being from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, i feel predisposed to idol worship bordering on the HYPERBOLIC regarding BRIAN WILSON and his SINGULAR achievement in conceiving and producing THE BEACH BOYS' REVOLUTIONARY PET SOUNDS (CAPITOL, 1966) album. tracks like "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE," "GOD ONLY KNOWS," "I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES," "HANG ON TO YOUR EGO" and THE KINGSTON TRIO cover "SLOOP JOHN B" are not just the sound of my formative years in CALIFORNIA, but also ive imagined a link to a HALCYON era of musical culture and EXPANDED consciousness that happened in that state long before i arrived.
and i know the reality was not that case. previous to PET SOUNDS, WILSON had had suffered a mental breakdown on tour and effectively became a hermit / homebody back home. while the rest of the band stayed on tour, he spent that time writing and constructing the new record by exploring the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT in very much the same vein of PIONEERING WALL OF SOUND producer / engineer PHIL SPECTOR. in fact, he employed similar production techniques and even the same seasoned team of studio musicians, THE WRECKING CREW, to quickly make sense of his EXPANDED orchestrations and to help manifest what he had imagined into reality. this ALCHEMY of PRODUCTION, SONGWRITING and CHEMISTRY is what makes PET SOUNDS such a CREATIVE experience and arguably as RELEVANT as ever.
much has been made about the mutual admiration society that was THE BEATLES and BRIAN WILSON, but just that sentence alone showcases that WILSON alone for a moment was on par with arguably the most SIGNIFICANT songwriting partnership of the twentieth century. the example of PET SOUNDS spurred a creative spark in JOHN LENNON and PAUL MCCARTNEY, along with producer GEORGE MARTIN, to dive deeper into EXPERIMENTAL territory with INNOVATIVE sonic studio manipulations to create what is arguably their magnum opus SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (PARLOPHONE, 1967). rarified air indeed.
makes you wonder what WILSON could have done with proper support system or writing partner on his level. or maybe not. WILSON seems to be a world in of himself. most people dont know this, but much of the lyrical content of PET SOUNDS was cowritten with an advertising copywriter named TONY ASHER, who previously had been writing television jingles for MATTEL. cant make this up. the EXPANSIVE composed harmonies and LUSH studio orchestrations are held down with SUCCINCT observations on the nature of love and relationships in ICONIC songs like "WOULDN'T IT BE NICE," "CAROLINE, NO" and "GOD ONLY KNOWS" as well as perceived social alienation in "I JUST WASN'T MADE FOR THESE TIMES." that push-and-pull interplay between the lyrically direct and the musically opaque is absolutely MAGICAL. in fact, some would even argue SPIRITUAL. ive long had a hard time accepting outright RELIGIOSITY in music, as many times it comes off heavy-handed or self-lionizing in practice, but there are exceptions (PRINCE, BOB MARLEY, KENDRICK LAMAR, THE BYRDS, U2, STEVIE WONDER, A$AP ROCKY, LEONARD COHEN) and PET SOUNDS is one. the music is just so transcendently EXUBERANT, JOYOUS and SOUL-AFFIRMING that even without lyrics it could be argued that such is SPIRITUAL in nature on its own.
i know people that say PET SOUNDS is OVERHYPED. they're wrong. this record is well worth checking out with repeat listens throughout your life. a SINGULAR achievement by a SINGULAR artist.
for years i had a vague association of what i understood to be the obscure 1980s highly IDIOSYNCRATIC communal art project/quasi-religious/cult parody THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS with some of my favorite artists including DEVO and PAUL REUBENS (of PEE WEE's PLAYHOUSE fame), but beyond that i knew very little. so i was thrilled to watch the recent JR "BOB" DOBBS & THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS (DARK STAR, 2020) documentary and learn more about its origin, intent and its two main architects/accomplices IVAN STANG and PHILO DRUMMOND. i really had no idea that there was a whole community of likeminded artists including filmmakers ALEX COX (REPO MAN, SID & NANCY) and RICHARD LINKLATER (DAZED & CONFUSED, SLACKERS), cartoonists R. CRUMB and MATT GROENING (THE SIMPSONS), actor NICK OFFERMAN (PARKS & RECREATION), philosopher ROBERT ANTON WILSON, magicians PENN & TELLER and musicians DAVID BYRNE, THE RESIDENTS and FRANK ZAPPA among many others.
from what i could gather from the film, for all of the parodied RHETORICAL FLOURISHES, CADENCES, MANNERISMS and cyclical SELF-REFERENTIAL LOGIC that defines TELEVANGELISM, there is a value to the effort. at its core the whole endeavor seems to be about COMMUNICATION and COMMUNITY BUILDING. not for money or a RELIGIOUS SOCIOPOLITICAL EXPANSIONIST AGENDA, but seemingly for unfettered SELF-EXPRESSION and the search for SELF-GENERATIVE MEANING. of course by playing with the "us versus them" vocabulary and SELF-AGGRANDIZING MYTHOLOGIZED IDEOLOGY routinely utilized by CULTS and religious sects, they ran the risk of being treated like a cult or new religious sect by the population. or worse, converts. what makes this film interesting is how STANG and DRUMMOND navigate those waters of maintaining a parody religion over time, especially when things get hairy, as in the aftermath of 9/11 and the later rise of DONALD TRUMP. at those points irony was dead and the CYNICISM apparent in the population had seemingly far exceed the parodies and gentle prodding of THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS. during these periods the MANUFACTURING OF CONSENT and TRIBAL SECTARIANISM in the population through internet-enabled PROPAGANDA made for a DYSTOPIAN REALITY indeed.
at one point is the joke not funny anymore and essentially LIFE IMITATES ART.
im happy that the film ends with the two founders MOVING FORWARD and EVOLVING with the times. it makes me feel that that instinct to PROD, REJECT, LAUGH, PARODY, INVESTIGATE and ultimately THINK is an ART unto itself and when that is ability is given over to an AUTHORITY FIGURE, that is when it all ends. lights out. so im glad that the film closes with them not giving in to TRUMP. because sometimes i fear i have.
