maybe its the generation im from or growing up in suburban SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the early 1990s without MTV and only access to the radio and 106.7FM KROQ on constantly, but so much of what i understood to be modern music from an early age was produced by BUTCH VIG.
i remember being at a SHAKEY'S PIZZA in ORANGE COUNTY after what had to be a youth soccer game during my early elementary school years (maybe 1892?) and hearing "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" for the first time as someone played it from the jukebox. had no clue who NIRVANA was or anything about INDIE ROCK, PUNK ROCK or the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene at the time. i just knew that whatever that was, it sounded how i felt and i connected with it on first listen. i can only think of a rare few other times thats happened with bands like GLASSJAW and THE GET UP KIDS among others. i dont believe i even had a copy of NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) or the STEVE ALBINI-produced follow-up IN UTERO (DGC, 1993) until christmas of 1993. i was just too young.
and NIRVANA is just the beginning. as i grew older and discovered more bands it was always a pleasure to learn this new discovery (to me) inevitably led back to BUTCH VIG, as was the case with L7, SONIC YOUTH, HELMET, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and much later GARBAGE. whats compelling to me about his output is how eclectic his production catalogue has been, as AFI sound nothing like AGAINST ME! and sonically and aesthetically sit on a different planet from KILLDOZER, yet they all bear his fingerprint. the man does not pigeonhole himself, even within the greater ROCK N ROLL milieu. the versatility likely comes from his production chops and work ethic that kept the doors of his MADISON, WISCONSIN-based SMART STUDIOS open to all newcomers, but i also feel it comes from the lack of pretense that comes with his midwestern upbringing. with culture caught up with him he didnt seem to become fazed by the attention, instead maintaining a distance while taking advantage of the ability to be selective with upcoming exciting new projects. even his decision to initiate GARBAGE does not feel like an inevitability, but a genuine artistic choice to push the limits of technology and marry it with the songwriting prowess and sardonic yet earnest ethos of ALTERNATIVE ROCK. when i first heard "STUPID GIRL" on MTV at a relatives house, i had no idea BUTCH VIG was involved. which is likely the highest compliment i can offer.
the dude is a chameleon and he is always someone whose latest project i look forward to consuming, just to see what latest madness he's help midwife into the world.
below is a pandemic episode of DEER GOD RADIO from june of 2020 dedicated to the production work of BUTCH VIG. enjoy!
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the mercurial BRITISH METALCORE outfit BRING ME THE HORIZON!
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!
i was in my sophomore year of boarding school in NEW ENGLAND when the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS released NO. 4 (ATLANTIC, 1999) and i can vividly remember how excited i was specifically when the first single "DOWN" came out. to me it felt like a return to the harder-edged PSYCHEDELIC sound of CORE (review linked HERE) and PURPLE (review linked HERE) minus the POWER POP experimentation of TINY MUSIC...SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (review linked HERE). for some this felt like a capitulation to the marketplace and an end to their progressively more UNORTHODOX ALTERNATIVE ROCK offerings, but in the end its a small miracle that this album even existed.
case in point, conflicted frontman SCOTT WEILAND went to jail for a narcotics probation violation not long after its release which resulted in the band not being able to tour for months on end. at this point in their career, the long-frustrated rhythm section had attempted the year before to move past WEILAND with their TALK SHOW project, only to be met with indifference and a relative commercial failure. for better or worse they were married in the public eye to WEILAND and this rocky back-and-forth lasted throughout the rest of their partnership for two more records. standout tracks include PROPULSIVE rockers like the aforementioned "DOWN" as well as "NO WAY OUT," "CHURCH ON TUESDAY," "MC5" and "PRUNO" and moodier ballads like "SOUR GIRL" and "ATLANTA."
looking back at this record after more than two decades, the highlight undoubtedly is "ATLANTA" which has one of the most effecting vocal performances WEILAND ever conjured up. say what you will about him as a person and his STRAINED, even DOOMED, relationships with his family and musical partners sacrificed at the altar of DRUG ADDICTION, but the guy was genuinely TALENTED. and he often does not get credit for such the way direct peers like LAYNE STALEY, EDDIE VEDDER, CHRIS CORNELL, SHANNON HOON or even KURT COBAIN did as lyricists and vocalists. "ATLANTA" would be 'Exhibit A' for my argument for why he should be considered in that top echelon of gifted ALTERNATIVE ROCK singers.
NO. 4 is probably the last in a string of SEMINAL STONE TEMPLE PILOTS releases, subsequent recordings seemed more like business arrangements of convenience in the wake of WEILAND's crash-and-burn trajectory with side-project VELVET REVOLVER and each had diminishing returns. which is sad. the DELEO BROTHERS deserved better as did the fans but ultimately WEILAND's drug addiction conquered all. but we are left with this stellar effort that topped off a great run. highly recommended.
my listening habits are a MYSTERY to me. i feel like i spend a lot of time and effort seeking out new sounds online by finding what i consider INNOVATIVE musicians pushing SONG STRUCTURE and SONIC TEXTURE forward with CREATIVE JUXTAPOSITIONS and COMPOSITIONS. even getting out the word on such is the idea behind the CHECK OUT THIS BAND blog segment i publish every friday.
but i always seem to inevitably return to OASIS.
as far out on the deep end i get there is something MAGICAL about the MEAT-AND-POTATOES AESTHETIC SIMPLICITY of a STELLAR NOEL GALLAGHER-penned track. notorious for wearing their influences on their sleeve (THE KINKS, T. REX, THE WHO, THE ROLLING STONES, DAVID BOWIE, THE JAM, THE SMITHS, THE STONE ROSES and of course THE BEATLES), there is a PALPABLE sense of UNADULTERATED POP TRADITIONALISM when listening to an OASIS song. its like they took those CHORD and SONG STRUCTURES and wrote better songs with more ATTITUDE (courtesy of ICONIC frontman LIAM GALLAGHER). im constantly reminded of the U2 song "EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING" when thinking about OASIS. ORIGINALITY and INNOVATION is beside the point. its kind of a distraction from what actually matters, which is the SONG. OASIS write and perform the best songs. period.
for me its a cycle i go through. one minute searching for something FRESH and INVENTIVE and then ultimately coming to the conclusion that OASIS got it right the first time. no real need to look elsewhere. and man do i wish theyd reform already. i need to see them play an arena at least once in my life. here's still hoping.
first time i remember hearing the landmark POP PUNK album DOOKIE (REPRISE, 1994) by GREEN DAY was at a cub scout meeting at a friend's house in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in late 1994. i was in fourth grade at the time and before the meeting someone brought over this compact disc he'd gotten for his birthday. my first impression was its INTENSITY, SPEED and UNDENIABLE CATCHINESS. given my naïveté at the time, most of the themes surrounding drug culture and relationships went well above my head at the time, but the out-front melodic lines of MIKE DIRNT that transformed his bass into a lead instrument (a la PETER HOOK of JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER or POUTINE from SCREECHING WEASEL), the rolling kinetic propulsion of TRE COOL's drum fills and BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG's apparent faux BRITISH singing accent made quite the impression on my young ears (and musical consciousness).
