who knew QUEENSLAND was such a SHITHOLE back in the 1970s?
the fact that a band as LEGENDARY and SEMINAL as first-wave AUSTRALIAN PUNK ROCK band THE SAINTS came out BRISBANE, which at the time was in the throes of an ARCH CONSERVATIVE and unrepentantly CORRUPT government led by premier JOH BJELKE-PETERSEN, is something of a MINOR MIRACLE. this politician, who ruled from 1968-1987, rose through the ranks of the police force and welded it VIOLENTLY like a CUDGEL against all elements of SOCIAL DISSENSION or ACTIVISM. in essence JOH ran an AUTONOMOUS POLICE STATE that made the business of live music an UNDERGROUND affair, which in turn ironically resulted in establishing in time BRISBANE as a musical and culturally INNOVATIVE city.
the documentary STRANDED (WILDBEAR ENTERTAINMENT, 2015) is very much as preoccupied with the evolution of the music scene in BRISBANE as it is with the narrative of THE SAINTS and their first three ESSENTIAL releases, (I'M) STRANDED (SIRE, 1977), ETERNALLY YOURS (SIRE, 1978) and PREHISTORIC SOUNDS (HARVEST, 1978), before the breakup of their ICONIC initial lineup. along with local contemporaneous PUNK ROCK scene-mates such as the LIKE-MINDED PENETRATION, NOTABLE bands that emerged shortly over the next few years such as THE LEFTOVERS, THE GO-BETWEENS, RAZAR, XERO and THE RIPTIDES diverged dramatically in STYLE and SOUND, but were bound both by their passion for music and their steadfast commitment to the scene and the COMMUNITY that literally bled, suffered and vigorously fought it into existence.
there is a bit of synchronicity with the emergence of PUNK ROCK across the english-speaking world in the late 1970s, with THE RAMONES in NEW YORK CITY, THE SEX PISTOLS in LONDON and THE SAINTS in BRISBANE all emerging more or less at the same time (i am aware THE SEX PISTOLS was unambiguously after THE RAMONES). all three bands were influenced by the sheer SONIC POWER and POLITICAL FORCE and will behind those early records by SUBTERRANEAN bands like THE STOOGES, MC5 and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. what is INTRIGUING about THE SAINTS is that they are the only PUNK ROCK band of that period that had to will themselves into existence despite a VOLATILE governmental security apparatus hell-bent on maintaining a STRANGLEHOLD on the population. sorry, RONALD REAGAN and MARGARET THATCHER had absolutely nothing on SIR JOH and his BRUTAL cronies with a badge.
testimonials to that end come by way of JEAN JACQUES BURNEL and JET BLACK of THE STRANGLERS as well as JELLO BIAFRA of DEAD KENNEDYS who all had adverse experiences touring during the early in the late 1970s and early 1980s respectfully. in both cases the police acted overly aggressively without restraint or respect for basic human rights, arresting band members on trumped up charges designed to intimidate. THE STRANGLERS for their part wrote "NUCLEAR DEVICE (THE WIZARD OF AUS)" off of THE RAVEN (UNITED ARTISTS, 1979) as cheeky send-off to the JOH regime.
the example of THE SAINTS proved to be internationally INFLUENTIAL as bands, in addition those from BRITAIN and the UNITED STATES, emerged at the time from war-torn places like IRELAND (THE BOOMTOWN RATS) and NORTHERN IRELAND (STIFF LITTLE FINGERS) that saw PUNK ROCK as a vehicle to speaking their truth about the UNFORTUNATE predicament of their COMMUNITIES. if an OBSCURE band from AUSTRALIA could do such, literally why not them? its a FASCINATING and POWERFUL PHENOMENA when you consider that this SELF-IDENTIFICATION and SELF-ORGANIZATION of a cross-border INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY of music fans, artists and advocates self-generated in a pre-internet age. again, a SMALL MIRACLE of sorts.
notable participating interviewees for STRANDED include PAULINE MURRAY (PENETRATION), NICK CAVE (THE BIRTHDAY PARTY, THE BAD SEEDS), JELLO BIAFRA (DEAD KENNEDYS), STEVE DIGGLE (BUZZCOCKS), BOB GELDORF (THE BOOMTOWN RATS) and JEAN JACQUES BURNEL & JET BLACK (THE STRANGLERS). AUSTRALIAN PUNK ROCK is generally not included in the mainstream conversation or history of PUNK ROCK, so i consider this film ESSENTIAL viewing and most definitely worth checking out.
loving stylized to evoke the MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE, GRAPHIC and INDUSTRIAL DESIGN of the first half of the 20th century, the POIGNANT graphic novel WHITE RAPIDS (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 2007) by FRENCH-CANADIAN illustrator/graphic novelist PASCAL BLANCHET depicts the REAL-LIFE rise and fall of a company town created to oversee the maintenance and day-to-day operations of a nearby private HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER STATION well north of MONTREAL on the SAINT-MAURICE RIVER. conceived and built in the 1920s when the area was largely wilderness, the town of RAPIDE BLANCHE by the late 1960s due to INFRASTRUCTURE efforts was integrated into MODERN society to the point that its existence was deemed OUTMODED, closing its doors by the early 1970s after CANADA nationalized its electric grid and consolidated the parent company into its fold.
the romance of the period is evocatively portrayed with lyrical references to BIG BAND JAZZ and streamlined illustrations of BUILDINGS, ROADS and CARS that evoke the work of ED RUSCHA and his REVERED ADVERTISING-influenced depictions of GAS STATIONS. with BLANCHET's illustrations you get a VIVID sense of the PALPABLE OPTIMISM of this halcyon era when new TECHNOLOGY, of both the INDUSTRIAL and CONSUMER VARIETY, provided improvements in lifestyle that allowed for an appreciation of life and nature that ironically dovetailed with the latter being rained in by such. over time what was once NOVEL became ROUTINE and then rendered IRRELEVANT. this self-contained village was made an ANACHRONISM by the forward march of TECHNOLOGICAL PROCESS that allowed the operations of the dam to be conducted by REMOTE AUTOMATION and maintenance through day trips to the site. RAPIDE BLANCHE was a victim of its own SUCCESS. that OPTIMISM in essence fed on itself in an act of SELF-CANNIBALIZATION.
its difficult to take in the example of the COMMUNITY of RAPIDE BLANCHE and not expand such out to our present day when new TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOLOGIES ranging from MRNA VACCINES, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, CRISPR GENE EDITING, ELECTRIC VEHICLES and even PRESCRIPTION WEIGHT LOSS REMEDIES like OZEMPIC and WEGOVY are set to radically affect not only the future trajectory of our economy, but also our COLLECTIVE RELATIONSHIP to one another and our basic individual sense of IDENTITY. when emerging new technological capacities are inevitably rendered PEDESTRIAN and UNREMARKABLE, something about ourselves quietly dies along with that PROCESS and WHITE RAPIDS strikingly details such. OPPORTUNITY and INNOVATION leads inescapably to expectation and ultimately AUTOMATION. i am not convinced that BLANCHET is necessarily NOSTALGIC for the cultural trappings of the period so eloquently evoked in WHITE RAPIDS, but maybe he is slightly for that sense of buoyant CONFIDENCE and CAMARADERIE that came with exploring and leveraging COMMUNITY and big ideas to affect change (in this case, taming a river and its HAZARDOUS rapids for the public good). by comparison today the scale of our TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS seem more PAROCHIAL and MARKET-DRIVEN, which allows for more excuses concerning value creation on the behalf of the interests of SHAREHOLDERS and an INVESTMENT CLASS rather than the betterment of a COMMUNITY at large. progress moves forward but with the advent of the INTERNET and SOCIAL MEDIA our sense of AGENCY in the mix seems DIMINUTIVE and ever more PRECARIOUS. paradoxically we seem to live in a smaller world as TECHNOLOGY expands ever outward.
