photo & text by nacrowe
as a music fan its always INTRIGUING to learn about the behind-the-scenes inner-workings and machinations of CONSEQUENTIAL operators like PRODUCERS, MANAGERS, ENGINEERS and even ROADIES. in his engaging memoir LUNCH WITH THE WILD FRONTIERS: A HISTORY OF BRITPOP AND EXCESS IN 13 1/2 CHAPTERS (JAWBONE PRESS, 2019), you are introduced to the world of IMAGINATIVE media manipulations and greasy pole climbing that is PUBLIC RELATIONS through PHILL (now JANE) SAVIDGE of the noted now-DEFUNCT firm of SAVAGE & BEST. at the height of the BRITPOP movement in the 1990s, this PUBLIC RELATIONS firm was at the center of the BRITISH YOUTH CULTURE having represented heavy-hitters of the period including SUEDE, PULP, ELASTICA and THE VERVE among many others. LUNCH WITH THE WILD FRONTIERS is basically a guided tour through the period and how he was able to adroitly manipulate PRESS COVERAGE and keep his clients and their new projects square in the BRITISH public's notoriously FICKLE focus and attention.
so in essence this book is really about the fine art of BULLSHITTING.
SAVIDGE seems to be such a PRETERNATURAL talent at the art of NETWORKING and HYPE-BUILDING that his memoir showcases him in the same room serving the interests of everyone from DAVE STEWART (EURYTHMICS), KEITH ALLEN and ANDREW LLOYD WEBER to PAUL ALLEN, DAMIEN HIRST, A. R. RAHMAN, JARVIS COCKER and even LOU REED. its all very INCREDIBLE and FASCINATING, but you get the sense throughout that SAVIDGE is a very USEFUL instrument for effectuating a DESIRABLE outcome, be it PRESS about a nightclub or a new band in a very specific BRITISH periodical. to that end he is singularly focused and uniquely poised to perpetually create what we now refer to in the digital era as "content." the dude was a constant producer of CONTENT that effectuated BENEFICIAL outcomes for his clients and provided unique access as a gatekeeper to a new generation of innovators pushing culture. long-term though, it is never made clear how said ATTENTION benefited everyone. seems like a never-ending hamster wheel of DRUGS, LIES and HYPE. plus with the never satiated public consumption of said CONTENT, there is always the threat of being overtaken and replaced by newer, younger, hipper artists and individuals involved in ever more DESIRABLE and DEBAUCHED situation. it seems in retrospect that the cheque written by SAVAGE & BEST was sadly delivered to the following generation of subsequent artists to pay up. some with UNFORTUNATE results.
even though this memoir chronologically doesnt overlap with the likes of AMY WINEHOUSE or PETE DOHERTY, it was never that far from my attention the darker aspects of chasing down and falling into this type of RABBIT HOLE. despite all of the GLAMOUR and DETACHED AFFECTION related to PRESS COVERAGE, you also get the sense that one's IDENTITY and PUBLIC PERSONA is what is at stake and being bartered over in the process. some get LOST.
what is so COMPELLING about this book is how little i learned about SAVIDGE as an individual away from his MANIPULATIONS in the ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY. he is a complete CYPHER. it is probably what made him such a great PUBLIC RELATIONS agent.
LUNCH WITH THE WILD FRONTIERS is definitely an INTERESTING book with a UNIQUE perspective on the BRITISH MUSIC INDUSTRY during the BRITPOP period. definitely worth checking out.
photo & text by nacrowe
ELASTICA's eponymous debut album ELASTICA (DGC, 1995) was the GREATEST record put out during the BRITPOP era. end stop. the album exudes a LYRICAL CONFIDENCE and SONIC SOPHISTICATION that was seemingly presented to the world from the outset as a committed and FULLY-FORMED musical statement. taking influence most notably from POST PUNK bands like WIRE and THE STRANGLERS, main songwriter JUSTINE FRISCHMANN was the master of refashioning ANGULAR GUITAR PASSAGES and ODD TIME SIGNATURES into DEVASTATINGLY EFFECTIVE sonic hooks that separated their sound from their BRITPOP and ALTERNATIVE ROCK brethren. being a SINGULAR recording for the ages, there are no weak tracks on the album, but NOTEWORTHY songs include "BLUE," "STUTTER," "2:1," "CONNECTION," "INDIAN SONG," "ANNIE," "LINE UP," "NEVER HERE" and my personal favorite, "WAKING UP." i know i just named nine tracks (and to be honest there are another two id add come to think of it), but its that kind of TRANSCENDENT album.