in retrospect the music industry doesnt not like a vacuum, and its to GREEN DAY's credit/misfortune that they stepped into the limelight not too long after the untimely demise of another powerhouse trio, NIRVANA. the two fairly or unfairly are inextricably linked in that regard even though they come from different ends of the PUNK ROCK universe. NIRVANA was more artier and introspective and took inspiration from both the INDIE ROCK (i.e. R.E.M., DINOSAUR JR, MEAT PUPPETS and SONIC YOUTH) and HARDCORE (i.e. BLACK FLAG, THE GERMS, FLIPPER, BIG BLACK) scenes of the 1980s while GREEN DAY was firmly within the MELODIC HARDCORE (i.e. BAD RELIGION, DESCENDENTS, DAG NASTY, HUSKER DU) end of the spectrum with more than a passing indebtedness to the CATCHIER, LESS ANGRY end of the PUNK ROCK spectrum (i.e. THE BUZZCOCKS and THE RAMONES). personally i dont think its fair to compare the two bands as BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG and KURT COBAIN are very different people with very different SONGWRITING SENSIBILITIES. but i would be remiss to not at least mention that such discussion is an inevitability given the success of both bands, who in tandem lifted PUNK ROCK from an underground commercial nonentity to an entirely mainstream concern that changed the cultural landscape of ROCK AND ROLL to date in its wake.
for me the standout tracks off DOOKIE (and there are quite a few of them) are not just the iconic anthemic singles "WHEN I COME AROUND," "LONGVIEW," "BASKET CASE" and "WELCOME TO PARADISE" but also lesser celebrated tracks like "SHE," "BURNOUT," "PULLING TEETH" and my long-time personal favorite "F.O.D." which is short for "fuck off and die." lovely. i think that much as DOOKIE set the sonic template for what POP PUNK became over the next decade (i.e. concise, no frills song construction with impassioned melodic vocals) with bands like BLINK-182, SUM 41, NEW FOUND GLORY, FALL OUT BOY and GOOD CHARLOTTE among others, what is less celebrated are how influential ARMSTRONG's lyrical perspective has been. and for this i am again using COBAIN as an acknowledged unfair counterpoint. COBAIN was firmly confessional but in an oblique, frustrated and ultimately self-destructive manner. that sense of exposing one's brutal, unadulterated self-eviscerations is part of his legacy that less steadier hands and much less gifted musicians have mined with ever diminishing results (i.e. SEETHER, CREED, STAIND, BUSH, NICKELBACK and PUDDLE OF MUDD). ARMSTRONG on the other-hand seemed to coat his societal observations and self-evaluations within a context that seemed a bit more neutral. i dont believe the narrator in "LONGVIEW" is speaking about its subject (a listless, masturbatory stoner with no ambition) with any sense of enmity or pity. it just is what it is. i can't help but connect that song to later tracks like BLINK-182's "WHAT'S MY AGE AGAIN?" (about outmoded juvenile hijinks done well into someone's 20s) and FALL OUT BOY's "SUGAR, WE'RE GOIN DOWN" (about the lengths fought for a seemingly doomed relationship), which all seem to have a neutral storyteller at the heart not passing authorial judgement on the players in the narrative. personally i just dont see COBAIN having time for that technique of hiding behind a character. his work was more of a guided missile ultimately aimed at himself.
whats interesting for me about GREEN DAY is how ARMSTRONG's songwriting seems over time to trend more towards COBAIN. case in point is the other most celebrated album in GREEN DAY's catalogue, AMERICAN IDIOT (REPRISE, 2004), which seems to marry the two perspectives. but i'll save that discussion for another day.
DOOKIE is required listening for anyone interested in ROCK AND ROLL, end stop.
during the pandemic many a musician, much like the res of us, were stuck at home with their RECORDING and TOURING cycles effectively semi-permanently on hold. during that period a number of them initiated PODCASTS and YOUTUBE channels in order to staving off cabin fever, as well as (one would assume) supplement their income during a dry period of seemingly indefinite length as the world came to terms with COVID.
of all these endeavors, JIMMY EAT WORLD's frontman and main SONGWRITER JIM ADKINS created the PODCAST and associated VIDEO SERIES PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES (available on his band's YOUTUBE channel) over twenty episodes in 2020 as a means of discussing with other musicians the CREATIVE PROCESS and more specifically his love of SONGWRITING. and it really is very much a deep dive into the MECHANICS, RITUALS, THEORY, COLLABORATIONS, PRODUCTION, SELF-DOUBT, TECHNIQUE, HABITS, INSPIRATION, FRUSTRATION, TECHNOLOGY, HARD-WORK and SPONTANEITY that goes into writing a SONG. notable past guests include KEN ANDREWS (FAILURE), MARK HOPPUS (BLINK-182), MATT PRYOR (THE GET UP KIDS), BETHANY CONSENTINO (BEST COAST), WILLIAM RYAN KEY (YELLOWCARD), BEN GIBBARD (DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE, THE POSTAL SERVICE), TEGAN QUIN (TEGAN & SARA), GERARD WAY (MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE) and FRANK TURNER.
i think what really comes across in these discussions is the level of INTENTION and CRAFTSMANSHIP involved in SONGWRITING. given its EPHEMERAL nature, the experience of listening to music make it seem an almost INVISIBLE ART and PASS-THROUGH FREQUENCIES very much establishes how such is definitely not the case. makes me wonder about what other aspects of modern entertainment is passively consumed with little to no notice for its creation. FOOD, WEB DESIGN, CINEMA, JOURNALISM, GRAPHIC DESIGN and PHOTOGRAPHY (along with aforementioned MUSIC) come immediately to mind. its all a bit of a reminder to be a more MINDFUL consumer of the CREATIVE EFFOTS of others. my biggest takeaway is the role of battling CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT as a part of the CREATIVE PROCESS. it feels reassuring that most of these accomplished SONGWRITERS who have all created MEMORABLE art over the past few decades first had to overcome their own SELF-CRITICISM and sense of SELF-WORTH to make something worthwhile. makes them feel more HUMAN.