JR "BOB" DOBBS & THE CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS is definitely a strange film but well worth checking out, whether or not you are a genius or a subgenius.
YOU ARE THERE (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2009) is a KIM THOMPSON english translation of the deeply SATIRICAL FRENCH serial ICI MEME, which was a legendary 1978 collaboration between notable FRENCH illustrators JACQUES TARDI (IT WAS THE WAR OF THE TRENCHES) and JEAN-CLAUDE FOREST (BARBARELLA). it is often credited with spearheading the modern EUROPEAN graphic novel movement in the 1980s.
the narrative deals with the PECULIAR protagonist ARTHUR THERE, who ODDLY lives on the INTECONNECTED walls that divide the land of his ancestors. generations before they have had it stolen by the antecedents of the current landowners and the unusual arrangement is that THERE opens the gates that give these families access to their properties. in return he charges a small toll for the effort. a consistent theme throughout includes the INTERACTION that borders on PLAY in HUMAN CONNECTION and ISOLATION. THERE by definition provides access and CONNECTION for the inhabitants of the region but he himself is situated ALONE OUTSIDE SOCIETY. he is paradoxically an inert gas as well as an enzyme at the same time, figuratively. THERE is in the middle of a lawsuit over his stolen lands which ABSURDLY finds the region caught up in a national PSYCHODRAMA/POWER STRUGGLE by a leader with low poll numbers before an ELECTION. since technically the land THERE controls is its own self-determined state, this POLITICIAN seeks to reinstate him as a ploy to rally voters to support him.
its an ABSURD plot with ABSURD characters, many of whom i am glancing over, but at the heart is a FATALISTIC, almost EXISTENTIAL, view of the FRAILTY and IMPOTENCY of humans to AFFECT CHANGE in the world. ABSTRACT concepts like DEATH, LOVE, JUSTICE, MONEY, COMMUNITY and even HEALTH are seen as distractions that dont provide meaning in a cosmos that has no rhyme or reason to it, even for a CONFUSED, HALF-MAD protagonist. the whims of HISTORY is seen as a wave that carries us all with it and we have no capacity to alter or fundamentally affect change in any meaningful manner beyond the fringes. this DIRE perspective feels incredibly OF-THE-MOMENT given the FRAIL STATE of global democracy (ala JANUARY 6TH INSURRECTION), threatened nuclear war (with RUSSIA) and the collapse of trust in the AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM given the recent DOBBS V. JACKSON WOMEN'S HEALTH ORGANIZATION decision.
i feel like THERE. i escape to my own REALITY. that is probably why i read books at the rate i do. i think its hard not read this graphic novel and think about the gatekeepers to our own INTERACTIONS with each other (SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, POLITICIANS, INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS) and their own AGENDA in that exchange.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the mercurial BRITISH METALCORE outfit BRING ME THE HORIZON!
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i was in my sophomore year of boarding school in NEW ENGLAND when the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS released NO. 4 (ATLANTIC, 1999) and i can vividly remember how excited i was specifically when the first single "DOWN" came out. to me it felt like a return to the harder-edged PSYCHEDELIC sound of CORE (review linked HERE) and PURPLE (review linked HERE) minus the POWER POP experimentation of TINY MUSIC...SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (review linked HERE). for some this felt like a capitulation to the marketplace and an end to their progressively more UNORTHODOX ALTERNATIVE ROCK offerings, but in the end its a small miracle that this album even existed.
case in point, conflicted frontman SCOTT WEILAND went to jail for a narcotics probation violation not long after its release which resulted in the band not being able to tour for months on end. at this point in their career, the long-frustrated rhythm section had attempted the year before to move past WEILAND with their TALK SHOW project, only to be met with indifference and a relative commercial failure. for better or worse they were married in the public eye to WEILAND and this rocky back-and-forth lasted throughout the rest of their partnership for two more records. standout tracks include PROPULSIVE rockers like the aforementioned "DOWN" as well as "NO WAY OUT," "CHURCH ON TUESDAY," "MC5" and "PRUNO" and moodier ballads like "SOUR GIRL" and "ATLANTA."
looking back at this record after more than two decades, the highlight undoubtedly is "ATLANTA" which has one of the most effecting vocal performances WEILAND ever conjured up. say what you will about him as a person and his STRAINED, even DOOMED, relationships with his family and musical partners sacrificed at the altar of DRUG ADDICTION, but the guy was genuinely TALENTED. and he often does not get credit for such the way direct peers like LAYNE STALEY, EDDIE VEDDER, CHRIS CORNELL, SHANNON HOON or even KURT COBAIN did as lyricists and vocalists. "ATLANTA" would be 'Exhibit A' for my argument for why he should be considered in that top echelon of gifted ALTERNATIVE ROCK singers.
NO. 4 is probably the last in a string of SEMINAL STONE TEMPLE PILOTS releases, subsequent recordings seemed more like business arrangements of convenience in the wake of WEILAND's crash-and-burn trajectory with side-project VELVET REVOLVER and each had diminishing returns. which is sad. the DELEO BROTHERS deserved better as did the fans but ultimately WEILAND's drug addiction conquered all. but we are left with this stellar effort that topped off a great run. highly recommended.
