NO DOUBT was always an ALTERNATIVE ROCK band with some serious NEW WAVE leanings (especially 2 TONE SKA groups like MADNESS, THE ENGLISH BEAT and THE SPECIALS), but on their fourth major label record RETURN OF SATURN (INTERSCOPE, 2000) they really took that proclivity into new territory. it should be stated that despite this being their fourth release, in reality it was the follow-up to their COMMERCIAL breakout TRAGIC KINGDOM (review linked HERE) album which with its FUN, UPBEAT (and slightly SARDONIC) vibe rode the third-wave ska craze of the mid 1990s to international acclaim and turned GWEN STEFANI into the second coming of DEBBIE HARRY. that record was a trendsetter in no large part to its context of being completely out of place in terms of tone and sentiment during the tale end of the GRUNGE era.
with RETURN OF SATURN, a reference to the approximately 29 years it takes the earth to orbit the sun, STEFANI is a savagely INTROSPECTIVE and remarkably self-flagellating meditation on AGING, unfair expectations regarding APPEARANCE, RELATIONSHIPS as she herself was approaching thirty during the writing process. these themes are all over tracks like "MAGIC'S IN THE MAKEUP," "BATHWATER," "SIX FEET UNDER," "MARRY ME," "EX-GIRLFRIEND," "ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER," "STARING PROBLEM" and especially "SIMPLE KIND OF LIFE." the fact that sonically such EXPOSED sentiments were presented with a LUSH, SYRUPY NEW WAVE pop sheen a la celebrated bands like THE CARS, TALK TALK, ADAM & THE ANTS and THE GO-GO's only made the harsh juxtaposition that much more COMPELLING. relative to the rest of their catalogue, RETURN OF SATURN both sonically and lyrically is a bit of an outlier and in my opinion their STRONGEST creative effort to date.
in 2000 i was a junior in high school and i had just moved to KUWAIT. RETURN OF SATURN was absolutely part of the soundtrack for that era in my life. that palpable sense of disconnect from yourself that STEFANI was working through made sense to me as i was navigating a seemingly HOSTILE foreign culture, even in retrospect. i've been lucky enough to have been to other MUSLIM countries such as JORDAN, EGYPT, TURKISH CYPRUS and even parts of PALESTINE, but KUWAIT was special in how hostile it felt to foreigners, even the AMERICANS that insured their survival against SADDAM HUSSEIN some ten years before my arrival. it was a CONFUSING time that only became more so the next year when 9/11 happened during my senior year in KUWAIT. i just remember feeling OUT OF THE LOOP socially, culturally, sexually, linguistically, emotionally and so on. STEFANI sings about her biological time clock rather explicitly, but in all honesty that felt like a shielded sentiment aimed at the HOPELESSNESS of finding a suitable mate and life partner. obviously her past relationship with bassist and talented songwriting collaborator TONY KANAL was front of mind for much of the audience, but the real target of such was BUSH frontman GAVIN ROSSDALE, who in retrospect decades later was a poor choice. it is that voiced desire for CONNECTION in a seemingly DEMORALIZED situation that connected with me as a teenager.
subsequent NO DOUBT releases, and even STEFANI's solo career, feel like tired retreads of the MAGIC-IN-A-BOTTLE that was TRAGIC KINGDOM. which is unfortunate. with RETURN OF SATURN their was a moment where the band produced a SOPHISTICATED and EVOCATIVE record that really touched a nerve and humanized their lead singer as a fully dimensional lyricist and songwriter, rather than an anachronistic caricature of GENERATION X femininity.
back when we were filming our live music performance series OFF THE M in NEW YORK CITY, one of the standout acts we came across and recorded was the TALENTED BROOKLYN POST PUNK outfit HONDURAS who had a real knack for juxtaposing ANGULAR guitar textures while maintaining a traditional MELODIC sensibility with a NIHILISTIC edge. to my ears, their performance i saw that night at MARKET HOTEL sounded like UNDERGROUND INDIE ROCK music celebrating the end of the world. frontman PATRICK PHILLIPS has a distinct stage PRESENCE and CHARISMA that is equal parts DAVID JOHANSEN, IAN CURTIS and LUX INTERIOR.
it was a real bummer that we never got to utilize their footage as part of the series. i recall their performance of "BORDERS" was particularly STRONG the night. not even sure what they have been up to recently since the pandemic, when they were actively participating in the GEORGE FLOYD protests and even documented police brutality in NEW YORK CITY during the TRUMP administration. in 2021 the band apparently changed their name to NAMESAKE. here's looking forward to new music from PHILLIPS and company.
either way, HONDURAS / NAMESAKE is well worth checking out.
for me the experience of listening to anything MAX CAVALERA has been involved in over the years (i.e. SOULFLY, CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, NAILBOMB, KILLER BE KILLED, PROBOT and of course SEPULTURA) is akin to snuggling in a warm familiar blanket. the minute i hear that POWERFUL SNARLING, SNEERING, VICIOUS beast of a voice, i am instantaneously transported to being a GLEEFULLY nodding-in-approval twelve year-old, when i first heard CHAOS A.D. () off a tape an older middle school friend had at the time. CAVALERA's presence and PASSION for music was also an interesting primer for BRAZILIAN culture writ large, which interestingly is not far removed from that of the WEST AFRICAN culture i was immersed in when i first became aware of his music.
and i think it is that ENTHUSIASM and unadulterated JOY in getting lost in the music that separates him from most in his peer group, i.e. classic 80s THRASH METAL bands like SLAYER, TESTAMENT, MEGADETH, EXODUS, ANTHRAX, DEATH ANGEL and METALLICA, DEATH METAL bands like OBITUARY, DEATH and MORBID ANGEL, BOLT THROWER and NAPALM DEATH as well as GROOVE METAL bands like PANTERA, WHITE ZOMBIE and their later acolytes in MASTODON, LAMB OF GOD, GOJIRA and the like. with the exception of maybe DIMEBAG DARRELL, CAVALERA in my opinion singularly personified the transcendent escapist ABANDON that only great METAL provided.
and did i mention that the dude is still a DIEHARD fan of the genre and, like ROB HALFORD of JUDAS PRIEST, seemingly loves paying it forward to the next generation of musicians. CAVALERA is a veritable METAL ambassador and elder statesman at this stage in his career nearly four decades in and has yet to loose his footing in the least. here's hoping he keeps the streak going as undoubtedly the man has given so much HAPPINESS to my life and that of my brother who is also a huge fan.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode from late 2020 (during the pandemic) on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to the vast catalogue of MAX CAVALERA. enjoy!
TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE SATELLITE HEART (WARNER BROS, 1993) was a bit of TRANSITIONAL record for THE FLAMING LIPS when it came out in the early 1990s.
for one it is the first record to include both guitarist RONALD JONES and drummer STEVEN DROZD in the fold. JONES would last one more record before DROZD took over on guitar ever since and became the prominent secret SAVANT-LEVEL multi-instrumentalist, composer and co-writing partner to band leader WAYNE COYNE ever since. given such personnel shifts, this record marks what i would consider the beginning point in the evolution of the band as it has existed sonically and conceptually ever since, which is to say that they shifted from being a JANE'S ADDICTION inspired BUTTHOLE SURFERS retread to a band that pushed the genre and audience experience further with each successive recording that has only gotten WEIRDER, FREAKIER and LESS PREDICTABLE over the intervening years.
having been signed to WARNER BROS in the midst of the pre-NIRVANA rumblings of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion (i.e. JANE'S ADDICTION, FAITH NO MORE, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, etc), TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE SATELLITE HEART was their improbable second major label release. somehow someway it managed to include the equally unlikely novelty radio hit "SHE DON'T USE JELLY" which essentially allowed the band some leeway with WARNER BROS to pursue more EXPERIMENTAL sounds and concepts on later releases, if barely. and i really believe that tension is at the heart of what makes THE FLAMING LIPS so great. they have managed to create objectively weird releases that have garnered enough crossover appeal to satiate a cutthroat major label environment that is not looking to support artist development. if anything, THE FLAMING LIPS had the luck of being at the tail end of a recording industry with a longer leash than today. with tracks like "PILOT CAN AT THE QUEER OF GOD," "TURN IT ON," "SHE DON'T USE JELLY," "CHEWIN' THE APPLE OF YER EYE," "BE MY HEAD," and "SLOW NERVE ACTION" coupled with a decidedly haphazard PSYCHEDELIC and handmade DIY aesthetic to their visuals created quite a synergy that played well in the anything-goes zeitgeist of the 1990s. this record felt at home amongst emerging EXPERIMENTAL cultural forces at the time including BECK, TRICKY, CIBO MATTO, CORNELIUS or even the BEASTIE BOYS.
in retrospect im still amazed that something this UNORTHODOX was even released on a major label. period.
the follow-up CLOUDS TASTE METALLIC (WARNER BROS, 1995) was even more sonically DISSONANT and conceptually OPAQUE before the band ditched guitars (mostly) and came up with their first magnum opus THE SOFT BULLETIN (WARNER BROS, 1999). but to understand those later records and the evolution of the band, the plot really began with TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE SATELLITE HEART and the influence of DROZD, who remains today one of the most critically UNDERRATED musicians and songwriters of his generation.
the dude is a revelation. definitely check out TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE SATELLITE HEART and every subsequent FLAMING LIPS record. they are all most definitely worthy of your time, irrespective of your interest in ALTERNATIVE ROCK, INDIE ROCK or AVANT GARDE music.
i found the documentary WARREN ELLIS: CAPTURED GHOSTS (SEQUART, 2012) about the NOTORIOUS BRITISH graphic novel writer to be quite a bore. my interest for watching this film came from reading his work in TRANSMETROPOLITAN (VERTIGO, 1997-2002), RED (WILDSTORM, 2003-2004), and THE AUTHORITY (WILDSTORM, 1999), all three are INTENSE, THOUGHTFUL comic book series that utilize TRANSGRESSIVE scenarios as a means of prodding the reader's sense of HUMAN DECENCY. in essence, WARREN ELLIS is producing MODERN ALLEGORIES and MORALITY PLAYS, utilizing familiar narrative forms while pushing them to their ethical limits. in contrast with his creative work, which i found to be quite CONTEMPLATIVE and entirely THOUGHT-PROVOKING, this documentary which follows him basking in his own TIRESOME attempts at SELF-MYTHOLOGY just came off TRITE and BANAL. to be perfectly honest, i had a difficult time staying awake throughout.
it is important to state that this film came out years before reports of SEXUAL COERCION allegations were brought on by multiple women in the summer of 2020. since then he has been something of a PARIAH within the industry and has effectively been BLACKLISTED in the wake of said claims.
i think this documentary is interesting in how it presents a REVERED cultural figure and the lengths to which peers and acolytes rationalize and contextualize aggressively DEVIANT and unapologetically DEBASED behavior. i found the BRAZENNESS of these justifications by lackeys to be pretty SHOCKING, even in the wake of DONALD TRUMP. its a situation entirely reminiscent of MARILYN MANSON and how his public and private persona fed into one another and led to his DOWNFALL, which likewise included SEXUAL COERCION as well as false-imprisonment and grooming allegations. none of it felt like a surprise in that an army of misguided apologists attempted to justify such as part of his art in some VILE and absolutely WARPED perspective. its truly BIZARRE in that you even have JOSS WHEDON (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, TOY STORY, THE AVENGERS) expressing opinions on said behavior, himself someone in just a few short years after the recording of this film will be publicly alleged to have utilized his authority on set to coerce sexual favors from subordinates. just proves the power of celebrity and the gender power imbalance that is still very much a feature of western society, despite our attempts to point fingers at other parts of the globe.