METALLICA's LOAD (ELEKTRA, 1996) album (along with its sibling RELOAD) is unfairly DISCARDED and critically DERIDED often as the moment the band lost their way from which they have been, in essence, crawling back ever since.
i dont think thats entirely fair.
this record was my introduction to the band back in the summer of 1996. at the time i was very much into SOUNDGARDEN, DINOSAUR JR, FAITH NO MORE, ALICE IN CHAINS and NIRVANA as well as a few bands i had discovered in the past year like RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and TOOL. to my ears, LOAD sounded like a more than COMPETENT, above average ALTERNATIVE ROCK record that fit well in that milieu. i was of course naive to their history nad previous incarnation, a gap that was filled later that summer when i bought their back catalogue at a local NEW JERSEY record that had a sale on such. it was then that i realized that their past discography was REVELATORY. i still feel that RIDE THE LIGHTNING (review linked HERE) and MASTER OF PUPPETS (review linked HERE) are UNTOUCHABLE and BULLETPROOF even when compared to the likes of peers and contemporaries like SLAYER and JUDAS PRIEST. it was then that i appreciated the distance between those FLEMMING RASMUSSEN-produced 80s records and the revamped BOB ROCK-produced 90s incarnation of their sound. it was like two DIFFERENT bands.
and so when i think of LOAD now it is a bit of an expectations game. i think on its own terms there is some great material on this record that saw the band go way outside the sonic palette they permitted themselves beforehand. specifically songs like "BLEEDING ME" and "THE OUTLAW TORN" are EXPERIMENTAL standouts that are singularly EMOTIONAL and EVOCATIVE and definitely hit a chord when i first heard them as an early teenager. i think where the critiques pile-up are often in regards to the string of DERIVATIVE mid-tempo blues-based songs like "2 X 4," "POOR TWISTED ME," "HERO OF THE DAY," "AIN'T MY BITCH," and "THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT" that feel LISTLESS and without the punch and unflinching TECHNICALITY that established the band in the 1980s and was their signature pre-METALLICA (review linked HERE). i will say that there are some mid-tempo tracks that work in my opinion like "UNTIL IT SLEEPS," "WASTING MY HATE" and "THORN WITHIN," but really the band should have stopped after those three. the others are completely TIRED and REDUNDANT. unlike other fans and critics, i have no problem with the COUNTRIFIED TOM WAITS-inspired "MAMA SAID." perhaps it shouldve been a b-side or something put on a side project or solo album, but i feel like it is a SOLID song that holds up and adds another facet to JAMES HETFIELD's capacity as a SONGWRITER. as a whole the record just feels like a bit of a LETDOWN relative to their past output.
and that is probably the point in the end. the band undoubtedly felt like they were becoming an ANACHRONISM and no doubt paid attention to their new ALTERNATIVE ROCK peers over the previous half decade. i wouldnt say the record is a failure, but it is more of an OUTLIER in their catalogue. and it was done that way by design. relative to the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK pack this record definitely holds its weight in terms of sonic EXPERIMENTALISM and overall SONG-CRAFT. relative to their 1980s THRASH METAL discography, the record is a completely different animal and its a bit UNFAIR to compare it to such. and that is the kicker. LOAD has long been a litmus test for fans about how much they love the back catalogue and wish the band would satisfy that METAL itch. in years since the band has largely listened and attempt to re-ingratiate themselves with varying results.
to me LOAD represent the last time the band was UNFILTERED and FREE to pursue their own course before the fans had their say. arguably the later LULU (WARNER BROS, 2011) collaboration with LOU REED was another example, but id argue that such an opportunity was never gonna be curtailed. plus REED was very much in control of that record.
do i recommend LOAD. absolutely. but if you are aware of the band's 80s output just go into it with an OPEN mind. im sure thats what any artist wants in the end anyway.
sometime in the early 2000s i looked into the light and was converted instantaneously to the CRIMINALLY OVERLOOKED LOS ANGELES-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK band FAILURE. their UNIQUE sense of SONIC DYNAMICS, SONGWRITING and CONCEPTUALITY was unmatched during that era (with the exception of maybe TOOL). unfortunately at that point they were more than half a decade post-breakup.
it was at this point that i also discovered AUTOLUX which is an EXPERIMENTAL trio that includes GREG EDWARDS (FAILURE), CARLA AZUR (EDNASWAP, JACK WHITE) and EUGENE GORESHTER, who all sing. their sound is somewhere between SHOEGAZE, KRAUTROCK, INDIE ROCK and AMBIENT music. it makes absolute sense that members of AUTOLUX have industry experience as session musicians for FILM SCORES and SOUNDTRACKS since their music has a distinctly CINEMATIC feel to it. there is an evoked sense of MELANCHOLY and UNDEFINABLE TREPIDATION throughout much of their material. i could easily see some of these SOUNDSCAPES being utilized in a psychological thriller or in a montage where a character is steeped in deep thought.
i gues what i am attempting to verbalize is that there is a distinct sense of INTERIORITY to their sound which i enjoy. AUTOLUX is definitely worth checking out.
i discovered the JUSTIN HAWKINS RIDES AGAIN channel a few months ago on YOUTUBE and was really taken aback by how INFORMATIVE it all was. if you are unfamiliar with JUSTIN HAWKINS, he is the frontman and main songwriter for BRITISH ALTERNATIVE glam metal band THE DARKNESS who first came to fame in the 2000s along with the wave of other INDIE ROCK REVIVAL groups. whereas other ENGLISH and SCOTTISH groups from the period (including BLOC PARTY, FRANZ FERDINAND, THE LIBERTINES, THE FUTUREHEADS and THE CRIBS) seemed heavily influenced by both the POST PUNK and INDIE ROCK movements, THE DARKNESS felt like a breath of fresh air with their stadium-sized AMBITION to be more in the vein AC/DC, MOTLEY CRUE, AEROSMITH, THE CULT or especially QUEEN. they definitely stood apart and where not afraid to look absolutely RIDICULOUS (which i appreciate)! personally i still rock DARKNESS singles like "GROWING ON ME," "OPEN FIRE," "NOTHIN'S GONNA STOP US," "BARBARIANS," "ROCK AND ROLL DESERVES TO DIE" and "LAST OF OUR KIND" on regular rotation while driving to work, i just have to watch my speed in the process.
the JUSTIN HAWKINS RIDES AGAIN channel is reminiscent of RICK BEATO's channel in that HAWKINS also dives into and EXPLAINS music theory and recording / production techniques on popular songs. what differentiates it though is his sense of self-effacing HUMOR that knowingly showcases the ABSURDITY of his life's work as well as his unbridled capacity to call out musicians and industry participants. and he does such from a place of EMPATHY. in other words, he has actual first-hard EXPERIENCE being a ROCK N ROLL star and its that kind of insider KNOWLEDGE that makes his YOUTUBE channel FASCINATING. HAWKINS' channel appears to be a way of BYPASSING a BRITISH press that has long abandoned and even mocked his musical efforts. its rather BEAUTIFUL that an artist in today's DIGITAL ecosystem has the ability to CULTIVATE and COMMUNICATE directly with an audience sans middlemen and gatekeepers.
i feel its also great that he has used this new platform to promote artists he's discovered (sometimes even through his audience). it was through him that i became aware of two INCREDIBLE modern AUSTRALIAN PUNK bands, THE CHATS and AMYL & THE SNIFFERS. if anything, i tend to rely on HAWKINS through his channel as a vehicle for DISCOVERING new bands, which is always a fun thing. my hope is that HAWKINS continues to be PROLIFIC with his channel and further PROMOTE an INCLUSIVE community that follows his lead as a highly IDIOSYNCRATIC, but musically KNOWLEDGEABLE and stylistically OPEN-MINDED guide to new cultural ideas and sonic terrains.