WHITE RAPIDS is most definitely a COMPELLING graphic novel that deals with deep issues in an EFFICIENT manner that parallels its STREAM-LINED illustrative style. definitely worth checking out.
there are so many stellar ONGOING live PERFORMANCE video series produced and recorded by radio stations across the county, including NOTORIOUS ones by KEXP 90.3FM in SEATTLE and KCRW 89.9FM in LOS ANGELES among others. recently i discovered another great example done by KCMP 89.3 THE CURRENT in NORTHFIELD, MINNESOTA, called THE CURRENT SESSIONS which is run by MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO and has a broadcast range that covers the nearby "TWIN CITIES" of ST. PAUL and MINNEAPOLIS.
the visual and sound quality involved is TOP NOTCH and includes past PERFORMANCES by everyone from NOTABLE songwriters like SHARON VAN ETTEN, ROBYN HITCHCOCK and FIRST AID KIT to INDIE ROCK bands in BUILT TO SPILL, AMYL AND THE SNIFFERS and STARCRAWLER, not to mention HIP HOP acts like KILLER MIKE of RUN THE JEWELS fame. needless to say, THE CURRENT SESSIONS are definitely worth checking out.
QUEEN was always an acquired taste in my estimation. boundlessly INVENTIVE and idiosyncratically SOPHISTICATED to the extreme, the band were entirely UNIQUE amongst their HARD ROCK brethren in the 1970s and their genre-skipping, MARX BROTHERS-referencing fourth album A NIGHT AT THE OPERA (ELEKTRA, 1975) was the culmination of such DISPARATE interests. that complexity of vision is in part the consequence of band whereby each member was a (somewhat) VIABLE songwriter, not just the recognizable faces like the universally CELEBRATED, LARGER-THAN-LIFE frontman FREDDIE MERCURY and LEGENDARY guitarist BRIAN MAY.
case in point is a track like the SELF-EXPLANATORY "I'M IN LOVE WITH MY CAR" written and, notably, sung by drummer ROGER TAYLOR. its a pretty STRAIGHTFORWARD declaration of his LOVE for, well, his car. nothing much more to say about that i guess. definitely a LAME track. similarly, bassist JOHN DEACON wrote the AFFECTIONATE yet CONTRIVED "YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND" about his wife. that these two songs (i'd strongly argue FILLER tracks) ended up on such a record is a testament to QUEEN's mutual support of each other's DRIVE, TALENT and CREATIVITY, which is definitely an outlier in the world of ROCK AND ROLL where writing credits and the largesse associated with such is often a BITTER source of CONTENTION and the root of many a breakup. definitely not the best moments by any stretch, but necessary and REVEALING about the economic nature of bands during this period.
obviously the main attraction with QUEEN is very much MERCURY and MAY and they absolutely deliver on SEMINAL A NIGHT AT THE OPERA tracks like "LAZING ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON," "DEATH ON TWO LEGS" and the immortally EPIC "BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY." what i love about these specific tracks are how all over the map they are lyrically and stylistically. "LAZING ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON" has a CAREFREE, waltz-feel with a megaphone-like effect on MERCURY's VOCALS that emulates an old cylinder phonograph record from the end of the 19th century. it feels almost NOSTALGIC for a VICTORIAN era long-gone by as MERCURY sings jubilantly about his walk around town on a nice afternoon. part of the song's appeal is that it comes right after the opening track "DEATH ON TWO LEGS" which is easily the most MEAN-SPIRITED and PUNISHING QUEEN song ever, long rumored to be public RETRIBUTION against their former manager and his LESS-THAN-HONORABLE business practices. in VICIOUS, UNAMBIGUOUS terms the song basically character assassinates an unknown figure for being a snake, complete with KILLER BACKGROUND VOCALS and a MEMORABLE GUITAR SOLO. i dont consider myself a QUEEN fan, but "DEATH ON TWO LEGS" is pretty undeniably POEWRFUL in its absolute PETTINESS and HATEFUL NEGATIVITY, enough so that MERCURY had some reservations about the track in retrospect, feeling he wanted to put out music that was POSITIVE and uplifted people.
the centerpiece of the album, and the track most synonymous with the band is of course "BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY." full disclosure, i have a relative who worked on WAYNE'S WORLD (PARAMOUNT, 1992) as a music supervisor who was involved with the ICONIC interior car singing scene at the beginning of the revered PENELOPE SPHEERIS-directed MIKE MYERS and DANA CARVEY comedic vehicle. the song itself, written by MERCURY, is as EPIC as it is RIDICULOUS. there are multiple parts, which were reportedly recorded separately by the band with no inkling of their ultimate arrangement in the track, and a famous harmonized A CAPELLA section that lyrically references famous OPERA characters, the BIBLE and the QU'RAN, for reasons unknown. the song should be irredeemably PRETENTIOUS, but the combined FULL-THROATED CONVICTION, PASSION and vocal DEXTERITY of MERCURY renders the song CONTAGIOUS in its idiosyncrasies. that song is completely UNIQUE and a one of one. i dont believe anyone in ROCK AND ROLL history has ever attempted something that is as CATCHY as it is completely SELF-INDULGENT. and i think that car scene in WAYNE'S WORLD picks up on both the IRREPRESSIBLE ENERGY and THEATRICAL ABSURDITY of that song for comedic effect. they arent making fun of the song at all, in fact they are making light of the song's effect on their behavior, the EPHEMERAL, TRANSPORTIVE state of PURE BLISS without inhibitions that it has unlocked in a cohort of young men. and for me that FLEETING state of DELIGHT in PERFORMATIVE ECSTASY is what sums up FREDDIE MERCURY's appeal and that of his band QUEEN at their apex, which A NIGHT AT THE OPERA arguably represents to most of the listening public.
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA is required listening. most definitely worth checking out for fans of ROCK AND ROLL writ large.
recently i came across the SHOEGAZE band NOTHING out of PHILADELPHIA. they've been around for more than a decade and have a slew of releases out on the nearby RELAPSE RECORDS, which is generally known for their roster and back catalogue of EXTREME METAL acts. its an INTERESTING dichotomy given that SHOEGAZE is more of a sonically HAZY and AMORPHOUS genre that is less AGGRESSIVE than it is INTROSPECTIVE. NOTHING has a sound that seems to split the difference between THE CATHERINE WHEEL and the more EXPANSIVE moments of the DEFTONES. it really is an INTOXICATING sound that seems to blend a knack for ARTFUL AMBIGUITY and traditional song composition. plus their videos are pretty visually BRUTAL a la label-mates PIG DESTROYER or FULL OF HELL.