CHECK OUT THIS BAND | MAC SABBATH
parody cover bands are always hit or miss. for every DREAD ZEPPELIN, RICHARD CHEESE, STEEL PANTHER, THE RUTLES or "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC who locate a thoughtful new wrinkle in an established genre's sound or a prominent band's catalogue, there are countless stultifying lame attempts too numerous and worthless to even mention by name.
coming across MAC SABBATH recently i think this may be one of the most COMPELLING and THOUGHT-PROVOKING parody bands ever: an OZZY OSBOURNE-era BLACK SABBATH cover band whose soul mission is to warn against the societal danger that is fast food. so far the "SWEET BEEF" song and video is the high-watermark and most SUCCESSFUL expression of their viewpoint, but i cant wait for more from RONALD OSBOURNE, SLAYER MACCHEESE, GRIMALICE and CATBURGLAR in the coming years.
dude, the guitarist's name is SLAYER MACCHEESE and the drummer has a costume that is PETER CRISS of KISS as the HAMBURGLAR. what is not to like? this is literally too good to be true. MAC SABBATH is highly recommended and most definitely worth checking out.
my listening habits are a MYSTERY to me. i feel like i spend a lot of time and effort seeking out new sounds online by finding what i consider INNOVATIVE musicians pushing SONG STRUCTURE and SONIC TEXTURE forward with CREATIVE JUXTAPOSITIONS and COMPOSITIONS. even getting out the word on such is the idea behind the CHECK OUT THIS BAND blog segment i publish every friday.
but i always seem to inevitably return to OASIS.
as far out on the deep end i get there is something MAGICAL about the MEAT-AND-POTATOES AESTHETIC SIMPLICITY of a STELLAR NOEL GALLAGHER-penned track. notorious for wearing their influences on their sleeve (THE KINKS, T. REX, THE WHO, THE ROLLING STONES, DAVID BOWIE, THE JAM, THE SMITHS, THE STONE ROSES and of course THE BEATLES), there is a PALPABLE sense of UNADULTERATED POP TRADITIONALISM when listening to an OASIS song. its like they took those CHORD and SONG STRUCTURES and wrote better songs with more ATTITUDE (courtesy of ICONIC frontman LIAM GALLAGHER). im constantly reminded of the U2 song "EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING" when thinking about OASIS. ORIGINALITY and INNOVATION is beside the point. its kind of a distraction from what actually matters, which is the SONG. OASIS write and perform the best songs. period.
for me its a cycle i go through. one minute searching for something FRESH and INVENTIVE and then ultimately coming to the conclusion that OASIS got it right the first time. no real need to look elsewhere. and man do i wish theyd reform already. i need to see them play an arena at least once in my life. here's still hoping.
i remember years ago reading an interview with PUBLIC ENEMY's CHUCK D where he stated that "RAP is BLACK AMERICA's CNN." that was sort of the vibe when i first came across the DIE FOR THE GOVERNMENT (NEW RED ARCHIVES, 1996) album by PITTSBURGH's unapologetically politically PROGRESSIVE PUNK ROCK band ANTI-FLAG. it seemed like every other song was a report on the state of the PUNK community writ large. CATCHY songs like "DRINK DRANK PUNK," "RED WHITE AND BRAINWASH," "PUNK BY THE BOOK," "FUCK POLICE BRUTALITY," "POLICE STATE IN THE USA" and of course "DIE FOR THE GOVERNMENT" were all ECONOMICALLY CONSTRUCTED for maximum sonic and lyrical potency a la THE RAMONES.
getting into ANTI-FLAG was not that much of reach when i learned about them from a friend my junior year in high school while living in KUWAIT. i was literally surrounded by an alien culture that was AGGRESSIVELY UNWELCOMING to the point of antagonism and shared little in the way of common values. attending high school in KUWAIT was pretty miserable. the country disallowed anyone of JEWISH descent a visa so anti-semitism was pretty rampant as well as open racism against foreign workers from NEPAL, INDIA, SUDAN, INDONESIA and so on. and forget about any mention of homosexuality or recognition of religions outside of CHRISTIANITY and ISLAM. i quoted BUDDHA in a few of my term papers in english class and my teacher literally had to burn the paper after grading it, less she get found out by the authorities for allowing me to reference him on record and get her work visa revoked.
for ANTI-FLAG, they were earnestly and passionately singing about the perils of AMERICAN democracy and the hypocrisy of its ECONOMIC, POLITICAL and CULTURAL HEGEMONY. i understood that. but i was living in a what actually felt like a police state, where going out with my friends came with actual risk because of who we were and what we represented to a society irrevocably warped by RELIGION, POWER and (lots of) MONEY. the DEBAUCHERY and DEBASEMENT i witnessed as an upperclassman is something i still think about to this day. i wont go into specifics in this forum.
i guess what i am trying to say is that it felt like i was living through what ANTI-FLAG was only imagining. in retrospect i think they were limited in form and content by veering so hard towards TRADITIONAL PUNK ROCK REVIVALISM on those first few records and have been happy to see that they evolved out of such over the years, becoming more MELODIC and SONG-DRIVEN. my early sense was that frontman JUSTIN SANE was a talented songwriter, but being so fanatically beholden to a certain STRUCTURE and VIEWPOINT made them a little STALE and DERIVATIVE a la THE CLASH in later years.
outside of its CAUSTIC and RIGHTEOUS energy, i dont know if DIE FOR THE GOVERMENT has aged well but it takes me right back to feeling ALIENATED and OSTRACIZED as a teenager living abroad in the MIDDLE EAST. even today i dont look back at that time fondly. literally just glad i survived.
much has been discussed, CELEBRATED and parsed out regarding the generational GLOBAL CULTURAL PHENOMENON that as THE BEATLES, so it is always interesting when a recent documentary takes a stab at a narrative most fans feel they already have a handle on. RON HOWARD's THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK - THE TOURING YEARS (APPLE CORPS, 2016) as its title suggests is concerned with the influence that their live performances had on the band's state of mind and thus their CREATIVE MINDSET up through their last touring performance in 1966 (famously the band did a one-off final performance in 1969 from the rooftop of their LONDON APPLE CORPS office to a film crew, coworkers and unsuspecting bystanders).