i look forward to seeing where HAWKINS takes this.
there was a moment in the early 1990s when HOUSE MUSIC basically took over BRITISH INDIE culture. there was always this interesting transition at play beforehand with EXPERIMENTAL POST PUNK bands finding there way to more ELECTRONIC, SYNTHESIZER and SEQUENCER-based production techniques (think JOY DIVISION becoming NEW ORDER), but this drug-fueled ACID HOUSE movement transformed the culture on a more ELEMENTAL level.
in retrospect people look towards pre-BRITPOP so-called MADCHESTER bands like THE HAPPY MONDAYS or THE STONE ROSES as embodiments of this changing shift in sonics and MDMA-expanded CONSCIOUSNESS, but in my mind no album better exemplifies such as the SCOTTISH band PRIMAL SCREAM's third record SCREAMADELICA (CREATION, 1991). singer BOBBY GILLESPIE, formerly drummer of fellow SCOTTISH INDIE ROCK icons THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, is basically the physical EMBODIEMENT of this transition and on songs like "HIGHER THAN THE SUN," "LOADED," "MOVIN' ON UP," "COME TOGETHER," "DAMAGED" and especially "SLIP INSIDE THIS HOUSE" you can feel how the electronic-based beats and inclusions found samples has freed up their BLUES-based ALTERNATIVE ROCK compositions into something else entirely.
that sound and aesthetic is what makes SCREAMADELICA such a revelation. it feels optimistic and hopeful without resorting to tired rock cliches, similar to how listening to THE BEACH BOYS, CSS, THE AQUABATS, PASSION PIT, THE B-52's or THE POLYPHONIC SPREE is a genuinely JOYFUL and CHEERFUL listening experience sans knowing sarcasm or wink wink irony. for me i was not sold on many of the MADCHESTER bands until hearing SCREAMADELICA. it provided that context of the power of such a hybrid sound that bound the EXPERIMENTAL soundscapes and song structures of POST PUNK with the mantra-inducing repetition of HOUSE MUSIC. it was a sonic combination i had never considered and went on to inform the later experiments of BRITPOP bands like LUSH, PULP, BLUR and SUEDE among others.
for me this record is indicative of my personal ethos of trying to remain open-minded to new sounds and perspectives. as new IDEAS, AESTHETICS, TECHNOLOGY and even DRUGS shift culture, there is always an opportunity to question previously held beliefs about the nature of reality. for me SCREAMADELICA is one of those records that presents such a tectonic rearrangement. and its still an exciting listen. definitely required listening for anyone interested in POST PUNK, INDIE ROCK, BRITPOP, ELECTRONIC MUSIC and ALTERNATIVE ROCK during the culturally fertile period in BRITAIN at the beginning of the 1990s.
much as NINE INCH NAILS is for all intents and purposes a solo project spearheaded by TRENT REZNOR, FILTER likewise is such for RICHARD PATRICK (although initially cofounder BRIAN LIESEGANG had a more prominent role). in fact, before starting his band PATRICK served as a touring guitarist with NINE INCH NAILS. his departure was in part financial, as he clarifies in the recent documentary HIRED GUN (DRAMA KILLS, 2017) the extent to which being a touring musician left him out of songwriting or publishing royalties. with encouragement from REZNOR he formed FILTER.
i say all this because it is very difficult to listen to the INDUSTRIAL-influenced METAL / ALTERNATIVE ROCK of the FILTER's debut album SHORT BUS (REPRISE, 1995) and not hear echoes of his former band. the EXTREME dynamics at play with the production and song construction showcases a formula that oscillated between MINIMAL, MOODY, drum-programmed verses and massive, DISSONANT choruses with PATRICK's BLOOD-CURDLING screams taking center stage. on songs like "DOSE," "UNDER" and especially "HEY MAN, NICE SHOT" PATRICK's voice is very much the main attraction. he seemingly has this intriguing ability when singing to project multiple notes in a similar manner to other noteworthy singers like CHESTER BENNINGTON and AXL ROSE. tonally its very unique and is a signature of FILTER's sound both on their debut and subsequent releases (which cleverly focus on songwriting that promotes his unique range sans the CHAOTIC dissonance of their debut).
the center-piece of the album is the opener "HEY MAN, NICE SHOT" which had the unfortunate happenstance of having been written before but being released after KURT COBAIN's shocking suicide by firearm. the song was inspired by the notorious UNDERGROUND footage of the R BUDD DWYER suicide on live television. DWYER being a PENNSYLVANIA politician who was convicted on corruption charges and killed himself by hand gun at a public press conference. the narrator of the song almost identifies with the subject for his decision, celebrating the act as a form of rebellion and act of resurrecting one's sense of personal IDENTITY and INDEPENDENCE. its a very dark song, but its brutal taboo subject mattered coupled with its EXTREME dynamics made it an ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio hit in the mid 1990s. i distinctly remember hearing the song on 106.7FM KROQ LOS ANGELES when i was in elementary school. at the time i didnt make the connection to COBAIN although i was still quite young at the time.
in retrospect whats compelling about SHORT BUS is how its formula was largely abandoned on subsequent releases that had little to no INDUSTRIAL flourishes and more LUSH and ORCHESTRATED arrangements that seemed focuses on elevating PATRICK's voice rather than burying it in DISSONANT noise. personally, i feel strongly that FILTER songs from this period have more TENSION and AGGRESSION partly due to the fact that his voice is fighting for prominence in the mix. the songwriting definitely improved on TITLE OF RECORD (REPRISE, 1999) and THE AMALGAMUT (REPRISE, 1999), as well as the much later THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS (NUCLEAR BLAST, 2010), but there is something about the PRIMAL screaming on SHORT BUS that is much more MEMORABLE than those later records. they all seem to be playing by the ALTERNATIVE ROCK playbook while SHORT BUS felt like an intriguing side-street from the main thoroughfare that was NINE INCH NAILS' PRETTY HATE MACHINE (TVT, 1989) and THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (NOTHING, 1994) from that period.
at lest that is how i remember it. SHORT BUS is an INCREDIBLE record and well worth checking out.
i remember discovering the NYC-based INDIE ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ROCK band NADA SURF, like most people my age, on MTV's 120 MINUTES program while on summer vacation in NEW JERSEY after spending my first year with my family in NIGERIA. like ive written about before, that transition from growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA to living and going to school in WEST AFRICA was life-changing and really, if im honest, took decades to process. going through puberty at the time coupled with living abroad made me feel very SELF-CONSCIOUS and highly INSECURE about myself. being around distant EAST COAST cousins id never met before that first summer didnt help much either in that regard.
enter the "POPULAR" music video.
