAMBER is invert all of the RAMPANT MISOGYNY of these stories on their head and create COUNTER-NARRATIVES of EMPOWERED FEMALE CHARACTERS supporting one another, taking initiative and giving their patriarchal overlords whats coming to them. the fact that my students understood and where familiar with if not two, sometimes three versions of a FAIRY TALE before reading CARTER's version only amplified the resonance of her choices in variating the PLOT and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT in her STRIDENTLY FEMINIST PARODIES.
and therein is the JOY of the TEXT. it is not only the fact that there is a SATISFACTIONA in the inherent RIGHTEOUSNESS of effectively countering centuries-old deep-seated indoctrinating MISINFORMATION regarding GENDER and WOMEN'S ROLE IN SOCIETY, there is also the hope that these versions could equal the score for posterity. that CARTER's CELEBRATED LITERARY VARIANTS will always by part of the legacy of these NARRATIVES and permanently comment and blunt their effects for those who choose to read them. i just love the fact that to truly absorb and appreciate her the POWER of her IMAGINATIVE GENIUS and BARBED with in these RE-IMAGININGS, one must be familiar with the implications of the innately CHAUVINIST SOURCE MATERIAL, only further cementing the connection between the two. it is an INTERTEXTUAL comeuppance that is so ENJOYABLE as a reader and something my students took to heart and applied to other TEXTUAL REBOOTS from cinema to comic books and so forth. it made them look between the differences and really dig into what messages were being transmitted amongst those VARIATIONS.
THE BLOODY CHAMBER is required reading in my opinion. it is absolutely ESSENTIAL and only grows more and more RELEVANT as our cultural and social mores degrade and implode in on themselves. feels like the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION is even being inverted upon and PARODIED in a similar fashion these days with all previous understanding of such perverted to a growing REGRESSIVE AUTHORITARIAN perspective devoid of HUMOR or EMPATHY. CARTER's book speaks to a deeper HUMANISM by pointing out how our past misgivings through PARODY. its an open question whether PARODY is currently dead when some of our political leaders (cough, cough, DONALD TRUMP, cough) are beyond such, themselves being UNREPETANT, RIDICULOUS and BEYOND THE CAPACITY FOR SHAME. or maybe this is the PERFECT time to point out that the emperor, in fact, has no clothes.
jury is still out.
recently i came across LIPPS SERVICE, which is a SPIN MAGAZINE affiliated, LONG-FORM INTERVIEW PODCAST / YOUTUBE CHANNEL hosted by ONE MANAGEMENT founder SCOTT LIPPS, who is something of an INDUSTRY INSIDER. the current incarnation of his program grew out of a similarly themed RADIO PROGRAM he did as part of the DASH RADIO network a few years back. interestingly enough, during that same time, DEER GOD produced visual and audio weekly segments several years ago for THE JAY GARCIA SHOW who were also on DASH RADIO. its all on YOUTUBE now somewhere.
i believe LIPPS' STRENGTHS as a host are his FAMILIARITY and the RELAXED ease his GUESTS appear to be in his presence, which is a massive asset as an INTERVIEWER. there appears to be IMPLICIT buy-in from the get-go as ARTISTS ranging from PERRY FARRELL (JANE'S ADDICTION, PORNO FOR PYROS), IAN ASTBURY (THE CULT), NICK HEXUM (311), VERNON REID (LIVING COLOUR), RICHARD PATRICK (FILTER), BUTCH VIG (GARBAGE), GAVIN ROSSDALE (BUSH), JIM ADKINS (JIMMY EAT WORLD) and KEN ANDREWS (FAILURE) all seem assured of his GOOD INTENTIONS as an INTERLOCUTOR. even the way the INTERVIEWS are presented are pretty devoid of clickbaity sloganeering. he does have posted INTERVIEWS with non-ALTERNATIVE ROCK MUSICIANS and POP STARS, but what i've paid attention to are the ARTISTS from that realm for the most part.
at the very least LIPPS seems INFORMED and ENTHUSIASTIC about his GUESTS and the current state of their careers, so LIPPS SERVICE is an INTERESTING recent find that is definitely worth checking out.
there comes a point at times where PARODY is so cutting and on the nose that it becomes in effect INDISTINGUISHABLE at times from the subject of which it is serving up. such feels that way in retrospect when considering SPINAL TAP's actual debut (as opposed to FICTIONAL discography from the film) in SPINAL TAP (POLYDOR, 1984), the soundtrack to the LEGENDARY ROB REINER-directed MOCKUMENTARY film THIS IS SPINAL TAP (EMBASSY, 1984).