it should be noted that ELLIS has since come out and apologized from what reports i could gather, but the documentary i am interested in would be the 2022 version of his personal narrative, not this 2012 version. especially given the nature of his work and the SAD legacy of his personal choices, he may be an ideal candidate to eloquently shed light and poignant insight into the CORROSIVE mindset of TOXIC MASCULINITY and the societal structures that encourage such to metastasize and flourish.
i first became aware of artist JAY HOWELL via his CRUDE yet singularly EVOCATIVE CLASSIC TALES animations for VANS where prominent athletes and musicians recount extreme events from their lives. basically everyone from KEITH MORRIS (CIRCLE JERKS / OFF! / BLACK FLAG), ANDERSON .PAAK, DARRYL JENNIFER (BAD BRAINS) and ROBERT TRUJILLO (SUICIDAL TENDENCIES / OZZY OSBOURNE / METALLICA) to SCOTTY CRANMER, ELIJAH BERLE, JEFF GROSSO, TONY ALVA, GEOFF ROWLEY, CHRISTIAN HOSOI and so on. what i loved about these figures was how DISFIGURED and CREEPY they were, with flapping stick limbs and bulging facial expressions these GROTESQUE humanoids felt like the perfect avatars for athletes and musicians that live outside the normal guardrails of society, both physical and moral.
so of course i sought out his equally MAKESHIFT zine anthology PUNK'S GIT CUT (LAST GASP, 2015) just to get a sense of where this dude is coming from. and for that effort i am still quite lost because this publication defies definition. most of his graphic work is HASTILY-CONCEIVED SHARPIE notes of nonsensical scenarios meant to prod and titillate with references to UNUSUAL methods of SELF-HARM, SEX and BODILY FUNCTIONS. id say it was SOPHOMORIC in nature if the actual drawings werent so damn PRIMITIVE and RAW. if anything those drawings convey an ANARCHIC sense of PATHOS and PERSPECTIVE that far outruns the text that contextualizes them. in HOWELL's rudimentary work i see nods and echoes of work by another NOTORIOUS CALIFORNIA artist in RAYMOND PETTIBON, who similarly takes delight in the IMMEDIATE and RANDOM juxtapositions of image and text.
my favorite section of this anthology is "THE DARK WAVE" narrative about a BLACK METAL singer tripping balls during a concert and then running into a forest graveyard and ultimately surfing a coffin before aliens presumably accost him in the ocean. just the LAWLESS humor, ABSURDITY and the just plain RANDOMNESS of it all was thoroughly enjoying. i look forward to seeking out his other more recent publications.
definitely check out the work of JAY HOWELL. its hard to believe this dude has done work for NICKELODEON for children's programing. nothing more INSIDIOUS then that i guess, then again i was raised on PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE so who knows.
ive been rewatching CONAN O'BRIEN clips for months now and basically rediscovering the COMEDY GENIUS that is comedy writer BRIAN STACK in the process. i just gradually came to realize that he was at the heart of many of my favorite sketches that are absolutely RIDICULOUS. over his 18 years following CONAN on all three of his shows iterations, STACK created and played on so many great sketches like "THE INTERRUPTER," "STEVE ST. HELENS," "JOE GALLIANO," "THE FANTASTIC GUY," "THE SLIPNUTZ," "THE GHOST CROONER, "INAPPROPRIATE RESPONSE CHANNEL," "TWO GUYS FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION," "BULLET-PROOF LEGS," "WIKIBEAR," "HANNIGAN THE SALESMAN" and "FRANKENSTEIN WASTES A MINUTE OF OUR TIME" among many others.
what makes STACK so funny is his unflappable FEARLESSNESS and ability to fully commit to being irredeemably ABSURD, no matter how JUVENILE or BRILLIANT the material is. if im having a bad day, my go to move for the longest time was to watch anything NORM MACDONALD-related. that still stands but now trying to find classic STACK sketches on CONAN is close behind. STACK has been writing for fellow SECOND CITY alumni STEPHEN COLBERT on his LATE SHOW program on CBS since taking over for comedy legend DAVID LETTERMAN in 2015 and is celebrated for his voice over reoccurring sketches like "GOD," "CARTOON DONALD TRUMP" and "THE GHOST OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN."
if you are not familiar with his work, definitely check out some of the clips below from both CONAN and COLBERT. BRIAN STACK is most definitely worth it.
as ive' written about before concerning RUST IN PEACE (review linked HERE), my introduction to MEGADETH was during my middle school years when my family lived in NIGERIA. for whatever reason, METALLICA, SEPULTURA, PANTERA, WHITE ZOMBIE and MEGADETH were the groups the kids a few years older than me listened to and not THRASH METAL peer bands like ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT or SLAYER (which in retrospect is quite odd). i am almost positive i first heard YOUTHANASIA (CAPITOL, 1994) from my older friends at the time.