definitely a band worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
i was first introduced to the ETHEREAL EXPANSIVENESS that is the decidedly INTROSPECTIVE music of revered BRITISH SHOEGAZE band SLOWDIVE my senior year of high school when i discovered TRANSGRESSIVE NEW QUEER CINEMA GREGG ARAKI-directed films like NOWHERE (FINE LINE, 1997) and THE DOOM GENERATION (TRIMARK, 1995) of which the group's music is prominently featured. those 90s CULT films showcased characterizations of teenagers trapped outside of society in EXTREME situations and their BULLETPROOF soundtracks included PROMINENT INDUSTRIAL, SHOEGAZE and ALTERNATIVE BANDS acts ranging from SKINNY PUPPY, FRONT 242, COIL, NINE INCH NAILS, MINISTRY, ELASTICA, PORNO FOR PYROS, LUSH, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, APHEX TWIN and RIDE to LOVE AND ROCKETS, PIZZICATO FIVE, 311, MASSIVE ATTACK, THE CATHERINE WHEEL and SUEDE among many others.
all this to say that the specific context from which i first appreciated the work of SLOWDIVE was a highly charged one in which the music was utilized to engender and describe a CRUSHING sense of ALIENATION and DISENCHANTMENT with AMERICAN culture writ large. such is the power of cinema that it can transform the meaning of all other vehicles of ARTISTIC EXPRESSION (PHOTOGRAPHY / CINEMATOGRAPHY, SET DESIGN, SET DESIGN, COSTUME DESIGN, ACTING, SPECIAL EFFECTS, etc.) that contribute to such, with music being no different. but when you separate SLOWDIVE from that specific use case by a particularly IDIOSYNCRATIC film director, what i hear is not a band attempting to describe a feeling of OVERPOWERING DISLOCATION from the outside world, but rather a unit attempting to aurally represent the SUBLIME. thats how i took it at least when first listening to spellbindingly TRANSCENDENT SOUVLAKI (CREATION, 1993) tracks "DAGGER," "40 DAYS," "HERE SHE COMES," "ALISON" and especially "SOUVLAKI SPACE STATION" and "WHEN THE SUN HITS." there is just the sense with these MERCURIAL, reverb-drenched AMBIENT tracks of a deep emotion springing forth into being from the recesses of one's consciousness, as if as a listening you are taking joint part in this PROFOUND CONNECTION. and that is kind of my point. when i listen to SLOWDIVE, not unlike similar groups in JOY DIVISION, BAUHAUS or MY BLOODY VALENTINE, i dont feel isolated from my COMMUNITY, but part of a greater SHARED HUMANITY. their music to me (some of it created during SIGNIFICANT interpersonal strife including unrequited love) is the aural equivalent of attempting to establish a CONNECTION. an interconnection with what is up for debate, but it feels like there is a sense of deep INTENTION to something emotionally resonate outside of oneself. being a part of a COMMUNITY.
the music of SLOWDIVE, even the more recent reunion material, is some of the most emotionally POWERFUL music i have ever come across and definitely feel it should be appreciated by a bigger audience, well outside of SHOEGAZE or CREATION RECORDS aficionados. the radio show i did on them was a gesture, however small, at such.
a REGGAE LED ZEPPELIN cover band fronted by an ELVIS impersonator. i feel like the concept sells itself.
and somehow JIMMY PAGE, ROBERT PLANT and the rest of the estate agreed making DREAD ZEPPELIN the only sanctioned LED ZEPPELIN cover band known in existence (or at least to my knowledge). it is a well-known industry fact that the LED ZEPPELIN estate jealously guards their interests and has been known to get quite litigious in the past in order to protect their catalogue, making the very fact that DREAD ZEPPELIN exists on an widely distributed record a minor miracle in and of itself.
i first learned of the band through their UN-LED-ED (I.R.S., 1990) debut album that my father played for me as a child, usually after listening to LED ZEPPELIN proper. its the same dynamic at play when he introduced my brother and i to MEL BROOKS' CLASSIC SPACEBALLS (MGM/UA, 1987) FARCE only after making us watch the original STAR WARS trilogy back around the same time. one works only after intimate knowledge of the other.
it is obviously impossible to divorce the LED ZEPPELIN and DREAD ZEPPELIN from one other, since all the SERIOUSNESS and EXPANSIVE GRANDEUR evoked by the former is basically turned on its head and PARODIED mercilessly by the latter. my personal FAVORITE recorded moment is on their cover of "MOBY DICK," which finds frontman TORTELVIS reading the introduction to the famously INTRICATE and OPAQUE HERMAN MELVILLE novel to a light skank (courtesy of the guitarist with BEYOND-GENIUS alias, JAH PAUL JO), before stopping abruptly and complaining that he's read it a thousand times and still has no idea what the hell the author is talking about. first time i heard that i was basically in LOVE with the band. same with the GENIUS hybrid "BLACK DOG / HOUND DOG" abomination. it just totally takes the piss out of everything involved (with a little classic "BATMAN THEME" from the CHEESY 60's television show through in). how do you not love that." again, same with the "HEARTBREAKER" and "HEART BREAK HOTEL" hybrid track, its all GENIUS. other STANDOUT tracks include their covers of "WHOLE LOTTA LOVE," "I CAN'T QUIT YOU BABY," "YOUR TIME IS GONNA COME" and "IMMIGRANT SONG."
again, the fact that these PARODIES exist on record really makes me rethink the PUBLIC IMAGE of LED ZEPPELIN as a bunch of IMAGE-CONSCIOUS auteurs that make music meant to evocatively express the EXPANSIVE and ELUSIVE literary and sonic grandeur of ALBION's FOLK traditions. DREAD ZEPPELIN dismantles such by making music that RE-CONTEXTUALIZES and undercuts those ELEVATED ambitions and renders such as the target of light MOCKERY. they effectively make LED ZEPPELIN appear SILLY. kudos to PAGE, PLANT, JOHN PAUL JONES and the estate for allowing this to happen, because the beneficiary is everyone. ELVIS PRESLEY, REGGAE and LED ZEPPELIN fans alike. i view UN-LED-ED as ESSENTIAL. definitely worth checking out.
i only recently came to be aware of the early 20th century SELF-TAUGHT ARTIST BILL TRAYLOR of ALABAMA. born into SLAVERY, his family stayed and worked for their former owners as sharecroppers for 30 years after EMANCIPATION. little is known about his life other than he raised several children and had a few marriages throughout a long life sharecropping in the YELLOWHAMMER STATE. it was only in his 80s that he moved to MONTGOMERY and took up DRAWING, resourcefully repurposing whatever LEFTOVER MATERIALS he could find. in time he was a cultural fixture of the main thoroughfare of MONROE STREET with his deceptively SIMPLISTIC yet deeply EVOCATIVE FIGURE DRAWINGS of life both REAL and IMAGINED, past and present, ETHEREAL and disturbingly PALPABLE.
for decades after his passing in 1939 in OBSCURITY, TRAYLOR's work was likewise FORGOTTEN about and UNCELEBRATED. his work now is seen as a uniquely UNFILTERED link to a world long passed in which AMERICAN HISTORY saw one of its most CONSEQUENTIAL fulcrum points, i.e. the RECONSTRUCTION era and the uneven cultural and economic transition from SLAVERY in the AMERICAN SOUTH. a transition still in motion, with WIDE-RANGING consequences to present day. despite the dearth of PERTINENT information outside of state census records, the recent documentary BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS (BREAKAWAY FILMS NY, 2021) attempts to give voice to TRAYLOR by CONTEXTUALIZING him and his experiences within the greater tradition of AFRICAN-AMERICAN playwrights and poets of the era. its an INTRIGUING JUXTAPOSITION to see these scenes from NOTEWORTHY DRAMAS played out by actors with TRAYLOR's drawings interspersed in the mix. it provides a possible CONTEXT to material that otherwise is ironically almost OBTUSE in its DIRECTNESS, like witnessing an ANCIENT EGYPTIAN RELIEF PAINTING in a tomb out of CONTEXT.