it is not a coincidence that ROCK AND ROLL royalty from SLASH (GUNS N' ROSES) and JOE PERRY (AEROSMITH) to STING (THE POLICE), ROB HALFORD (JUDAS PRIEST), EDDIE VAN HALEN (VAN HALEN) and OZZY OSBOURNE (BLACK SABBATH) have admitted to having a difficult time watching this film starring the generationally gifted IMPROVISATIONAL comedy team of CHRISTOPHER GUEST (lead guitarist NIGEL TUFNEL), MICHAEL MCKEAN (singer and rhythm guitarist DAVID ST. HUBBINS) and HARRY SHEARER (bassist DEREK SMALLS). to them it was an accurate depiction of their actual lives. much of the actual film was based on the reported real-life experiences of bands ranging from YES, LED ZEPPELIN, DEF LEPPARD, BLACK SABBATH, URIAH HEEP, STATUS QUO, THE ROLLING STONES, VAN HALEN, THE BAND and FRANK ZAPPA among many others. the cumulative effect was that even a much later musician like KURT COBAIN (NIRVANA) was rumored to have been vocally hyper-aware of that thin line separating PARODY and REAL-LIFE so expertly depicted in the film. like others, that dynamic was a real-world trap and occupational hazard.
the songs themselves absolutely hold up decades later. besides the WELL-KNOWN tracks that PARODY the inane lyricism ("TONIGHT I'M GONNA ROCK YOU TONIGHT"), macho posturing / rampant mysogyny ("SEX FARM" and "BIG BOTTOM") and outlandish iconography ("STONEHENGE" and "ROCK N ROLL CREATURE") of 1970s METAL (BLACK SABBATH, RAINBOW, DIO) and PROGRESSIVE ROCK (RUSH, KING CRIMSON, GENTLE GIANT), there are also those less CELEBRATED tracks that PARODY earlier phases of 1960s ROCK AND ROLL history such as LAUREL CANYON-inspired FOLK ROCK ("LISTEN TO THE FLOWER PEOPLE") and the BRITISH INVASION ("GIMME SOME MONEY"). the fact that they depict the inherent RIDICULOUSNESS of each stage so convincingly is really quite a creative achievement. its also the reason that generations of musicians love this FICTIONAL band, as evidenced by the LEGENDARY LIVE EARTH performance at WEMBLEY STADIUM in 2007 when over 18 musicians (from bands ranging from the BEASTIE BOYS, METALLICA, FOO FIGHTERS, BLOC PARTY, MADONNA's backing band and so on) came on stage to slap bass with DEREK SMALLS on, of course, a very MEMORABLE and INSPIRED self-effacing CHEEKY rendition of "BIG BOTTOM."
the GUEST, MCKEAN and SHEARER comedic triumvirate have gone on to make other loosely IMPROVISATIONAL films, some even with a musical flourish like the FOLK send-up A MIGHTY WIND (WARNER BROS, 2003), but in my humble opinion the only other MOCKUMENTARY film that comes close to SPINAL TAP in terms of the quality of the music and PARODY is the much earlier NEIL INNES (BONZO DOG DOOH-DAH BAND) and ERIC IDLE (MONTY PYTHON) led THE RUTLES: ALL YOU NEED IS CASH (NBC, 1978) TELEVISED (and GEORGE HARRISON approved) send-up of THE BEATLES cultural phenomenon. now if only i could find a RUTLES cassette tape...
regardless, SPINAL TAP is a CLASSIC album with music culled from a CLASSIC comedy. it all holds up decades down the line and is essentially required viewing and listening in my opinion. definitely worth checking out for the uninitiated. should also mention there is a rumored sequel in the works for 2024 for the 40th anniversary of the original film. why not? the dreaded cash-in sequel of an established intellectual property seems like as good an opportunity for RIDICULE and PARODY as any other these days.
