by the time i saw AFI play for the first time in late june of 2001 at a WARPED TOUR stop in VENTURA they were already well in the midst of MASSIVE transition. it was an INSANE period, as i was staying with a childhood friend of mine in nearby ORANGE COUNTY who was basically giving me an education on all things 80s HARDCORE and SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK (think everything from THE VANDALS, ADOLESCENTS, D.I., FEAR, AGENT ORANGE, PENNYWISE, DESCENDENTS and RICH KIDS ON LSD to DR KNOW, BLACK FLAG, NOFX, WASTED YOUTH, T.S.O.L. and BATTALION OF SAINTS). i had left CALIFORNIA in sixth grade to live in AFRICA due to a parent's job and by this point was staying over for an extended period before returning to KUWAIT, of all places, for my senior year of high school. a CRAZY time. anyway, my friend was a PUNK purist, maybe somewhat of the PURITANICAL variety, and loved AFI's string of albums on the INDEPENDENT NITRO RECORDS as well as LIKE-MINDED bands they were associated with like THE NERVE AGENTS and TIGER ARMY.
in 1999 the band released BLACK SAILS IN THE SUNSET (NITRO, 1999) which was a particularly PIVOTAL moment as it represented the first full-release with guitarist JADE PUGET as a full-member and major CONTRIBUTING SONGWRITER. this record sounded more COHESIVE and POLISHED than previous efforts with a decidedly SOPHISTICATED sense of COMPOSITION and SONG DYNAMICS. it was a SIGNIFICANT artistic step forward that was followed up by the similarly CONSISTENT follow-up THE ART OF DROWNING (NITRO, 2000). this album saw them gain widespread attention with "THE DAYS OF THE PHOENIX" single and video. this was the album cycle that i first came across AFI at VENTURA and it proved to be their final album for NITRO RECORDS.
in retrospect its intriguing to me the timing of my discovery of AFI. it was essentially through the eyes a longtime fan who was falling out of love with them, seeing the direction they were, as well as the scene itself, going in. namely lots of once UNDERGROUND PUNK ROCK and emerging POP PUNK bands (everyone from TAKING BACK SUNDAY, FALL OUT BOY and MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE to GLASSJAW, MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK and NEW FOUND GLORY) were making the jump to major labels, due in no small part to their popularity on the annual WARPED TOUR. AFI had their cultural moment with the two subsequent releases of SING THE SORROW (DREAMWORKS, 2003) and DECEMBERUNDERGROUND (INTERSCOPE, 2006), both incredible efforts that benefited greatly from the increased PRODUCTION VALUE and ENGINEERING prowess of SINGULAR and much sought-after producers like JERRY FINN and BUTCH VIG, respectively.
but in my opinion we are currently in the midst of AFI's most FORTUITOUS period. everything after and including CRASH LOVE (INTERSCOPE, 2009) has seen the band explore their underlying POWER POP and POST PUNK roots to great avail as their SOUND and AESTHETIC has really blossomed from their previous 2000s GOTH PUNK pigeonholing. i really feel strongly that they are riding their own CREATIVE WAVE right now and the band has never been more VITAL or COMPELLING as a listener and a fan. everything before seemed to be very much about leveling up to feel CONFIDENT enough as SONGWRITERS and ARTISTS to take up the challenge of DRASTIC STYLISTIC SHIFTS, shedding and reemerging at will in the form that best fits their current taste as they see fit. when the bottom fell out of the recording industry back in the early 2000s it feels like such was freeing for them and their music as catering to their own UNIQUE AESTHETIC and bringing along their core audience at their INTENSE live shows is what kept them going.
so that is my take. im always interested to see what AFI has cooked up next and what musical interests they have been basking in as of late.
embedded below is a recent DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes a playlist celebrating the EVER-EVOLVING music of AFI. enjoy!
along with LIVING COLOUR's VIVID (EPIC, 1988) and R.E.M.'s OUT OF TIME (WARNER BROS, 1991) albums, another INDELIBLE early musical memory and PROMINENT record from my childhood was FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS' THE RAW & THE UNCOOKED (I.R.S., 1989). its funny to me, because in college i became familiar with 2-TONE SKA and got really into THE BEAT, having absolutely no clue that guitarist ANDY COX and bassist DAVID STEELE were later members of FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS. both bands had exquisitely conceived and executed SONGWRITING with BOUNCY, PUNCHY rhythms and immediately MEMORABLE MELODIES and HOOKS. as POP albums go, THE RAW & THE UNCOOKED is nearly FLAWLESS.
ive gone a paragraph now without mentioning vocalist ROLAND GIFT, who is undoubtedly the secret weapon of the band and the absolute first thing i noticed when i heard the band as an IMPRESSIONABLE five year-old in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. its difficult for me to describe his VOCAL AFFECTATION other than to say GIFT was blessed with a RARE, EMOTIVE quality allowed for an ability to express deeply felt wells of EMOTION. as much as more UPBEAT 2-TONE SKA revival numbers like "GOOD THING" and "SHE DRIVES ME CRAZY" are rightfully CELEBRATED, this UNIQUE character of his VOCALS is best experienced on more subdued and highly AFFECTING tracks like "AS HARD AS IT IS," "TELL ME WHAT," and "I'M NOT THE MAN I USED TO BE." i really feel strongly that those last three songs are just total face melters and upon listening to them instantaneously take me back to my early childhood experiencing the EMOTIONAL POWER of music firsthand by a TALENTED outfit that had recently come out and were not inherited from my parents' collection of ELVIS COSTELLO, BEATLES, NICK LOWE, WHO, ANIMALS and STRANGLERS records (all of which i adored). that GNAWING hollow that comes with the DESPAIR and LOSS of FALLING OUT OF LOVE or LEAVING A RELATIONSHIP in "TELL ME WHAT" especially got me as a child as it reminded me of that feeling of ISOLATION when my parents left me with a babysitter. and i guess that is sort of my point, this album for me has qualities that go beyond the LYRICS or PRODUCTION VALUES (all of which are STELLAR). for me it is SINGULAR record that has a DIVERSE array of STRONG EMOTIONS that is brought to bear by the INCREDIBLE COMPOSITIONS themselves.
all of the songs are ESSENTIAL in my opinion, even their cover of BUZZCOCKS' "EVER FALLEN IN LOVE," but the STANDOUT tracks outside of those aforementioned include "I'M NOT SATISFIED," "DON'T LOOK BACK," and "IT'S OK (IT'S ALRIGHT)." production-wise it sounds like the late-NEW WAVE era it was conceived in, with SAMPLED DRUM LOOPS and SYNTH PADS all over, but the quality of the SONGWRITING is never in doubt. and it still holds up more than thirty years later. THE RAW & THE UNCOOKED by FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS is definitely worth checking out.
in the popular history of PUNK ROCK, the LEGENDARY BOWERY dive bar/ music venue CBGB'S gets a lot of shine. and that is partly for good reason, as its doors remained open for decades, from 1973 through 2006. it was by default the resident PUNK venue of NYC throughout the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the 1990s, when the UNDERGROUND music of the 70s and 80s (i.e. the PUNK ROCK, NO WAVE, POST PUNK, INDIE and HARDCORE scenes) gained a POPULAR national following. even at the dawn of the new millennium CBGB's was a VITAL venue in support of the NASCENT POST-HARDCORE and METALCORE scenes. its cultural cache is a testament to its relative longevity.