it is quite something that these INDELIBLE IMAGES TRAYLOR created were done utilizing the most MODEST of materials, mostly pencils with BASIC colors on the backs of used cardboard print advertisements or discarded scrap paper. the vast majority of his work was done on MAKESHIFT canvases of IRREGULAR shapes, which he resourcefully and ingeniously incorporated into the COMPOSITION. part of the reason that his WORK hits the way it does is the fact that it is UNSCHOOLED and retains a certain PURITY of PERSPECTIVE for a REALITY and WAY OF LIFE that even at the time of its creation post-1939 was of a bygone era. it mixes COLLECTIVE and LIVING MEMORY with the HOPES and DREAMS of a time to come that as an old man TRAYLOR must have been acutely aware of MORTALITY and inability to experience said progress. there is also a bit of mystery regarding the SUBLIME and more than a little HOODOO ICONOGRAPHY thrown in the mix, which again informs his individual and the wider cultural PERSPECTIVE of his COMMUNITY. that something so PROFOUND is wrapped up in something seemingly so RUDIMENTARY is quite an achievement in its own right and he deserves his just praises, even if such are posthumous and decades after the fact. it is a testament to the QUALITY and INTENT of his WORK that TRAYLOR's ART resonates right now in our era with our amassed COLLECTIVE MEMORY and HISTORICAL and CULTURAL BAGGAGE. its one of the mysteries of ART that such teaches us anew as CONTEMPORARY conditions evolve and reveal themselves, presenting new CONTEXTS and opportunities for GROWTH. here is hoping that TRAYLOR is a permanent part of that continuing NARRATIVE and discussion regarding the AMERICAN EXPERIMENT, with all of its acknowledged PAINFUL SHORTCOMINGS and CELEBRATED virtues alike.
BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS is a COMPELLING documentary about a REVELATORY ARTIST that deserves further attention. i found it ESSENTIAL and is most definitely worth checking out.
when i discovered SEPULTURA in sixth grade back in 1995, it was a few months after my FAMILY moved to NIGERIA from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. on a FAMILY trip to ITALY, between my brother and me we scored TOOL's UNDERTOW (review linked HERE), RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE'S self-titled debut (EPIC, 1992), FAITH NO MORE's ANGEL DUST (review linked HERE) and SEPULTURA's CHAOS AD (ROADRUNNER, 1993) and ROOTS (ROADRUNNER, 1996) albums. it was one of the better and most INFLUENTIAL record hauls of my life and very much served as the SOUNDTRACK to my experience living in LAGOS during my middle school years. i say this only to setup the fact that MAX CAVALERA's music helped CONTEXTUALIZE the rampant POLITICAL and ECONOMIC CORRUPTION and widespread HUMAN SUFFERING i witnessed of a burdened population with its neck firmly under the boot of a MERCILESS and BRUTAL MILITARY DICTATORSHIP. i was also similarly gutted the following year when CAVALERA left SEPULTURA, effectively ending their relevance as a creative entity moving forward.
my motivation for reading MY BLOODY ROOTS: FROM SEPULTURA TO SOULFLY AND BEYOND (JAWBONE PRESS, 2022) was to gain some INSIGHT and CONTEXT in his own words into the BELOVED BRAZILIAN METAL icon MAX CAVALERA and his ECLECTIC career that i've followed and enjoyed for most of my life. to me the dude is a SINGULAR figure, even among the CELEBRATED greats of the genre, in that he has continued to expand both the LEXICON of the genre by incorporating new TEXTURES and INSTRUMENTS, often from INDIGENOUS world traditions, and has seemingly brought the extended FAMILY of METAL together throughout his career. METAL can feel a bit INSULAR at times, with the never-ending patchwork of evermore OBSCURE sub-genres, but CAVALERA seemingly proves the COMMONALITY and SHARED NATURE of such ARTISTIC EXPRESSION with each DISTINCT iteration and recording by his ongoing SOULFLY project (which has touched on everything from DEATH METAL, THRASH METAL, BLACK METAL, CROSSOVER THRASH, GRINDCORE, DOOM METAL, SLUDGE METAL and even NU METAL).
in MY BLOODY ROOTS, CAVALERA presents a BRAZILIAN childhood that was marked by the death of his ITALIAN father when he was 9, effectively impoverishing his FAMILY and transitioning his life in short order from one of means and SECURITY to one of SURVIVAL. by the time he was 13, CAVALERA decided that music was his means not only of EXPRESSION and employment, but also an IDENTITY and sense of COMMUNITY in the wake of his father's passing. it seems obvious that CAVALERA's knack for COMMUNITY BUILDING started in that moment and has continued unabated to the present. along with his drumming brother IGGOR, CAVALERA established SEPULTURA and gradually learned his instrument and the band made its way up the ladder in BRAZIL, each record expanding on the prior in terms of LYRICAL CONTENT, TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY and SONIC BRUTALITY. this culminated in ROOTS, which saw the band incorporate INDIGENOUS RHYTHMS and TEXTURES into their EVER-EXPANDING SOUND, even collaborating some field recordings with the native XAVANTE tribe in the interior MASSO GRATO state in BRAZIL. in the wake of the demise of SEPULTURA, CAVALERA through his SOULFLY has incorporated word RHYTHMS and TEXTURES from SERBIA, TURKEY, RUSSIA and EGYPT among other places to date.
SEPULTURA effectively broke up due to INTERNAL business tensions over their manager GLORIA, who in time was married to CAVALERA. the band thought MAX was given PREFERENTIAL treatment and that they could do better as a unit with outside management. her firing led to CAVALERA's quitting SEPULTURA, the band he started with his brother, who stayed along for another decade. the band is still an ongoing entity today, but their influence and stature is nominal at best. they are essentially a HOLLOWED-OUT edifice of what was a ONCE-PROMISING BAND poised to be the next METALLICA.
the story of CAVALERA's career is one of finding COMMUNITY in the face of DISAPPOINTMENT and TRAUMA at the STAGGERING LOSS of his FATHER, his BAND and his STEPSON. it is also the story of coming to terms with such and the DESTRUCTIVE coping mechanisms he employed surrounding the excessive use of alcohol and other chemicals. the fact that he address such head-on with no fanfare and went to rehab with the right attitude and came out successful is a testament to his sheer will and LOVE and CONNECTION to his FAMILY, both of the blood and musical variety. i truly feel that what separates CAVALERA is his INTENTION. you never feel that he is going through the motions, just writing and performing music for its own sake. there is a palpable EDGE and a real sense that this process is deeply PERSONAL and CATHARTIC for him, always. in turn the listener buys into the SENTIMENT as well and treats him as a REVERED sage on a truly CHAOTIC but INSIGHTFUL aural journey.
i'm always interested in his work with any number of his myriad of side projects, from CAVALERA CONSPIRACY with his brother, to KILLER BE KILLED with peers from THE DILLNGER ESCAPE PLAN and MASTODON, and GO AHEAD AND DIE with his son ZYON. not to mention the downright INCENDIARY NAILBOMB. his memoir MY BLOODY ROOTS may be a bit STRAIGHTFORWARD and UNADORNED, but its HEARTFELT and and unassailably AUTHENTIC much like his music. most definitely recommended.
