the OREGON-based SLUDGE METAL/STONER ROCK band RED FANG is renowned as much for their comically infantile yet ingenious music videos often depicting such blue collar staples as SASQUATCH, DAGORHIR, TIME TRAVEL and PABST BLUE RIBBON as they are for their crushing BLACK SABBATH meets MELVINS sound.
just an awesome consistent band that keeps on delivering. check out their music.
over a year ago when we were in the planning stages of what later became our OFF THE M series of live performance videos at the TRANS PECOS and MARKET HOTEL venues in NYC, we were looking for possible artists to showcase. bay area INDIE band NO VACATION was the first band that i straight away wanted to film after listening through their complete recorded output.
as mentioned before, my senior year of high school i moved from KUWAIT to SACRAMENTO to live with a distant relative in the aftermath of 9/11. by far the weirdest moment i had that year was going to a graduation party where there were videos playing of memories going back to elementary school. none of it had anything to do with me. THAT is the vibe i get from NO VACATION. their atmospheric brand of dream pop is a hazy mix of reverb drenched feedback and single-note passages that sounds nostalgic or yearning for some time gone by that i cannot discern. like a bittersweet memory.
oh yeah, they rejected our invitation to be a part of the series. no matter, i still love their catalogue and look forward to their next release. check them out.
one of the things that always turned me off of METAL and ALTERNATIVE ROCK in general were the fans. i don't think i'm all alone in that. too often the atmosphere at ROCK shows seemed to cater to some dumbed down, conservative mindset that wasn't inclusive of women or multiple varieties of masculinity. in fact, i can remember going to OZZFEST years back in high school, pre 9/11 and feeling this weight of all the total right-wing bullshit that was flying around both on-stage and from the crowd. had these people never read OZZY's lyrics to "War Pigs" or maybe the better question is could they read those lyrics.
TORCHE is a powerful, anthemic modern STONER ROCK/SLUDGE METAL outfit from MIAMI whose members had previously played in respected underground bands FLOOR and CAVITY. for me their music hits that emotional sweet spot that splits the difference between the brutality and advance technicality of modern METAL while also indulging in sustained feedback and looped harmonics that are indicative of SHOEGAZE. seems almost besides the point (and really, who cares?) to mention that vocalist/guitarist STEVE BROOKS is one of the few openly gay men in METAL. much like ROB HALFORD before him, my hope is that this increased exposure will end this common denominator, caveman-like posturing that has plagued METAL shows forever. has no place now unless you live in TRUMP country. in that case, drag you knuckles away.
TORCHE is a tremendous band and their new album ADMISSION just takes it all to another level. highly recommended.
when SRI LANKAN-born, BRITISH mc M.I.A. came on the scene in the 2000s she was a revelation partly due to the unique production of her first two records and partly due to the unique global scope of her lyrics.
given the dearth of powerful female mcs at the time (and since), it is quite remarkable that this daughter of emigre political refugees from SRI LANKA (her father was involved with the TAMIL TIGERS) would assume such an outspoken role in such a hostile genre. it is not lost on anyone that women involved in the genre usually have to debase themselves with overly sexualized videos in order to gain traction in the industry (exemplified by likes of NICKI MINAJ, CARDI B, RIHANNA, MEGAN THEE STALLION, LIL' KIM and FOXY BROWN). in a sense M.I.A. is a bit of a throwback to a previous era where women where considered equals in terms of their lyrical content (artists like SALT-N-PEPA, QUEEN LATIFAH, MC LYTE, LAUREN HILL and MISSY ELLIOT). it is almost comical that she was side-by-side with NICKI MINAJ in a now overlooked MADONNA video, since in my mind they are opposite ends of the spectrum, almost like comparing PJ HARVEY or PATTI SMITH to CHRISTINA AGUILERA. but maybe i am off-base for making comparisons between female artists. let them have the freedom to portray themselves as they wish to represented. amen.