i consider this album to be last of the three CLASSIC records put out by the definitive MEGADETH lineup of DAVE MUSTAINE, MARTY FRIEDMAN, DAVE ELLEFSON and NICK MENZA. the other two being the aforementioned RUST IN PEACE (CAPITOL, 1992) and COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION (CAPITOL, 1992). once you get into CRYPTIC WRITINGS (CAPITOL, 1997) things get a bit screwy and MUSTAINE really bit hard on his longstanding personal obsession with mimicking the formula paved by his perceived nemesis in his former band METALLICA. the cool thing about these three CLASSIC lineup albums is that the their song-craft and TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY hold up rather well to other peer bands from the same period. i'll be generous and diplomatic by saying that MUSTAINE's singing voice is an acquired taste (one that i can tolerate in small portions). standout tracks include "ADDICTED TO CHAOS," "TRAIN OF CONSEQUENCES," "A TOUT LE MONDE" and "RECKONING DAY." all of them have a more STREAM-LINED aesthetic without sacrificing AGGRESSION or technical VIRTUOSITY. its a pretty solid effort whose formula was unfortunately abandoned on subsequent releases.
at my school in NIGERIA there was a dearth of substitute teachers, so my mom would sometimes sit in for the high school math teacher. she's a former university math professor. i remember hearing from her how the kids would try to get her to let them play "A TOUT LE MONDE" in the class because somehow it would help them with their FRENCH class next period. pretty funny. i never really understood why the chorus of that song was in a foreign language anyway. MUSTAINE is a rather CONSERVATIVE dude with pretty REGRESSIVE views on immigration and foreign policy in general, which makes a song written and sung partly in FRENCH a CURIOUS choice to say the least.
all that being said, do i recommend YOUTHANASIA? i dont know, maybe. its a SOLID MEGADETH album and MARTY FRIEDMAN's solos are generally COMPELLING and TASTEFUL. that said, a DECENT MEGADETH album still probably fails in comparison next to a SUB-PAR METALLICA or SLAYER record, which was the case at the time (i.e. LOAD / RELOAD and DIVINE INTERVENTION). so... yeah, check it out if you are really into THRASH METAL, otherwise i'd advise any number of other more COMPELLING METAL records from the same era that are more worth your time by the likes of PANTERA, NAILBOMB, TOOL, DARKTRHONE, KORN, FEAR FACORY, SEPULTURA, HELMET, DEFTONES, AT THE GATES, KYUSS, TYPE O NEGATIVE, ENSLAVED, NAPALM DEATH, KILLING JOKE, SOUNDGARDEN, BOLT THROWER, EMPEROR, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, ALICE IN CHAINS, MACHINEHEAD, TESTAMENT and WHITE ZOMBIE among many others.
a couple months back i was researching the extended roster of CARPARK RECORDS in preparation for a DEER GOD RADIO episode on the independent record label that specializes in EXPERIMENTAL AMBIENT MUSIC and INDIE ROCK. it was during that process i became acquainted with NEW JERSEY's own MEMORY TAPES, stage alias of multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter/record producer DAYVE HAWK.
the sound of MEMORY TAPES is a LO-FI blend of AMBIENT DANCE MUSIC and UNCONVENTIONAL found sound textures with a distinctly HAZY SHOEGAZE aesthetic. listening to HAWK's music makes you feel NOSTALGIC, as if it was a touching soundtrack for a preciously obscure indie film that was never created. i just know that when i discovered MEMORY TAPES after listening to several bands, i was immediately taken by the warm yet distant EMOTIONAL resonance of his songs. definitely worth checking out.
ive been on a huge SHOEGAZE kick as of late. been reading the new memoir by LUSH front-woman MIKI BERENYI (review to come shortly) which got me down the rabbit-hole reinvestigating bands like RIDE, SWIRLIES, PALE SAINTS and CHAPTERHOUSE in addition to newer bands like ASOBI SEKSU, NO JOY, THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART and DIIV. ive pretty much been listening nonstop since my senior year of high school to SLOWDIVE, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE CATHERINE WHEEL and LUSH. that year was when i largely jumped into the EXPERIMENTAL waters of 80s POST PUNK and early 90s SHOEGAZE and largely havent looked back since.
there is something innately SEDUCTIVE about being washed over and smothered in repeating seasick waves of delayed distorted reverb. its a romantically HYPNOTIC guitar tone that is very much both ETHEREAL and MANTRA-LIKE as it envelopes and passes over your senses. ive always found the sound to be incredible dream-like and even NOSTALGIC as it makes you consider past EMOTIONAL states both good and bad that the sound has evoked. when employed poorly it sounds like nonsensical unstructured mush, but when conceived and composed intelligently in a great song it is something to be marveled at. it feels almost ALCHEMICAL in nature.
examples of such include "WHEN THE SUN HITS" by SLOWDIVE, "WHEN YOU SLEEP" by MY BLOODY VALENTINE, "SWEETNESS AND LIGHT" by LUSH and even the more recent by "HARE TAROT LIES" by NO JOY. definitely encourage anyone interested to seek out those specific tracks. lightning in a bottle in my opinion.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to SHOEGAZE bands past and present. enjoy!
the BEASTIE BOYS' fourth record ILL COMMUNICATION (CAPITOL, 1994) was a bit of an ARTISTIC and personal WATERSHED moment for the group as it showcased a newfound capacity for individual EXPRESSION unheard of on previous releases. when the group released LICENSED TO ILL (review linked HERE) some eight years before in 1986, HIP HOP was in its infancy and the three members were still in their early twenties. most of that record was created as an inside joke with SNARKY asides meant to lampoon types of people they grew up with and saw around them in NYC. even the tour with its SOPHOMORIC stage props and inflatable phalluses was meant as a joke rather than some huge political statement. but over time they came to understand that their crowd wasnt in on that joke and perception was becoming reality. if you act like a dumbass with CHAUVINIST lyrics ("BRASS MONKEY" especially), then people are going to assume you are a dumb MISOGYNIST.