PRINCETON NOBLE PRIZE-winning psychologist DANIEL KAHNEMAN (who INTRIGUINGLY won his award in ECONOMICS) is the famous for his innovation in the field of COGNITIVE BIAS and PROSPECT THEORY. central to these theorems is the concept that our brain works on a two-tier system that is based on our physical movements. if stationary humans are capable of DEEP CONCENTRATION and the ability to CALCULATE and STRATEGIZE. when in motion and involved in significant physical exertion this capacity is neutralized. dont believe me? multiply 234 times 81 in your head sitting down and again while jogging. its a pretty INCREDIBLE phenomena.
and that two-tiered system is all i can think of when watching former SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE COMEDIAN KEVIN NEALON interview other COMEDIANS on GO-PRO shot hikes in canyons and parks in an around the LOS ANGELES region. its one thing to get a participants views when they are WELL-NOURISHED, CALM and COMFORTABLE and another when they TIRED, SWEATY and DEHYDRATED. NEALON himself was always one who shined in highly IMPROVISATIONAL COMEDY that was COLLABORATIVE and ENSEMBLE-based, so these interviews are GOOD-NATURED and meant to gain insight into what his peers find ABSURD and worthy of sending-up and mocking for our collective enjoyment. COMEDY is a very specific to the individual and can often be an isolating pursuit, not unlike having to take on an imposing unending nature trail, so i appreciate NEALON traversing the same ground and using the opportunity to learn about how COMEDIC WRITERS and PERFORMERS tick. especially under some physical hardship. over the past couple years there have been countless participants, but some notable ones include SARAH SILVERMAN, TIFFANY HADISH, CONAN O'BRIEN, BOB ODENKIRK, OWEN WILSON, DANA CARVEY, JUDY GREER and JACK BLACK.
definitely worth checking out.
out of all the POST-GRUNGE bands that were signed and foisted on the public by major labels in the halcyon gold rush era that were those immediate post-NEVERMIND years in the early 1990s, one of the best undoubtedly was the ALTERNATIVE ROCK band SPONGE. to my ears they had a decidedly STRIPPED-BACK classic GLAM ROCK (think T. REX, THE NEW YORK DOLLS, etc) aesthetic that differentiated them from their more EARNEST and flannel-clad peers at the time. that being said, i associate the band with their MEMORABLE, HARD-CHARGING, MELODIC single "PLOWED" off of their debut ROTTING PIÑATA (WORK GROUP, 1994) which was as much of a staple on 106.7 KROQ FM in LOS ANGELES during my childhood as anything produced by NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, PEARL JAM or STONE TEMPLE PILOTS ever was. just the sound of vocalist VINNIE DOMBROSKI's EXPANSIVE voice on that track brings back playground images of pickup basketball and weekend excursions to nearby DISNEYLAND during my elementary school years.
and the UBIQUITY of that track is probably the root of their SECOND-TIER STATUS at the time. unlike the FOO FIGHTERS, BUSH, CANDLEBOX and SILVERCHAIR who were all similar-sounding SUCCESSFUL bands that emerged in the immediate wake of the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the early 1990s, SPONGE only had one massive hit single with an accompanying album that was otherwise largely forgettable. i know people will point to the track "MOLLY (SIXTEEN CANDLES)" but until i reacquainted myself with SPONGE in the early 2000s id never heard it before and had zero recollection of such on the radio when it was a new song. those POST-GRUNGE bands notoriously get little respect as they are the go-between stepping stools between the waning ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene and the emerging BELLIGERENT, AGGRESSIVE and decidedly MISOGYNISTIC NU METAL that followed. they occupied a temporary NICHE in the market that was already looking past them upon arrival. a CULTURAL ANACHRONISM of sorts before they had a chance.
that all may sound HARSH, but in terms of singles, "PLOWED" is still an UNDENIABLE track that stands up with the best of that period. i wouldnt necessarily recommend ROTTING PIÑATA in totality as it is a bit of a TOP-HEAVY album. check out the more COHESIVE and similarly GLAM ROCK-influenced TINY MUSIC... SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (ATLANTIC, 1996) by STONE TEMPLE PILOTS released just two years later instead.
im guilty as anyone of getting JADED. feeling like ive seen and heard it all before. its probably part of getting old. then you hear a UNIQUE band like the wildly ECLECTIC HOUSTON trio KHRUANGBIN who mix everything from DUB, PSYCHEDELIA, SOUL and ROCK MUSIC and have whole albums exploring specific TRADITIONAL SONIC TRADITIONS from the likes of THAILAND, MALI, SPAIN, AFGHANISTAN and the MIDDLE EAST. their sound is both AESTHETICALLY FAMILIAR and a radical departure on each track. it is hard to explain but a pure pleasure to listen to.
KHRUANGBIN are definitely worth checking out, whether or not you are a fan of FOREIGN MUSICAL TRADITIONS or more familiar WESTERN INDIE ROCK. they are easily one of the most EXHILARATING and boldly CREATIVE bands i have come across in a while.
parody by nacrowe
PUNK bands by definition are not meant to last. just look at that first round of late 70s originators or their HARDCORE brethren during the 1980s, most put out a record or two and then disbanded in near complete OBSCURITY. such being the case, it is almost ABSURD that NOFX are winding down their forty year, fifteen studio album career with a final tour and probable upcoming release or two for good measure. not only that, they objectively got better as musicians and songwriters as they went along is which is the absolute opposite ethos of the genre with the TIRED "LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG" credo. then again, NOFX always was a band that reveled in being a PARADOX.
more than any other MODERN PUNK band that i can think of, NOFX embodied the SNARKY CONTRARIANISM that came with being FORTHRIGHT and SELF-AWARE to the point of (and sometimes beyond) being SELF-DEPRECATING. BAD RELIGION was as politically OUTSPOKEN but more SERIOUS, AUTHORITATIVE and ACADEMIC in PRESENTATION and TONE (which makes sense since LYRICIST and contributing SONGWRITER GREG GRAFFIN is in fact a professor). RANCID were objectively more TALENTED as MUSICIANS and SONGWRITERS, but frontman TIM ARMSTRONG had a more IMPRESSIONISTIC and CONFESSIONAL aspect to his compositions, even the numbers that addressed political issues. as a GENIUS WORDSMITH, for him it was less about a specific point being addressed and more about exploring a DISPARATE POINT-OF-VIEW and MINDSET in his lyrics. BLINK-182 expressly borrowed aspects of the SNARKY CONTRARIANISM of NOFX but really dialed down the INTELLIGENCE and SELF-EVIDENT ABSURDIST comedy behind such, leaving just REDUNDANT JUVENILITY in its stead.
and for me, part of the whole SCHTICK around NOFX was that this whole SELF-DIMINISHING "WE'RE JUST A PUNK BAND" routine was a smokescreen for a band that really had a STRONG PRESENCE and sense of AMBITION. just look at THE DECLINE (FAT WRECK CHORDS, 1999) release and its lone 18+ minute track, complete with SOPHISTICATED LEIHTMOTIFS and thematic callbacks a la opera. before GREEN DAY and talk of ROCK OPERAS, NOFX had already been there, done that on one masterfully EPIC track. another case in point was vocalist and main songwriter FAT MIKE's PUNKVOTER.COM campaign to support JOHN KERRY in his 2004 campaign to defeat then-incumbent president GEORGE W. BUSH. lots of HARDCORE bands going back to the 70 and 80s complained about MARGARET THATCHER and RONALD REAGAN, but how many actively built up a coalition to effect change a la FAT MIKE. i'll answer that: no one. the most ADMIRABLE thing about the members of NOFX is that in spite of their DEPRECATING PRESENTATION, these guys are actual doers who take actual real-life risks. FAT MIKE stuck his neck out and ultimately was not successful in ousting BUSH, but so what. he acted where his peer group historically only impotently reacts.