in essence their two major stateside touring cycles that saw them play to FANATICALLY ENTHUSIASTIC crowds, first in theaters and later in stadiums, drained the band. though immensely FINANCIALLY LUCRATIVE (as the band made relatively little from their lopsided record deal), these live gigs due to the feverishly impassioned teenage crowds quickly became an UNCONTROLLABLE CIRCUS. they played through terrible PAs and could barely hear themselves on stage. adroitly the RON HOWARD-directed film picks up on the powder keg of a POLITICAL, SOCIAL and CULTURAL MOMENT that was the UNITED STATES in the mid 1960s in the wake of the JFK assassination, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT and the VIETNAM WAR. in a sense THE BEATLES found themselves having to deal with issues such as CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS manipulating their words in bad faith with sinister ulterior motives and SEGREGATION at shows in the AMERICAN SOUTH. i never knew that THE BEATLES refused to play a series of dates starting in FLORIDA id they did not integrate the crowd. those shows were historically the first integrated events at those football stadiums, which is INCREDIBLE.
luckily for the band members, they experienced all of this as a group. unlike say ELVIS PRESLEY who went through similar cultural heights all alone. the band kept each other grounded and when they made a decision as a group they stuck together on such. they essentially EMPOWERED themselves with the further assistance of like-minded manager BRIAN EPSTEIN, who had their best interests at heart. that PRESSURE-COOKER live atmosphere of their gigs led to them developing an INTIMATE sense of group cohesion that led to a deep focus when entering the studio. for them the studio was a place of respite from the press and outside obligations. it was a site of CREATIVITY and COLLABORATION.
the push and pull of the road and the studio is something i hadnt considered before. post 1966 the band abandoned live gigs and dove headfirst into expanding their sonic and conceptual palette into a string of records that basically defined their lasting impact on WORLD CULTURE.
just seems TRAGIC in a way that their stateside live gigs where such a DANGEROUS and ultimately UNFULFILLING affair for the band on nearly every level. seems a bit of a WASTE.
BOOK REVIEW | "LOVE IS A MIX TAPE: LIFE AND LOSS, ONE SONG AT A TIME" BY ROB SHEFFIELD
im always taken by how much of my understanding of LITERATURE, ART and MUSIC is a result of my SOCIAL INTERACTIONS over the years. whether that be through family, friends, coworkers or brief acquaintances over the years; in essence my appreciation of such is a direct consequence of a SOCIALIZING CONTEXT at a certain period in my life.
in my estimation, ROLLING STONE editor ROB SHEFFIELD in his memoir LOVE IS A MIX TAPE: LIFE AND LOSS, ONE SONG AT A TIME (CROWN, 2007) is very much about that personal and largely intractable ritual of MUSIC being socially contextualized and identified with those around us whom we cherish the most. in his case, MUSIC is the tie that binds him to the MEMORY of his late wife RENEE. and initially while going through stages of GRIEF that connection with all of its INTRICATE CODED INTIMACIES and unspoken acknowledgements was absolutely SUFFOCATING. MUSIC, new and old, were reminders of a LOST POTENTIAL. a MISSED OPPORTUNITY to foster a deeper connection. its quite the TRAUMATIC narrative and makes one consider what MUSIC is attached to people in your life right now and how such would be TRANSFORMED once that loved one has passed on.
ultimately SHEFFIELD moves out of the rural VIRGINIA college town of CHARLOTTESVILLE for BROOKLYN and discovers new sounds and makes new CONNECTIONS while not forgetting his past, but acknowledging these past BITTERSWEET MUSIAL attachments. which is something is his wife would have wanted.
i always felt that with MUSIC a big part of the cycle is the listening experience. artists create MUSIC, but the listener by the very act of consuming it, in fact transforms it. the listener creates meaning through appreciating a sound. SHEFFIELD argues that love is a mixtape and is that but a TACTILE artifact with a NEW TRACK-LISTING, a NEW ORDER, a NEW MEANING. human attachment and LOVE is as much about that narrative we curate in our hearts and minds related to those we cherish as it is about the actual events themselves. each of us individual create our own meaning. its nice that SHEFFIELD at the closing of the memoir decided to leave his heart open to new events as well, allowing that process of LIVING, PROCESSING and CONNECTING to continue.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the AVANT GARDE POP innovators STEREOLAB!
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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for all the (deserved) attention and recognition that EDDIE VAN HALEN gets for his blazingly REVOLUTIONARY technical achievements on his instrument (as evidenced in "ERUPTION"), what often gets lost in the process is how damn CATCHY the debut VAN HALEN (WARNER BROS, 1978) record actually is. the whole album is one banger after another with CLASSIC singles like "RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVIL," "AIN'T TALKIN' 'BOUT LOVE" and "JAMIE'S CRYIN'" as well as lesser known deep cuts like "I'M THE ONE," "LITTLE DREAMER," and "ATOMIC PUNK." even the cover songs are ICONIC, i.e. THE KINKS' "YOU REALLY GOT ME" and JOHN CHARLES BRIM's "ICE CREAM MAN." this is one hell of a debut and it makes sense that other groups throughout the next decade chased its immense allure and formula to ever diminishing returns throughout the GLAM METAL era.
and i feel strongly that despite the band's moniker and EDDIE's status as a guitar god of the first order, the success of the actual group is the result of a unique chemistry made up of four musicians who each contribute to a whole that is far beyond the sum of its parts. there is definitely some interesting alchemy at play here the arguably only other TRANSFORMATIVE acts like THE BEATLES, KRAFTWERK, THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE, DAVID BOWIE or (much later) APHEX TWIN had tasted such rarified air.
