during my teaching days i absolutely loved teaching LORD OF THE FLIES (FABER AND FABER, 1954) by BRITISH author WILLIAM GOLDING. this was due in large part to its highly SUBVERSIVE core message surrounding how AUTHORITY is rooted in CULTURE.
you have these children that are marooned on an island after some unspecified world-ending event and what happens from there is INTRIGUING. you would think that this SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON-esque premise would result in a colonialist fever dream whereby 'CIVILIZATION' is established where there once was 'NOTHING.' the idea that in our ANTHROPOCENTRIC conception of reality, NATURE is something to be tamed and made SUBMISSIVE to our own designs and needs.
in short order among the new inhabitants a SOCIAL ORDER is quickly established among, with a HIERARCHY based on BRUTE FORCE and an arbitrarily divined and ever-evolving set of RITUALS (i.e. "THE CONCH"). it is difficult to read and not quickly discern that GOLDING is not merely describing a set of list children in a deserted tropical locale, but rather the story of CIVILIZATION. how SYSTEMS OF POWER are established and maintained.
what is ingeniously presented is a DARK FANTASY of innocents effectively being CORRUPTED by the eternal forces of GREED, STATUS and POWER that have motivated humans through time immemorial. the implication of such is that these motivations are part of HUMAN NATURE and that CULTURE cannot elevate us above such. in fact CULTURE may be the root of the problem as it is rooted in HUMAN NATURE. even in a vacuum, new RITUALS and HIERARCHAL STRUCTURES will emerge and over time we will SUBJUGATE NATURE and our peers in a never ending climb to ascend atop that greasy pole.
it really is an amazing thought experiment since many people have the idea of escaping society. what they dont realize is that they cant separate themselves from CIVILIZATION. it is a part of your SELF-CONCEPT, your IDENTITY, even when stripping it or deny its affect, you are still interacting with the concept. furthermore, if you were successful in extricating yourself physically to a foreign 'BARREN' land, you would only be effectively spreading 'CIVILIZATION' to a new locale. LIKE A VIRUS. it is quite a DARK CYCLE to consider and something I always find intriguing to think about and investigate.
all that in a novel normally taught in middle school. again, i always loved teaching LORD OF THE FLIES. it allowed for potent discussions about the NATURE OF CIVILIZATION and our individual role in supporting or supplanting such en masse. these themes are arguably more resonant now with our current domestic political situation than at any time in living memory.
i discovered the JUSTIN HAWKINS RIDES AGAIN channel a few months ago on YOUTUBE and was really taken aback by how INFORMATIVE it all was. if you are unfamiliar with JUSTIN HAWKINS, he is the frontman and main songwriter for BRITISH ALTERNATIVE glam metal band THE DARKNESS who first came to fame in the 2000s along with the wave of other INDIE ROCK REVIVAL groups. whereas other ENGLISH and SCOTTISH groups from the period (including BLOC PARTY, FRANZ FERDINAND, THE LIBERTINES, THE FUTUREHEADS and THE CRIBS) seemed heavily influenced by both the POST PUNK and INDIE ROCK movements, THE DARKNESS felt like a breath of fresh air with their stadium-sized AMBITION to be more in the vein AC/DC, MOTLEY CRUE, AEROSMITH, THE CULT or especially QUEEN. they definitely stood apart and where not afraid to look absolutely RIDICULOUS (which i appreciate)! personally i still rock DARKNESS singles like "GROWING ON ME," "OPEN FIRE," "NOTHIN'S GONNA STOP US," "BARBARIANS," "ROCK AND ROLL DESERVES TO DIE" and "LAST OF OUR KIND" on regular rotation while driving to work, i just have to watch my speed in the process.
the JUSTIN HAWKINS RIDES AGAIN channel is reminiscent of RICK BEATO's channel in that HAWKINS also dives into and EXPLAINS music theory and recording / production techniques on popular songs. what differentiates it though is his sense of self-effacing HUMOR that knowingly showcases the ABSURDITY of his life's work as well as his unbridled capacity to call out musicians and industry participants. and he does such from a place of EMPATHY. in other words, he has actual first-hard EXPERIENCE being a ROCK N ROLL star and its that kind of insider KNOWLEDGE that makes his YOUTUBE channel FASCINATING. HAWKINS' channel appears to be a way of BYPASSING a BRITISH press that has long abandoned and even mocked his musical efforts. its rather BEAUTIFUL that an artist in today's DIGITAL ecosystem has the ability to CULTIVATE and COMMUNICATE directly with an audience sans middlemen and gatekeepers.
i feel its also great that he has used this new platform to promote artists he's discovered (sometimes even through his audience). it was through him that i became aware of two INCREDIBLE modern AUSTRALIAN PUNK bands, THE CHATS and AMYL & THE SNIFFERS. if anything, i tend to rely on HAWKINS through his channel as a vehicle for DISCOVERING new bands, which is always a fun thing. my hope is that HAWKINS continues to be PROLIFIC with his channel and further PROMOTE an INCLUSIVE community that follows his lead as a highly IDIOSYNCRATIC, but musically KNOWLEDGEABLE and stylistically OPEN-MINDED guide to new cultural ideas and sonic terrains.
i look forward to seeing where HAWKINS takes this.
there was a moment in the early 1990s when HOUSE MUSIC basically took over BRITISH INDIE culture. there was always this interesting transition at play beforehand with EXPERIMENTAL POST PUNK bands finding there way to more ELECTRONIC, SYNTHESIZER and SEQUENCER-based production techniques (think JOY DIVISION becoming NEW ORDER), but this drug-fueled ACID HOUSE movement transformed the culture on a more ELEMENTAL level.