whats INTRIGUING is how MAX'S KANSAS CITY, another earlier venue with roots in the 1960s AVANT GARDE art and music scenes, has largely been remembered as a footnote to CBGB'S as the birthplace of PUNK ROCK when arguably it was the other way around. the film NIGHTCLUBBING: THE BIRTH OF PUNK IN NYC (CHIP BAKER FILMS, 2023) is basically an argument for MAX'S KANSAS CITY being the true breeding ground for what became PUNK ROCK and aims to correct the narrative. notable participants interviewed for the film include ALICE COOPER, FRANK INFANTE (BLONDIE), H.R. & DR KNOW (BAD BRAINS), JIMMY ZERO (DEAD BOYS), BILLY IDOL (GENERATION X), JAY JAY FRENCH (TWISTED SISTER), HARLEY FLANAGAN (CRO-MAGS), JAYNE COUNTY, BRIAN SETZER (THE STRAY CATS), LENNY KAYE (PATTI SMITH GROUP) and SYLVAIN SYLVAIN (THE NEW YORK DOLLS) among others.
and its hard to argue against them as MAX'S KANSAS CITY in its first incarnation under the ownership of MICKEY RUSKIN was essentially a restaurant frequented by the nearby ANDY WARHOL crowd of superstars and models that sometimes held special events in its EXCLUSIVE back room. in this context, WARHOL was able to showcase THE VELVET UNDERGROUND at the restaurant in some of their earliest performances. this in time led to other groups and artists like THE STOOGES, PATTI SMITH, WAYNE COUNTY, DAVID BOWIE and ALICE COOPER among others to follow suit. a new wave of bands, most notably THE NEW YORK DOLLS, then started utilizing the venue around the time that ownership switched to TOMMY DEAN MILLS and the upstairs space was expanded from fifty to a hundred person capacity. right in time for ECLECTIC bands like BLONDIE, THE RAMONES and TALKING HEADS to popularize the venue. what marked MAX'S KANSAS CITY from CBGB'S was its owners support of the scene, paying more of the gate to performers and providing them with food, as well as the INCLUSIVE nature of the live act and audience which blurred every line of GENDER, SEXUALITY, RACE, CREED and CLASS. CBGB'S was a dirtier affair that relished its SQUALOR (i.e. the notoriously DISGUSTING bathroom) and owner HILLY KRISTAL was famous for screwing over performers with his share of the gate proceeds. in essence, the venue took advantage of its good fortune in being the right venue at the right time. over time, however, CBGB's promoted a HYPER-MASCULINE culture that came off a bit XENOPHOBIC and HOMOPHOBIC at the very least and attracted a certain lug-head following.
much of the case for MAX'S KANSAS CITY seemed to circle around its ability to invite EXPERIMENTATION and publicize and celebrate the AVANT GARDE elements of society, as it could trace its lineage right back to THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. which is pretty INCREDIBLE. sadly the venue ended in 1981 after the owner sold the building after some shady business deals in ATLANTIC CITY went south. the loss to the arts COMMUNITY basically guaranteed its status as a footnote in the story of ROCK AND ROLL and PUNK ROCK in particular, as its name receded from view before the ascent of the UNDERGROUND scene in the POPULAR mindset a decade later.
makes you wonder about what other past CELEBRATED venues ended before their time had arrived. the MUDD CLUB (NYC)? the MASQUE, the COCONUT TEASZER, and MADAME WONG's (LOS ANGELES)?
life comes at you fast sometimes with MAJOR CHANGES that arent necessarily desired or planned for in advance. such is the case in THE FALL OF HOMUNCULUS (DRAWN & QUARTERLY, 1998) comic by FINNISH graphic novelist PENTTI OTSAMO with a NARRATIVE that centers around the PSYCHIC and INTER-RELATIONAL REPERCUSSIONS that come with an UNEXPECTED PREGNANCY for a YOUNG couple.
not that id know firsthand since ive never had a CHILD. the very idea of it, especially of the UNPLANNED variety is the stuff of PERSONAL NIGHTMARES. just the UNBRIDLED RESPONSIBILITY of it all and the gravity of bringing another HUMAN into the world. i figure that if circumstances dictated at some future point that i participated in that entire enterprise, id at the very least like to be PREPARED in advance as much as possible. or is that NAIVE?
in THE FALL OF HOMUNCULUS you have a YOUNG woman who is intuitively in touch with her NATURAL SURROUNDINGS as she loves to garden and explores THEMES surrounding such in her figurative artwork. even after her MISCARRIAGE she maintains a GENERAL FAITH in the JUSTICE of a GREATER COSMIC ORDER. in her way of thinking, that PAINFUL EXPERIENCE was not a complication of her life's trajectory, but rather a TEACHER providing INSIGHT into how NATURE operates and earning her some HARD-WON SELF-KNOWLEDGE. this is complete contrast to her male partner who views the pregnancy as an OBSTACLE to maintaining a CAREFREE lifestyle in which he can get blackout drunk at parties and have ANONYMOUS sex while in said stupor. just the height of IMMATURITY and RECKLESSNESS in the face of ADULT RESPONSIBILITY. its an INTRIGUING inter-personal dynamic that doesnt seem particularly NOVEL or UNBELIEVABLE. you really wonder how many couples maintain a SIMILAR TOXIC DYNAMIC. you also realize quickly the SOCIETAL WEIGHT put on women during this period and the cultural expectations that dont always pressure men to account in a similar manner.
in ALCHEMY there is a notion of creating a HOMUNCULUS of oneself, that is, manufacturing a fully formed DIMINUITIVE version which often reveals some UNKNOWN ASPECT OF ONESELF. often a SHADOW VERSION or one with EXAGGERATED features and behaviors that lend to the creator learning more about their own human frailties. this feels like an apt METAPHOR for the unborn child at the center of OTSAMO's NARRATIVE. up until its MISCARRIAGE, this fetus provided VALUABLE INSIGHT into the TRUE NATURES and personalities of the couple and their STRAINED relationship to one another. its fall and demise reveals their MISGIVINGS and INABILITIES to function as a COHERENT UNIT.
THE FALL OF HOMUNCULUS is a bit OBLIQUE and NARRATIVELY CUMBERSOME in places, but i felt it was a highly AFFECTING PARRABLE about the DUAL NATURE of human SELFISHNESS and ALTRUISM. definitely worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the EXPANSIVE LOS ANGELES ALTERNATIVE ROCK band FAILURE!
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thinking about a pre-TRAVIS BARKER line-up of BLINK-182 is always INTERESTING because the chemistry that lifted them above the POP PUNK fray to become veritable icons of the genre itself was due to that very specific MUSICAL ALCHEMY that came to fruition immediately after DUDE RANCH (MCA, 1997), their second album and major label debut. not that this recording effort is without GOOD SONGWRITING, as is the case with tracks like "DICK LIPS," "WAGGY," "PATHETIC," "APPLE SHAMPOO," and of course their breakout singles "JOSIE" and "DAMMIT." but rhythmically and stylistically, this album is pretty REPETITIVE and MYOPIC in terms of its SONGWRITING. in essence it is a band coming into its own both in terms of PRODUCTION and navigating the expectations that come with being on a major label.
when i first heard DUDE RANCH it was in the immediate aftermath of its more commercially and artistically SUCCESSFUL follow-up ENEMA OF THE STATE (MCA, 1999) that had both BARKER and LEGENDARY producer JERRY FINN added to the mix. BARKER being the MULTI-TALENTED drummer that he was, could elevate and transcend basic POP PUNK CHORD PROGRESSIONS with both an eye for SONG DYNAMICS and COMPOSITION as well as sheer TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY. listening to ENEMA OF THE STATE you can hear grooves that are based in both JAZZ and LATIN traditions that bring a sense of SWING and BOUNCE to several tracks. its entirely unfair to compare him to original drummer SCOTT RAYNOR who on DUDE RANCH and its predecessor CHESHIRE CAT (CARGO, 1995) provides a perfectly COMPETENT, if DERIVATIVE, sense of drive to his DRUMMING in the style of MELODIC HARDCORE bands like BAD RELIGION, NOFX and PENNYWISE.