what is so revolutionary about ILL COMMUNICATION is how the band owns their past mistakes and moves forward with GRACE and CONTRITION, something that is utterly unheard of before or since in the often crudely anti-female world of HIP HOP. right from the get-go on opening track "SURE SHOT," ADAM YAUCH memorably quips that "i want to say a little something that's long overdue / the disrespect to women has got to be through / to all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends / i want to offer my love and respect to the end," which is a completely TRANSFORMATIVE statement that altered their public persona for the rest of their career. this new understanding of the weight of their actions and the influence it had on their audience defined what causes (MILAREPA FUND, ASPCA, TIBET HOUSE US, FOOD BANK FOR NEW YORK CITY, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY, LUNCHBOX FUND, RATIONAL ANIMAL) and events (TIBETAN FREEDOM CONCERTS) they promoted and associated themselves with from here on out. in essence they transitioned to the role of engaged PROGRESSIVE activists. this legacy continues to this day as TRUMP supporters during the height of MAGA-dom in 2016 decided to use swastikas to desecrate a BROOKLYN park named in YAUCH's honor in his old neighborhood.
previous to the recording of ILL COMMUNICATION, YAUCH became a practicing BUDDHIST chose to make this new found perspective explicit on the upcoming album. famously all three members of the BEASTIE BOYS were raised JEWISH and it really says something about AD ROCK and MIKE D to embrace their friend and colleague at this moment. from what ive read and heard in interviews, their response was that of course their friend had found this new thing he felt passionately about and wanted to share and for them that was enough. they loved and supported their friend and in the end became ENRICHED with an education about BUDDHIST precepts, history and culture. this transformation can be best heard explicitly on the track (my favorite) "BODHISATTVA VOW." for the uninitiated, in the MAHAYANA BUDDHIST tradition one who attains enlightenment has the opportunity to avoid the cycle of rebirth as they have already attained a state of karmic purity. the bodhisattva vow is that they will voluntarily jump back into rebirth to assist all other sentient being in reaching that state first before they themselves depart. its a vow of complete SELFLESSNESS and service to all others before the self in the most profound manner possible. given this perspective, the ALEX GREY artwork GAIA prominently displayed in the middle of the liner notes furthers this profound sentiment of the INTERDEPENDENCE of humanity with the natural order. it really is quite the TRANSITIONAL record.
in addition to "SURE SHOT" and "BODHISATTVA VOW" other NOTABLE tracks include "ROOT DOWN," "SABOTAGE" and "GET IT TOGETHER." it would be criminal negligence to no mention that this is the second of three records co-produced by MARIO CALDATO JR, the other two being CHECK YOUR HEAD (CAPITOL, 1992) and HELLO NASTY (CAPITOL, 1992). as a TALENTED multi-instrumentalist and composer, his production duties were INVALUABLE to not just the SEAMLESS nature of these recordings (as such were often SAMPLE-HEAVY of varying quality source material), but to EMPOWERMENT of the group itself. often each member would record at home to their own devices that would be compiled and worked over by CALDATO, essentially streamlining the workflow process. i think that this one key reason that the album is such an ECLECTIC affair.
speaking for myself, ILL COMMUNICATION is the definitive BEASTIE BOYS record as it showcased a VARIED sonic aesthetic and MATURE, INCLUSIVE worldview that informed the second half of their career and ultimately their legacy as a group. one of my favorite HIP HOP records ever and most definitely required listening for anyone interested in anything from EAST COAST HIP HOP to ALTERNATIVE ROCK and beyond.
RIP ADAM YAUCH.
the relationship between sleeve ART and the MUSIC it promotes has always been an INVIGORATING yet SUBTLE art, especially to music lovers like me. when seeking out an unfamiliar record by unknown ARTIST, seemingly you were always attempting to accurately surmise what the MUSIC would possibly SOUND like given the cover sleeve ARTWORK. most times this was a fool's errand but a fun one. the MAGIC of this interplay between SOUND and VISUALS is now largely lost given the MODERN advent of mobile streaming and various TECHNOLOGY-enabled distribution vehicles that make AUDIO content (as well as VIDEO) available instantaneously. there is no risk in purchasing a record, since commonly in recent years there is no record and consequently there is no purchase anymore (just watch it on YOUTUBE).
the documentary 23 ENVELOPE (BBC, 1985) is short documentary regarding the design firm 23 ENVELOPE, which was made up of graphic designer VAUGHAN OLIVER and photographer/videographer NIGEL GRIERSON. their partnership lasted from 1980 to 1988 and was celebrated for its CREATIVE work with BOUTIQUE BRITISH independent label 4AD and their stable of EXPERIMENTAL artists ranging from COCTEAU TWINS, PIXIES, LUSH, CLAN OF XYMOX and THIS MORTAL COIL to DEAD CAN DANCE and XMAL DEUTSCHLAND. what ties their PHOTOGRAPHIC and TYPOGRAPHIC work together is a commitment to all things and ABSTRACT. their work carries with it an ETHEREAL, OTHERWORLDLY quality that makes it feel very much up for interpretation, much like the MUSIC it serves to introduce. their work is also LYRICAL in the sense that it has an EMOTIONAL RESONANCE despite its OBTRUSIVE nature. too often with commercial COVER ART the images being displayed do not hold up AESTHETICALLY without explicit reference to the MUSIC. famous examples where this is not the case include ANDY WARHOL's iconic THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO (VERVE, 1967) cover, RICHARD KERN's early collaborations with SONIC YOUTH, as well as the images PETER SAVILLE provided for both JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER at FACTORY RECORDS. these NOTABLE examples standout as ARTISTICALLY compelling statements outside of their commercial associations with the TRANSGRESSIVE and INNOVATIVE MUSIC they were commissioned to promote.
the whole discussion regarding the role of ART and MUSIC is endlessly FASCINATING for me since at its core it serves a MARKET FUNCTION of differentiated what crassly very much is a PRODUCT for general CONSUMPTION. but the core INTEGRITY of INTENTION at display with this documentary in reference to the work of OLIVER and GRIERSON proves that more can be accomplished and render this PRODUCT as INDESPENSIBLE to the right constituency. that interplay between ARTIST and PATRON, MARKET and CONSUMER will never be figured out as they are uneasy bedfellows. 23 ENVELOPE voices this dynamic brilliantly and is a relevant documentary definitely well worth checking out.