in retrospect people look towards pre-BRITPOP so-called MADCHESTER bands like THE HAPPY MONDAYS or THE STONE ROSES as embodiments of this changing shift in sonics and MDMA-expanded CONSCIOUSNESS, but in my mind no album better exemplifies such as the SCOTTISH band PRIMAL SCREAM's third record SCREAMADELICA (CREATION, 1991). singer BOBBY GILLESPIE, formerly drummer of fellow SCOTTISH INDIE ROCK icons THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, is basically the physical EMBODIEMENT of this transition and on songs like "HIGHER THAN THE SUN," "LOADED," "MOVIN' ON UP," "COME TOGETHER," "DAMAGED" and especially "SLIP INSIDE THIS HOUSE" you can feel how the electronic-based beats and inclusions found samples has freed up their BLUES-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK compositions into something else entirely.
that sound and aesthetic is what makes SCREAMADELICA such a revelation. it feels optimistic and hopeful without resorting to tired rock cliches, similar to how listening to THE BEACH BOYS, CSS, THE AQUABATS, PASSION PIT, THE B-52's or THE POLYPHONIC SPREE is a genuinely JOYFUL and CHEERFUL listening experience sans knowing sarcasm or wink wink irony. for me i was not sold on many of the MADCHESTER bands until hearing SCREAMADELICA. it provided that context of the power of such a hybrid sound that bound the EXPERIMENTAL soundscapes and song structures of POST PUNK with the mantra-inducing repetition of HOUSE MUSIC. it was a sonic combination i had never considered and went on to inform the later experiments of BRITPOP bands like LUSH, PULP, BLUR and SUEDE among others.
for me this record is indicative of my personal ethos of trying to remain open-minded to new sounds and perspectives. as new IDEAS, AESTHETICS, TECHNOLOGY and even DRUGS shift culture, there is always an opportunity to question previously held beliefs about the nature of reality. for me SCREAMADELICA is one of those records that presents such a tectonic rearrangement. and its still an exciting listen. definitely required listening for anyone interested in POST PUNK, INDIE ROCK, BRITPOP, ELECTRONIC MUSIC and ALTERNATIVE ROCK during the culturally fertile period in BRITAIN at the beginning of the 1990s.
i recently came across the music of AUSTRALIAN INDIE ROCK singer-songwriter STELLA DONNELLY and was duly impressed by the HUMOR, CHARM and MINIMALIST flair of her songwriting. im a total sucker for hooks and her wry observations about the tedious nature of daily life written over rather bare instrumentation has a unique POWER and AUTHENTICITY. in a way its almost folk music in how it puts all the emphasis on the lyrics rather than the sonic ornamentation.
DONNELLY has two acclaimed records out through the independent SECRETLY CANADIAN record label and is very much worth checking out. definitely an emerging musical voice i look forward to following in the coming years.
with all the TURMOIL going on right now with KANYE WEST and his MANIC ego-driven public SELF-IMMOLATION that has seen his reputation eviscerated and his lucrative business ventures ABANDONED by corporate partners, its hard to not question the beginnings of how all this went down. KANYE has long been a controversial figure, even before he became co-opted by CANDACE OWENS and the rabid MAGA crowd and made INCENDIARY public ANTI-SEMITIC statements that have led to his DOWNFALL. in some ways, his CONTRARIAN nature was an asset earlier in his career when he challenged basic tenants of HIP HOP culture and RETROGRADE conceptions of MASCULINITY and essentially expanded the palette of regarding the sound and presentation rappers could get away with. that ANTAGONISTIC personality tic coupled with a RELENTLESS artistic vision led him to make inroads in fashion and footwear the likes of which previously was the exclusive domain of superstar athletes.
last year i was attempting to find the proper context for explaining KANYE, because i myself find the dude to be both a sublimely GIFTED and VISIONARY HIP HOP producer (whose first five albums are near perfect) and CREATIVE while also being a MORALLY BANKRUPT egoist whose need for public attention and validation knows absolutely no bounds. case in point: the fact that such a character flaw led him to cozy up utilize his cultural capital on behalf of the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is a STAIN on his legacy that will never wash off.
i kept attempting to think if there was a model for an alternate path by someone of equal cultural stature and artistic bonafides. it hit me that PHARRELL had navigated very similar waters in terms of SUCCESSFUL forays into FASHION (BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB, ICE CREAM SHOES, ADIDAS and CHANEL collaborations), BUSINESS (DOODLES), and of course trend-setting MUSIC PRODUCTION (THE CLIPSE, JAY-Z, SNOOP DOGG, BRITNEY SPEARS, NELLY, OL' DIRTY BASTARD, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, BEYONCE) and solo projects (N.E.R.D.). and he has done all of this while remaining an INCLUSIVE public figure who on the looks of things has remained pretty humble given his STRATOSPHERIC SUCCESS over the past 20+ years. i appreciate the fact that in a world of oversharing (this blog being an example of such), PHARRELL keeps things pretty close to his chest. he is a celebrity who clout is based on his AESTHETIC TASTES and musical genius. his personal life has remained PRIVATE and is the embodiment of a version of the AMERICAN DREAM that holds true (some would say quixotically) that TALENT, HARD WORK and LUCK can get you anywhere no matter how humble your beginnings.
im presenting both the PHARRELL and KANYE WEST episodes of DEER GOD RADIO on nonprofit MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC because at the time i saw PHARRELL's example as being a beacon of sorts for KANYE to emulate. unfortunately now they feel like inverses of each other. one is a star that has slowly built up an empire based on ambition, talent and a firm foot in the community that support him. the other is a star that burned too bright too fast and mistook his gifts as a cudgel to extract himself from society with.
