photo & text by nacrowe
as a kid in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA i played a lot of sports, but mainly basketball. going into 6th grade i personally knew the head coaches of the three local high schools. its funny to look back at it now, but at the time i was a sports prospect. of course, my family moved to NIGERIA later that year and my whole world literally shifted overnight. but during those late elementary years i have fond memories driving everywhere between LOS ANGELES and SAN DIEGO with my dad on our way to and from basketball camps and tournaments listening to U2 records.
there were certain songs we'd play as hype music which included AEROSMITH's "DREAM ON," THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE's "VOODOO CHILD (SLIGHT RETURN)" and U2's "IN GOD'S COUNTRY" and "WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME" off their landmark THE JOSHUA TREE (ISLAND, 1987) record. i still to this day visualize long drives to places like ESCONDIDO, ANAHEIM HILLS and HUNTINGTON BEACH to those tracks. what drew me to their sound was how they manipulated the idea of SPACE. whether through THE EDGE's reverb and delayed guitar manipulations or those epic slow fade-ins punctuated by BONO's howling voice full of YEARNING and DESPERATION, their just seemed to be a palpable sense of forward momentum. PUSHING FORWARD to new frontiers despite the obstacles. its easy to see in retrospect how those tracks worked as hype songs.
as an adult i have come to appreciate the GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS of U2, regardless of the fact that such is often used as a focal point for castigation and aspersions, especially at frontman BONO. there is something very IRISH about having EMPATHY for another's suffering and i feel that he is coming at his political pronouncements from an inner place of DEEP COMPASSION. i may be alone in that but thats my conviction. when you look tracks like "BULLET THE BLUE SKY" or especially "MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED" (which is about the suffering of mothers whose children were abducted by REAGAN-backed military dictatorships in CHILE and ARGENTINA) there is a conviction to utilize his artistic medium to further AMPLIFY these political efforts and draw world attention to them.
which he did.
less literal are the iconic singles "I STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR" and "WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME." its interesting that there is very much a thread of geography and the concept of DISPLACEMENT in much of the lyrical content from this record. again, very IRISH. the idea of searching for something important but unnameable and maybe even unattainable, like LOVE, ACCEPTANCE or even a COMMUNITY is an aspiration that is deeply human. its almost metaphysical in nature. having spent extensive time abroad in places like NIGERIA, ALBANIA, MYANMAR and VENEZUELA, i have literally visited people on streets with no name. BONO very eloquently seeks to provide REPRESENTATION and a voice to the voiceless and those who are FORGOTTEN and looked over by our entrenched POLITICAL and ECONOMIC SYSTEMS that dont value or even acknowledge their EXISTENCE. this is a concept i consistently struggle with.
and that struggle of living with a CONSCIOUS and bearing witness to the STRUGGLES of your neighbor is central to THE JOSHUA TREE. its the thread that ties seemingly disparate tracks like "ONE TREE HILL" with "WITH OR WITHOUT YOU." what is our individual RESPONSIBILITY to our COMMUNITY? what bonds us to each other on an inter-personal level? it really is an amazing accomplishment both SONICALLY and CONCEPTUALLY and for me it is a deeply sentimental record that reminds me of my own CONNECTION with my father.
so yeah, THE JOSHUA TREE is worthy of its hype and well worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
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photo manipulation by nacrowe
i first came across SLOWDIVE while watching GREGG ARAKI films like THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) and NOWHERE (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1997). their sound had this ethereal atmospheric quality with soaring waves of looped feedback winding and unwinding itself around a floating female/male singing tandem mixed way back in the mix. it was the perfect audio bed for films about largely centered around reckless young adults and their ever-evolving identities, attitudes and emotions that seemed to swell and dissipate. that was pretty much when i got interested in SLOWDIVE.
the documentary SOUVLAKI (PITCHFORK, 2015) is an oral history of the seminal SHOEGAZE band as described by members NEIL HALSTEAD, RACHEL GOSWELL, SIMON SCOTT, NICK CHAPlIN and CHRISTIAN SAVILL, as well as CREATION RECORDS founder ALLEN MCGEE, producer CHRIS HUFFORD and mixer/engineer ED BULLER. it reveals the process behind the development behind their transcendent SOUVLAKI (CREATION, 1993) album and how the recently dissolved romantic relationship between HALSTEAD and GOSWELL informed the record. pretty standard fair for music documentaries.
what resonated with me was how they describe the scene at the time, pre-GRUNGE and BRITPOP, when bands like THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, SPACEMEN 3, COCTEAU TWINS and MY BLOODY VALENTINE were playing small gigs in rural ENGLAND. when the sound was still underground. the band itself was made of the decidedly INDIE HALSTEAD, who grew up in a household where music other than CLASSICAL was verboten, and two local GOTHS in GOSWELL and CHAPLIN; all agree on THE SMITHS. knowing that i can definitely hear a POST PUNK thread in their sound from GOTH ROCK bands like BAUHAUS (i.e. DANIEL ASH), JOY DIVISION, BERLIN-era DAVID BOWIE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. they all used sound and looped effects to make deeply evocative music that resonated on both on an emotional and visceral level.
the documentary, like others in the PITCHFORK CLASSIC series, has the band members elaborate on standout tracks like "40 DAYS," "WHEN THE LIGHT HITS," "SOUVLAKI SPACE STATION," "DAGGER," and "ALISON." it also showcased BRIAN ENO's ability to serve as a catalyst for soundscapes that formed the basis for other songs as well. in ENO there is a figure that is purely interested in the creation of interesting sounds, period. he served as a catalyst during writing sessions with HALSTEAD, who hilariously and fortunately didn't know much about him at the time, and left. ENO's production techniques are fodder for another entry, so i wont go into that here, but needless to say his unconventional approaches and deep penchant for sonic experimentation is all over SOUVLAKI. it marks a new direction for the band which fascinatingly was influenced by DUB REGGAE and new AMBIENT acts at the time like APHEX TWIN. its all in there, you can definitely hear it.
in recent years the band has reformed and even released the stellar SLOWDIVE (DEAD OCEANS, 2017), but the SOUVLAKI record should not be missed by anyone. requisite listening for anyone interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK or even AMBIENT or ORCHESTRAL music. really just great music for anyone moved by emotionally affecting sounds in general. at least it gets me every time, right back to being a teenager living in KUWAIT, an oppressive country with little freedom or ability for self-expression or creativity.
NOTE: also, the post-SLOWDIVE band MOJAVE 3 is also worth your time, although they are a completely different vibe altogether.