for me, my memories of the HIGH/LOW (ELEKTRA, 1996) album is the "POPULAR" music video, which centered around depictions of HEIGHTENED high school sexuality and lyrics which proposed that anyone could date everyone for a limited monthlong amount of time, resulting in no commitments, no strings attached, no emotional tethering and no suffering. in other words an impossible scenario. the endearing thing about the song and the video is that it straddles the line between irony and social commentary. lyrics that really hit me as a pre-teen included "my mom says im a catch, im popular" and "i'll never get caught, im popular." the song successfully mines that AWKWARD and BRUTAL manner in which high school is a DELICATE social balancing act further complicated by raging hormonal urges and ever-shifting, undefined BYZANTINE rules of engagement. the dating proposal basically parodies that very notion itself. in retrospect its a very WEIRD song that was nonetheless highly AFFECTING and sonically evoked my perennially INTROSPECTIVE and UNCONFIDENT experience of being a teenager. at the time i was coming to terms with the fact that the idea of "home" didnt really apply to me anymore. it was a shifting concept at best.
i feel bad only talking about that one song, but honestly it really had an impact on my psyche at the time. it was hard to watch because it cut that deep. in the 2000s i later rediscovered NADA SURF and their EXCELLENT albums LET GO (BARSUK, 2002) and THE WEIGHT IS A GIFT (BARSUK, 2005) which both blended a BUOYANT sense of melodicism with INSIGHTFUL, POIGNANT lyrics about getting older. those records, as well as later releases i know in much greater detail than their debut as i spent more time with them.
whats funny is that when DEER GOD started in earnest we decided on filming and editing videos for artists, including music videos and live performance videos. we shot an upcoming BROOKLYN-based INDIE ROCK band called POM POM SQUAD (performance video linked HERE) for a series of live performance videos at TRANS PECOS in QUEENS and MARKET HOTEL in BROOKLYN called OFF THE M (a reference to the M TRAIN that connects the two venues). anyway, that band ended up covering "POPULAR" and even had MATHEW CAWS from NADA SURF in their updated video (linked HERE). it was an interesting development that really felt like a bizarre full circle moment. a song that meant so much to me as a pre-teen being reimagined by the next generation of INDIE ROCK musicians.
anyway, my strong preference is for the later NADA SURF records, but their debut HIGH/LOW is a POTENT statement that stands up with their peers of the era including everyone from WEEZER, BLUR and VERUCA SALT to GUIDED BY VOICES and PAVEMENT. definitely worth checking out.
like a lot of people, i was pretty bummed when the INDEPENDENT NEW JERSEY record store VINTAGE VINYL closed abruptly seemingly without warning in the middle of the summer of 2021. i had been going there for years since the early 2000s when i effectively relocated to the area for college after randomly spending my senior year of high school in SACRAMENTO. in fact part of my yearly ritual during my years teaching abroad was a trip to VINTAGE VINYL during my brief stateside vacation. id even argue the experience made me feel connected to a sense of "home."
i remember learning about the FORDS, NEW JERSEY store through a plugged-in classmate and friend of my brother, who were both still in high school at the time. in the early 2000s there was an UNDERGROUND ROCK N ROLL scene that centered around RUTGERS UNIVERSITY in NEW BRUNSWICK that included bands of varying genres (POST-HARDCORE, POP PUNK, HARDCORE and METALCORE) from various relatively nearby northeast cities such as THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN (MORRIS PLAINS), THURSDAY (NEW BRUNSWICK), MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE (NEWARK), MIDTOWN (NEW BRUNSWICK), STREETLIGHT MANIFESTO (NEW BRUNSWICK) as well as more established acts like THE BOUNCING SOULS (BASKING RIDGE) and LIFETIME (NEW BRUNSWICK) among others. interestingly bands like THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM (NEW BRUNSWICK) and THE SCREAMING FEMALES (NEW BRUNSWICK) also came from the embers of this scene years later.
VINTAGE VINYL was only a ten minute drive from the heavily congested streets of the NEW BRUNSWICK campus and proved to be quite the quiet respite during my years as an undergraduate there. i can only imagine what that store meant to musicians from the surrounding area. did i mention the place also put on in-store promotional shows for UNDERGROUND and established bands? i recently came across their YOUTUBE channel which has in-store live performances by the likes of everyone from BAD RELIGION, CAVE-IN, THE USED, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE, JIMMY EAT WORLD, CIRCA SURVIVE, MXPX, THE GET UP KIDS, THURSDAY, NEW FOUND GLORY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE (all embedded below) among many others. if you dig through their channel you will find in-store signings by the likes of OZZY OSBOURNE, DESCENDENTS, KERRY KING (of SLAYER), DARRYL "DMC" MCDANIELS (of RUN-DMC) and ROB ZOMBIE. its all unedited single shot tripod footage with unmixed in-camera audio. in essence its mostly uncompelling, shitty footage, except for the fact that as a cultural artifact these videos are invaluable as markers of a local and national musical culture at a certain place and time.
whats sad is that the hurried manner in which the store closed, at the behest of the owner who wished to move on after 40+ years and had no interest in having it continue under new management, effectively meant that a community had no opportunity to celebrate it. there was no send-off or concert by the local musical community that no doubt had embraced this obscure INDEPENDENT establishment for many years. for me that is the unfortunate legacy of VINTAGE VINYL. it was a private, locally-owned business that was embraced by a culture and in the end the owner did not embrace them back.
in the wake of VINTAGE VINYL there are several local and independently owned and operated record stores (some new, some long established) in NEW JERSEY that i frequent which have largely replaced it, including STATION 1 BOOKS & VINYL (POMPTON LAKES), REVILLA GROOVES & GEAR (MILLTOWN), LOFIDELIC RECORDS (BELMAR), VINYL ADDICTION RECORDS (NORTH ARLINGTON), FACTORY RECORDS SHOP (DOVER), SOUND EXCHANGE (WAYNE), GROOVY GRAVEYARD (ASBURY PARK), JACK'S MUSIC SHOPPE (RED BANK), THE RECORD COLLECTOR (BORDENTOWN) and yes, even the dreaded PRINCETON RECORD EXCHANGE (PRINCETON). id also include the NEW YORK record stores GENERATION RECORDS (GREENWICH VILLAGE), ACADEMY RECORD ANNEX (GREENPOINT) and LOONEY TUNES (WEST BABYLON) as well as the PHILADELPHIA store REPO RECORDS (SOUTH STREET) in the mix as well. unfortunately none of these stores have live in-store performances at the same level of impact as VINTAGE VINYL.
a little over a year later it still feels like a loss.