KANYE is not a tragic hero, he's an ASSHOLE. like everyone i hope he can get help but the DAMAGE and PAIN he has inflicted already is UNCONSCIONABLE and likely UNFORGIVABLE. its probably too late im afraid. i get the feeling even he in his heart of hearts realizes how LOST he has become and has no bearing on how to get back home. if anything KANYE's a CAUTIONARY tale.
enjoy both episodes. i see them as a pair.
much as NINE INCH NAILS is for all intents and purposes a solo project spearheaded by TRENT REZNOR, FILTER likewise is such for RICHARD PATRICK (although initially cofounder BRIAN LIESEGANG had a more prominent role). in fact, before starting his band PATRICK served as a touring guitarist with NINE INCH NAILS. his departure was in part financial, as he clarifies in the recent documentary HIRED GUN (DRAMA KILLS, 2017) the extent to which being a touring musician left him out of songwriting or publishing royalties. with encouragement from REZNOR he formed FILTER.
i say all this because it is very difficult to listen to the INDUSTRIAL-influenced METAL / ALTERNATIVE ROCK of the FILTER's debut album SHORT BUS (REPRISE, 1995) and not hear echoes of his former band. the EXTREME dynamics at play with the production and song construction showcases a formula that oscillated between MINIMAL, MOODY, drum-programmed verses and massive, DISSONANT choruses with PATRICK's BLOOD-CURDLING screams taking center stage. on songs like "DOSE," "UNDER" and especially "HEY MAN, NICE SHOT" PATRICK's voice is very much the main attraction. he seemingly has this intriguing ability when singing to project multiple notes in a similar manner to other noteworthy singers like CHESTER BENNINGTON and AXL ROSE. tonally its very unique and is a signature of FILTER's sound both on their debut and subsequent releases (which cleverly focus on songwriting that promotes his unique range sans the CHAOTIC dissonance of their debut).
the center-piece of the album is the opener "HEY MAN, NICE SHOT" which had the unfortunate happenstance of having been written before but being released after KURT COBAIN's shocking suicide by firearm. the song was inspired by the notorious UNDERGROUND footage of the R BUDD DWYER suicide on live television. DWYER being a PENNSYLVANIA politician who was convicted on corruption charges and killed himself by hand gun at a public press conference. the narrator of the song almost identifies with the subject for his decision, celebrating the act as a form of rebellion and act of resurrecting one's sense of personal IDENTITY and INDEPENDENCE. its a very dark song, but its brutal taboo subject mattered coupled with its EXTREME dynamics made it an ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio hit in the mid 1990s. i distinctly remember hearing the song on 106.7FM KROQ LOS ANGELES when i was in elementary school. at the time i didnt make the connection to COBAIN although i was still quite young at the time.
in retrospect whats compelling about SHORT BUS is how its formula was largely abandoned on subsequent releases that had little to no INDUSTRIAL flourishes and more LUSH and ORCHESTRATED arrangements that seemed focuses on elevating PATRICK's voice rather than burying it in DISSONANT noise. personally, i feel strongly that FILTER songs from this period have more TENSION and AGGRESSION partly due to the fact that his voice is fighting for prominence in the mix. the songwriting definitely improved on TITLE OF RECORD (REPRISE, 1999) and THE AMALGAMUT (REPRISE, 1999), as well as the much later THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS (NUCLEAR BLAST, 2010), but there is something about the PRIMAL screaming on SHORT BUS that is much more MEMORABLE than those later records. they all seem to be playing by the ALTERNATIVE ROCK playbook while SHORT BUS felt like an intriguing side-street from the main thoroughfare that was NINE INCH NAILS' PRETTY HATE MACHINE (TVT, 1989) and THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (NOTHING, 1994) from that period.
at lest that is how i remember it. SHORT BUS is an INCREDIBLE record and well worth checking out.
by the time the SEX PISTOLS imploded on DOOMED stateside tour in early 1978, singer JOHN LYDON had long since established himself as a BRITISH cultural ICON for the ages. even to an AMERICAN audience over several generations since, his name and image is synonymous with the PUNK ROCK movement writ large. it is absolutely staggering to think of the fact that he was still in his early 20s when he started what is possibly one of the great second acts in ROCK AND ROLL history, his INFLUENTIAL POST PUNK outfit PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.
unfortunately the story of LYDON's post SEX PISTOLS career has long been overshadowed (how could it not) and not well understood by the public. thus the recent documentary THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN (VERISIMILITUDE, 2017) is well situated to address this omission and provide context on one of the great artistic and PERSONA TRANSFORMATIONS. participants include past managers, collaborators (including GINGER BAKER) and members of the band as well as notable acolytes in THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), ADAM HOROWITZ (BEASTIE BOYS), FLEA (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS) and MOBY. what is well apparent is the intelligence of LYDON's lyrics and his deep involvement of curating a DECONSTRUCTED IDIOSYNCRATIC sound that incorporated DISPARATE elements including FUNK, REGGAE, SOUTH AFRICAN MUSIC, early ELECTRONIC MUSIC and beyond.
i remember TOM MORELLO in an interview once said that he wanted his sound to be as REVOLUTIONARY as the lyrics being generated by his bandmate ZACK DE LA ROCHA. that intent spawned INNOVATION and transformed how he saw his instrument and its role in RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. decades before, LYDON had a very similar approach in that he was unafraid of including sounds that could be described as ATONAL, DISSONANT, DRONING or REPETITIVE. his intent was to move beyond the rehashing of CHUCK BERRY guitar licks (again) and move forward sonically into uncharted territory. it is that INTENTION and ABILITY to deliver challenging work long after what many consider his predetermined artistic and cultural shelf-life post-SEX PISTOLS is quite a legacy.
you also get the sense from listening to current and former members of PUBLIC IMAGE LTD that he is/was a GENEROUS collaborator and TRUSTWORTHY leader. i think where everything career-wise gets tripped up is how LYDON deals with the media and the necessary evil of debasing himself just enough publicly to promote his projects without giving away his INTELLIGENT, SUBVERSIVE nature. television interviews by definition are conducted by and for squares, so it makes sense that he took the piss out of it on most every possible opportunity. the unfortunate downside is that his PUBLIC PERSONA doesnt mesh with the private LYDON who is loyal to his wife and family and a STEADFAST ally with his bandmates.