of course RANCID is one of the most CELEBRATED PUNK ROCK bands of MODERN times and for good reason, TIM ARMSTRONG and LARS FREDERIKSEN write some incredible songs and the band has an UNDENIABLE MUSICAL CHEMISTRY as well as PALPABLE PASSION and DISTINCT VISION for the COMMUNITY they have fostered over the past few decades. in my eyes they are not a BAND, but an AMERICAN INSTITUTION. like BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, WOODY GUTHRIE or BOB DYLAN. ive witnessed it firsthand at their shows. its an ongoing love affair between the BAND and their FANS, and at its heart are the PERSONAL REAL-LIFE NARRATIVES and INCLUSIVE messages of DEFIANCE, LOVE and COMMUNITY in their songs.
all that being said, it is incredibly INTERESTING to see how the individuals fair when pursuing outside projects. ARMSTRONG of course incorporated HIP HOP production and beats a la his commercially SUCCESSFUL TRAVIS BARKER-collaboration THE TRANSPLANTS as well as delved into his ska roots in his solo work.
FREDERIKSEN on the other hand seems more interested in the SOCIAL COMMENTARY tradition of FOLK music. it makes perfect sense that one of his first singles with THE BASTARDS was a cover of BRITISH singer-songwriter BILLY BRAGG's "TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT" about the defiant mentality of the overworked and under-appreciated working class. i will similarly point out the obvious and state that such a SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS thread was also apparent in the work of JOE STRUMMER of THE CLASH throughout his career. i think once someone is subject to the suffering of POVERTY and FOOD INSECURITY, it is something that doesnt leave you. ever. you look back at the work of WOODY GUTHRIE and he was singing about the DUST BOWL and the suffering it imposed on normal people. there is a through line i can discern. it would seem not to be the most commercially viable option to pursue FOLK lyrical and sonic influences in your solo work, but FREDERIKSEN has proved it to be an IDEAL and HONEST vehicle for his material outside his much LEGENDARY and much BELOVED main gig.
my hope is that he sticks with it and pursues this course over the long term. it would be nice to see how it develops over time. at the very least the solo work of LARS FREDERIKSEN is most definitely worth checking out.
parody by nacrowe
the story of SUB POP RECORDS is so fantastical, it is something akin to fairy tale. in a notoriously SELF-CANNIBALIZING industry with a irredeemably RAPACIOUS and INSATIABLE appetite for SELF-SERVING, DEVIOUS business practices and CYNICAL self-justifications for mercilessly economically raping their CLIENTS and FANS alike, it is a wonder the PACIFIC NORTHWEST INDEPENDENT record label is still standing and functioning today. and not only surviving, but in fact thriving in a MODERN POST-STREAMING DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT where culture is moving and innovating at an increasingly fast clip. since the 1980s SUB POP has basically been a beacon for INVENTIVE established and emerging MUSICIANS alike, providing a platform and opportunity for wide exposure to ARTISTS across HIP HOP, INDIE ROCK, COMEDY, ELECTRONICA, SPOKEN WORD, PUNK ROCK, INDIE POP and TRIP HOP genres alike.
SUB POP began interestingly enough not as a LABEL, but as a FANZINE and RADIO SHOW at EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE by student and music fanatic BRUCE PAVITT. it later morphed into a NEWSPAPER COLUMN and then a LABEL as a means of putting out a compilation album of unknown local SEATTLE acts in the late 80s. this small but close scene, uniquely propelled by its ISOLATION, cultivated an EMERGING ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene that infused elements of PUNK ROCK, METAL and CLASSIC ROCK influences to create something entirely FRESH yet FAMILIAR. by SERENDIPITY and hard work, SUB POP tapped into that vein and promoted the likes of SOUNDGARDEN, GREEN RIVER, MUDHONEY, NIRVANA and so on to the present day. what i appreciate about the LABEL is that they have never attempted to put out the same thing over and over again like so many other SUCCESSFUL AMERICAN INDEPENDENT LABELS (cough, cough, EPITAPH, FAT WRECK CHORDS, etc). i see SUB POP as more akin and in-league with the LIKE-MINDED BRITISH RECORD LABELS (4AD, ROUGH TRADE, XL, MUTE, WARP and DOMINO), as well as a few AMERICAN ones as well (MATADOR, MERGE and JAGJAGUWAR), that nurture and curate INGENIOUS new ARTISTS.
whenever i feel jaded about music, SUB POP continues to be an entry point into the AVANT-GARDE of music right now. not thirty years ago at the height of a much BELOVED but IRRELEVANT and BYGONE GRUNGE movement, but right at present at this cultural moment. i just dont understand how they remained intact. its almost as if the COMMUNITY is consciously along for the ride, which is reassuring about HUMANITY in general.