lyrically DUDE RANCH continues along the same lines of its predecessor by splitting the difference between SOPHOMORIC toilet humor and heartfelt odes to past relationships and teenage youth a la MILO AUKERMAN and the legendary 80s SOUTH BAY PUNK ROCK band DESCENDENTS. this lyrical perspective would continue on subsequent releases but seemed strategically aimed at both presenting the band as willing to laugh at their PUBLIC IMAGE and provided a critical distraction for genuine efforts at tracks that stretched their SONGWRITING ABILITIES and made them VULNERABLE. all the basic elements are their on DUDE RANCH, as well as CHESHIRE CAT, but the right mixture of TRADITIONAL and PROGRESSIVE MUSICAL ELEMENTS are not quite their yet.
for me DUDE RANCH is all about my high school experience and hearing it makes me strangely NOSTALGIC for a time i would not in retrospect under any circumstances ever want to revisit again. what makes it an INTRIGUING listen years later is how foretells what was to come as well as provides a key look at an ICONIC band minus a VITAL ELEMENT in BARKER (or maybe two if you also count FINN, which you probably should). as much as i love this record, ENEMA OF THE STATE is the OBVIOUS starting point for anyone getting into BLINK-182 or POP PUNK in general. maybe after consuming GREEN DAY's DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994), DESCENDENTS' MILO GOES TO COLLEGE (NEW ALLIANCE, 1982), MXPX's LIFE IN GENERAL (TOOTH & NAIL, 1996), FALL OUT BOY's TAKE THIS TO YOUR GRAVE (FUELED BY RAMEN, 2003) and NEW FOUND GLORY's STICKS AND STONES (DRIVE-THRU, 2002), you should revisit DUDE RANCH for comparison and context. NOT ESSENTIAL but definitely worth checking out.
i came across the sensationally TALENTED CINCINATTI-born violinist/songwriter SUDAN ARCHIVES twice back when i was writing about both the EARTHQUAKER SESSIONS (linked HERE) in early 2022 and more the recently [last month] the FRENCH-produced A TAKE AWAY SHOW (linked HERE) live performance series on YOUTUBE. the STELLAR music BRITTNEY DENISE PARKS has a VIVID quality that comes with the fact that she is playing with multiple GENRES simultaneously. the nearest approximation i can point to with her sound are other LIKE-MINDED, ECLECTIC, SHAPE-SHIFTING and sonically EXPERIMENTAL singer-songwriters in the TRADITION of BJORK, PERFUME GENIUS, KATE BUSH, M.I.A., BECK, GRIMES, TRICKY, DAVID BOWIE and FKA TWIGS.
just a PHENOMENAL talent with an EVER-EVOLVING sound that feels rooted in but not limited by various cultural TRADITIONS, which makes sense given that she studied ETHNOMUSICOLOGY in college. definitely check out her two albums ATHENA (STONES THROW, 2019) and NATURAL BROWN PROM QUEEN (STONES THROW, 2022).
i was talking to someone at the radio station the other day and the subject of HENRY ROLLINS comment about NU METAL in the AMERICAN HARDCORE (SONY PICTURES, 2006) documentary came up, which paraphrased was something to effect of that the way in which those songs are STRUCTURED with the BIG GUITAR RIFF payoff after a whispered DOWNTEMPO PRE-CHORUS was something he would have absolutely been into as a teenager. it got me thinking of what that specific experience was for me of being confronted with a band or genre that up my first listen absolutely instantaneously defined my experience as a young person.
for me that was first coming across the ENGLISH ELECTRONIC MUSIC of THE PRODIGY and specifically their STELLAR THE FAT OF THE LAND (XL, 1997) album during my middle school years in NIGERIA. i can still recall that WIDE-EYED surge of adrenaline when that initial MASSIVE BASS DROP hits in the intro for "SMACK MY BITCH UP." in less than a minute of my first listen to a THE PRODIGY song i was hooked. it was beyond anything i had come across in the more FORMULAIC world of ROCK MUSIC and just seemed intently designed to make adolescents like myself go completely MENTAL. same with other singles like "BREATHE" and "FIRESTARTER," but for me "SMACK MY BITCH UP" is the obvious highlight. other tracks i absolutely adored off that album were "MINDFIELDS," "FUEL MY FIRE" and especially "NARAYAN," which all seemed to have an INTERIORITY about them, as if they were meant as a mantra for an induced COLLECTIVE MIND-SPACE and SHARED CONSCIOUSNESS. i have never taken MIND-EXPANDING drugs, but that concept of shared emotional INTIMACY through RHYTHM and DANCE made immediate sense upon my introduction to THE PRODIGY.
fast forward a few years to high school and i am now at a boarding school in MASSACHUSETTS. somewhere along the way i obtained the preceding album MUSIC FOR THE JILTED GENERATION (XL, 1994) which is songwriting-wise is less traditionally structured and more EXPANSIVE with harder-hitting UPTEMPO beats, COMPLEX POLYRHYTHMS and OBSCURE SONIC TEXTURES. i was on a break staying with my uncle in BROOKLYN, who was then still working in lower MANHATTAN, and i was supposed to meet him somewhere near the WORLD TRADE CENTER for lunch before heading up to LINCOLN CENTER, where a charter bus was waiting to take me back to boarding school. needless to say i missed the lunch and barely made the bus. my experience was that i was listening to HARD-CHARGING MUSIC FOR THE JILTED GENERATION tracks like "BREAK & ENTER," "VOODOO PEOPLE," "POISON," "THEIR LAW" and "FULL THROTTLE" while on the subway and loss track of time. this was before cell phones were UBIQUITOUS and in my defense my watch's battery died, leaving it permanently stuck near noon. my uncle called the police and national guard apparently and almost gave him a heart attack. but yeah, i was somewhere else on planet JILTED GENERATION obliviously running around the city having a great time. arguably one of my FAVORITE experiences in high school. almost felt like FERRIS BUELLER running around seeing stores and visiting a museum in the process.
for me the music of THE PRODIGY is indicative of where my musical tastes permanently shifted and expanded upon leaving CALIFORNIA and first living abroad. i have long wondered what i would have gotten into if i had stayed put in the UNITED STATES and not been subject to that IMMENSE CULTURE SHOCK at such a tender age. i'll never know.
embedded below is a recent DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that includes a playlist celebrating the INFECTIOUS ELECTRONIC MUSIC of THE PRODIGY. enjoy!
RIP KEITH FLINT
terms like ALTERNATIVE and EXPERIMENTAL get bandied about a bit, myself included, when describing UNFAMILIAR or EXOTIC recordings with UNIQUE production processes beyond the point of being cliche. but that late songwriter DANIEL JOHNSTON is that RARE, AUTHENTIC OUTSIDER ARTIST that is SINGULAR unto himself and yet absolutely INDELIBLE to the listening public. long suffering from SEVERE BIPOLAR DISORDER that found him in various psychiatric institutions throughout his life, JOHNSTON found SOLACE in his songwriting and the makeshift cassettes he made via a basic consumer boombox. these tapes he famously passed out at his AUSTIN fast food gig back in the 1980s.
famously KURT COBAIN at the peak of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement vocally promoted the work of JOHNSTON among other INDEPENDENT artists (KYUSS, THE BOREDOMS, HALF JAPANESE, THE RAINCOATS, FLIPPER and SHONEN KNIFE among others) that virtually removed him from CULTURAL OBSCURITY and even made him the center of a major label bidding war. there is a RIVETING documentary about his life called THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, 2005) that is well-worth checking out that goes into much more detail about his UNLIKELY CAREER, CULT STATUS and struggles with MENTAL ILLNESS.