i found THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN to be quite refreshing a lesson in maintaining one's AUTHENTICITY in a world (especially now with the internet) that seeks to consume and dispose of art with equal vigor. LYDON, his LEGACY and his PERSONA will endure through the ages.
dude is an icon.
there is something about the SUBTLE interplay between TEXT and ILLUSTRATIONS in a WELL-CRAFTED graphic novel. especially when both are done with a sparing MINIMALISM that allows for much PROJECTION and INTERPRETATION on the part of the reader, much like when deciphering cues when watching an early silent film.
such is the case with ITALIAN cartoonist MANUELE FIOR's highly EXPRESSIONISTIC revisiting of WESTERN MYTHOLOGY in RED ULTRAMARINE (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2006) which combines both the ANCIENT GREEK DAEDALUS/ICARUS narrative with that of the GERMAN FAUST myth. at the heart of this intertwining HYBRID NARRATIVE are the DIRE consequences associated with OBSESSION. this search for PERFECTION may be the result of a WELL-INTENTIONED objective in order to save or assist a loved one, but it seems that challenging one's fate (and the gods' wrath) is another thing altogether.
FIOR effectively showcases with an adroit IMPRESSIONISTIC touch the deep well of AFFECTATION and EMOTION at heart with multiple character's pursuits. this is done with a sparing use of text, letting the ARTWORK push the NARRATIVE. the space in these PANELS gives voice to the INTERNAL DIALOGUE in all of us as we go about our daily pursuits and pedestrian desires. the UNADORNED IMAGERY is not EMPTY, but rather rich in anticipation for meaning. this is a PSYCHIC, MENTAL and EMOTIONAL space we all live within throughout our existence. at the close of RED ULTRAMARINE there is no victory, solace or knowledge gained. we are just mired in our own INTERNAL DIALOGUE and personal NARRATIVES that have no bearing on REALITY.
i believe FIOR illustrates in this graphic novel the extent to which FAUST and the MINOTAUR are aspects of ourselves. our OBSESSIONS and SELF-DELUSIONS are not real but projections of ourselves upon an UNCARING, seemingly NEUTRAL physical world. life is less about dealing with actual REALITY, but that which we create ourselves. RED ULTRAMARINE is a THOUGHTFUL graphic novel well worth investigating.
there was once a brief moment when HARDCORE legend and spoken-word artist HENRY ROLLINS (S.O.A., BLACK FLAG, ROLLINS BAND) had of all things his own cable show on IFC. ever since he left his regular gig at a GEORGETOWN HAAGEN DAZ to join BLACK FLAG on tour, anyone familiar with ROLLINS life narrative is acutely aware that he is not one to say no to an enticing opportunity and with THE HENRY ROLLINS SHOW (IFC, 2006-2007) he really took advantage of the situation, lining up interview guests in an INSANE who's who rolodex of ROCK N ROLL's biggest movers and shakers. everyone from MUSICIANS like OZZY OSBOURNE (BLACK SABBATH), PERRY FARRELL (JANE'S ADDICTION, PORNO FOR PYROS), IGGY POP (THE STOOGES), GENE SIMMONS (KISS), TOM MORELLO (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE), MARILYN MANSON, CHUCK D (PUBLIC ENEMY), STEVEN TYLER (AEROSMITH), SERJ TANKIAN (SYSTEM OF A DOWN) and JOAN JETT (THE RUNAWAYS) to FILM DIRECTORS like WERNER HERZOG (AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD, FITZCARRALDO), JOHN WATERS (PINK FLAMINGOS, FEMALE TROUBLE), KEVIN SMITH (CLERKS), PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON (BOOGIE NIGHTS, THERE WILL BE BLOOD), PENELOPE SPHEERIS (THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION, WAYNE'S WORLD) and OLIVER STONE (WALL STREET, NATURAL BORN KILLERS), not to mention ARTISTS like SHEPARD FAIREY and ACTORS and COMEDIANS like JEFF BRIDGES, EDDIE IZZARD, JOHNNY KNOXVILLE, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, PATTON OSWALT, WILLIAM SHATNER, TIM ROTH and STEVE BUSCEMI among many others.
the impetus for these interviewee selections no doubt was compelled by the many interests of ROLLINS and not whether a major commercial project was in need of promotion. what comes off seamlessly are NATURAL conversations based on mutual RESPECT and ADMIRATION, which is pretty cool to watch. there is no pandering to an in-studio audience or limiting topics for the sake of the fleeting interest of a perceived general audience in tv land. sadly and arguably such INDIVIDUALISM is likely the reason that THE HENRY ROLLINS SHOW only lasted two seasons on IFC.
the musical choices were likewise staggeringly GREAT, so attached below are performances by the likes of THOM YORKE, SLAYER, BOB MOULD, DINOSAUR JR, PEEPING TOM, BILLY BRAGG, DEADBOY & THE ELEPHANTMEN, ROBYN HITCHCOCK, SLEATER-KINNEY, DANIEL JOHNSTON, THE STOOGES, PEACHES, THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE QUEEN and SHANE MACGOWAN.
definitely enjoy. what a great run he had.
i remember discovering the NYC-based INDIE ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ROCK band NADA SURF, like most people my age, on MTV's 120 MINUTES program while on summer vacation in NEW JERSEY after spending my first year with my family in NIGERIA. like ive written about before, that transition from growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA to living and going to school in WEST AFRICA was life-changing and really, if im honest, took decades to process. going through puberty at the time coupled with living abroad made me feel very SELF-CONSCIOUS and highly INSECURE about myself. being around distant EAST COAST cousins id never met before that first summer didnt help much either in that regard.
enter the "POPULAR" music video.