and thats exciting. SUB POP is a gift to music lovers.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes an ECLECTIC playlist of SUB POP bands new and old, notable and upcoming. enjoy!
the title kind of says it all. when the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band GARBAGE came out with their second album VERSION 2.0 (ALMO, 1998), it very much felt like the more STREAMLINED, UPGRADED version of their SEMINAL debut nearly three years earlier. the band is less a group a musicians and more a VERITABLE BRAINTRUST. drummer BUTCH VIG and bassist STEVE MARKER were the cofounders of SMART STUDIOS in WISCONSIN with a list of clients that included L7, NIRVANA, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and KILLDOZER among many others. VIG and guitarist DOUG ERIKSON were former bandmates in the NEW WAVE band SPOONER, respectively. effectively VIG, MARKER, ERIKSON and singer SHIRLEY MANSON (ANGELFISH) were all TALENTED and ACCOMPLISHED SONGWRITERS to boot, so VERSION 2.0 is essentially the band at their most COHESIVE and commercially POTENT point in their career. arguably.
the band's SOUND was always a mix of ALTERNATIVE ROCK with seamlessly integrated SAMPLED ELEMENTS most famously associated with HIP HOP PRODUCTION. in fact, after the release of NIRVANA's NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991), VIG was asked to make single REMIXES for upcoming releases by major artists, and brought along his friends MARKER and ERIKSON in for these sonic experiments, which effectively laid the foundation of GARBAGE. in addition to ALTERNATIVE ROCK, their UNIQUE futuristic sound recounts the best aspects of TRIP HOP, SHOEGAZE, NEW WAVE, DANCE MUSIC and DREAM POP. UPTEMPO tracks like "WHEN I GROW UP," "I THINK I'M PARANOID," "SPECIAL," "TEMPTATION WAITS" and especially "PUSH IT" sounded like nothing on the radio at the time and really had no antecedent in the ROCK N ROLL genre. years later LINKIN PARK would likewise take similar elements, albeit with a NARROWER and more HARD ROCK PRESENTATION, to absolute global domination. i'd credit both GARBAGE and LINKIN PARK for the current growing trend towards a GENRE-LESS variant of POP MUSIC in the entertainment industry. i'd argue it started with MANSON and company.
more DELICATE, ETHEREAL and DOWNTEMPO tracks like "THE TRICK IS TO KEEP BREATHING," and "YOU LOOK SO FINE" were written in the tradition of previous tracks like "MILK" off of GARBAGE (ALMO, 1995). when i hear these tracks what shines through is the VERSATILITY and FORCE OF PERSONALITY that is SHIRLEY MANSON. as much as the band is the summation of its parts with its INCREDIBLE PRODUCTION and SONGWRITING prowess, in MANSON you have effectively a FORCE MULTIPLIER of generational proportions. ive said this before in a previous write-up about their STELLAR debut (review linked HERE), i believe she is one of the most UNDERRATED SINGERS of her era. on paper the band's SOUND and PRESENTATION appears CONTRIVED, TECHNICAL and something only NAVEL-GAZING musos might be interested in, but MANSON brings it all back down to street level. her PERSONALITY and PRESENTATION confronts the listener and gives the band an edge. and for me, that is the real MAGIC of the band. and never is that more apparent then on VERSION 2.0.
required listening in my opinion. definitely worth checking out.
it is increasingly DIFFICULT to look at the state of things and not come to anything but the UNFORTUNATE conclusion that the world has completely DEGENERATED at that hands of MANKIND over the past fifty years. in the UNITED STATES there has been a clear demarcating line over decades that has seen PUBLIC EDUCATION ATTACKED AND DEFUNDED, THE CLIMATE MORE POLLUTED (MORE PLASTIC THAN FISH IN OCEANS, GLOBAL WARMING), INCOME INEQUALITY MORE PRONOUNCED and the RISE OF AUTHORITARIANISM.
it is almost as if HUMANITY has DE-EVOLVED.