HI, HOW ARE YOU (SELF-RELEASED, 1983) is arguably his most famous cassette. STANDOUT tracks from this recording in the intervening years have been covered by everyone from EDDIE VEDDER (PEARL JAM), MIKE WATT (MINUTEMEN) and TV ON THE RADIO and songs from his EXTENSIVE catalogue have likewise been covered on record by the likes of THE FLAMING LIPS, TOM WAITS, M. WARD, BRIGHT EYES, MERCURY REV, GUSTER, EELS, NICK ZINNER (THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS), DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, TEENAGE FANCLUB and BECK among others. CELEBRATED songs include "DESPERATE MAN BLUES," "WALKING THE COW," "BIG BUSINESS MONKEY," "POOR YOU," "DESPAIR CAME KNOCKING" and "GET YOURSELF TOGETHER."
to my ears JOHNSTON is almost like the aural equivalent of HENRY DARGER in that his songs have a SELF-CONTAINED, INTERIOR LOGIC and WORLDVIEW that is constructed by a creator without a full-set of facts about how the world works. his characterizations about certain types of people may come across as NAIVE, but there is a PALPABLE sense that through much effort and INCREDIBLE CREATIVITY, he has made a substantial stab at CONTEXTUALIZING, UNDERSTANDING and ultimately ENGAGING with the outside world from a SKEWED PERSPECTIVE. to me that is ultimately the CHARM of his records, as well as the decidedly LO-FI AESTHETICS of his recordings. literally all you have are the songs and they stand on their own in this RUDIMENTARY state sans gimmickry or even BASIC production values as his voice trails and guitar/piano trail in and out due one would assume to his body movement from the boom box's INTERNAL microphone.
undoubtedly JOHNSTON is a DIY CULT STATUS and a TRUE AMERICAN original. his is the embodiment of the AUTHENTIC alternative to what is often labeled ALTERNATIVE and his work is well worth checking out.
RIP DANIEL JOHNSTON.
with the advent of the INTERNET, AUTOMATION, SOCIAL MEDIA and the future of promise of ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE right around the corner, i can honestly attest that in my short lifetime there has been much SOCIAL DISRUPTION and POLITICAL UPHEAVAL that has come at the expense of an UNPRECEDENTED rate of TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION. in essence the world i grew up in no longer exists.
in essence the late 19th century in the UNITED STATES represents a similar pivot away from old methods of traveling and communicating with the completion of the TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD and the advent of massive STEAMSHIPS, TELEPHONES, INCANDESCENT LIGH BULB and the PHOTOGRAPH. growing up in ENGLAND in a world with horse-drawn carriages and gas street lamps to that of ELECTRIC GRID-ENABLED CABLE CARS and STREET LIGHTS is quite REMARKABLE and represents a psychic jolt as well as TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE. it means that the manner in which people lived and thought of themselves shifted arguably for the first time in generations.
what makes the EXPOSING MUYBRIDGE (INSIDE OUT MEDIA, 2021) documentary about the FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPHER is how his life and career provides a familiar example of the apparent disconnect between the OPTIMISTIC PROMISE of TECHNOLOGY and its DESTRUCTIVE CAPACITY to alienate us from ourselves. EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE only became a PHOTOGRAPHER after years spent occupying various modest occupations in the new AMERICAN WEST after departing ENGLAND at first opportunity. his early adoption of the cumbersome TECHNOLOGY found him shooting lots of shots of nature throughout the MOUNTAIN WEST and PACIFIC NORTHWEST as well as the recently purchased ALASKAN TERRITORY and many of his locations were later REPHOTOGRAPHED by the likes of EDWARD WESTON and ANSEL ADAMS more than a half century later. one of his quirks was having figures in the foreground, sometimes to showcase scale, and often such showcased himself in precarious positions on cliffs with sheer drops and the like. but often these PHOTOGRAPHS were MANIPULATED with preferred (and reused) cloud formations and drawn distant mountain ranges. seeing was not believing, even at this early FORMATIVE state in the evolution of PHOTOGRAPHY.
MUYBRIDGE himself had an IDIOSYNCRATIC and highly ERRATIC personality. in his forties he married a young woman in her twenties whom he subsequently ABANDONED at home while he went on PHOTOGRAPHY trips at the behest of clients (including war propaganda photos for the government and family portraits for captains of industry like railroad magnate LELAND STANFORD). after learning of an insinuation that he was CUCKOLDED in his absence, MUYBRIDGE sought out his wife's reported amour and shot him dead point blank. controversially he was found not guilty. post-trial he went to CENTRAL AMERICA and took ETHNOGRAPHIC and NATURE PHOTOGRAPHS around the region. on his arrival back in CALIFORNIA he worked with STANFORD on a problem of providing UNDENIABLE PHOTOGRAPHIC proof that a horse had all of its hooves in the air at the same time. this proved DIFFICULT given the REDIMENTARY CAMERA TECHNOLOGY the time and the non-existence of things like shutters that allow for very short exposure periods and chemical concoctions that allowed for such. MUYBRIDGE was able to make it work and prove that such existed with an array of PHOTOGRAPHS taken in succession by separate CAMERAS with quick shutters that showed the change in position of the horse over time. this was REVOLUTIONARY and the basis for MUYBRIDGE's subsequent fame. but STANFORD took credit and largely DISCREDITED him as a mere TECHNICIAN in a subsequent publication, effectively ruining MUYBRIDGE's reputation, who had became something an early celebrity at the time.
his work was picked up a few years later by the UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, in spite of his reputation as a MURDERER and an ERRATIC, who allowed him to conduct his "motion studies" at the behest of a committee of ZOOLOGISTS, PHYSICISTS, ANATOMISTS, and ARTISTS that hoped to gain insight into the invisible world of kinetic mechanics. the film goes to great lengths to showcase how these "SCIENTIFIC" studies were marred by INGRAINED CULTURAL BIASES of the period along the lines of RACE, CLASS and GENDER. such was the case that the majority of these scholars were seeking to secure data to prove their racist preconceived notion that WHITE MEN were SUPERIOR to their FEMALE and NON-WHITE counterparts. men are PHOTOGRAPHED performing feats of STRENGTH and ATHLETIC prowess while WOMEN are shown being GRACEFUL or reenacting DOMESTIC pursuits (like sweeping the floor). there are also series utilizing local prostitutes in baldly erotic movements and scenarios. even in this PRE-CINEMA ERA, interestingly the basic BIASES of FILM CULTURE ("stories and sex") were firmly established and entrenched. the MALE GAZE indeed.