for me, my memories of the HIGH/LOW (ELEKTRA, 1996) album is the "POPULAR" music video, which centered around depictions of HEIGHTENED high school sexuality and lyrics which proposed that anyone could date everyone for a limited monthlong amount of time, resulting in no commitments, no strings attached, no emotional tethering and no suffering. in other words an impossible scenario. the endearing thing about the song and the video is that it straddles the line between irony and social commentary. lyrics that really hit me as a pre-teen included "my mom says im a catch, im popular" and "i'll never get caught, im popular." the song successfully mines that AWKWARD and BRUTAL manner in which high school is a DELICATE social balancing act further complicated by raging hormonal urges and ever-shifting, undefined BYZANTINE rules of engagement. the dating proposal basically parodies that very notion itself. in retrospect its a very WEIRD song that was nonetheless highly AFFECTING and sonically evoked my perennially INTROSPECTIVE and UNCONFIDENT experience of being a teenager. at the time i was coming to terms with the fact that the idea of "home" didnt really apply to me anymore. it was a shifting concept at best.
i feel bad only talking about that one song, but honestly it really had an impact on my psyche at the time. it was hard to watch because it cut that deep. in the 2000s i later rediscovered NADA SURF and their EXCELLENT albums LET GO (BARSUK, 2002) and THE WEIGHT IS A GIFT (BARSUK, 2005) which both blended a BUOYANT sense of melodicism with INSIGHTFUL, POIGNANT lyrics about getting older. those records, as well as later releases i know in much greater detail than their debut as i spent more time with them.
whats funny is that when DEER GOD started in earnest we decided on filming and editing videos for artists, including music videos and live performance videos. we shot an upcoming BROOKLYN-based INDIE ROCK band called POM POM SQUAD (performance video linked HERE) for a series of live performance videos at TRANS PECOS in QUEENS and MARKET HOTEL in BROOKLYN called OFF THE M (a reference to the M TRAIN that connects the two venues). anyway, that band ended up covering "POPULAR" and even had MATHEW CAWS from NADA SURF in their updated video (linked HERE). it was an interesting development that really felt like a bizarre full circle moment. a song that meant so much to me as a pre-teen being reimagined by the next generation of INDIE ROCK musicians.
anyway, my strong preference is for the later NADA SURF records, but their debut HIGH/LOW is a POTENT statement that stands up with their peers of the era including everyone from WEEZER, BLUR and VERUCA SALT to GUIDED BY VOICES and PAVEMENT. definitely worth checking out.
lately i discovered the FRENCH ELECTRONIC MUSIC DJ/producer PIERRE-ALEXANDRE BUSSON, a.k.a. YUKSEK, and ive been entranced ever since by his EXPANSIVE and ENERGETIC productions. for me ELECTROPOP and DANCE MUSIC in general is pretty touch and go, it either works or it doesnt. and with YUKSEK there is a SPONTANEOUS, KINETIC energy that i find particularly motivating when im at the gym on my last mile on some hamster wheel torture device. i could talk about its construction or used of extreme dynamics and SEAMLESS integration of ENGROSSING collaborations, but in the end all that matters is that it "slaps" (as the kids say).
and this it does. YUKSEK is definitely worth checking out.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating INDIE ROCK royalty DINOSAUR JR!
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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hailing from OAKLAND and part of the HIEROGLYPHICS collective centered around DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN and his collaborators, the UNDERGROUND group SOULS OF MISCHIEF to my ears is the perfect distillation of what was great about early 90s, NATIVE TONGUES-influenced HIP HOP. case in point is their classic debut 93 'TIL INFINITY (JIVE, 1993) which deftly utilizes vintage JAZZ samples in a manner not dissimilar than high-profile JIVE RECORDS label-mates A TRIBE CALLED QUEST. and i make that direct connection not as a disservice to SOULS OF MISCHIEF as means of writing them off as emulators, but instead as a means of providing context to a highly INFLUENTIAL sonic template that still very much informs HIP HOP production to this day (MOS DEF, PHARRELL, OUTKAST). when i consider A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, their innovative production on those early records was in essence a foundation for Q-TIP's and PHIFE DAWG's INGENIOUS, HUMOROUS and highly IDIOSYNCRATIC perspectives and personal psychodramas about daily life in NYC. what is compelling about SOULS OF MISCHIEF, especially on their debut, is how their seamlessly their SMOOTH vocal cadences and delivery meld into the RELAXED vibe of those JAZZ samples, especially the title track "93 TIL INFINITY." its an absolutely striking counterpoint to the AGGRESSIVE WEST COAST HIP HOP of the period (DR. DRE, ICE CUBE, SNOOP DOGG, TUPAC SHAKUR) associated with their distant cohorts in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. for me, their debut is an exploration of groove.
lyrically all four members, A-PLUS, OPIO, PHEST and TAJAI are deft craftsman when it comes to writing and executing SOPHISTICATED internal rhyme structures. as a former english teacher, i live for this stuff and always appreciate the technical WIZARDRY and linguistic DEXTERITY required in order to bend language to your will. topic-wise the songs on 93 'TIL INFINITY celebrated their OAKLAND roots and the greater community that supported them. as a listener, this record feels EMPOWERING in how it promotes RACIAL NITY and PRIDE in their community. again, that lyrical stance is a stark contrast to what was brewing in LOS ANGELES at the time on DEATH ROW RECORDS, who took their cue from the remnants of N.W.A. and created a discography that marketed and perpetuated the almost-MILITARISTIC concept of the BLACK community as an OPPOSITIONAL FORCE to that of rampant INSTITUTIONAL RACISM of the state at the time. it was an AGGRESSIVE and defiantly CONFRONTATIONAL stance that seemingly bifurcated an audience and created an US vs THEM mentality. SOULS OF MISCHIEF seemed more of a grassroots, bottom-up celebration of a DYNAMIC community that validated itself in the process. to this day i feel like the overall vibe and perspective of 93 'TIL INFINITY when considered in context to its peers, was a SIGNIFICANT record that was a more MATURE and COMPLEX statement of what it was like to be a creative artist during that period before the whole polarization in the industry that defined the decade (EAST COAST vs WEST COAST) reared its ugly, pointless head.
definitely check out 93 'TIL INFINITY, its a criminally OVERLOOKED classic HIP HOP record for the ages.
its easy to write off a figure like turn-of-the-millennium UNDERGROUND collage artist / photographer DASH SNOW as being the recipient of undue acclaim and attention due to the presupposed PRIVILEGE of being a scion of the DE MENIL family and its massive art collection, as well as noted BUDDHIST author and academic ROBERT THURMAN. but that would be incorrect and such is the working thesis of the recent MOMENTS LIKE THIS NEVER LAST (VICE, 2021) documentary about his meteoric rise as a CELEBRATED artist and his tragically brief life at the hand of heroin.