take bassist MICHAEL ANTHONY who is debatably the weakest musician in the band whose bass-lines are rudimentary at best, his backing vocals which hit the high notes in a three-part harmony with EDDIE and singer DAVID LEE ROTH are as instrumental to the VAN HALEN sound as anything guitar-related. drummer ALEX VAN HALEN (EDDIE's brother) is as much of a prodigy on the drums as EDDIE on guitar and the duo very much is the LEGENDARY core of VAN HALEN and one of the great rhythm sections in ROCK AND ROLL history. its no wonder that later brothers like VINNIE and DARRELL ABBOT of PANTERA looked towards the VAN HALEN BROTHERS as standard-bearers decades on. the aforementioned ROTH is one of the great frontman of all-time, whose limited vocal range did not deter his ambitions for world domination through sheer CHARISMA and CHUTZPAH to match. the fact that his persona proved so successful is almost PUNK ROCK and DIY in retrospect since the dude is absolutely SELF-MADE. people forget but in their formative years, the band played literally anywhere and everywhere in the greater LOS ANGELES area and had a repertoire of nearly every music genre, which only cemented their on-stage chemistry and technical dexterity alike.
and then there is EDDIE. its one thing to be a VIRTUOSO player with a seemingly limitless knowledge of theory and technique, but entirely another to have the creative capacity and gift to write MEMORABLE songs. EDDIE was both. his crossover adoption of technique associated with CLASSICAL MUSIC (i.e. two-handed tapping on violin) established him as an innovator who expanded the technical vocabulary of what was possible on guitar in a ROCK AND ROLL context, but what made it relevant was how that new texture was utilized as a new emotional palette in song-form. i feel such is key in understanding his brilliance. when i hear a VAN HALEN solo it never feels excessive or overbearing, unlike many of his VIRTUOSO peers and later acolytes. his solos feel solely based in the song at hand and are often expanding on a theme and/or emotion therein. for me that innate ability to intuit such complicated musical terrain and have it musically come of not just cohesive, but emotionally satisfying is what makes him so singularly special.
if you are not familiar with the debut VAN HALEN record, definitely check it out. regardless of your affinity for what came after it, this record is a ROCK AND ROLL goldmine and well worth investigation.
CHECK OUT THIS ARTIST | ORCHID MANTIS
im really digging the EXPERIMENTAL, LO-FI, almost TRIP HOP-y, sound collages of ATLANTA-based THOMAS HOWARD and his AMBIENT found sound project ORCHID MANTIS. there is a definite HAZY, FREEFORM quality to his work that meanders like DAYDREAM that feels almost nostalgic without being trapped or defined by any tangible set of memories or geography. its an interesting dynamic and quite the achievement.
HOWARD has put together a unique body of work and is well worth checking out.
theres been talk of a PANTERA "reunion" as the METAL band's stature and legend has ballooned in the intervening years since guitarist DIMEBAG DARRELL's SENSELESS and SHOCKING on-stage murder in OHIO in 2004. you look at all the major bands that have come to prominence in their wake (GOJIRA, LAMB OF GOD, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, MASTODON, POWERTRIP, etc.) and seemingly all of them have a deep sense of GROOVE at the core of their sound, which for me was DARRELL's major contribution eve given his celebrated technical lead guitar heroics. for me PANTERA sonically was ZZ TOP on steroids.
like a lot of die-hard fans, im pretty AMBIVALENT about the upcoming "reunion" of PANTERA as a global touring entity. PANTERA drummer (and older brother to DIMEBAG) VINNIE PAUL was against the idea wholesale during his life (he passed away in 2018 from cardiac arrest) in no small part to how the band ended in 2001. essentially singer PHIL ANSELMO and bassist REX BROWN became incommunicado after their tour dates on behalf of REINVENTING THE STEEL (EAST WEST, 2000) stalled in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. the pair instead focused on SLUDGE METAL supergroup DOWN's debut and in the case of ANSELMO, numerous OBSCURE side projects that allowed him to explore his passion of early BLACK METAL and DEATH METAL. which is all well and good if they needed a break from PANTERA, but they left DIMEBAG and VINNIE PAUL absolutely hanging with no heads up whatsoever, which is pretty LAME.
and it still is.
the fact that the ABBOTT BROTHERS are no longer around to participate for what was a project that they alone SWEAT, BLED and FOUGHT for is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. the fact that the two surviving members that effectively abandoned the project at its peak, ANSELMO and BROWN, are the ones carrying it forward just feels wrong on some level. the saving grace is that ZAKK WYLDE of BLACK LABEL SOCIETY / OZZY OSBOURNE is set to take on guitar duties and CHARLIE BENANTE of ANTHRAX is drumming for the revamped project. both were close friends of PANTERA and especially the ABBOTT BROTHERS. in spite of whatever moniker this project will be billed as on global festival marquees, this "reunion" for WYLDE and BENANTE is a largely a CELEBRATION of their friends and a means of reintroducing the music of PANTERA to a new generation that was denied access to this seminal group.
and for me, despite my reservations about ANSELMO and BROWN, i believe that this outing will be a NET POSITIVE for the legacy of the band. much as WYLDE has kept the legacy of fall guitar god RANDY RHOADS alive and relevant with his live work supporting OZZY OSBOURNE, i can only see the same being done on behalf of his former drinking buddy DIMEBAG. almost 20 years later its really a quite touching act of LOVE and MUTUAL RESPECT that will no doubt have a new generation of musicians go back and listen to those records and wow over DIMEBAG's genius much as i did as a teenager.
it really is a gift. that is how im choosing to see this, especially since the estates of both DIMEBAG and VINNIE PAUL have cosigned this "reunion." if i can score tickets im there since i only got to see the band once way back on OZZFEST 2000. much like with OASIS, i just want to hear those songs played on that scale again in a big venue. should be AMAZING.
below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from the summer of 2021 celebrating the music of PANTERA on nonprofit radio station MAKER PARK RADIO. enjoy!