my hope is that this is not the end of the road for the band as a CREATIVE ENERY and that if FAT MIKE continues on a solo journey that his former bandmates are common characters along the way, because the band is UNIQUE and has effected change arguably more than any other MODERN PUNK band. this in spite of their TIRED on-stage dad jokes.
embedded below is a very recent DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes a playlist celebrating the career of the iconic SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK band NOFX. enjoy!
its one of those weird things about the 90s that arguably the RAWEST and most CUTTING, SELF-PUNISHING record of the decade was a CHAMBER POP album by a DIMINUTIVE and seemingly ANGELIC-presenting chanteuse, who was still in her teens, in singer-songwriter FIONA APPLE. her debut album TIDAL (COLUMBIA, 1996) found her lyrically shedding all socially and culturally constructed aspects of her FEMININITY to reveal a POWERFUL VOICE oozing with confidence while paradoxically wallowing in her own INSECURITIES, MISGIVINGS and CONTRADICTIONS. all this while the sound-bed layer of music is decidedly DELICATE with swells of LUSH, EXOTIC INSTRUMENTATION courtesy of JON BRION. it makes for one of the most DYNAMIC debut albums of that or any other decade.
i wasnt in the UNITED STATES back in 1996 as my family moved to NIGERIA that year and wasnt exposed to APPLE until i was well into college almost a decade later. by that point i was familiar with most of the major ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands of the period, both successful and those less so, but discovering APPLE was a bit of a revelation as i couldnt believe someone this singularly COURAGEOUS and SELF-OBLITERATING ran askew of my radar beforehand. in tracks such as "SHADOWBOXER," "SLEEP TO DREAM," "NEVER IS A PROMISE" and especially "CRIMINAL" you found a SELF-AWARE VOICE coming to terms with how society perceives her through the lens of GENDER and SEXUALITY while attempting to numb and shed those expectations. the fact that such BRUTAL self-observations, some related to SEXUAL ABUSE incurred as a minor, are conducted with such AIRY, LILTING MELODIES and matching DELICATE, UNOBTRUSIVE and decidedly SOPHISTICATED INSTRUMENTATION only augments the power of such. it was like a cross between the more SONICALLY LUSH and INTRICATE moments of peak BEACH BOYS circa PET SOUNDS (CAPITOL, 1966) with the OBSERVATIONAL SELF-ANNIHILATING acumen of a PATTI SMITH, MICHAEL STIPE, PJ HARVEY or LOU REED. its a COMPELLING dichotomy that i was not prepared for on first listen and instantly made me a long-term fan that has followed her IDIOSYNCRATIC career ever since.
and i think the OBVIOUS should be stated outright that WOMEN undoubtedly get it harder than men in the MUSIC INDUSTRY and society at large. they are judged against each other by their YOUTH and apparent BEAUTY, which is ultimately a DIMINISHING CULTURAL ASSET over time. men dont have to deal with this SEX OBJECT BULLSHIT at all, being perceived as amassing WISDOM and STATURE over time. across the ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY it is that rare actress or singer that can maintain an audience over time. for every MERYL STREEP and DOLLY PARTON there is a GEENA DAVIS and DEBBIE HARRY that has had to struggle to maintain visibility despite abundant TALENT and PAST ACCOLADES and PEER RECOGNITION. i feel strongly that right out of the gate APPLE was attempting to present a VOICE that transcended the UNFAIR societal and culturally imposed LIMITATIONS on her GENDER and competed with the boys at their own titled game. much like BJORK, L7, KATE BUSH, LORETTA LYNN, SINEAD O'CONNOR, CAT POWER, MARIANNE FAITHFUL, COURTNEY BARNETT, SLEATER-KINNEY, JONI MITCHELL, ELASTICA, CHELSEA WOLFE, LAURA NYRO, WANDA JACKSON, BETH ORTON, PATSY CLINE, COURTNEY LOVE, AMY WINEHOUSE and AIMEE MANN did before and after her, she is part of a long UNBROKEN lineage of FEMALE ARTISTS attempting to dismantle PATRIARCHAL estimations of their value as artists and buck the INDUSTRY in the process. i know its REDUCTIVE to speak about her GENDER in this manner, but this conversation feels INEVITABLE given the era and her impact on successive generations of musicians and songwriters (of all GENDER and GENDER EXPRESSIONS) such as SHARON VAN ETTEN, LORDE, TEGAN & SARA, KING PRINCESS, FLORENCE + THE MACHINE, VANESSA CARLTON, PERFUME GENIUS, KINGS OF CONVENIENCE, LILY ALLEN, FEIST, SOCCER MOMMY, MITSKI, REGINA SPEKTOR, BAT FOR LASHES, KATE NASH, ST. VINCENT AND LADY GAGA among many others.
TIDAL is absolutely required listening in my opinion. her work is INTEGRAL to a complete understanding of music in the 1990s. in fact, i'd take it a step further and state that APPLE's entire catalogue is absolutely worth checking out. enjoy.
with the resurgence in interest over the past two decades in VINYL as a MUSIC FORMAT, it was only time before CASSETTES had an equally unlikely renaissance in the modern digital era. at its heart, the CASSETTE: A DOCUMENTARY MIXTAPE (FIREGLORY PICTURES, 2016) film seeks to uncover and elucidate on the enduring ROMANTIC appeal of CASSETTE TAPE.
this begins with the history of the FORMAT itself, as the documentary interviews LOU OTTENS (RIP) of PHILIPS, a project manager who is credited with being the inventor of the CASSETTE TAPE (as well as a key developer of its replacement, the COMPACT DISC). the CASSETTE was meant to be a FOOLPROOF alternative to the REEL-TO-REEL TAPE, which had major consumer experience issues as they were prone to untangle and rip easily. what made it a TRANSCENDENT and REVOLUTIONARY PRODUCT was that the end user had the ability to record content accordingly; whether that be through an attached microphone or as part of an extended hi-fi system or boombox. the intentionality of the personal production of a MIXTAPE is what separates the FORMAT from all others: VINYL, 8-TRACK, COMPACT DISC, MP3, STREAMING, etc. whether it be a carefully curated MIXTAPE for a prospective love interest or a copy of a radio or live DJ set, it is that personal attachment to the content of the CASSETTE that makes it such an emotionally POWERFUL FORMAT.
this point was by various NOTABLE participating interviewees including HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG / S.O.A. / ROLLINS BAND), IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT / FUGAZI / DISCHORD RECORDS), DJ RED ALERT, DANIEL JOHNSTON, MIKE WATT (MINUTEMEN), THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), DAMIEN JURADO, ALLYSON BAKER (DIRTY GHOSTS), SARAH BETHE NELSON and ROB SHEFFIELD (ROLLING STONE) among others. in particular, ROLLINS showcases the TAPE collection he inherited from his dear friend / roommate / former BLACK FLAG roadie JOE COLE after he was murdered in their shared VENICE BEACH home. the collection had UNIMAGINABLE value as each TAPE is a veritable artifact that his deceased friend labored over and thought about intently while making. it even has his own handwriting. the value is not rooted in its technical ability to replicate HI-FIDELITY SOUND, but in its SENTIMENTAL and EMOTIONAL attachment to time, a community, a lost friend.