and that is the treatise of the recent DEVOLUTION: A DEVO THEORY (DEAD HEART FILMS, 2021) documentary centered around the philosophical underpinnings of the creative work of iconic POST PUNK / NEW WAVE band DEVO, with interviews with surviving members GERALD CASALE, MARK MOTHERSBAUGH and BOB MOTHERSBAUGH as well as FREEDOM OF CHOICE (WARNER BROS, 1980) producer ROBERT MARGOULEFF and the generationally talented late-career drummer (and noted DEVO superfan) JOSH FREESE. the group began as an art project by CASALE and MARK that was a reaction to the COMPLIANT BEHAVIOR, MINDLESS CONSUMERISM and rampant IRRATIONALITY they saw in AMERICAN culture around them in OHIO at the time. both were students at KENT STATE UNIVERSITY and CASALE himself found himself in the middle of the MASSACRE that happened on MAY 4, 1970 when NATIONAL GUARD soldiers fired live rounds upon a group of VIETNAM WAR protestors, KILLING four students and MAIMING nine others. understandably for CASALE, this was a profoundly TRAUMATIC and LIFE-ALTERING event that made him question his upbringing and the core of his AMERICAN identity. watching and reading the media responses that contextualized and/or justified the MURDER of his fellow students as INEVITABLE left a lasting impression on him. political interests and the propagation of PROPAGANDA was real thing. DEVOLUTION was REAL. only a DEVOLVED SYSTEM would allow such a TRAVESTY to happen. unquestionably this event served as the impetus for initiating DEVO in earnest.
the SAD fact is that over the next forty years, their postulation that humans were DE-EVOLVING has come to fruition. right now the AMERICAN population is DISTRACTING ITSELF with technology, HATRED for their fellow countryman and GREED and SELF-INTEREST is RAMPANT. CASALE sees a widespread BUSINESS CULTURE that is founded not on EMPATHY or MUTUAL BENEFIT but on the most BASE, DISHONEST and DISHONORABLE of human values. there is a basic disconnect given the rampant INCOME INEQUALITY at the current moment that feels like an IMMINENT powder keg ready to explode and effectively dismantle the whole AMERICAN experiment. we are out of touch with our HUMANITY, our connection to each other, our written and fought-for constitution and our fundamental values of EMPATHY and BROTHERHOOD as a nation. everything is WARPED. its obvious to point out DONALD TRUMP since he is the physical embodiment of this bloated LATE-STAGE CAPITALISM and its INSATIABLE GREED and CONSTANT NARCISSISM. not only that CASALE notes that the dude fully embraces and takes JOY in being an ASSHOLE.
so where do we go from here? i dont know. it all feels pretty FUCKED. DEVO was, in fact, right.
i'm a hardcore DEVO fan so of course i recommend DEVOLUTION: A DEVO THEORY, but what takes center stage here is not necessarily their MUSIC or cultural legacy. this film is not about that. it is about the POLITICAL IDEAS and PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS that underpin such, which are CONFRONTATIONAL as they THOUGHT-PROVOKING. at the very least, this documentary is asking its audience to not take them at face value and think for themselves. im certain the promotion of RATIONAL THINKING and THOUGHTFUL, INFORMED DEBATE is what they are seeking with this late-career film. likewise, im sure the promotion of such is what they objectively sought with their INNOVATIVE MUSIC and longstanding career.
written mostly while on tour in the mid-2010s with KINGS OF CHAOS and WALKING PAPERS, HOW TO BE A MAN (AND OTHER ILLUSIONS) (DA CAPO, 2015) is very much a continuation of RENOWNED GUNS N' ROSES bassist (and published author) DUFF MCKAGAN's previous memoir IT'S SO EASY: AND OTHER LIES (review linked HERE) in that he offers ADVICE based on the HARD-FOUGHT second chance he got at LIFE, as outlined in the previous book. memorably, at thirty his appendix burst due to years of HEAVY DRINKING and he was ready to end his life. this book finds him looking back at all the WISDOM and EXPERIENCE he has gained from his post-GUNS N' ROSES sobriety as he nears fifty. if anything, HOW TO BE A MAN very much feels like an update on his life post-IT'S SO EASY and the actual difficult implementation of said INSIGHTS into regimes, boundaries, and a full acceptance of ADULT RESPONSIBILITIES to himself and his FAMILY, which he gushes about to no end. its all very ENDEARING and written in a DIRECT, CONFRONTATIONAL style that feels very HONEST and AUTHENTIC, as if he is attempting to point the way for peers, fans or anyone dealing with similar PAST ADDICTIONS and AILMENTS. the idea being that sober SELF-REFLECTION and SELF-DISCIPLINE can help anyone turn their life around. maybe even reconcile with others and themselves in the PROCESS.