RECORD REVIEW | "DOOKIE" BY GREEN DAY
first time i remember hearing the landmark POP PUNK album DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994) by GREEN DAY was at a cub scout meeting at a friend's house in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in late 1994. i was in fourth grade at the time and before the meeting someone brought over this compact disc he'd gotten for his birthday. my first impression was its INTENSITY, SPEED and UNDENIABLE CATCHINESS. given my naïveté at the time, most of the themes surrounding drug culture and relationships went well above my head at the time, but the out-front melodic lines of MIKE DIRNT that transformed his bass into a lead instrument (a la PETER HOOK of JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER or POUTINE from SCREECHING WEASEL), the rolling kinetic propulsion of TRE COOL's drum fills and BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG's apparent faux BRITISH singing accent made quite the impression on my young ears (and musical consciousness).
in retrospect the music industry doesnt not like a vacuum, and its to GREEN DAY's credit/misfortune that they stepped into the limelight not too long after the untimely demise of another powerhouse trio, NIRVANA. the two fairly or unfairly are inextricably linked in that regard even though they come from different ends of the PUNK ROCK universe. NIRVANA was more artier and introspective and took inspiration from both the INDIE ROCK (i.e. R.E.M., DINOSAUR JR, MEAT PUPPETS and SONIC YOUTH) and HARDCORE (i.e. BLACK FLAG, THE GERMS, FLIPPER, BIG BLACK) scenes of the 1980s while GREEN DAY was firmly within the MELODIC HARDCORE (i.e. BAD RELIGION, DESCENDENTS, DAG NASTY, HUSKER DU) end of the spectrum with more than a passing indebtedness to the CATCHIER, LESS ANGRY end of the PUNK ROCK spectrum (i.e. THE BUZZCOCKS and THE RAMONES). personally i dont think its fair to compare the two bands as BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG and KURT COBAIN are very different people with very different SONGWRITING SENSIBILITIES. but i would be remiss to not at least mention that such discussion is an inevitability given the success of both bands, who in tandem lifted PUNK ROCK from an underground commercial nonentity to an entirely mainstream concern that changed the cultural landscape of ROCK AND ROLL to date in its wake.
for me the standout tracks off DOOKIE (and there are quite a few of them) are not just the iconic anthemic singles "WHEN I COME AROUND," "LONGVIEW," "BASKET CASE" and "WELCOME TO PARADISE" but also lesser celebrated tracks like "SHE," "BURNOUT," "PULLING TEETH" and my long-time personal favorite "F.O.D." which is short for "fuck off and die." lovely. i think that much as DOOKIE set the sonic template for what POP PUNK became over the next decade (i.e. concise, no frills song construction with impassioned melodic vocals) with bands like BLINK-182, SUM 41, NEW FOUND GLORY, FALL OUT BOY and GOOD CHARLOTTE among others, what is less celebrated are how influential ARMSTRONG's lyrical perspective has been. and for this i am again using COBAIN as an acknowledged unfair counterpoint. COBAIN was firmly confessional but in an oblique, frustrated and ultimately self-destructive manner. that sense of exposing one's brutal, unadulterated self-eviscerations is part of his legacy that less steadier hands and much less gifted musicians have mined with ever diminishing results (i.e. SEETHER, CREED, STAIND, BUSH, NICKELBACK and PUDDLE OF MUDD). ARMSTRONG on the other-hand seemed to coat his societal observations and self-evaluations within a context that seemed a bit more neutral. i dont believe the narrator in "LONGVIEW" is speaking about its subject (a listless, masturbatory stoner with no ambition) with any sense of enmity or pity. it just is what it is. i can't help but connect that song to later tracks like BLINK-182's "WHAT'S MY AGE AGAIN?" (about outmoded juvenile hijinks done well into someone's 20s) and FALL OUT BOY's "SUGAR, WE'RE GOIN DOWN" (about the lengths fought for a seemingly doomed relationship), which all seem to have a neutral storyteller at the heart not passing authorial judgement on the players in the narrative. personally i just dont see COBAIN having time for that technique of hiding behind a character. his work was more of a guided missile ultimately aimed at himself.
whats interesting for me about GREEN DAY is how ARMSTRONG's songwriting seems over time to trend more towards COBAIN. case in point is the other most celebrated album in GREEN DAY's catalogue, AMERICAN IDIOT (REPRISE, 2004), which seems to marry the two perspectives. but i'll save that discussion for another day.
DOOKIE is required listening for anyone interested in ROCK AND ROLL, end stop.
i should start off stating that i am among the CONVERTED.
between my dad and i, we have several guitar AMPLIFIER by the likes of FENDER, MARSHALL, AMPEG, SUPRO, VOX, MESA-BOOGIE, and even a vintage SUNN. i get the appeal of running a guitar straight into a good AMPLIFIER. its because of this predisposition that i am a bit confused by the recent AMPIRE: THE SOUND OF MUSIC (2018, DNR PRODUCTIONS) documentary which is supposedly about guitar amplification but really is about the CULT / OBSESSION / FETISHIZATION surrounding it.
the conceit of this film is one of combatting the recent wave of DIGITAL MODELING TECHNOLOGY that has transformed the AMPLIFICATION INDUSTRY, both in terms of high and low price points. even beginning guitarists through low wattage MODELING AMPLIFIERS now have access to a myriad of quality sounds and effects unheard of ten years ago at an entry level price point. likewise, with the advent of studio-quality MODELING / PROFILING PLATFORMS like KEMPER, HELIX and AXE FX, touring and recording musicians have access to the tones of their existing AMPLIFIER collections in a more USABLE, TRAVEL-WORTHY package.
the message of this film is one of advocacy for the EMOTIONAL and PSYCHIC, almost ALCHEMICAL, connection between player, guitar and AMPLIFIER (whether tube or solid state). adherents to said worldview include an impressive list of interview participants such as PETER BUCK (R.E.M.), RICK NIELSEN (CHEAP TRICK), ALEX LIFESON (RUSH), JOHN 5 (K.D. LANG, MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE), ROBBIE KRIEGER (THE DOORS), PAUL GILBERT (RACER X, MR. BIG), PAT METHANY, MIKE KENEALLY (FRANK ZAPPA, STEVE VAI), PETE THORN (CHRIS CORNELL), LITA FORD (THE RUNAWAYS), TOMMY HENRIKSEN (ALICE COOPER) and JOE BONAMASSA among others.