THE BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD EXPERIENCE (GEFFEN, 1993) is quite the interesting 1990s CULTURAL ARTIFACT. produced by none other than STEVE ALBINI, this compilation was obviously a bit of a cash grab at the height of the ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement that the BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD TV SHOW had no small part in helping popularize (just as WINGER and all those HAIR METAL bands that got pilloried and became instant cultural pariahs), but as such go this one had staying power.
the unquestioned standout track by a mile is the strong NIRVANA track "I HATE MYSELF AND WANT TO DIE" which was one of the last tracks released prior to his suicide. in fact, this song was the would-be title track to IN UTERO (review linked HERE), as I HATE MYSELF AND WANT TO DIE was the original working title for their third album. other notable tracks include a memorable ANTHRAX cover of the BEASTIE BOYS' "LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL OF A GUN" track (off PAUL'S BOUTIQUE) and the hard-charging WHITE ZOMBIE song "I AM HELL." the album is rounded out by largely forgettable, hit-or-miss tracks by the likes of THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, PRIMUS and MEGADETH.
i originally had this record on cd back in elementary school in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA and the two songs i remember pretty distinctly (aside from the NIRVANA, ANTHRAX and WHITE ZOMBIE tracks) was the updated CHER duet "I'VE GOT YOU BABE" with BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD and of course the epic BUTTHEAD slow jam "COME TO BUTTHEAD." looking back now you have to hand it to CHER that she had a sense of humor and was able to laugh at herself. you wonder how much her inclusion may have also been to show how cool she was to her young son ELIJAH BLUE ALLMAN (of much later DEADSY fame). i wouldnt blame her for a second if that was the case. it's pretty badass. "COME TO BUTTHEAD" is also surprisingly well-produced and no wonder, it was composed and recorded by none other than funk brother par excellence NILE RODGERS himself. BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD creator MIKE JUDGE definitely had lots of surprises on this cash grab no doubt.
the humor surrounding teenage attitudes towards BODILY-FUNCTIONS and SEXUALITY would be a hard sell in today's environment, but that is why it is interesting to revisit this record from time to time. it also makes you consider how the reboot of this show will fair now 30 years later from a different historical moment with TECHNOLOGY and CULTURE moving at speeds unheard of back in the day. it is an interesting conceit nonetheless.
i love this record but i am completely biased. i listened to this record during my formative years so of course id recommend it. definitely worth checking out.
the majority of my teenage years in the 1990s were spent abroad during a pre-internet age that was cultural well out of context with what was going down stateside. so there was not a prayer of me being able to learn about bands just below the mainstream at the time like PALM DESERT STONER ROCK legends KYUSS, or for that matter other influential bands like FAILURE, HELMET, SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE, QUICKSAND or THE JESUS LIZARD. that would come much later and largely in retrospect. such is my relationship with KYUSS and their much-acclaimed second album BLUES FOR THE RED SUN (DALI, 1992).
what i love about tracks like "GREEN MACHINE," "THUMB" and "50 MILLION YEAR TRIP (DOWNSIDE UP)" is how UNRELENTINGLY HEAVY it all is. they establish a down-tuned slow-prodding riff and just sit on it. the effect is mantra-like and all further MELODIC shifts come off as undeniably earth-shattering. its music built on the idea of SPACE, which makes sense as the band was known for being part of a scene that played out in the desert at night at makeshift parties run on a borrowed generator. being out in that landscape at night is quite the venue and knowing such it is difficult to not listen to these tracks and imagine yourself out late at night looking up at the stars and infinite chasm of SPACE. its an absolutely UNIQUE sound and take on aggressive ROCK N ROLL.
KYUSS' sound was also influential in that it was the antithesis of the "typewriter" style of riffage (as coined by MASTERS OF REALITY frontman CHRIS GOSS) popularized in THRASH METAL (SLAYER, MEGADETH, METALLICA, ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT). along with the MELVINS and SAINT VITUS it is arguable that KYUSS (and especially guitarist JOSH HOMME's post-breakup band QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE) paved the way for what is now known as STONER ROCK and SLUDGE METAL. its a different breed of heavy music that puts an emphasis on GROOVE and WEIGHT as opposed to TECHNICAL DEXTERITY. listening to BLUES FOR THE RED SUN now, remembering that it came out in the early 1990s, it is startling how of-the-moment it feels. it fits right in on a mixtape including DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979, BARONESS, FU MANCHU, TORCHE, MASTODON, CLUTCH, BORIS, HIGH ON FIRE and ELECTRIC WIZARD. its pretty amazing.
BLUES FOR THE RED SUN is required listening in my opinion. its a criminally UNDER-APPRECIATED album that punches well above its weight and makes you do a double-take on all those celebrated ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands from the same period in the 1990s. makes you question why you didnt hear this sooner, like, back in the day. man i was clueless.
at the very least it is a record most definitely worth checking out.
i always felt that INCUBUS was playing a different game than their supposed peers in the METAL community. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (review linked HERE) was definitely rooted in the SPASTIC RHYTHMIC and TEXTURAL juxtapositions made famous by MR. BUNGLE and the SPATIAL otherworldly explorations of ANDY SUMMERS and more than a little FELA KUTI, but their follow-up MAKE YOURSELF (EPIC, 1999) really put that altogether in a POTENT hybrid mix that continues to defy easy explanation. just goes to show that the first two times i've seen INCUBUS live were in 2000 at OZZFEST (with tour-mates PANTERA, SOULFLY and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE) and in 2001 at MOBY's short-lived but eclectic AREA:ONE festival (which also featured OUTKAST and JURASSIC 5). and they fit in seamlessly at both, which is pretty INCREDIBLE.
as i wrote about when discussing S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (EPIC, 1997), the POETIC BUDDHIST-leaning, COMPASSIONATE lyricism of BRANDON BOYD is perfectly coupled by the TEXTUAL dexterity of guitarist MIKE EINZIGER and his deep love of all things PHASER, DELAY and PITCHSHIFTING-related pedal-wise. INCUBUS has a very VERSATILE and highly MELODIC yet INFECTIOUS sound that really found an audience with the tracks of MAKE YOURSELF, including the singles "DRIVE," "STELLAR" and "PARDON ME." for me the standout tracks include the likes of "THE WARMTH," "PRIVILEGE," "CONSEQUENCE," "WHEN IT COMES" and "NOWHERE FAST" which all harness a PLAYFUL use of PITCHSHIFTING effects and INCLUSIVE lyrics that deal with coming to terms with your own deficiencies. the result are songs that feel quite INTIMATE and AUTHENTIC, which is probably why this band was such a staple during my late teens and early twenties.
fast forward 20 years and my cousin and a friend are working security at a recent seaside music festival in ASBURY PARK that INCUBUS is headlining. my cousin was tasked with checking passes near the stage and didnt recognize the DJ since he'd gotten a haircut (like more than a decade before). the dude didnt break a sweat and was totally COOL about it, even laughing with my cousin at his own changed appearance and seemed to go out of his way to not make my cousin feel bad. its part of the CHARM of the band that they are DECENT, HONORABLE people who care more about their fans and pet issues like the ENVIRONMENT and SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT (most of which is run through their longstanding MAKE YOURSELF FOUNDATION) than being "rock stars." i was happy to hear they didnt big-time my cousin minutes before a major gig. not being caught up in their own fame seems pretty PUNK ROCK and in keeping with a general DIY ETHOS in a way. it also coincides with their public image from afar, which is that they seem like UNAFFECTED, GROUNDED, CHILL dudes.