the fact that the book is from the perspective of being on tour is SIGNIFICANT. you get the sense the he is making THOUGHTFUL observations about PAST CHOICES while he is in the proverbial belly of the beast. being on tour sounds GLAMOROUS until you realize the amount of ISOLATION involved and time spent apart from FAMILY. not to mention the REPETITIVE BOREDOM of it all outside of playing shows. SEX and DRUGS filled that space in the past, but now MCKAGAN is very much about READING BOOKS on his kindle or FINDING LOCAL GYMS to work out and palliate his FRUSTRATIONS or CREEPING NEGATIVE ENERGY. he also has a purpose to such efforts, that being the financial WELLBEING of his FAMILY. its that objective which finds him in EUROPE sleeplessly (and unknowingly) battling pneumonia for weeks on end in an UNGLAMOROUS splitter van, sharing rooms at LOCAL motels while trying to break WALKING PAPERS to a new audience. he does this because treating himself to buses and nice hotels isnt SUSTAINABLE longterm, and the responsible thing is to live at the level the band can afford.
that dynamic is only made more STARK and APPARENT since he joined that BACK-TO-BASICS EUROPEAN tour after a LUXURIOUS swing through SOUTH AMERICA with KINGS OF CHAOS, who are essentially USE YOUR ILLUSION-era GUNS N' ROSES members (SLASH, GILBY CLARKE, MATT SORUM) and a variety of FAMOUS singers from JOE ELLIOT (DEF LEPPARD) and GLENN HUGHES (DEEP PURPLE) to COREY TAYLOR (SLIPKNOT) and MYLES KENNEDY (ALTER BRIDGE) singing cover songs. he went from private jets with full-horizontal reclining seats and SWANKY boutique hotels to splitter vans and BUDGET motels literally overnight. and for him it is all EQUAL and part of the ROCK AND ROLL ETHOS of it all.
i think for MCKAGAN, all that entails being a man is as much about putting your sense of ENTITLEMENT, HUBRIS and EGO in check as it is about doing so with your FEARS and DEMONS. not that he doesnt acknowledge his past. there is a POIGNANT narrative he presents of being at a friend's place in the WEST VILLAGE in NYC for the weekend in preparation for SUPER BOWL XLVIII. he is their with JERRY CANTRELL of ALICE IN CHAINS and another friend, all former DRUG ADDICTS. during their stay they came across PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (who MCKAGAN doesnt name in the book out of respect and discretion) on the street multiple times looking to score, waiting for the man. HOFFMAN ended up passing away the morning of the game. for MCKAGAN, being at the game felt like a victory over his past struggles with ADDICTION, of having survived to age fifty. bearing indirect witness to HOFFMAN's final days only made such a dichotomy that much more PRESCIENT.
is definitely a book that is worth checking out as its message is UPLIFTING and INSPIRING without dismissing the SEEDIER and DARKER aspects of the human condition. its sense of balance is what makes it feel that much more AUTHENTIC, HOPEFUL and RELATABLE, even for those of us fortunate enough to not have past DRUG ADDICTIONS. that being said, we all are ADDICTS to one thing or another.
i dont know how or why the algorithm gods at YOUTUBE threw this RANDOM TRAVEL GAME at me but ive been pretty hooked as of late on JET LEG: THE GAME. the conceit of the channel is that two teams of two players are involved in some predetermined BOARD GAME, GAME OF TAG, or GRAND CHASE across across a COUNTRY, CONTINENT or the whole GLOBE. each season, made up of 6-8 episodes, switches up the GAME and locale, with past seasons involving NEW ZEALAND, JAPAN, EUROPE and SOUTHEAST ASIA.
as someone who spent almost half his life abroad in developing COUNTRIES like NIGERIA, ALBANIA, MYANMAR, VENEZUELA and CYPRUS (as well as KUWAIT and JAPAN), i find it INTERESTING and more than a little FUNNY that they chose to explore COUNTRIES with ROBUST infrastructure and EXTENSIVE INTERNAL TRAVEL options. there is a part of me that would really like to see them FRUSTRATINGLY navigate severely INFREQUENT public transportation in SUBSAHARAN AFRICA, SOUTH AMERICA or even EASTERN EUROPE. LOCATIONS where overcrowded buses are not advertised or listed, but unofficially understood by the local community to take place from certain spots on certain days when capacity is reached. in other words, a FLEXIBLE schedule. my heart shudders at the thought of these seeming lightweights traversing such regions, especially when they complain about relatively MINOR delays in GERMANY or JAPAN.