RIP VAUGHAN OLIVER
it is difficult to not read PAUL AUSTER's fantastically ABSURDIST novel MR. VERTIGO (VIKING, 1994) and not come away with understanding that it is a complicated ALLEGORY for the AMERICAN DREAM set in the milieu of the MIDWEST (complete with references to baseball, gangsterism, the KKK, roadside attractions and circus life) in the first half of the twentieth century. narrated in first person through the eyes of WALTER CLAIBORNE RAWLEY, we see his journey from a discarded juvenile delinquent from the wrong side of the tracks in ST. LOUIS through a most UNUSUAL life journey that sees him transition from a levitating act as WALT THE WONDER BOY through turns as a gangster, night club owner, factory worker and ultimately a small business owner.
what i found interesting is that the constant throughout this ATYPICAL narrative is the consistency of PERSPECTIVE with WALT. he remains PRACTICAL throughout. he does not become fazed by the work needed to gain flight as a child as taught by his trainer, caretaker and surrogate father MASTER YEHUDI, nor does he become particularly overwhelmed by being kidnapped or the DEATH of loved ones. when he transitions into the CHICAGO underworld and works his way up, that as well seems to be more about SURVIVAL than any MORAL IMPERATIVE on his part.
i wonder if AUSTER was attempting to say something about the MATURITY of the UNITED STATES during this same period in which we pretty much transcended our EUROPEAN forefathers and took hold of the century ECONOMICALLY, POLITICALLY and CULTURALLY on a global scale beginning in earnest after WORLD WAR II. unlike the nations that played a part in our birth, we have no deep history or entrenched set of ideals that have been past down for centuries. our ETHOS is mainly one of UTILITARIANISM, of finding whatever works and suits our needs. at the end of the narrative, WALT doesnt attempt to justify his choices. he merely just states that such are what they are. and maybe that is what the AMERICAN DREAM was all along, an excuse to just succeed on your own terms, choose your own adventure. by whatever means necessary and damn the consequences or externalities on anyone around you.
i found this book to be quite BLEAK and NIHILISTIC in its implications despite its setting and trappings of classic AMERICANA. if anything, the seeming lack of moral guardrails works both ways but that wreaking aftertaste of moral DEBASEMENT doesnt seem to subside. WALT as an old man isnt diminished or uplifted by his former glories, he merely just survived them.
maybe as a nation that is the best we can hope for.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the iconic SOUTHERN HIP HOP duo OUTKAST!
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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as a paean to all things sonically BLOWN-OUT and DISTORTED to high hell, MUDHONEY's iconic debut EP SUPERFUZZ BIGMUFF (SUB POP, 1988) fittingly takes its name from the much celebrated and sought after UNIVOX SUPER FUZZ and ELECTRO-HARMONIX MIG MUFF guitar pedals. prominent users of both range from PETE TOWNSEND (THE WHO), ALEX LIFESON (RUSH), ROBERT FRIPP (KING CRIMSON), ACE FREHLEY (KISS), CARLOS SANTANA, DAN AUERBACH (THE BLACK KEYS) STEVE HOWE (YES) and DAVID GILMOUR (PINK FLORD) to J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR), KEVIN SHIELDS (MY BLOODY VALENTINE), RIVERS CUOMO (WEEZER), JACK WHITE (THE WHITE STRIPES), BILLY CORGAN (THE SMASHING PUMPKINS), DIMEBAG DARREL (PANTERA) and KURT COBAIN (NIRVANA) among countless others over the years. with its CHAOTIC, barely controlled sonic DISSONANCE, it makes sense that this EP and its lead single "TOUCH ME I'M SICK" basically kicked off in the popular consciousness the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion, otherwise known as GRUNGE, that was followed in quick succession by INFLUENTIAL releases the next year by peers in SOUNDGARDEN, TAD and NIRVANA and later ALICE IN CHAINS, MOTHER LOVE BONE and THE MELVINS among others. its not that MUDHONEY was the originator of this regional PACIFIC NORTHWEST sound (as such had percolating in various forms for years in acts like SKIN YARD, MALFUNKSHUN, GREEN RIVER, U-MEN among others), more they were among the first out of the gate to make a cultural impact outside of SEATTLE, it could be argued with SUPERFUZZ BIGMUFF.
listening to SUPERFUZZ BIGMUFF now it is hard to not be taken aback by how CONCISE the songwriting and ENERGETIC the performances are on tracks like "TWENTY FOUR," "CHAIN THAT DOOR" and "NEED." singer and main songwriter MARK ARM may seem a bit wavering and lackadaisical in his vocal delivery, but he is definitely on point when he provides forward momentum and SPARK to the songs with his interesting turns of phrase. it all feels intentional like a NOISY, FEEDBACK-LADEN hybrid of PUNK ROCK and POWER POP. same could probably be said for much of the scene that followed. SUPERFUZZ BIGMUFF is definitely worth check out irrespective of your interest or passion for ALTERNATIVE ROCK or its history. just a great ROCK N ROLL record.
first off, greatest band name ever.
that being said, one would suppose that the music of AUSTRALIA's KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD would not live up to CREATIVITY of their moniker, but it does. it may even surpass it. their SOUND is a POTENT mix of PSYCHEDELIA, SURF MUSIC, GARAGE ROCK and more than a micro dose of EXEPERIMENTAL PROG ROCK embellishments thrown in (i.e. ODD TIME SIGNATURES and IDIOSYNCRATIC INSTRUMENTATION). but what centers all that WILD sonic craziness in line is a preternatural knack for MELODY. these are songs you can hum to even if there are complex NEO-BAROQUE COMPOSITIONAL ELEMENTS swirling around you.