PITCHSHIFTING is required listening in my estimation, irrespective of whether you are a fan of turn-of-the-millennium ALTERNATIVE ROCK or not. INCUBUS at this point in their career were on an INSPIRED songwriting hot streak and sounded like no other band before or since. well worth checking out.
parodies & text by nacrowe
with the tragic passing of TAYLOR HAWKINS and the second tribute concert set to take place in LOS ANGELES within the week, it got me thinking about how bands and creative entities in general move past the loss or death of a PROMINENT member. its a very tricky thing. HAWKINS himself was the drummer of the FOO FIGHTERS, usually a backup supporting role, but in the context of that band he was the second most visible and charismatic member next to DAVE GROHL himself.
the most recent example i could think of in which a band successfully moved on form the untimely passing of a CELEBRATED member is ALICE IN CHAINS with the ascension of WILLIAM DUVALL for the late ALTERNATIVE ROCK icon LAYNE STALEY. for me, ALICE IN CHAINS was a foundational band (along with FAITH NO MORE and JANE'S ADDICTION) that very much defined the soundtrack of my adolescence, so the idea of them reforming with a new unknown singer during my mid-twenties was... let's just say i was SKEPTICAL. that is until i heard BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE (VIRGIN, 2009) and was beyond moved by the proper loving send-off they gave their fallen brother. such was done in true AC/DC BACK IN BLACK (ATLANTIC, 1980) fashion, meaning they acknowledged their loss and publicly mourned such in a manner fitting that member (i.e. making music of QUALITY and INTENTION).
obviously ALICE IN CHAINS and AC/DC lost their frontmen, but in the case of LED ZEPPELIN and THE WHO, like the FOO FIGHTERS, they lost their drummer. ZEPPELIN famously called it a day after JOHN BONHAM passed and THE WHO continued with diminishing returns in the wake of KEITH MOON's death. both drummers were larger than life exemplars at their craft. my gut says that GROHL will continue FOO FIGHTERS, but only after a long period crafting a fitting tribute to his fallen brother. i dont think this is the end of their story.
with the case of ALICE IN CHAINS, DUVALL held his own as his own man and showed a long suffering fanbase that he had his own gifts to bring to the role and help resurrect a genre-defining band from cultural extinction. his MUSICALITY (STELLAR VOICE, GUITAR-PLAYING ABILITY and SONGWRITING) spoke for itself and won over skeptics, like myself, over. like DUVALL, HAWKINS was the only member of his group to be primarily recognized for his work in that band, as all others were notable members of previous groups: DAVE GROHL (NIRVANA), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), NATE MENDEL (SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE), CHRIS SHIFLETT (NO USE FOR A NAME) and RAMI JAFFEE (THE WALLFLOWERS). its doubly tragic since in recent years HAWKINS was on the cusp of spreading his wings on several high profile solo and side projects (NHC and THE COATTAIL RIDERS) that were beginning to gave his singing and songwriting talent its well-earned time in the spotlight. given his long association with the FOO FIGHTERS, i feel like his lasting sendoff and ultimate legacy will be on a future FOO FIGHTERS release dedicated in his honor a la BLACK GIVES WAY TO BLUE and BACK IN BLACK. that is my hunch at least, because itd be unfortunate if the group went the way of LED ZEPPELIN or even worse, THE WHO.
RIP TAYLOR HAWKINS, LAYNE STALEY, MIKE STARR, BON SCOTT, JOHN BONHAM, JOHN ENTWISTLE and KEITH MOON
enjoy this episode of DEER GOD RADIO with a playlist celebrating ALICE IN CHAINS shot from my brother's couch during the pandemic way back in march 2020.
in the wake of the breakup of JANE'S ADDICTION, frontman PERRY FARRELL and drummer STEPHEN PERKINS both collaborated with guitarist PETER DISTEFANO and bassist MARTYN LENOBLE (who was later replaced on the next album by MINUTEMEN/FIREHOSE veteran MIKE WATT) on a project called PORNO FOR PYROS. like most of the splinter groups related to JANE'S ADDICTION, their is a sense of both continuation and departure with the former group. whereas guitarist DAVE NAVARRO (of JANE'S ADDICTION) had a majestic sense of textured dynamics and guitar heroics that was equal parts JIMMY PAGE as it was DANIEL ASH and ROBERT SMITH, in DISTEFANO there is a decidedly more traditional approach with LATIN influences and even FLAMENCO stylings thrown in the mix. i can only imagine how daunting it must have felt to essentially be replacing ALTERNATIVE ROCK royalty, but DISTEFANO more than held is grown, especially on the subsequent GOOD GOD's URGE (WARNER BROS, 1996) follow-up release.
lyrically on their debut PORNO FOR PYROS (WARNER BROS, 1993) recording FARRELL ditches the pseudo-CATHOLIC hagiography of SEXUAL DESIRE predilections of his former group and paints a decidedly direct picture of early 1990s LOS ANGELES, complete with EMPATHETIC profiles on prostitutes ("CURSED FEMALE") and those that solicit their services ("CURSED MALE"), gang violence ("MEIJA") and even the LOS ANGELES RIOTS ("PORNO FOR PYROS"). the band's moniker is a reference to such widespread PANIC, VIOLENCE and ARSON in the wake of the RODNEY KING verdict. what makes the records fun is the EXPERIMENTAL yet chill and free-flowing nature of the music, no doubt indebted to DISTEFANO's layered guitar textures and PERKINS mantra-inducing grooves, as well as the IDIOSYNCRATIC obsessions of FARRELL. these include thoughts about the waves of emotion that induce depression ("SADNESS"), or what it would be like to be subjugated by extraterrestrials as playthings ("PETS"), or date someone from another culture ("BLACK GIRLFRIEND") or even the finer points of inducing the female climax ("ORGASM"). despite himself these self-referential narratives are quite profound and would be sleazy in lesser hands.
with FARRELL its all a celebration of life, the good and the bad. and in a way that celebration is a reflection of his deep affinity for LOS ANGELES and all its contradictions. fascinating record by a group that was just getting started. highly recommended.