i have to say, my biggest gripe with JET LEG: THE GAME is that it largely REDUCES and FLATTENS the UNIQUE aspects of LOCAL CULTURE into a purely OBJECTIVE-ORIENTED excursion. SCENIC places are viewed and "admired" on an entirely SUPERFICIAL LEVEL, purely because the GAME told them to. as someone that lived in JAPAN, its beyond CRINGE to watch the GAME PARTICIPANTS talk loudly to each and even eat on a public subway. such behavior is incredibly TABOO and interpreted by LOCALS as socially DISRESPECTFUL. its just DUMB, CLUELESS AMERICANS being DUMB, CLUELESS AMERICANS. so that is my issue, this GAME (much like THE AMAZING RACE-like franchises it is obviously based up) is REDUCTIVE in terms of how it treats LOCAL CULTURE and is a real missed opportunity to educate DUMB, CLUELESS AMERICANS about the WORLD ABROAD. something that sadly is much needed as we as a people have no sense of geography, both NATIONAL and GLOBAL.
other than that, JET LEG: THE GAME is ENTERTAINING as hell, even if at least one of these participants (i.e. SAM) have zero social skills or CHARISMA, but no shortage of EGO about his supposed strategic thinking. for me that misguided HUBRIS makes the game all the more COMPELLING to watch. not really sure why anyone would not be rooting for BEN and ADAM.
the NEW ZEALAND four-piece THE BETHS is everything you want in an INDIE ROCK band. elements like MEMORABLE melodies, tight song construction with THOUGHTFUL, EARNEST LYRICS and a knowing dry sense of HUMOR sans any pretension. its just JOYFUL, HONEST music presented well with INTENTION and CARE. having spent time with musicians in a recording studio setting its always interested me how difficult it is to construct something that sounds LIGHT and EFFORTLESS.
all that being said, my initial impression of their second release JUMP ROPE GAZERS (CARPARK, 2020) is that such is an astonishing CREATIVE as well as TECHNICAL achievement. such is even more IMPRESSIVE knowing that much of their SONGWRITING and RECORDING is done at lead guitarist JONATHAN PEARCE's home studio in AUCKLAND, where he is an active in-demand ENGINEER. PRODUCTION WORK is exceedingly difficult on both a technical and customer expectations level, so the fact that he can balance those INTENSE inter-group dynamics is deeply telling. STANDOUT tracks include "DYING TO BELIEVE," "JUMP ROPE GAZERS," "MARS, THE GOD OF WAR," and "I'M NOT GETTING EXCITED." on the latter track when the solo comes in and rips it is made all the more jarring and EXCITING by how it juxtaposes in terms of AGGRESSION and feel with the more LAIDBACK vocals of ELIZABETH STOKES. at the very least, the band is adept at navigating SONG COMPOSITION and SONIC DYNAMICS in an emotionally AFFECTING manner. similarly STOKES has a UNIQUE, seemingly EFFORTLESS VOCAL DELIVERY that has a tendency to TONALLY SHIFT multiple times, even within a PHRASE, providing forward MOMENTUM and CONTRAST between VERSES and CHORUSES. i wonder if she had theater training since that feels like a very professional move, the utilization of STRETCHING and MODULATING SYLLABLES to bend language to your own creative will. the only other ROCK AND ROLL singer that comes to mind who does a similar thing (albeit to a much different end) is ROBERT SMITH of THE CURE. you hear that sort of thing all the time in the JAZZ PHRASING and ELOCUTION of CELEBRATED and generationally TALENTED singers like ELLA FITZGERALD and SARAH VAUGAN. STOKES does not have their RANGE, CONTROL or TONE, but she does seem to have the INTUITION and INSTINCT to vocally MANIPULATE SOUND to her advantage all the same.
i think on JUMP ROPE GLAZERS, THE BETHS continued a trajectory they were on since their debut FUTURE ME HATES ME (CARPARK, 2018), that later culminated and came into full fruition on their third release EXPERT IN A DYING FIELD (CARPARK, 2022), which found them expanding their SONGWRITING and PRODUCTION range. all their records are worth checking out and JUMP ROPE GLAZERS is no different. i think they are a PROMISING band that are on to something UNQUE and EXCITING.