the big question of this film is how much NOSTALGIA plays into the resurgence in interest in CASSETTE TAPES. as the owner of COUNTLESS CASSETTE TAPES (with particular interest in 80s HARDCORE and 90s ALTERNATIVE HIP HOP) i dont know if id call it nostalgia. i have SPOTIFY and the beyond CONVENIENT ability to access virtually anything from my cell phone 24/7 so long as my coverage or wifi connection doesnt crap out. but as a fan of music there is a need, likely a psychological one, to have something material. CASSETTE TAPES despite their lesser SOUND QUALITY, are immensely COLLECTABLE and just fun to have and display. i spent much of my youth making MIXTAPES from the COMPACT DISCS of friends while living abroad in NIGERIA. i can remember the excitement of making CASSETTES from their copies FAITH NO MORE's ANGEL DUST (REPRISE, 1992), CYPRESS HILL's BLACK SUNDAY (COLUMBIA, 1993), ALICE IN CHAINS' FACELIFT (), 311's GRASSROOTS (CAPRICORN, 1994), WHITE ZOMBIE's ASTRO-CREEP: 2000 (GEFFEN, 1995) and disc one of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS' MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS (VIRGIN, 1995) on my bedroom AIWA sound system and having access to such on the bus ride to school the next day. literally when someone came back from an overseas trip, everyone made dubbed copies of their EXPANDED COMPACT DISC collection in rapid succession. that is a COMMUNAL experience of sorts that cant be duplicated on any other FORMAT. if anything we are more SEQUESTERED by the ISOLATING process of acquiring music now then before. and i do miss that.
so i dont think its nostalgia. and its interesting that OTTENS himself was not nostalgia about the FORMAT either, feeling that the adoption of technologically superior alternatives is to our collective benefit. but he does concede that the enduring appeal of the FORMAT is an emotional attachment rooted in our connection to each other as exemplified in the personally curated MIXTAPE.
i have a hard time arguing with on that. CASSETTE: A DOCUMENTARY MIXTAPE is a PROVOCATIVE and thoughtfully constructed film, yes like a MIXTAPE, that is very much well worth checking out. it really examines powerfully how CASSETTE TAPE as a FORMAT harness the deep INTIMACY of sound and somehow personalize it in a fashion hitherto unmatched then and now by its more technically superior alternatives. it also may be one of the few untapped vehicles of analog communication not prone to government surveillance or powerful data-scraping algorithms available. go home and think about that for a second.
there are some books that i feel like i was almost destined to appreciate and HUBERT SELBY JR.'s debut novel LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN (GROVE PRESS, 1964) is undoubtedly one of them. for starters, its second chapter was the namesake for THE SMITHS' celebrated third album THE QUEEN IS DEAD (ROUGH TRADE, 1986). the novel basically confronts the reader with six vignettes of UNDERGROUND LIFE along the docks in BROOKLYN and the FORGOTTEN and UNACKNOWLEDGED COMMUNITIES that inhabit this LAWLESS expanse that are in a suspended state from mainstream AMERICA. these include TRANSGENDER SEX WORKERS, LABOR UNION OFFICIALS, DRAG QUEENS, SAILORS, HOMOSEXUALS, DOCK WORKERS and JUNKIES all scrambling and struggling to make their way in life. as with all SELBY novels, most major characters are on a steady decline, some falling victim to their own HUBRIS and AMBITION, while others fall prey to lost HOPE, ADDICTION and so on. LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN is no different with regards to this CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT quirk with nothing less than the AMERICAN DREAM seemingly on trial for the fraud that it is for these LOST COMMUNITIES.
i read LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN my senior year of high school and was taken aback by how RAW and TRANSGRESSIVE it was. that is not to say that SELBY did not exhibit immense EMPATHY and COMPASSION for his characters, but the acts showcased within are just so EXTREME. i cannot recall another book that has gang-rape in it. maybe you can, but i just cant. but the novel seems to be conveying a MENTALITY and WAY-OF-LIVING that is the very UNDERBELLY of AMERICAN CAPITALISM in which people are paying the price for our COLLECTIVE CONVENIENCE. the docks themselves represent an area in limbo, both ECONOMIC and PSYCHOLOGICAL. it is literally where foreign and domestic markets converge and everything has a price levied on it. where VALUE is assessed which is the lifeblood and heartbeat of MARKET CAPITALISM. SELBY just recognizes that the merchandise that is up for exchange in these regions includes people and all matters of VICE and HUMAN FRAILTY. these FORGOTTEN COMMUNITIES are in essence culturally TABOO and thus are beset by VIOLENCE and immense personal SUFFERING, all virtually in private, as a result of our collective inability to recognize our SHARED HUMANITY and look past our own QUIXOTIC notions of what reality actually consists of. it is the perfect metaphor for AMERICAN life in general, since these areas and people are so paramount to the health of the larger superstructure, yet UNEXAMINED and largely UNCONSIDERED in any meaningful detail. this is the sort of thing i have witnessed overseas my whole life, whether such be an UNDER-VENTILATED, OVER-CROWDED NIKE factory in CAMBODIA built next to the BURNED-DOWN and ABANDONED one next door or witnessing firsthand as a teenager the international opiate trade in NIGERIA. TRADE, CAPITALISM and the PROFIT MOTIVATION in the end degrades us all, just like it was presented nearly sixty years ago in LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN.
as a former high school english teacher, i always delighted in SELBY's IDIOSYNCRATIC and wholly NOVEL use of GRAMMAR and SYNTAX. he basically does away with COMMAS (,) and APOSTROPHES (') and replaces them with SLASHES (/). if someone passionately and angrily yells out a piece of DIALOGUE, he just writes it in ALL CAPS (FUCK YOU), which is oddly LOGICAL and makes sense it today's MODERN PHONE TEXTING CULTURE. my personal favorite quirk is SELBY's complete disregarding of the common convention of tagging a speaker after DIALOGUE (i.e. he/she said). this is confusing at first but his characters are so MEMORABLE and DYNAMIC that it becomes obvious rather quickly who is say what, which is an INTRIGUING technical accomplishment. i just appreciate anyone who can bend LANGUAGE and LITERARY CONVENTIONS to meet their needs and EXPECTATIONS and not the other way around, which often feels the case. sometimes i feel writers are just creating with their audience too much at front-of-mind. i love how SELBY lovingly disregards his reader and thereby paradoxically elevates them and assumes their INDIVIDUAL INTELLIGENCE in the exchange.
to mention LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN means i have to acknowledge the fact that it did court CONTROVERSY upon its release and was even the center of an obscenity trial in ENGLAND. this book, along with the rest of SELBY's catalogue, is absolutely meant for a mature audience with the ability to see past what are INTENSE descriptions of EXTREME situations and recognize the deeper fear of the DIRE consequences that come when we look past each other's INHERENT VALUE and SHARED HUMANITY and see only an INSTRUMENTAL means to an end such as PROFIT CREATION or SEXUAL EXPLOITATION. furthermore such objectives seem to be the very point in a CAPITALIST SOCIETY where literally everything and everyone is for sale. it is my belief that SELBY is presenting people struggling to hold onto their core sense of IDENTITY, of an INNER PURITY despite being victim to this hell-scape that is AMERICAN CONSUMERISM along the docks of BROOKLYN.