SNOW was a talented artist who served as a catalyst for the downtown NYC art scene that included peers like RYAN MCGINLEY, DAN COLEN, TERENCE COH and ex-wife AGATHA SNOW among others. as a teen he effectively left his family (with whom he was apparently written out of their will) after returning to the city after a brief stint in a juvenile correctional facility in rural GEORGIA meant to cure him of his OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANT DISORDER diagnosis. the trauma of such seemingly only reinforced his OPPOSITIONAL worldview towards authority and strengthened his loyalty to friends and allies he found on the street, eventually coalescing with his IRAK clique of fellow hustlers and street artists. this pre-9/11 downtown scene during the height of GIULIANI's reign was the incubator for his PERSONA and ART. the dude tagged everywhere, including a legendary "FUCK GIULIANI" on the side of the BROOKLYN BRIDGE. this aspect of his personality i found more than a little JUVENILE and OUTLANDISH, since it reeked of attention-grabbing antics from a TROUBLED young man.
what i found IMPRESSIVE was how SNOW was able to hone his craft, be quite PRODUCTIVE and support his friends throughout his brief life and career. his work was biographical and completely UNINHIBITED, he essentially lived like someone in a community with no boundaries or limitations. outsiders may see this as bohemian nonsense, and at times watching some of these antics in retrospect does feel a bit forced, but there is no doubt when looking at his collages and photographs the studied intention and eye for detail. he was truly GIFTED. its more than a bit HUMOROUS and IRONIC as the film points out, that a kid who ran away and gave up a family of art royalty, in turn became one himself. like many TALENTED artist and musicians before and since, opiates robbed him of his creativity, sucked out his ENERGY to live and snuffed him out too soon. its an old story that is beyond cliche at this point but its one that will continue unabated going forward no doubt.
the fact that he passed away so young with an infant daughter to boot is just tragic. i condone the right of people making personal decisions regarding LIFESTYLE and HEALTH, but when said choices lead to a young child being robbed of the opportunity to grow up with a father, it just feels like a SELFISH moral failing. i could be wrong on that but its my reaction nonetheless with regards to SNOW as well as BRAD NOWELL, IAN CURTIS, SHANNON HOON or KURT COBAIN before him. again, cant help watching this celebration of his life without feeling BITTERSWEET about his legacy. he catalyzed an art movement but at the price of his family.
was it really worth it?
BOOK REVIEW | "LOGICOMIX: AN EPIC SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH" BY APOSTOLOS DOXIADIS & CHRISTOS PAPADIMITRIOU
the ambitious graphic novel LOGICOMIX: AN EPIC SEARCH FOR TRUTH (BLOOMSBURY, 2009) by APOSTOLOS DOXIADIS and CHRISTOS PAPADIMITRIOU attempts to do nothing less than present the evolution of LOGIC from the perspective of towering 20th century BRITISH philosopher/logician BERTRAND RUSSELL and his many cohorts and forebearers from the likes of ALFRED WHITEHEAD, GEORG CANTOR, DAVID HILBERT, LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, KURT GODEL, GEORGE BOOLE and GOTTLOB FREGE among others. in essence, since the time of EUCLID, generations of mathematicians have been search for the essence of LOGIC, otherwise known as FOUNDATIONS OF MATHEMATICS, in which no proof is assumed and everything is proven. from this base all else is proven.
ultimately such a objective turn out to be a bit of a white whale that drove many a logician to madness, divorce, infidelity and ruinous despair. in a sense the whole enterprise was a failure since no final proof was ever determined. even the inexact, impressionistic filter of LANGUAGE was called into question. ultimately this important work laid the bedrock for all that has followed, especially with regard to the advent of computing under ALAN TURING, which was based on said principles.
the graphic novel itself takes acknowledged liberties with the life of RUSSELL, which serves as the central narrative, which includes invented meetings, conversations and events that never happened. such is fine by me since the complex concepts are what take center stage here. what i do appreciate are the stakes at play with logic, which is presented at a lecture RUSSELL "gave" at an AMERICAN university with a crowd looking for intellectual justification for their reasons for sitting out the second world war in EUROPE (assumably pre-PEARL HARBOR). RUSSELL recounts his life story but ultimately puts the locus of control over LOGIC to each person since ultimately there is no empirically derived correct opinion.
that responsibility is within each of use to deduce as we see fit in accordance with our values, concerns and obligations. in this sense LOGICOMIX is an intellectual call to arms for its readers to consider the MORAL POWER they hold as individuals and not farm such out to leaders and experts. even there are lots of charlatans out there, such comes with the territory of INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM.
cant say the same for internet culture. god id love to know what some of these thinkers would have made of TWITTER.