MUYBRIDGE died in obscurity, a cultural anachronism during the age of early CINEMA dominated by subsequent ARTISTIC and TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION by likes of the LUMIERE BROTHERS and GEORGES MELIES. his MOTION STUDIES, in spite of their embedded PREJUDICES, have proven to be quite INFLUENTIAL to subsequent generations of SCIENTISTS and ARTISTS. everyone from FRANCIS BACON, WILLIAM WEGMAN, DAVID HOCKNEY, SOL LEWITT and even RICKY & MORTY and U2 have explicitly referenced his material.
i found this film to be endlessly FASCINATING given its examination of the DISRUPTIVE POTENTIAL of new TECHNOLOGY and how such leaves the public open to being manipulated en masse. MUYBRIDGE was thoroughly HUMAN with HUBRIS, EGO and IMPERFECTIONS to spare and his adoption and manipulations from a new INVENTION only further the evidence of such. despite such it is hard to argue against the idea the he ELEVATED MANKIND, FLAWS and all, and maybe that is the takeaway from his example. while making us SUSCEPTIBLE to new forms of VISUAL MANIPULATION, his gift to us was making us a little more aware of the HIDDEN realm of MINUTE, RUDIMENTARY PHYSICAL MECHANICS that we all take for granted in a THREE-DIMENSIONAL SPACE and govern and influence our experience of such. in this manner he was an REVOLUTIONARY figure.
EXPOSING MUYBRIDGE is a deeply INTRIGUING film that is most definitely worth checking out. ESSENTIAL even.
the POIGNANT graphic novel OIL AND WATER (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2011) which examines the CUMULATIVE DESTRUCTION of both HURRICANE KATRINA in 2005 and the DEEPWATER HORIZON oil spill in 2010 on the ECONOMY, ECOSYSTEM and WAY-OF-LIFE of NEW ORLEANS and the surrounding marshes and wetlands of the bayou is a COLLABORATIVE effort between JOURNALIST STEVE DUIN of THE OREGONIAN and ILLUSTRATOR SHANNON WHEELER of THE NEW YORKER. its narrative centers around a group of WELL-MEANING ACADEMICS, OFFICIALS and REPORTERS from OREGON who visited the LOUISIANA COAST in august 2010 in the immediate aftermath of the DEEPWATER HORIZON CALAMITY (which ended in september 2010) to bear witness to the DEVASTATION as well as document the response.
what becomes all-too OBVIOUS in the midst of this cataloguing is the MONUMENTAL scale of the PROBLEM and the ABJECT FUTILITY in both attempting to repair the DAMAGE and addressing the GREED that spurred it into being in the first place, not just by BRITISH PETROLEUM, but by the greater POLITICAL and BUSINESS INTERESTS of the REGION over GENERATIONS. the FRUSTRATING INTRACTABILITY of the PROBLEM is just STUPEFYING and our COLLECTIVE CULPABILITY in incentivizing such CAVALIER risk-taking is clear as day. this will prove to be a continuing ENVIRONMENTAL SCOURGE for GENERATIONS to come as the unleashed oil continues to silently adversely affect FRAGILE WILDLIFE ECOSYSTEMS.
i believe DUIN and WHEELER made an ADROIT decision in presenting this material through the first-hand accounts of not only the visiting OREGONIANS, but also the local RESIDENTS and FISHERMAN who lived through both DISASTERS. in this manner you get an outside and inside perspective on the depths of how these NATURAL and MAN-MADE CALAMITIES profoundly alter WAYS-OF-LIFE and LOCAL CULTURE that previously spanned GENERATIONS. you also get the sense that we are all SUSCEPTIBLE to such given the changing state of the climate that is rooted in our collective INSATIABLE ADDICTION to fossil fuels. in LOUISIANA, that MASSIVE REVENUE generated by the PETROLEUM INDUSTRY is the root of the PROBLEM and there are no easy solutions.
walking away from this graphic novel, it just feels like and INDICTMENT on humanity's INABILITY to find balance with the NATURAL WORLD. we extract RESOURCES and create value for our SHAREHOLDERS, but at who's expense? our own and the VOICELESS future generations that have to wade through this SHIT. and oil if you live near the DELTA. OIL AND WATER is a MISERABLE but POIGNANT graphic novel well worth checking out.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the ECLECTIC and EXPERIMENTAL roster of the LOS ANGELES-based independent label SARGENT HOUSE RECORDS!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
arguably the most CELEBRATED release from the much-REVERED GEORGIA INDIE ROCK institution that is R.E.M., AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE (WARNER BROS, 1992) is very much the culmination of the ELEVATED SONGWRITING and LYRICISM explored throughout the entire previous decade. never did the band sound more COGENT and AUTHORITATIVE then on this record.
on the preceding album OUT OF TIME (WARNER BROS, 1991), guitarist PETER BUCK was largely disenchanted with the guitar as a viable means of EXPRESSION, which is not hard to understand given the EMPTY, MASTURBATORY EDDIE VAN HALEN-inspired WANKERY of the 1980s. BUCK was always more of a TEXTURAL player who philosophically employed his instrument not unlike that of JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), DANIEL ASH (BAUHAUS, LOVE AND ROCKETS, TONES ON TAIL) or ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE) in that the emotional evocation of the part superseded the TECHNICAL PROWESS or DEXTERITY utilized to achieve such. in short, the part served the song and not the other way around. on OUT OF TIME BUCK famously put down his guitar and picked up a mandolin in its place, writing some of their most FAMOUS songs, especially "LOSING MY RELIGION." when i listen to AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE i am confronted with a guitarist that has fallen in love with his instrument again. the SOARING pre-chorus LEAD EMBELLISHMENTS on the aptly titled "DRIVE" or the more SUBTLE FOLK-inspired DELICATE PLUCKED LINES of "MONTY GOT A RAW DEAL" and the WISTFUL, SOFT-FOCUS STRUMMING of "MAN ON THE MOON." the album to my ears just sounds like a master class in the EMOTIVE potential of the guitar as a sonic vehicle.
in terms of EARNEST POETIC LYRICISM, the always INTUITIVE and REFLECTIVE vocalist MICHAEL STIPE on previous releases always had an INVENTIVE and rather OPAQUE way with WORDS and TURNS-OF-PHRASE that emotively translated where his PSYCHIC and AFFECTIVE headspace was at during the point of creation. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE in that sense is a slight bit of a departure in that the themes and subjects are bit more TRANSPARENT, but such are seemingly the vehicle for translating deeply-felt EMOTIONAL CONTENT. a track like "EVERYBODY HURTS" is so SOLEMN on the face of it that it could very easily fall prey to UNINTENTIONAL SELF-PARODY or MOCKERY. what sells that line is the SERIOUS-MINDED conviction of STIPE's voice as if he is still in the process of dealing with the consequences of said experience in real-time. it is quite the PERFORMANCE and quite the achievement. "NIGHTSWIMMING" is a NOSTALGIC, PIANO-DRIVEN RUMINATION on lake skinny-dipping at night as a youth and that PROFOUND sense of UNIMPEDED FREEDOM that is as EPHEMERAL and JOYFUL as it is BITTERSWEET. not unlike the FLEETING experience of youth itself and growing older. "MAN ON THE MOON" is an ODE to ANDY KAUFMAN as if the late comedian where still alive, ready to pounce and eviscerate our collective cultural expectations once again with one last gag to end all gags. although the track celebrates his COMEDIC AESTHETIC, there is a MELANCHOLIC vibe that seemingly counteracts the words and insinuates the DISCONNECTION and ISOLATION of a comedian from their audience. its as if KAUFMAN is lost at sea and this song is a siren call to lure him back to shore. my personal FAVORITE track is "DRIVE." it is a COMPELLING MEDITATION over the complexities of being LYRICAL and EMPATHETIC in such a PUBLIC MEDIUM. the video really relates this ODD DYNAMIC visually quite astutely and strikingly with band members individually crowd surfing, literally connecting physically with their audience while being above and separate from such. i continue to find both the song and accompanying promotional video quite POWERFUL. unfortunately it is assumed that KURT COBAIN (NIRVANA) tragically committed suicide to this song, which obviously only further fuses that song with its strong theme of ISOLATION in the public imagination one step further.