for me what separates M.I.A. from her competition (of both genders) is her use of sound collages and lyrical refrains that represent the hidden communities of underdeveloped countries around the world. hearing a song that deconstructs the power of money ("$20" off of KALA) within a third-world context is something that i have seen firsthand abroad living in NIGERIA and ALBANIA but have rarely come across in pop culture. it is just not part of the idiom of mass entertainment. same goes for her visuals which can showcase everything from amorous GIFS from the ARAB world (think about how much subterfuge is involved in that) to BOLLYWOOD dance production to Indian subcontinent visual culture of hand-painted shop signs.
when i hear her records i intuit that i am riding along an artist in full control of her artistic vision. not to get back to my point about female representation in HIP HOP, but i get the feeling M.I.A. would never allow herself to get drawn into that game. in her i see another singular artist in the vein of past luminaries like BJÖRK, EMMYLOU HARRIS, PJ HARVEY, CARLY SIMON, JANIS JOPLIN, PATTI SMITH and MARIANNE FAITHFUL who follow their own distinct lead.
could not recommend her music any stronger. check her out.
i learned of LOS ANGELES-based INDIE band WARPAINT in the late 2000s from an interview with JOHN FRUSCIANTE who appreciated their rhythmically complex yet impressionistic feedback-swelled sonic textures.
i mention such since this band is firmly in the camp of INDIE bands that experiment with the form (implementing AFRICAN rhythms with looping feedback and echoed vocals) yet retain catchy hooks in the best tradition of THE TALKING HEADS, THE VELEVT UNDERGROUND, XTC, TELEVISION, FELA KUTI and yes, even JOHN FRUSCIANTE's idiosyncratic work in the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS.
they are definitely worth checking out.
second acts in music are always difficult. its arguably even more difficult when coming off a successful stint in a well-known band. it goes exponentially from there if you're former bandmate was your abuser.
such is the case with ALICE GLASS, former front-woman for influential CANADIAN ELECTROCLASH/SYNTHPOP duo CRYSTAL CASTLES. i almost feel guilty even mentioning such since her association with that situation should not define her, but i would be remiss in not mentioning it is part of her history. in a sense her persona as an artist embraces it.
in my opinion her solo work holds up to her previous gig, albeit with a less abrasive edge and more conventional pop hooks. part of the appeal of CRYSTAL CASTLES was their extreme use of texture and clipping, red-lined vocals that distorted in a beautiful cacophony over hard driving synth beats. with her recent solo work it is almost like a veil of noise has been lifted and you can really appreciate her voice as it is no longer muddled in the mix. its an aesthetic decision, albeit a more mainstream one, but in a way it is almost like you are hearing her for the first time minus the extreme processing of her voice.
i'd recommend her CRYSTAL CASTLES work, as it is excellent, but there i a part of me that doesn't want to support her abuser who has carried on that outfit without her.
VENEZUELA is intense.
with the exception of NIGERIA, i have never lived in a more precarious situation in terms of personal security. i took a teaching job in the eastern oil city of MATURÍN not too long after HUGO CHAVEZ passed on from cancer and basically had a front row seat to the economic, political and physiological dismantling of a nation. just to give you some insight, my first month saw the exchange rate at 1USD for 6 bolivares and by the time i left 2 years later it had jumped to over 200. not only that, when i lived in MATURÍN it was not on any global list of most dangerous cities, but the following year after my departure it shot up to number 4.
number 4. damn.
where they are now is beyond sad and depressing and the subsequent takeover of the legislative and judicial branches by the inept, sadistic MADURO regime is an international travesty. i don't see that ending anytime soon as RUSSIA is now using them in the same geopolitical chess formation as they do with in other intractible situations (i.e. KOSOVO). the fact that people are starving over there and the situation isn't improving or even being reported on stateside makes me frustrated to the point of despondency. venezuelans, much like the MYANMAR people, will literally give bread to others even if they themselves are hungry. selfless and vivacious, thats how i remember the people i ran into everyday in VENEZUELA.
when i listen to the music of LA VIDA BOHÈME i am reminded of the spirit of the people, who were genuine, open and community-oriented. being taken in by family of friends to better see great cities like CARACAS, BARQUISIMETO and PUERTO LA CRUZ was a highlight of my life for sure and my hope is to visit there again one day. what a beautiful country with such energetic people and such a vivacious culture.