LOGICOMIX is an ambitious and compelling graphic novel well worth repeat revisiting. the format seems ideal for transmitting such complex and seemingly obtuse concepts to a general audience. it is quite the achievement.
like a lot of people, i was pretty bummed when the INDEPENDENT NEW JERSEY record store VINTAGE VINYL closed abruptly seemingly without warning in the middle of the summer of 2021. i had been going there for years since the early 2000s when i effectively relocated to the area for college after randomly spending my senior year of high school in SACRAMENTO. in fact part of my yearly ritual during my years teaching abroad was a trip to VINTAGE VINYL during my brief stateside vacation. id even argue the experience made me feel connected to a sense of "home."
i remember learning about the FORDS, NEW JERSEY store through a plugged-in classmate and friend of my brother, who were both still in high school at the time. in the early 2000s there was an UNDERGROUND ROCK N ROLL scene that centered around RUTGERS UNIVERSITY in NEW BRUNSWICK that included bands of varying genres (POST-HARDCORE, POP PUNK, HARDCORE and METALCORE) from various relatively nearby northeast cities such as THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (MORRIS PLAINS), THURSDAY (NEW BRUNSWICK), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (NEWARK), MIDTOWN (NEW BRUNSWICK), STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO (NEW BRUNSWICK) as well as more established acts like THE BOUNCING SOULS (BASKING RIDGE) and LIFETIME (NEW BRUNSWICK) among others. interestingly bands like THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM (NEW BRUNSWICK) and THE SCREAMING FEMALES (NEW BRUNSWICK) also came from the embers of this scene years later.
VINTAGE VINYL was only a ten minute drive from the heavily congested streets of the NEW BRUNSWICK campus and proved to be quite the quiet respite during my years as an undergraduate there. i can only imagine what that store meant to musicians from the surrounding area. did i mention the place also put on in-store promotional shows for UNDERGROUND and established bands? i recently came across their YOUTUBE channel which has in-store live performances by the likes of everyone from BAD RELIGION, CAVE-IN, THE USED, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, JIMMY EAT WORLD, CIRCA SURVIVE, MXPX, THE GET UP KIDS, THURSDAY, NEW FOUND GLORY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (all embedded below) among many others. if you dig through their channel you will find in-store signings by the likes of OZZY OSBOURNE, DESCENDENTS, KERRY KING (of SLAYER), DARRYL "DMC" MCDANIELS (of RUN-DMC) and ROB ZOMBIE. its all unedited single shot tripod footage with unmixed in-camera audio. in essence its mostly uncompelling, shitty footage, except for the fact that as a cultural artifact these videos are invaluable as markers of a local and national musical culture at a certain place and time.
whats sad is that the hurried manner in which the store closed, at the behest of the owner who wished to move on after 40+ years and had no interest in having it continue under new management, effectively meant that a community had no opportunity to celebrate it. there was no send-off or concert by the local musical community that no doubt had embraced this obscure INDEPENDENT establishment for many years. for me that is the unfortunate legacy of VINTAGE VINYL. it was a private, locally-owned business that was embraced by a culture and in the end the owner did not embrace them back.
in the wake of VINTAGE VINYL there are several local and independently owned and operated record stores (some new, some long established) in NEW JERSEY that i frequent which have largely replaced it, including STATION 1 BOOKS & VINYL (POMPTON LAKES), REVILLA GROOVES & GEAR (MILLTOWN), LOFIDELIC RECORDS (BELMAR), VINYL ADDICTION RECORDS (NORTH ARLINGTON), FACTORY RECORDS SHOP (DOVER), SOUND EXCHANGE (WAYNE), GROOVY GRAVEYARD (ASBURY PARK), JACK'S MUSIC SHOPPE (RED BANK), THE RECORD COLLECTOR (BORDENTOWN) and yes, even the dreaded PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE (PRINCETON). id also include the NEW YORK record stores GENERATION RECORDS (GREENWICH VILLAGE), ACADEMY RECORD ANNEX (GREENPOINT) and LOONEY TUNES (WEST BABYLON) as well as the PHILADELPHIA store REPO RECORDS (SOUTH STREET) in the mix as well. unfortunately none of these stores have live in-store performances at the same level of impact as VINTAGE VINYL.
a little over a year later it still feels like a loss.
part of the fun of enjoying music is learning about the music that turned on and inspired the songwriters and musicians that have caught your ear. that complex lineage and entangled web of influence and inspiration is seemingly never-ending, which is fun to learn about and sift through. you go back a few generations of that and you hit cultural bedrock. there is an argument to be made that the iconic BLUES and FOLK singer-songwriter / multi-instrumentalist HUDDIE WILLIAM LEDBETTER, a.k.a LEADBELLY, is such a cornerstone influence on the AMERICAN musical tradition. many of the traditional FOLK songs he made famous with his renditions include "IN THE PINES," "COTTON FIELDS," "BOLL WEEVIL," "GOODNIGHT, IRENE" and "MIDNIGHT SPECIAL" and have since become standards effectively and have been covered by the likes of BOB DYLAN, NIRVANA, ELVIS PRESLEY, NAT KING COLE, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, THE BEACH BOYS, THE FALL, JOHNNY CASH, THE GRATEFUL DEAD, LITTLE RICHARD, TOM WAITS, THE GUN CLUB, KEITH RICHARDS, MINISTRY, BRYAN FERRY, THE WHITE STRIPES, TOM PETTY, X, NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS, THE MEAT PUPPETS and LED ZEPPELIN among countless others. he is similarly celebrated for his songwriting in classic tracks including "BLACK SNAKE MOAN," "C.C. RIDER" "ROBERTA" and "DEATH LETTER BLUES."
my experience listening to LEADBELLY is that the power lies in his performance. recorded by musicologist ALAN LOMAX, the production (one live mic) with its all-too-apparent rudimentary minimalism emotes a sense of purity and authenticity. there is no decoration, no reverb, no embellishments, no filler, no bullshit. just the power of a guitar and a human voice. the fact that such is still a compelling listen some 70-80 years after the fact is a testament to the power of LEADBELLY as a songwriter and interpreter of standards from the pre-recorded era. that GOSPEL, BLUES and FOLK tradition no doubt finds its deeper lineage run back through the middle passage to the coast and interior of WEST AFRICA. having been lucky enough to spend part of my youth in NIGERIA, experiencing those sounds and textures from the source at such a pivotal, formative moment in my youth is a gift for which i will never be able to thank my parents enough. its all connected.
i think that is why i get a little peeved by AMERICANA music which attempts to recreate a notion of native AMERICAN music that is devoid of AFRICAN influence, mistakenly looking to IRISH and SCOTCH traditions from APPALACHIA as a template for such. it feels dishonest and more than a bit racist, but thats just my opinion. thats an argument for another time i guess.
i cant stress how cultural significant a figure LEADBELLY is in the big picture of the AMERICAN musical tradition. this is the source. LEADBELLY (COLUMBIA, 1962) is a retrospective compilation created in the early 1960s and is as good a place to start an investigation as any other. needless to say, any of the various modern repackaging of LEADBELLY's material is very much well worth checking out.