LIVE THROUGH THIS (DGC, 1994) by HOLE was undoubtedly such a CONSEQUENTIAL album for me growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. i have distinct memories of hearing COURTNEY LOVE's impassioned, almost feral or inconsolable, primal screaming on "VIOLET" blasting out of my parent's speakers from their HONDA ACCORD. i just recall wondering who that was and never questioning how fundamentally pained and pissed-off she sounded. this felt like a private exorcism paraded as a rock song. it felt and still feels unquestionably AUTHENTIC.
which is why its always baffled me the extent to which music critics and journalists ascribe LOVE's artistic achievements with that of her late husband KURT COBAIN of legendary ALTERNATIVE ROCK band NIRVANA. its worse than lazy, its inaccurate. both IN UTERO (DGC, 1993) and LIVE THROUGH THIS were written and recorded more or less concurrently. if anything you can see the influence of LOVE in the more CONCEPTUAL and deeply personal POETIC writing of COBAIN on that final studio album in songs like "HEART-SHAPED BOX" and "ALL APOLOGIES." ive always held the conviction that LOVE was a stronger writer who has never gotten her due as such. even in "VIOLET" there is that EVOCATIVE opening couplet "and the sky was made of amethyst / and all the stars were just like little fish." that was more SOPHISTICATED and lyrical than anything on BLEACH (SUB POP, 1989) or NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991). just saying. obviously COBAIN is a generational talent and a singular songwriter/cultural figure whose approach to melody and dissonance will be analyzed long down the line, i dont want to come off like i am dismissing his achievements. only point i am trying to make is that IN UTERO is more influenced by the influence LOVE than LIVE THROUGH THIS is by COBAIN. both are landmark records and my personal favorite by both bands. hands down.
there are so many standout tracks on LIVE THROUGH THIS including the aforementioned "VIOLET" as well as singles "DOLL PARTS" and "MISS WORLD," but some of my personal favorites include "GUTLESS," "ROCK STAR," "ASKING FOR IT" and the stellar cover of the YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS track "CREDIT IN THE STRAIGHT WORLD." many of the songs deal with themes related to AMERICA's PERVERSE, UNATTAINABLE and downright PERNICIOUS CULTURAL EXPEXTATIONS regarding FEMININITY and feeling trapped by such. LOVE is such a compelling cultural figure because she is both fragile yet ferociously UNAPOLOGETIC, INTELLIGENT yet prone to impulse, loyal yet susceptible to CAUSTIC outbursts of provoked. she is such a CONTRADICTION which is to say that she is human. like all women, her FEMININITY is not confined by patriarchal prescriptions pushed on her from the news media and music press. the way i see it, she's out TOMMY LEE'd and NIKKI SIXX'd both TOMMY LEE and NIKKI SIXX. but somehow being a MOTHER, WIDOW and CARETAKER untangles such and renders her the target of scorn in the public eye. i will never understand that.
i know i did not due LIVE THROUGH THIS justice with this review, but trust me, this is a great record. it is well worth your time to check out if you are a fan of ROCK AND ROLL of any genre from the 1970s onwards that matters: PUNK ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, HARDCORE, GLAM ROCK, POWER POP and so on. it holds up and transcends most of what came out in the 1990s (and beyond) and i consider LOVE to be a singer and band leader without peer amongst her cohorts, including the likes of CHRIS CORNELL, EDDIE VEDDER, SCOTT WEILAND, BILLY CORGAN, SHIRLEY MANSON, MARK ARM, BRAD NOWELL, SHANNON HOON, LAYNE STALEY, GIBBY HAYNES, THOM YORKE, MARK LANEGAN and even her late husband.
she is ONE OF ONE and LIVE THROUGH THIS is her arguably peak creative work for both its unbridled FEROCITY and unadulterated VULNERABILITY. it is absolutely required listening.
it is difficult to overstate the importance of SOUNDGARDEN's fourth studio album SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1994) in my young life as a music listener. unapologetically, i am most definitely a 90s kid and as such, as ive repeated on this blog before, was gifted both SUPERUNKOWN and PEARL JAM's VITALOGY (review linked HERE) in what had to have been christmas 1994. i should also mentioned shortly after such my first record purchase was a compact disc copy of LIVING COLOUR's VIVID (review linked HERE). so not a bad first foray indeed. that being said i am emotionally tied to this album so this review will not be some pseudo-critical appraisal of its worth. to me the experience of listening to this era of SOUNDGARDEN is akin to reliving my childhood. so that is my bias.
compared to its predecessor, the similarly stellar BADMOTORFINGER (A&M, 1991), SUPERUNKOWN is more psychedelic and sonically expansive, incorporating nontraditional instrumentation (i.e. spoon percussion on "SPOONMAN") and their requisite odd time signatures that still manage to be highly contagious and earworm-y. standout tracks include "4TH OF JULY," "FRESH TENDRILS," "HEAD DOWN," "FELL ON BLACK DAYS," "LIKE SUICIDE," "MY WAVE," "SUPERUNKNOWN," "LET ME DROWN," "SPOONMAN," "THE DAY I TRIED TO LIVE" and of course the generational ALTERNATIVE ROCK anthem that is "BLACK HOLE SUN." okay, i realize that i just named most the tracks on the album, but that is kind of the point here. its a landmark album with many of the best tracks of their career, hands down.
growing up my personal favorite track was the title track, "SUPERUNKNOWN," which slowly builds from a mixolydian sounding eastern single note riff that expands and and enlarges until the choruses and guitar solos engulf the universe. guitarist KIM THAYIL is an absolute wizard and is criminally underrated amongst his ALTERNATIVE ROCK peers. the dude is an utterly unique and has a preternaturally deft ear for both crushing riffs and dynamic texture shifts. that said, "SUPERUNKNOWN" itself is an absolutely epic track sonically that lyrically is about SELF-TRANSFORMATION and stepping into the unknown despite your personal MISGIVINGS, INSECURITIES and TREPIDATIONS. that song alone has been the soundtrack to all my "fuck lets go decisions" over the years from joining PEACE CORPS in ALBANIA to any number of teaching jobs i took in quasi-safe locales ranging from VENEZUELA to MYANMAR.
the brutally guttural guitar tone of "4TH OF JULY" has been immensely influential on the EXTREME METAL genre of DRONE METAL, particularly key bands like BORIS, JESU and especially SUNN O))). that deep low-tuned guitar absolutely crushes and propels the listener on a slow plodding sonic dirge not experienced before, even by the likes of SLUDGE METAL bands like MELVINS or NEUROSIS. lyrically the song is uses natural imagery to thematically espouse on concepts related to MORAL REBIRTH and PERSONAL REJUVENATION in the wake of some undefined debasing experience. such a revelation is personally experienced by the narrator through a massive thunderclap and natural visual display that borders on the sublime. i always interpreted the song as that moment when a transformative idea comes to conscious fruition from whatever subterranean depths and unknown processes it came out of.
i could go down the line here song by song but i wont. suffice to say that SUPERUNKNOWN is required listening and is the ultimate showcase of the almost ALCHEMICAL ARTISTIC SYNERGY of these four talented musicians: all of whom are songwriters. CHRIS CORNELL with his voice and songwriting abilities are a revelation unto itself, making him easily the standard bearer amongst his ALTERNATIVE ROCK peers. what a generational talent he was. BEN SHEPHERD likewise contributed one of my favorite tracks ("HEAD DOWN") and his ability for composing interesting arrangements and odd textural juxtapositions is the secret weaon of the band. KIM THAYIL like i said before is a wizard and experimental riff meister of the first order (right there in my mind with DIMEBAG DARRELL of PANTERA). and MATT CAMERON and his adroit and tasteful percussion choices throughout laid the groundwork for one of the most experimental and artistically successful ROCK AND ROLL albums ever.
but then again i am incredibly biased.
REST IN PEACE CHRIS CORNELL.