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN is a LEGENDARY cult novel that is deserving, much like its equally UNCOMPROMISINGLY BRUTAL ULI EDEL-directed cinematic adaptation, of a much larger audience. required reading in my opinion.
this is pretty COOL. LA BESTIA TV is a live performance series recorded and filmed at the headquarters and event space of the MEXICO CITY internet radio station LA BESTIA RADIO. the ongoing series is only a few years old and has highlighted both INSPIRED SPANISH-language (CAROLINA DURANTE, TRIANGULO DE AMOR BIZARRO) and ENGLISH-language (A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS, NOTHING, THE BLACK ANGELS) INDIE ROCK talent, both of the decidedly EXPERIMENTAL variety.
i live for discovering this sort of thing. LA BESTIA TV is most definitely worth checking out and keeping an eye out for future episodes.
seriously, that GUITAR TONE!
not sure what else to say other than guitarist LESLIE WEST has one of the THICKEST, NASTIEST, TASTIEST and downright GNARLIEST tones in recorded ROCK AND ROLL history as evidenced on his band MOUNTAIN's debut album CLIMBING! (WINDFALL, 1970). i remember the first time hearing that ICONIC intro guitar lead in "MISSISSIPPI QUEEN" blasting from the stereo of my father's car stereo as a child. it was OTHERWORLDLY and completely TRANSPORTIVE to another psychic dimension of existence. it also had GROOVE and deep sense of DELTA BLUES SWING to it, as if it had emerged fully-formed from the SWAMPY depths of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER. it wasnt until my late 20s that i learned that WEST was in fact from the TRI-STATE area, which seemed unbelievable to me at the time.
for years previous to CLIMBING!, WEST was involved in the INFLUENTIAL 1960s COUNTERCULTURE scene emanating form the GREENWICH VILLAGE. before his passing, WEST even spoke about this era on HOWARD STERN's radio show about an IMPROVISATIONAL jam with JIMI HENDRIX on bass at a small club. with everything calcified and formatted now with CLASSIC ROCK labels, its INTRIGUING to think about how FLUID and almost JAZZ-like things were back then in terms of impromptu collaborations without concern for commercial implications. that sort of thing would now be rehearsed and planned out in advance out of fear of shitty cell phone camera footage uploaded for posterity. just a different era.
other STANDOUT tracks besides the LEGENDARY "MISSISSIPPI QUEEN" include "NEVER IN MY LIFE" and "THEME FROM AN IMAGINARY WESTERN" with all share the DNA of those EXPANSIVE riffs with that inimitably MASSIVE P-90 PICKUP TONE through a GIBSON LES PAUL JR and SUNN COLISEUM amplifiers that is so indelibly embedded in the hearts and minds of generations of ROCK AND ROLL enthusiasts.
there is a reason WEST is so BELOVED and especially this record as songs from CLIMBING! have been covered the years by everyone from UFO, ACE FREHLEY and VAN HALEN to MINISTRY, OZZY OSBOURNE and even the late comedian SAM KINISON. to me his SINGULAR GUITAR TONE is the very EMBODIMENT and SPIRIT of ROCK AND ROLL bar none. cant help but listen and smile.
i first became aware of the BRITISH producer MURA MASA a few years back when i was living in JAPAN. i came across his highly INFECTIOUS yet decidedly MINIMALIST instrumental for the "1 NIGHT" track he produced as a collaboration with ENGLISH singer-songwriter CHARLI XCX. the spare, SKELETAL production on that song was EVOCATIVE and ever so slightly MELANCHOLIC and definitely made me seek out his work moving forward, including his two STELLAR albums MURA MASA (POLYDOR, 2017) and R.Y.C. (POLYDOR, 2020).
dude is beyond CUTTING-EDGE and effectively GENRE-LESS. can't wait to see what he cooks up next. MURA MASA is definitely worth checking out.
with the loss of the GENERATIONALLY-TALENTED VIRTOUSO GUITAR PLAYER and SONGWRITER EDDIE VAN HALEN from cancer back in late 2020 just a few months into the GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, i still wonder and deep down dont believe the MUSIC COMMUNITY yet has come to terms with his PASSING. much as was the case with other NOTABLE FALLEN MUSICIANS in recent years like PRINCE, TOM PETTY and DAVID BOWIE, EDDIE was something of a cultural touchstone. his very name seemingly evokes a JOYOUS state or frame of mind.
my introduction to EDDIE and his namesake band was the film BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE () when the two ASPIRING SAN DIMAS MUSICIANS have a logically CIRCUITOUS argument about needing a TRIUMPHANT music video to get EDDIE in their band, but then also needing EDDIE to make their music video TRIUMPHANT. and there is a logic there. for me the MUSICIAN and VAN HALEN the band represent a kind of UNBRIDLED EXUBERANCE and ENTHUSIASM for living and enjoying life to the fullest. when i hear their music while driving, much like with AC/DC or JUDAS PRIEST, i have to be careful because often i find my speedometer creeping ever northward without even consciously thinking about it. to me VAN HALEN is the embodiment and spirit of JOY. do they come off decidedly CHEESY at times? oh definitely. but that to me is part of their appeal. i dont think DAVID LEE ROTH and company were worried about being COOL, i think they were more worried about being the center of attention.
yes EDDIE was a PRETERNATURALLY-GIFTED musician with INNOVATIVE techniques that left a permanent mark on the vocabulary of guitar-based music like few MUSICIANS outside of JIMI HENDRIX. his example inspired a whole generation of FLOURISHING guitar talent in the 1980s ranging from GEORGE LYNCH (DOKKEN, LYNCH MOB) and WARREN DEMARTINI (RATT) to NUNO BETTENCOURT (EXTREME), PAUL GILBERT (MR. BIG / RACER X) and even his late rival RANDY RHOADS (QUIET RIOT, OZZY OSBOURNE). look no further in the 1990s than ZAKK WYLDE (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY), TOM MORELLO (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE), JOHN 5 (MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE) and the late DIMEBAG DARRELL (PANTERA, DAMAGEPLAN). but i feel he is still UNDERRATED when people just limit his legacy to being on a very short list of GREATEST GUITAR PLAYERS whoever lived. i believe he also was a STELLAR SONGWRITER who had ARRANGING CHOPS and a FINE EAR FOR PRODUCTION like few of his peers (matched or exceeded arguably only by PRINCE). its one thing to be a TECHNICAL WIZARD on your instrument (just look at BORING VIRTOUSOS like YNGIE MALMSTEEN, JASON BECKER, JOE SATRIANI, MARTY FRIEDMAN, STEVE VAI and JOHN PETTRUCI), but it is another entirely to create MEMORABLE guitar moments in songs that are beloved by music fans CHERISHED and internalized as an INTIMATE soundtrack to their lives. i think the latter is where EDDIE's genius truly lied. i know for me his music is synonymous with a certain CASUAL LIFESTYLE and GOOD TIME MENTALITY that originated from my former home community in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. id argue the music of VAN HALEN, like that of THE BEACH BOYS, JANE'S ADDICTION, THE DOORS, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and GUNS N' ROSES, basically is CALIFORNIA. end stop.
maybe i am old and not paying close enough attention, but it is my understanding that nothing has emerged in that lineage of CELEBRATED SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA bands since his PASSING. here is to hoping that he is not the end of an era and that the party will continue unabated in perpetuity.
embedded below is an early DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes a playlist celebrating the AMAZING LOS ANGELES ROCK AND ROLL band VAN HALEN. and this is all DAVID LEE ROTH-era VAN HALEN, absolutely no VAN HAGAR! enjoy!