not unlike U2 post-THE JOSHUA TREE (ISLAND, 1987), R.E.M. post-AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE finds the group more interested in VEILED EXPRESSIONS through ALTERNATE PERSONAS and EXPANDED PRODUCTION with SONIC JUXTAPOSITIONS that hitherto were not previously part of the band's LEXICON OF SOUNDS. i feel like such was an INEVITABLE step away from the EARNESTNESS that was this album in particular, as if STIPE and company did not wish to be so EXPOSED and TRANSPARENT for public consumption again. at least that is my interpretation.
i can't say i blame them. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE is ESSENTIAL and absolutely required listening. most definitely worth checking out to the uninitiated.
im just gonna get them both out of the way right at the jump. yes, the 1990s ALABAMA ALTERNATIVE ROCK band's sole hit, of sorts, was "SAVE ME" which became the SOARING theme song to the 2000s WB SUPERMAN teen-drama SMALLVILLE. yes, the singer and main songwriter CINJUN TATE was formerly married to actress ALYSSA MILANO. for me those are distinctively the least INTERESTING aspects of the former band REMY ZERO.
i believe i became aware of the band in high school during my sophomore year through the school's radio station. VILLA ELAINE (GEFFEN, 1998) was floating around somewhere in their, whether it was a station copy or another DJ i dont remember but i was just taken with TATE's ability to lift a chorus into the stratosphere and then bring things DOWN-TO-EARTH with almost CLAUSTROPHOBIC INTIMACY in the verses. much like other more traditionally-aligned POP inspired ALTERNATIVE ROCK songwriters from around that period like STEPHAN JENKINS (THIRD EYE BLIND), MAX COLLINS (EVE 6), JIM ADKINS (JIMMY EAT WORLD) or ART ALEXAKIS (EVERCLEAR), i felt TATE was a unique songwriter with a firm grasp over the EMOTIONAL dynamics of a track. its almost akin to RELIGIOUS music aimed at sonically mimicking an experience of the SUBLIME sans the christianity.
if you are unfamiliar with the group, definitely check out VILLA ELAINE or their likewise EXCELLENT final album, THE GOLDEN HUM (ELEKTRA, 2001).
parodies by nacrowe
the internet is an INTERESTING place.
when i did my 120th EPISODE of DEER GOD RADIO back during the height of the pandemic in april of 2021, i chose to highlight a SMALL but highly INFLUENTIAL record label responsible for some of my FAVORITE HIP HOP artists of all-time in MF DOOM, MADLIB and the producer J DILLA. it was part of an ONGOING series featuring the ROSTERS of various (mostly INDEPENDENT) RECORD LABELS including at that point LIKE-MINDED firms such as 4AD, DOMINO, STAX, GREENWAY, SUB POP and CHESS and has gone on to include DFA, CARPARK, MATADOR, WARP, NACIONAL, DISCHORD, SARGENT HOUSE, FAT POSSUM, STIFF, FOOL'S GOLD and METAL BLADE to date. for all of these SHOWS i created parodies of their respective LOGOS to say "DEER GOD" instead of their actual name. these are of varying quality but made in GOOD FUN and on SOCIAL MEDIA i routinely tag the LABEL to both let them know about the SHOW and the NONPROFIT RADIO STATION MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC as well as make them aware that i am utilizing, but absolutely not profiting off of their INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY.
what is intriguing to me is that up until this point, for three years i had gotten pretty good responses from some of the ARTISTS and LABELS that i parodied and highlighted on my BI-WEEKLY RADIO SHOW. in fact, in the two years since (and over 200+ total episodes), never anything remotely NEGATIVE happened until STONES THROW, which i will readily admit saddened me. and its not like they did anything particularly intense, just mocking me with two new versions of their circular LOGO stating "WRONG FONT" and "BUT THANKS" on TWITTER. and point taken, DEER GOD has seven letters while STONES THROW has eleven, so the font wasn't completely a one-to-one facsimile. i was just surprised that they would PUNCHING DOWN at someone promoting their LABEL and ROSTER. i took the time and effort to create a playlist of their ECLECTIC ROSTER and talk during a two-hour SHOW about why their LABEL mattered to me, and they effectively SHIT ON ME. or rather the sadly inevitable VILE comment section thereafter did. if it was a direct message from STONES THROW id have been in on the joke and laughed, but there is something about making it public and having their fans make judgements about me that kinda soured me on their whole operation. which is UNFORTUNATE. they are a RELEVANT underground LABEL that continually promotes unknown artists of an ELEVATED artistic caliber in spite of the whims of the industry at large. but i guess they are also pretty ELITIST in the process as well. my experience being case in point. or maybe i am just too THIN-SKINNED.
anyway, below is the EPISODE in question if interested. investigating MADLIB, MF DOOM and J DILLA is most definitely worth your time for the uninitiated.
REST IN PEACE DANIEL DUMILE and JAMES DEWITT YANCEY.
i heard PEARL JAM's early catalogue haphazardly and completely and out of order. it makes sense because i was very young when those first few releases came out and wasn't conscious of music or CULTURE in general at the time. in fact, i was seven when their debut TEN (EPIC, 1991) came out, although i didnt obtain that album until late 1995. i received PEARL JAM's third album VITALOGY (EPIC, 1994) as a gift from my parents, along with SOUNDGARDEN's SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1994), for either christmas or my birthday in late 1994 or early 1995. both of those two records were the first i ever owned and are still PRECIOUS to me. it wasnt until i moved to NIGERIA in and learned in early 1996 from an AMERICAN classmate that there was, in fact, another in-between album called VS. (EPIC, 1993) that i should check out. so my order went VITALOGY, TEN, and the VS. with PEARL JAM.
irrespective of my own IDIOSYNCRATIC exposure to their material, VITALOGY was a pivotal record in their discography as it marked the effective CREATIVE takeover of the band by vocalist EDDIE VEDDER. in comparison, on TEN the outlines of songs were mostly written by the time of his arrival, so his input was purely lyrical. on VS. the band was still very much effectively helmed by guitarist STONE GOSSARD and bassist JEFF AMENT, who started PEARL JAM in the wake the dissolution of MOTHER LOVE BONE due to the TRAGIC passing of frontman ANDEW WOOD from a heroin overdose. what transpired and altered between VS. and VITALOGY was a massive wave of unmitigated commercial success. surreally, VEDDER in october 1993 was even put on the cover of TIME magazine as the poster boy of sorts for his GENERATION, getting the BOB DYLAN / BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN treatment. by the time of production for VITALOGY there was a power shift where VEDDER asserted his songwriting and AESTHETIC INFLUENCES on the product, figuring that if he was going to be selling his likeness to the public he should at least not be PASSIVE in creating the product itself. VITALOGY is sonically and thematically EXPANSIVE and an ARTISTIC departure from the previous two releases. VITALOGY is OBSCURE, SELF-EFFACING and even HUMOROUS whereas the first two albums are more EARNEST, TRANSPARENT and somewhat DOWN-THE-MIDDLE ROCK AND ROLL. there is a through-line though with songs like "CORDUROY" and "BETTER MAN" off of VITALOGY seeming to come from a similar sonic and lyrical place as "DAUGHTER" and "ELDERLY WOMAN BEHIND THE COUNTER IN A SMALL TOWN" off VS. or "BLACK" and "OCEANS" off of TEN.