its a jarring and UNIQUE set of juxtapositions and makes KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD most definitely worth checking out. plus their videos are completely BONKERS.
ive already written here about the fact the best live show ive ever witnessed, and its not even close, was PRINCE at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN in 2004 on the MUSICOLOGY LIVE 2004ever tour. pretty sure it was the last time he explicitly tour playing "the hits," but yeah, i had like eighth row seats or something. dude was beyond INCREDIBLE. but ive written about that before (linked HERE).
lately ive gone down the PRINCE rabbit hole again. he is one of those handful of artists the i double back to when i start to feel jaded about music. and im probably speaking about new music here in that sometimes stuff feels like a COPY OF A COPY OF A COPY. which i acknowledge technically that describes everything that has or will exist since there are only so many chord progressions, but you get the idea. PRINCE was seemingly endlessly INVENTIVE and had the COURAGE and DRIVE to just go and do it. he didnt care about gatekeepers or critics, just was completely on his own tip and followed his muse to where it led him. and its really hard not to respect that. people speak of freedom, but mostly we limit ourselves within comfortable established social confines. with him i just hear pure ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. he was an original of a breed that i can only point to a few other examples: LITTLE RICHARD, GEORGE CLINTON, MILES DAVIS and SUN RA. all dudes that did their thing despite consequences ranging from very real threats of physical danger to looking ridiculous. in SPINAL TAP there is that classic line about there being a "very fine line between stupid and clever" and these artists were never on the stupid side, but they definitely did risk it at times.
it just feels to me like everything CULTURALLY IS SAFE right now. and i dont mean in some type of whining, cry wolf ELON MUSK / DAVE CHAPELLE "woe is me" cancel culture screed about the state of discourse on the internet. i mean that artists are not taking CREATIVE CHANCES that may unsettle their base and the STREAMS, MERCH SALES they depend on to make a living in this increasingly FRAGMENTED DIGITAL MARKETPLACE. sure there are modern artists like THUNDERCAT, MIKE PATTON, FLYING LOTUS, BJORK and so on that create increasingly divergent recordings that challenge their audience, but they are few and far between.
maybe that was also the case. as PRINCE once said after playing a few bars of ELVIS PRESLEY's "JAILHOUSE ROCK" at that 2004 MADISON SQUARE GARDEN show, "you cant be no king if you aint no prince." truer words never spoken.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to PRINCE. enjoy!
in the fall of 1996 my family moved to NIGERIA and one interesting aspect of my father's job was that the company required that employee's go on vacation. it was probably due to the stressful nature of the work they were doing and the relative isolating experience that living in AFRICA was at that point. this was pre-internet and my family lived on a compound outside LAGOS. regardless one of the first trips we went on was to FRANCE where we met with a friend of the family. back in the day this friend of my father's from college, who is now a retired but globally recognized volcanologist, introduced him to bands like THE STRANGLERS and THE SMITHS so it goes without saying that his opinion on cultural matters always held some weight. i remember at around thirteen when i met him and his son in PARIS, the big record they were into at that moment was I SHOULD COCO (PARLOPHONE, 1995), the debut by OXFORD BRITPOP upstarts SUPERGRASS. so of course i knew on sight this had to be good.
what i love about I SHOULD COCO tracks like "ALRIGHT," "I'D LIKE TO KNOW," "LOSE IT," "CAUGHT BY THE FUZZ," "LENNY," and "MANSIZE ROOSTER" is that MANIC, CONTAGIOUS, PROPULSIVE energy. that mindset is the hear of what makes ROCK N ROLL at its core so great. that feeling of being led off the edge of a cliff, tumbling over as if the song is on the verge of escaping itself at terminal velocity. it is hard to describe. its a balance between sheer FEROCITY and a PLAYFUL sense of looseness, a swing. THE ROLLING STONES had it. THE STOOGES had it. THE NEW YORK DOLLS had it. later THE STROKES definitely had it. that ENERGY is all over this album and separates it from more traditionally-minded BRITPOP contemporaries in OASIS and the more self-consciously experimental in ELASTICA, SUEDE, BLUR and PULP.
there is also a sense of nostalgic TUNEFULNESS about this record, with piano chord progressions that almost harken back to victorian-era MUSIC HALL stage numbers, especially on tracks like "ALRIGHT" and "MANSIZE ROOSTER." this AWARENESS, CAPACITY and PREOCCUPATION to re-contextualize BRITISH music history to a new audience is reminiscent of a prominent lineage of ENGLISH songwriters like RAY DAVIES (THE KINKS), JOHN LENNON (THE BEATLES) and PETE TOWNSEND (THE WHO) of the BRITISH INVASION bands of the 1960s only a generation before. my MUSIC THEATER chops are nonexistent, but i can swear on those two tracks that there are certain sections played in WALTZ-timing.
and that deft balance between thoughtfully constructed compositions that have fun with the past and FERAL, UNHINGED barn-burners is what make SUPERGRASS and this record so much fun. definitely recommended and required listening in my opinion.
i recently came across the documentary WHEN BOB MARLEY CAME TO BRITAIN (WISE OWL, 2020) on BBC2 that outlines the MASSIVE impact ENGLAND had on the art and career of the ICONIC JAMAICAN ROOTS REGGAE musician. given that he was born the mixed son of a white ENGLISH plantation overseer (who formerly was a captain in the BRITISH ARMED FORCES with previous stints in CUBA and NIGERIA) and a local teenage JAMAICAN woman, by definition BOB MARLEY had a COMPLICATED relationship with the UNITED KINGDOM.