here is the thing: i dont buy the argument.
a more thoughtful approach would be to actual explain in some detail what a traditional tube AMPLIFIER actually consists of and how it technically functions. educate your audience. maybe throw in a little history about its TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT and throw some shine to past and present AMPLIFIER INNOVATORS like LEO FENDER, JIM MARSHALL, MICHAEL SOLDANO, DAVID REEVES, HARTLEY PEAVEY, EVERET HULL, REINHOLD BOGNER, RANDALL SMITH, LYNDON LANEY, DAVE FRIEDMAN, CLIFFORD COOPER, PETER DIEZEL, DON RANDALL and HOWARD ALEXANDER DUMBLE among countless other engineers. better yet, instead of seeing the incoming wave of technology and various techniques regarding onstage miking of low wattage AMPS to massive PA systems as competition, maybe get a little PHILOSOPHICAL about how these are all tools for conveying a musical idea. and they all have their place.
AMPLIFIERS are cool, dont get me wrong. but they arent the end-all-be-all of musical expression. arguing against incoming technology is a surefire way of rendering yourself an ANACHRONISM, which is sadly what some of these advocates have exposed themselves to be. others seem to embrace change which is where i stand. this film is essentially a variation on the topic of the relative merits of ANALOG vs DIGITAL equipment and the false attribution of AUTHENTICITY to the mix that was tread notably in DAVE GROHL's SOUND CITY (review linked HERE) documentary.
AMPIRE: THE SOUND OF MUSIC is an INTRIGUING and FUN film worth watching but the argument is a bit TEDIOUS and SANCTIMONIOUS at times, even for someone who absolutely adores both traditional tube and solid state guitar AMPLIFIERS like myself.
the informative graphic novel HYPER-CAPITALISM (THE NEW PRESS, 2018) by cartoonist LARRY GONICK and PSYCHOLOGY professor TIM KASSER is essentially an exhaustive breakdown of the extent to which INTRINSIC VALUES (such as appeals to SOCIAL JUSTICE, CREATIVITY, connection to NATURE / COMMUNITY) are INCOMPATIBLE with the prevailing ethos of the modern corporate system we all inhabit. this graphic novel very much gets at the heart of what makes MODERN CAPITALISM such a PERNICIOUS threat to GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY efforts as well as the stability of communities and the general well-being of its inhabitants. corporations in particular are terrible neighbors who, by design, have an insatiable need to seek and ultimately leverage various COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES (regarding RESOURCES, LABOR, TECHNOLOGY, etc.) in order to appease shareholders and exploit stakeholders in the process. the drawings are targeted and delineate numerous complicated strategies, postures and procedures (with regards to the culpability of the CONSUMER, GOVERNMENT, LEGAL SYSTEM and BUSINESS OWNERS) in a succinct and efficient manner. the effectiveness of these panels is pretty staggering and is really a testament to how talented and knowledgable both GONICK and KASSER are as a team.
but its all so DEPRESSING and just OVERWHELMING.
such is why the pair decided to have write a second section of the book that outlined how various practices (at both the consumer and business level) can ward off the DESTRUCTIVE elements of CAPITALISM and reinvigorate communities and social congruity. making purchases (and long-term investments) based on HUMANISTIC VALUES and participating in local communal efforts (FARMER'S MARKETS, TIME BANKS, LIBRARIES, etc.) keeps the immense influence and power of capital at the local level. and that is basically they key to transforming what the author refers to as "HYPER-CAPITALISM", you have to alter it from the inside out. by changing how you interact with the system you are in essence transforming it to something that is more HUMANISTIC and in line with INTRINSIC VALUES that better everyone.
or so that is the central thesis. i feel that MATERIALISM will not change and that people will forever be mindlessly subject to the GREEDY, PERNICIOUS whims of coordinated corporate ADVERTISING, LOBBYING and LEGAL efforts. i dont see a communal change in our CONSCIOUSNESS as AMERICANS, which is essentially built on RACIST, MATERIALISTIC and unapologetically NARCISSISTIC framework devoted to the idea of the INDIVIDUAL.
the antidote to this DEVASTATING situation is a seemingly QUIXOTIC dream that i share but dont see coming true. we are doomed. our individual and collective desires are doing us in.
during the pandemic many a musician, much like the res of us, were stuck at home with their RECORDING and TOURING cycles effectively semi-permanently on hold. during that period a number of them initiated PODCASTS and YOUTUBE channels in order to staving off cabin fever, as well as (one would assume) supplement their income during a dry period of seemingly indefinite length as the world came to terms with COVID.
of all these endeavors, JIMMY EAT WORLD's frontman and main SONGWRITER JIM ADKINS created the PODCAST and associated VIDEO SERIES PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES (available on his band's YOUTUBE channel) over twenty episodes in 2020 as a means of discussing with other musicians the CREATIVE PROCESS and more specifically his love of SONGWRITING. and it really is very much a deep dive into the MECHANICS, RITUALS, THEORY, COLLABORATIONS, PRODUCTION, SELF-DOUBT, TECHNIQUE, HABITS, INSPIRATION, FRUSTRATION, TECHNOLOGY, HARD-WORK and SPONTANEITY that goes into writing a SONG. notable past guests include KEN ANDREWS (FAILURE), MARK HOPPUS (BLINK-182), MATT PRYOR (THE GET UP KIDS), BETHANY CONSENTINO (BEST COAST), WILLIAM RYAN KEY (YELLOWCARD), BEN GIBBARD (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, THE POSTAL SERVICE), TEGAN QUIN (TEGAN & SARA), GERARD WAY (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE) and FRANK TURNER.
i think what really comes across in these discussions is the level of INTENTION and CRAFTSMANSHIP involved in SONGWRITING. given its EPHEMERAL nature, the experience of listening to music make it seem an almost INVISIBLE ART and PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES very much establishes how such is definitely not the case. makes me wonder about what other aspects of modern entertainment is passively consumed with little to no notice for its creation. FOOD, WEB DESIGN, CINEMA, JOURNALISM, GRAPHIC DESIGN and PHOTOGRAPHY (along with aforementioned MUSIC) come immediately to mind. its all a bit of a reminder to be a more MINDFUL consumer of the CREATIVE EFFOTS of others. my biggest takeaway is the role of battling CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT as a part of the CREATIVE PROCESS. it feels reassuring that most of these accomplished SONGWRITERS who have all created MEMORABLE art over the past few decades first had to overcome their own SELF-CRITICISM and sense of SELF-WORTH to make something worthwhile. makes them feel more HUMAN.