this is all incredibly long prologue to bring up how CONTROVERSIAL PEARL JAM's fourth album NO CODE (EPIC, 1996) was upon release. the record came in the wake of a DISASTROUS tour in support of VITALOGY in which the band boycotted TICKETMASTER for financially exploiting its FANBASE. at this point also the band had long since stop making promotional music videos in the wake of "JEREMY" off of TEN. my impression of it was that it was meant as a palette cleanser a la NIRVANA's IN UTERO (DGC, 1993) or more drastically LOU REED's METAL MACHINE MUSIC (RCA VICTOR, 1975). it felt like a NONCOMMERCIAL album that was purposely OPAQUE to try to wean off the more FICKLE elements of its rabid FANBASE and create something more INSULAR, ARTFUL and entirely SELF-AWARE. its almost as if they made a CHALLENGING album for another fictional band that didnt have this OVERWHELMING corporate apparatus on its back chomping at the bit for more product to satisfy their INSATIABLE shareholders. i remember the only tracks i really took to were the UPTEMPO, HARD-CHARGING "HAIL, HAIL" and the decidedly SUBDUED "THERE HE GOES" both of which were SOLID songs but not ICONIC singles like those from the first three records.
my opinion now is that this type of relative retreat from the spotlight was INEVITABLE given the PERSONALITY and ETHOS of VEDDER and his bandmates. there was also this palpable sense with the passing of KURT COBAIN years before that having control over your product and putting out into the public something that is AUTHENTIC is really all that matters. COBAIN years earlier commented on their early work being DERIVATIVE of CLASSIC ROCK cliches, which was somewhat ACCURATE and completely BITING. PEARL JAM took such to heart and their career trajectory since has been a conscious attempt at staying true to themselves and their COMMUNITY come what may. this even means reversing course, as PEARL JAM did with the CELEBRATED follow-up to NO CODE, titled YIELD (EPIC, 1998) which was heralded as largely a return to form (even complete with an AWARD-WINNING TODD MCFARLANE-directed animated music video).
but NO CODE lived up to its title, its not really meant to be understood. its an INTERESTING curiosity in their catalogue, but NOT ESSENTIAL in my opinion. i would recommend first-time listeners check any of their first three records with a slight preference to VITALOGY, which is undoubtedly one of my FAVORITE albums from my childhood.
the EMOTIONAL INTIMACY that paradoxically comes with SCALE is something of a central feature in the CREATIVE WORK of globally revered SCULPTOR URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD. as the daughter of UKRAINIAN and POLISH immigrant parents to the UNITED STATES who was born in GERMANY and spent her early youth in a GERMAN detention center during WORLD WAR II, her work is undoubtedly influenced by her EXPERIENCES between cultures and continents. the recent URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD: INTO HER OWN (ICARUS, 2019) documentary explores her career and personal history and exposes an artist with a deep sense of COMPASSION and value in COMMUNITY, both familial and adopted.
the film goes to great lengths to relay the idea that VON RYDINGSVARD did not have an ideal childhood, even after her families relocation to suburban CONNECTICUT. her father had an INDOMITABLE WORK ETHIC but a very real sense of INFERIORITY to his new compatriots that he tragically sublimated on his children quite mercilessly with long-lasting consequences. the FRUSTRATION and RAGE at the physical and psychological ABUSE inflicted by her father was something of a motivating catalyst for VON RYDINGSVARD and her CREATIVE WORK throughout her development well into career.
her work, which historically is based in CEDAR but has in recent years has expanded to include COPPER and BRONZE commissions, is often of a MASSIVE SCALE with minute LABOR-INTENSIVE, HAND-CRAFTED TEXTURES and SURFACE MANIPULATIONS. the result is an IMPOSING monument with distinctly ORGANIC UNDULATIONS that doesn't mimic, yet takes key inspiration from nature. one can project the seeming PERMANENCE of trees or the EPHEMERALITY of clouds onto her WORK, which feel both ABSTRACT and distinctly AUTHENTIC and rooted in the ENVIRONMENT of their installation, wether such be in a BUCOLIC pasture or a CONGESTED urban setting. the film makes the point of connecting the BILLOWING FORMS of her scale work with that of WHEAT STACKS in POLAND, a land she was connected to through BLOOD and GENEALOGY but had never visited when being made aware of the connection by her second husband, the LATE NOBEL PRIZE-winning NEUROSCIENTIST PAUL GREENGARD. their seems to be an affinity for FORMS and MATERIALS that brought her COMFORT as a child, as she remembers being in a small makeshift wooden room with her CLOSE-KNIT family in GERMANY during the WAR, the structure providing SECURITY and SOLACE from the HORRORS outside. in this sense her use of WOOD as a MATERIAL seems anchored in a subconscious desire for a state of BALANCE that was never achieved on either shore.
as a young woman having moved out to the BAY AREA, VON RYDINGSVARD had a child from a DISASTROUS first marriage with a partner that had a PSYCHOTIC BREAK and was later institutionalized with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. she made the decision to return to the EAST COAST in the mid 1970s and started pursuing her CREATIVE WORK in a SOHO loft (then absolutely not a chic address) with a young daughter in tow. she also took classes at COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, where she earned her MFA. it feels like her success was HARD-EARNED with much STRUGGLE both financially and psychologically given her INTENSE family history. for VON RYDINGSVARD, NEW YORK CITY during this period was something of a revelation with many female artists making a name for themselves. she took inspiration from an EXPANDED sisterhood of in fellow SCULPTORS (EVA HESSE, LOUISE BOURGEOIS, LYNDA BENGLIS), COMPOSERS (MEREDITH MONK), PAINTERS (HELEN FRANKENTHALER, LEE KRASNER, JOAN MITCHELL), PHOTOGRAPHERS (CINDY SHERMAN) and CONCEPTUAL / MULTI-MEDIA / PERFORMANCE ARTISTS (JOAN JONAS, NANCY SPERO, YOKO ONO, ANNA MENDIETA, CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN, HANNAH WILKE, TRISHA BROWN, YVONNE RANIER). in NEW YORK CITY she found a home that allowed her the FREEDOM to reach her full potential through her CREATIVE INSTINCTS and the INDOMITABLE WORK ETHIC she inherited.
the film makes the point of commenting that her WORK in some aspect is also about the idea of LABOR, of the TACTILE nature of INTENSE BODILY MANIPULATION of MATERIALS. its almost akin to the labor exhibited in the NATURAL WORLD with the ELEMENTS quietly eroding rock into EVERMORE COMPLEX MANIPULATIONS, whether such be through the vehicle of OCEANIC WIND GUSTS, ICE SHEETS, ROLLING RIVERS or SAND-BLASTED FURRIES of RISING AIR. that ever-constant process of becoming seems to be the point to some extent. you can see her joy at the final CONSTRUCTION of her installations as the realized form of the work of her and her close team of associates becomes apparent. all that minute WORK and hours of DECISIONS and DELIBERATIONS manifest in a PERMANENT FORM. those choices feel like a process based in a deep appreciation of NATURE and the complex systems that exact physical changes on ROCK FORMATIONS, GLACIERS and RIVERBANKS. its a deeply INTRIGUING dynamic to watch in isolation and URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD: INTO HER OWN provides a COMPELLING glimpse of such.
a 17th-century SAILOR is abandoned at SEA on an EFFECTIVE DEATH SENTENCE when he comes in contact with a MERMAID, an ALLURING harbinger of his own impending DEMISE. JULIA GFRÖRER's AFFECTING graphic novel BLACK IS THE COLOR (FANTAGRAPHICS, 2013) explores the SEDUCTIVE possibilities equated with DEATH and one's own MORTALITY.