the same could be said about the island nation's relationship to its former colonial authority. in the aftermath of WORLD WAR II, there was a significant influx of immigrants from around the commonwealth that relocated to ENGLAND to assist with the need for low income workers in the many factories being built at the time, especially in the north. this incredible inflow of immigration from the CARIBBEAN specifically from 1948 through 1971 was known as the WINDRUSH GENERATION. when MARLEY came to ENGLAND for the first time in 1972 as part of a tour revue for JOHNNY NASH, nobody could know that in a few short years he would become the spokesman for the second generation of WINDRUSH immigrants would were asserting their ECONOMIC, POLITICAL and CULTURAL power on a ENGLISH culture unprepared for such. MARLEY proved to be nothing less than TRANSFORMATIVE and REVOLUTIONARY in this regard through his music and personality.
being signed to the major label ISLAND RECORDS, which had roots in JAMAICAN culture via label founder CHRIS BLACKWELL, by the time CATCH A FIRE (ISLAND, 1973) was released there was a considerable push that found the group on the OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST program on the BBC that put a face to his music and proved to be influential. it also introduced his music to a ROCK N ROLL audience and a mostly white college circuit that permanently shifted and expanded his audience. this was key to his INTERNATIONAL success and positioned him as a cultural ambassador of JAMAICA, a moniker that has not altered some 40+ years after his death from cancer in 1981.
the most compelling aspect of this documentary are the testimonials that speak to MARLEY's transformative impact on the way children of the WINDRUSH GENERATION self-identified. interviews with DJ/musician/film director DON LETTS and musicians BRINSLEY FORDE (ASWAD), MYKAELL RILEY (STEEL PULSE) and LOCKSLEY GISHIE (THE CIMARONS) all attest to his influence during his stay in ENGLAND. all knew him personally when he lived locally as a CELEBRATED international musician attempting to break ENGLAND. they speak of the time he had for his fans and locals alike, quickly becoming a part of the fabric of the local community. former schoolchildren speak about a pre-BRITISH fame MARLEY and NASH giving a concert at a nearby school at the behest of a local art teacher, singing unaccompanied acoustic versions of classics like "STIR CRAZY" and "I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW" no less. decades later the pride in that event is still palpable for these MULTI-RACIAL former classmates.
and i feel like that sense of unity is the ethos of the persona and music of MARLEY. he was more than a musician, but a prophet of a FUTURE UTOPIA that we all could imagine and touch via his songs. even today his music cannot be ruined by all the lame college burnouts and wannabe privileged caucasian RAS TRENTS that have attempted to culturally appropriate and weaken his legacy with all their lame attempts at proselytizing and supposedly living an identity they dont understand or have any connection to. ok maybe that last bit was about my experiences around idiots at university, but his music transcends those modern associations. his message of unity cannot be tied down to any group or creed. it cant be debased even by his own progeny actively invoking his name while palling around with the racist likes of CANDICE OWENS and KANYE WEST. MARLEY was quite simply a gift to the world and its interesting to know that such really gained initial traction in BABYLON, i.e. BRITAIN,and used such a spark to spread his light around globe.
STANLEY DONWOOD's graphic novel BAD ISLAND (W.W. NORTON COMPANY, 2020) is a POIGNANT MEDITATION on the cyclical nature of life and the ENDURING capacity for the PLANET to survive and continue on unabated. it should be mentioned from the outset that there is NO TEXT throughout, only STARK, highly EXPRESSIONISTIC black-and-white graphic representations of an ISLAND and its contents over time from the ETERNAL OMNISCIENT PERSPECTIVE of the SEA. dinosaurs rise and fall as well as humans and their ability to conquer NATURE and develop TECHNOLOGY which ultimately does them in as well through POLLUTION and NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE. but the SEA rolls on and the PERSPECTIVE of the graphic novel recedes into the SEA just as the ISLAND came into view from the SEA at the outset.
i very much appreciate the MINIMALIST conceit of this graphic novel which allows the viewer to project themselves into the narrative unabated by LANGUAGE. there is a certain AUTHENTICITY and PURITY of vision by pulling everything back to its most basic elements. im always taken aback when advocates speak about the SURVIVAL of the PLANET being at stake with climate change since the EARTH will carry on regardless and ultimately heal itself after humanity, its whether life as we know it will carry on with it. essentially it is our SURVIVAL that is at stake, not the PLANET's. and from what i gather from BAD ISLAND's narrative, such is one takeaway from the graphic novel with its MYSTERIOUS PERSPECTIVE departing as it entered the narrative as some third entity unaffected by the TRIALS and TRIBULATIONS of the ISLAND's inhabitants over time. it merely passively observes and then silently carries on.
one point of interest are these ghostly sprite-looking shadow figures amongst the TREES throughout the history of the narrative, from the dinosaurs through humanity. are they harbingers of our COLLECTIVE DEMISE or eternal inhabitants likewise observing life on the ISLAND? is our PERSPECTIVE as the reader one of these likewise STILL, INAUDIBLE, UNKNOWABLE figures?
DEATH comes with being alive and humanity will ultimately END much as the dinosaurs did, but is doing such prematurely by our own hand INEVITABLE? is that the cost of our capacity to construct TECHNOLOGIES that force magnify our PHYSICAL and MORAL LIMITATIONS? i love how BAD ISLAND presents more questions than it answers, which is the mark of any COMPELLING piece of art and this WORDLESS narrative has stuck with me long after my initial consumption of it. i feel strongly that DONWOOD has presented a uniquely intriguing story that transcends LANGUAGE, culture, geography and political persuasion. this should be required reading for everyone and most definitely is worth checking out.