AUSTRALIAN-based PUNK ROCK band AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS is absolutely NEXT LEVEL. definitely the most INTENSE and ENERGETIC music ive come across in years. vocalist AMY TAYLOR is like the female reincarnation of IGGY POP (who admittedly is still very much still with us - thank god).
their sound and presence is unapologetically FIERCE and their song construction is crazy TIGHT, but keep in mind that this is definitely not the sound of musicians playing to a grid on PRO TOOLS. rather it very much feels like a welcome return to real ROCK N ROLL in both ATTITUDE and INTENTION.
cannot praise this band enough. it is required listening in my opinion. AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS is most definitely worth checking out and keeping an eye on moving forward.
parodies by nacrowe
the late 1960s and early 1970s was an interesting time for creativity across the arts in WEST GERMANY. you had this whole generation of visual artists, writers and musicians that came of age in the wake of WORLD WAR II and their parents involvement to varying degrees with the NAZI regime. its a very interesting sociopolitical situation whereby in essence you have a whole cohort of peers that have roundly rejected wholesale the traditions of previous generations. AMERICAN history and culture is complicated enough, but art and music (from BLUES to JAZZ to ROCK 'N' ROLL to HIP HOP and beyond) is somewhat of a unifying force that delineates an evolving national identity.
but what if you started over completely. from scratch.
that "year zero" mentality is largely what is at heart with KRAUTROCK, or the experimental WEST GERAMANY music scene of the late 60s and early 70s. previous classical and folk musical traditions were now tainted and sullied by their association with NAZISM. bands associated with the KRAUTROCK movement included the likes of KRAFTWERK, NEU!, FAUST, CAN, HARMONIA, AMON DUUL II, POPOL VUH, TANGERINE DREAM and CLUSTER among others. some of these bands employed JAZZ FUSION popular at the time in the UNITED STATES, but most sought a new tone, musical lexicon and identity in the emerging world of SYNTHESIZERS and SEQUENCERS. these new instruments had less of a history and understand "proper" usage tradition like say guitars or brass instruments. and they went after such with gusto creating new textures and sonic juxtapositions that influenced everyone over the years from DAVID BOWIE, DAFT PUNK and AFRIKA BAMBAATAA to DEPECHE MODE, SWANS, STEREOLAB and the POST-PUNK movement in general (JOY DIVISION, THE FALL, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED, etc.).
with the rise and ever-present existential threat posed by TRUMPISM in the current AMERICAN political climate i really wonder what traditions will be abandoned by their association with this failed demigod should he gain power again. his reemergence to power is a frightful but very real concern almost two years out from the next presidential election. i could go on about all the loser musicians that have supported him over the years but im not trying to provide them any oxygen, they should drown in permanent cultural irrelevance. what interests me is the possibility that some future REPUBLICAN-led FASCIST state will bend our cultural traditions to its will, leaving later generations having to parse through the rubble since at that point the legacy of such will be irreparably warped. will a generation of artists need to adopt a "year zero" mentality and adopt new AMERICAN traditions?
just a thought.
also definitely check out this embedded episode of DEER GOD RADIO from january 2020 on the nonprofit radio station MAKER PARK RADIO with a playlist celebrating KRAUTROCK and all said bands associated with the movement. i am ever fascinated by the experimental nature of the music and what it meant to the emerging consciousness of a new nation that sprang forth from the darkest recesses and indignity of human imagination.
BE HERE NOW (CREATION, 1997) is often critically derided as the moment OASIS, and by extension the BRITPOP movement, lost the script and jumped the shark. i dont believe that is entirely true or fair. to me, BE HERE NOW represents a new batch of songs written post-FAME, as the first two seminal records, DEFINITELY MAYBE (CREATION, 1994) and WHAT'S THE STORY (MORNING GLORY)? (CREATION, 1995) were essentially written by NOEL GALLAGHER concurrently and stockpiled over a lifetime of private attempts.
given such restraints, BE HERE NOW is a bit MEANDERING at times with tracks such as "MAGIC PIE," "DON'T GO AWAY," "BE HERE NOW" and most famously "D'YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?" all not having that focus and MELODIC and compositional potency of their earlier material. i think such a critique regarding those specific songs is warranted, but my favorite material from the record including tracks like "STAND BY ME," "ALL AROUND THE WORLD" and "MY BIG MOUTH" are as CONSISTENT as anything off the first two records. and i think such achievements get lost in the shuffle.
and maybe the marketing is to blame for such. i remember being stateside on summer break at a relative's house in NEW JERSEY when this record came out and seeing the "D'YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?" video on rotation on MTV. the song sonically felt EPIC, probably due in part to the pseudo-wartime visuals of slow-motion helicopters and COLORFUL flairs in a post-apocalyptic dreary factory setting that made LIAM GALLAGHER look even more undeniably cool in his green parka and signature sneer behind a pair of sunglasses. but the song was SUBPAR and over time i found myself listening to BE HERE NOW less than the previous two records.
i believe what saved this record were subsequent live records that showcased the POWER of some of these songs. in summation there are no bad OASIS records, but BE HERE NOW is probably not their peak. NOEL has admitted such in years since. he's definitely learned the lesson of the consequences of excessive DRUG USE while in the studio. the DAMAGE is allowing some uninspired and seemingly INCOHERENT material from seeing the public light of day. its a mistake id argue he has not repeated in an otherwise outstanding discography before and since.