for the ship's captain, faced with dwindling supplies, the CRUEL solution of abandoning two of his crew to their DOOM at SEA is an easy decision made on purely UTILITARIAN LOGIC. their SACRIFICE will effectively allow others to live. such are the HARSH REALITIES of life on the water. lost alone at SEA on a dinghy (his partner died shortly thereafter to the elements), the SAILOR is confronted by a MERMAID who visits him at nighttime and eventually seduces him shortly before his DEATH. somewhere else the ship he left catches fire from lightning killing all on board. what is INTRIGUING is not the narrative of all this DESTRUCTION itself, but the BLASE, JADED manner in which a gaggle of MERMAIDS discuss the victims and their IMPENDING DOOM. they treat the victims at a distance and talk of them almost as if they were part of a police lineup, discussing their physical features and their relative value to them based on such. this is an INVERSION of how SAILORS are portrayed in literature speaking of SIRENS and their SEDUCTIVE PROWESS. here the victimized SAILORS are just potential trysts to be used and discarded. rinse and repeat.
this dynamic seems to be a METAPHOR of both the UNFORGIVING NATURE of the PHYSICAL WORLD and its ABSOLUTE INDIFFERENCE to the collective efforts, trials and tribulations of humanity. the MERMAIDS in this narrative represent that sense of DETACHMENT, both PHYSICAL and EMOTIONAL, of the NATURAL ORDER from the needs of mankind. by the example of the lost SAILOR at SEA making love to MERMAID, we see that such distance is truly only traversed in the throngs of passing along into another plane of existence, of departing the NATURAL REALM in DEATH. the REAL INTIMACY is the reclaiming of one's physical remains back into the grip of NATURE and utilized to her own ends in the NEVER-ENDING chain system of atoms being REPURPOSED, REORGANIZED and RE-CONTEXTUALIZED in PERPETUITY. the idea that we are not separate from NATURE, but a manifestation of it. too often mankind identifies itself in contrast to the ENVIRONMENT and its processes, but such is SHORT-SIDED and WRONG. NATURE is always in control and back to her embrace we will inevitably return, on her terms not ours, much like the RUINOUS and DESTRUCTIVE AMOROUS advances of a MERMAID.
BLACK IS THE COLOR is quite the achievement. even in this translated version (original is in FRENCH), the narrative implications of the theme surrounding DEATH is PROFOUND and deeply THOUGHT-PROVOKING. definitely worth checking out.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the EXPERIMENTAL NEW YORK CITY-based, NO WAVE-influenced INDIE ROCK institution that was SONIC YOUTH!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
by the time you get to PANTERA's final album REINVENTING THE STEEL (EAST WEST, 2000), a transition within the band's SOUND and RELATIONSHIP to one another that had been underway since THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL (EAST WEST, 1996) had basically come to fruition and fully calcified. namely this album was a band at the END OF THEIR ROPE CREATIVELY and INTERPERSONALLY.
in terms of their sound, the first two records COWBOYS FROM HELL (ATCO, 1990) and VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER (ATCO, 1992) were the sound of an incredibly tight BROTHERHOOD coalescing together while writing, living and struggling together to create and promote arguably some of the most COHESIVE and EXCITING METAL ever produced. those two records represent an ascent and upward trajectory both commercially and in terms of shared VISION and FOCUS as a CREATIVE UNIT.
once they hit FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (EAST WEST, 1994) some INTERNAL SHIFTS had occurred. for one, having been recorded in NASHVILLE it is the only PANTERA record to not be recorded in their home studio as everything before was in PANTEGO SOUND STUDIOS (formerly owned and operated by the ABOTT BROTHERS' father for decades) in ARLINGTON and everything after was done at DIMEBAG's home studio at his DALWORTHINGTON GARDENS residence. as such the record is ODD since it is both EXPANSIVE sonically and lyrically CLAUSTROPHOBIC with themes of DRUG ABUSE and MENTAL DEGRADATION. shortly thereafter its release vocalist PHIL ANSELMO had a HEROIN OVERDOSE on tour which shook the band to its core since for the first time the band's seemingly UNSHAKEABLE UNITY had been COMPROMISED. it was during this period also that ANSELMO pursued a major side project in the SLUDGE METAL supergroup DOWN, which the ABOTT BROTHERS tolerated but quietly chafed at given their allegiance and UNSPARING FOCUS to all things PANTERA.
unfortunately, this schism was manifested in THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL being conceived and recorded in two separate studios, the band in TEXAS and ANSELMO in LOUISIANA at TRENT REZNOR's NOTHING STUDIOS in NEW ORLEANS. this DETERIORATION continued on REINVENTING THE STEEL which to some listeners is the sound of a band in bad need of a well-deserved hiatus to recharge and regroup. which of course never happened as their world tour was cut short abroad by 9/11 and the band proved to never play live again thereafter as ANSELMO pursued an ever-growing list of side projects (DOWN and SUPERJOINT RITUAL among numerous others) without checking in with DIMEBAG or VINNE PAUL, leaving them in perpetual limbo for a few years.
for me the experience of listening to REINVENTING THE STEEL is a bit BITTERSWEET as there are some STANDOUT tracks like "YESTERDAY DON'T MEAN SHIT," "HELLBOUND" and "REVOLUTION IS MY NAME", but overall its LACK OF COHESION and VISION makes it emerge as the LEAST IMPRESSIVE PANTERA album by far. even sonically, at this point everything had DISINTEGRATED into PURE ATTACK and AGGRESSION, whereas before there was a PALPABLE sense of GROOVE involved, like a more TECHNICALLY ADVANCED and HARDER-HITTING ZZ TOP. maybe, like with METALLICA or SLAYER, the standard and expectation level with PANTERA is just so ELEVATED that they were bound to misfire eventually, but the whole effort feels like a WASTED OPPORTUNITY for such an INNOVATIVE and POWERFUL band that basically kept the METAL flag going in the 1990s in the wake of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion.
you also can't help but wonder what would have happened if the band just took an extended break, got some side project records out of their system and STAYED IN COMMUNICATION so that when they eventually regrouped theyd be ready to actually fire on all cylinders again having reconvened as a more MATURE and FORGIVING UNIT, both CREATIVELY and INTERPERSONALLY. that of course never happened and the band is permanently a "WHAT IF" scenario only further solidified by the TRAGIC DEATH of DIMEBAG and the subsequent health problems of VINNIE PAUL that led to his PASSING from natural causes a decade later. the modern iteration of the band, nobly carried on with close friends of the ABOTT BROTHERS and METAL all-star recruits in ZAKK WYLDE (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, OZZY OSBOURNE) and CHARLIE BENANTE (ANTHRAX, S.O.D.), still pales in comparison to the ENERGY, CAMARADERIE and SPIRIT of the original which sadly flamed out at the turn of the millennium with their final released effort.
i should also mention that this was the period i saw the band play OZZFEST on one proved to be one of their last national tours of the UNITED STATES. although the band was AMAZING, you could definitely see the divide in retrospect as ANSELMO mumbled his way through his seeming CHARLES MANSON phase while DIMEBAG was in full, VIBRANT flight DAZZLING the audiences with his GUITAR HEROICS. it definitely appeared like an odd couple but a DEGRADED PANTERA was likely better than most bands at the top of their game so INCREDIBLE was this band.
i wouldnt recommend REINVENTING THE STEEL as it is my LEAST FAVORITE PANTERA record. for me any of the first three albums is a great starting point for this LEGENDARY and highly INFLUENTIAL METAL band, undoubtedly of the first order right alongside BLACK SABBATH, SLAYER and JUDAS PRIEST.