what a waste. listen to LA VIDA BOHÈME and especially their stellar album NUESTRA (NACIONAL, 2011). great band definitely worth checking out.
to me their music is a celebration of life. and it hit me at the right moment when i was receptive to that message.
the lush, highly orchestrated, bass-heavy, FUNK-inflected sound of the FRIENDLY FIRES was an intoxicating heady mix that i discovered shortly after moving to the ADRIATIC hugging, coastal town of VLORË during my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA. i had been living beforehand a monochrome existence in the isolated, claustrophobic, historically conservative northern mountain town of KUKËS near the KOSOVO border where all my movements were noticed and judged by the local population, who were still as paranoid of outsiders as they had been under communism. in comparison VLORË was a vibrant port town that looked towards engagement with the broader world, with bikini-strewn beaches with clear pristine water, shit they even had a bowling alley (one of two in the entire country). not a typical ALBANIAN experience in any respect, as here i could speak to people in public without having to worry about repercussions. in KUKËS speaking to female college students of mine in public meant i was sleeping with them, furthering my isolation.
VLORË was fresh air. it was like being able to breathe again.
for me discovering FRIENDLY FIRES at that time only showcased the technicolor aspect of that recent radical geographical shift. their sound is a vibrantly propulsive and kinetic mix of keyboards, african-esque drumming and single note guitar work with orchestral and sound design elements; they are basically what later-day COLDPLAY would sound like if they didn't suck.
i love how music can serve as a soundtrack to your life, but whenever i come across their dance-able sound i am taken directly back to long warm summer nights sleeping with my window open in my ADRIATIC SEA-facing apartment after months of being left alone, socially isolated up in the mountains. its still holds its power to me years later.
the BRITISH HIP HOP sub-genre of GRIME was something, like most people, i was introduced to in earnest back in the early 2000s with the elevation of DIZZEE RASCAL and THE STREETS, but in my mind STORMZY is someone that has taken the sound and run with it.
i think being an american its easy to forget that there is a wider context for the culture we pump out to the rest of the globe and that there is a dialogue going on even if we choose not to participate. BRITISH HIP HOP is one of those genres that has always fascinated me as the UNITED KINGDOM is renowned for its hierarchical culture where markers of class denotes your status. namely among these markers is one's spoken accent. in the UNITED STATES we don't have this as you can have a hideous CAJUN or NEW JERSEY accent and be at the top of an industry. not so in the UNITED KINGDOM. out there you are locked into an identity based on you presentation. intriguingly, it works both ways as certain accents denote working-class credentials and some artists, LILY ALLEN comes immediately to mind, have been called out for their COCKNEY, err MOCKNEY accent, as if they were feigning authenticity fairly or unfairly.
so when you have the son of GHANIAN immigrants, born and raised in a council estate making it big worldwide, its always interesting to consider what shifts in the BRITISH consciousness have been undertaken. the dude's wordplay and flow is totally unique and infectious and a welcome new take on a genre where both seem to be less important stateside.
hopefully this wave, which includes fellow luminary SKEPTA, will continue on the other side of the pond and spark a fire under the asses of NYC's largely meh current state of HIP HOP. again, in my opinion.
INFANT ANNIHILATOR is another objectively amazing band name in the lofty tradition of other EXTREME METAL/DEATH METAL luminaries who are unafraid to have truly moronic monikers like CATTLE DECAPITATION, PIG DESTROYER, REGURGITATE, BLOOD TSUNAMI, ROTTING CHRIST, NAPALM DEATH, DEFECATION, HOODED MENACE, DYING FETUS, MORBID ANGEL, TOXIC HOLOCAUST and of course ANAL CUNT. i for one love it when METAL bands stop taking themselves too seriously and embrace the ridiculousness that is life. or is that death?
definitely check out the british DEATHGRIND band INFANT ANNIHILATOR and their awesomely kitschy videos. its about time an EXTREME METAL band did a full-blown BOY BAND parody. can't believe it took this long. maybe BLINK-182 got there first?