RECORD REVIEW | "LOAD" BY METALLICA
METALLICA's LOAD (ELEKTRA, 1996) album (along with its sibling RELOAD) is unfairly DISCARDED and critically DERIDED often as the moment the band lost their way from which they have been, in essence, crawling back ever since.
i dont think thats entirely fair.
this record was my introduction to the band back in the summer of 1996. at the time i was very much into SOUNDGARDEN, DINOSAUR JR, FAITH NO MORE, ALICE IN CHAINS and NIRVANA as well as a few bands i had discovered in the past year like RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and TOOL. to my ears, LOAD sounded like a more than COMPETENT, above average ALTERNATIVE ROCK record that fit well in that milieu. i was of course naive to their history nad previous incarnation, a gap that was filled later that summer when i bought their back catalogue at a local NEW JERSEY record that had a sale on such. it was then that i realized that their past discography was REVELATORY. i still feel that RIDE THE LIGHTNING (review linked HERE) and MASTER OF PUPPETS (review linked HERE) are UNTOUCHABLE and BULLETPROOF even when compared to the likes of peers and contemporaries like SLAYER and JUDAS PRIEST. it was then that i appreciated the distance between those FLEMMING RASMUSSEN-produced 80s records and the revamped BOB ROCK-produced 90s incarnation of their sound. it was like two DIFFERENT bands.
and so when i think of LOAD now it is a bit of an expectations game. i think on its own terms there is some great material on this record that saw the band go way outside the sonic palette they permitted themselves beforehand. specifically songs like "BLEEDING ME" and "THE OUTLAW TORN" are EXPERIMENTAL standouts that are singularly EMOTIONAL and EVOCATIVE and definitely hit a chord when i first heard them as an early teenager. i think where the critiques pile-up are often in regards to the string of DERIVATIVE mid-tempo blues-based songs like "2 X 4," "POOR TWISTED ME," "HERO OF THE DAY," "AIN'T MY BITCH," and "THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT" that feel LISTLESS and without the punch and unflinching TECHNICALITY that established the band in the 1980s and was their signature pre-METALLICA (review linked HERE). i will say that there are some mid-tempo tracks that work in my opinion like "UNTIL IT SLEEPS," "WASTING MY HATE" and "THORN WITHIN," but really the band should have stopped after those three. the others are completely TIRED and REDUNDANT. unlike other fans and critics, i have no problem with the COUNTRIFIED TOM WAITS-inspired "MAMA SAID." perhaps it shouldve been a b-side or something put on a side project or solo album, but i feel like it is a SOLID song that holds up and adds another facet to JAMES HETFIELD's capacity as a SONGWRITER. as a whole the record just feels like a bit of a LETDOWN relative to their past output.
and that is probably the point in the end. the band undoubtedly felt like they were becoming an ANACHRONISM and no doubt paid attention to their new ALTERNATIVE ROCK peers over the previous half decade. i wouldnt say the record is a failure, but it is more of an OUTLIER in their catalogue. and it was done that way by design. relative to the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK pack this record definitely holds its weight in terms of sonic EXPERIMENTALISM and overall SONG-CRAFT. relative to their 1980s THRASH METAL discography, the record is a completely different animal and its a bit UNFAIR to compare it to such. and that is the kicker. LOAD has long been a litmus test for fans about how much they love the back catalogue and wish the band would satisfy that METAL itch. in years since the band has largely listened and attempt to re-ingratiate themselves with varying results.
to me LOAD represent the last time the band was UNFILTERED and FREE to pursue their own course before the fans had their say. arguably the later LULU (WARNER BROS, 2011) collaboration with LOU REED was another example, but id argue that such an opportunity was never gonna be curtailed. plus REED was very much in control of that record.
do i recommend LOAD. absolutely. but if you are aware of the band's 80s output just go into it with an OPEN mind. im sure thats what any artist wants in the end anyway.
CHECK OUT THIS BAND | AUTOLUX
sometime in the early 2000s i looked into the light and was converted instantaneously to the CRIMINALLY OVERLOOKED LOS ANGELES-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK band FAILURE. their UNIQUE sense of SONIC DYNAMICS, SONGWRITING and CONCEPTUALITY was unmatched during that era (with the exception of maybe TOOL). unfortunately at that point they were more than half a decade post-breakup.
it was at this point that i also discovered AUTOLUX which is an EXPERIMENTAL trio that includes GREG EDWARDS (FAILURE), CARLA AZUR (EDNASWAP, JACK WHITE) and EUGENE GORESHTER, who all sing. their sound is somewhere between SHOEGAZE, KRAUTROCK, INDIE ROCK and AMBIENT music. it makes absolute sense that members of AUTOLUX have industry experience as session musicians for FILM SCORES and SOUNDTRACKS since their music has a distinctly CINEMATIC feel to it. there is an evoked sense of MELANCHOLY and UNDEFINABLE TREPIDATION throughout much of their material. i could easily see some of these SOUNDSCAPES being utilized in a psychological thriller or in a montage where a character is steeped in deep thought.
i gues what i am attempting to verbalize is that there is a distinct sense of INTERIORITY to their sound which i enjoy. AUTOLUX is definitely worth checking out.