my introduction to ELASTICA was hearing their STELLAR single "CONNECTION" on 106.7 FM KROQ during my late elementary school years in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. at the time i had no idea who the band was, or really anything about BRITPOP, but that indelible opening synth lick (courtesy of DAMON ALBARN of all things) with that ICONIC "eeeewwww-wahhhhhh" vocal intro was something absolutely seared into my adolescent FASCINATION and was a part of the soundtrack of my years going to traveling soccer and basketball matches throughout ORANGE, RIVERSIDE, LOS ANGELES and SAN DIEGO COUNTIES in my youth.
its funny, because i didnt actually discover ELASTICA by name until my senior year of high school when i found their debut and put the dots together on that "CONNECTION" single. i was stunned by how consistent ELASTICA was with its memorable SLINKY BASS-LINES (a la JEAN-JACQUES BURNEL and PETER HOOK) and SNAPPY VOCALS sung with ATTITUDE and a SNARL. that record was one of the key discoveries from my senior year of high school which i spent largely alone after being moved from the MIDDLE EAST to a unwitting relative in SACRAMENTO shortly after 9/11. other groups i discovered during this period included THE BREEDERS, LOVE AND ROCKETS, MASSIVE ATTACK, SLOWDIVE, FUGAZI, APHEX TWIN and THE CRAMPS. it was a horrible year but in that regard it was quite PRODUCTIVE.
why ELASTICA is not a bigger name in the history of ALTERNATIVE ROCK still baffles me. usually FRISCHMANN only gets mentioned because of her past relationships with DAMON ALBARN (or BLUR) and BRETT ANDERSON (of SUEDE) which is being SEXIST and does her a total disservice. it should be the other way around, that those two dudes once dated arguably the BEST songwriter of their generation. it could be that the band dissolved after another INCREDIBLE record due to cliche tropes of INFIGHTING and UNHEALTHY and ultimately DESTRUCTIVE narcotic habits. maybe, i dont know. it still stuns me that ELASTICA isnt more widely CELEBRATED. so go check out their debut album. seriously, its worth it.
parodies by nacrowe
i grew up on ALTERNATIVE ROCK from the 1990s. i wasnt even in elementary school yet when the 1980s ended, along with it the INFLUENTIAL contemporaneous HARDCORE and INDIE scenes that are still very much CELEBRATED decades on. my entry to to that discussion was the FAMOUS SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE scene that sparked the 90s with SOUNDGARDEN, PEARL JAM and NIRVANA being among the first records i ever received as a child before i became even a decade old. looking back its almost like being informed about previous PUNK ROCK, GLAM ROCK, NEW WAVE, POST PUNK, PROG ROCK and even BRITISH INVASION movements via a cultural bank shot. it was NEW music once or twice removed from those veritable scenes, but something uniquely SEPARATE at the same time.
decades on now i see ALTERNATIVE ROCK as the beginning of GENRE-LESS music. it seemed all manner of PRODUCTION TECNIQUES and ideas were being thrown in the mix, from SAMPLING and BEAT-MAKING utilized in both HIP HOP and INDUSTRIAL circles, new sonic TEXTURES were experienced with bands and artists like BECK, GARBAGE and NINE INCH NAILS that embellished and expanded upon the TRADITIONAL textbook of what a ROCK AND ROLL band sounded like and could get away with. i also always think of music within a social context and while some listeners doggedly clung to OUTMODED identities based out of geographically LOCAL variations of PUNK, INDIE and HARDCORE scenes, i grew up more or less around people that could appreciate multiple DISPARATE genres and cultural movements ranging from FUNK and R&B to HIP HOP, PUNK ROCK and extreme METAL. in essence it was all the same VIBE, but DIFFERENT expressions. decades on you have artists that seamlessly split the difference between various UNRELATED genres and have no issue garnering a MASSIVE audience, which to my perspective showcases the OPEN-MINDEDNESS past down by the ALTERNATIVE ROCK generation that was less interested in PURITY and more concerned about songwriting and sonic INNOVATION.
at least that is my sense of the musical and cultural EVOLUTION that took place during my conscious time on this planet as an ACTIVE listener. some may disagree and thats alright.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC that originally aired almost exactly four years ago. hard to believe ive had a radio show that long! the playlist includes music from throughout the ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement of the 1990s. enjoy!
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the criminally underrated BRITPOP band ELASTICA!
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!
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
rapper M.I.A. is a revolutionary figure. i should just get that out of the way from the get-go.
she's revolutionary because of her background as a first-generation immigrant daughter of a founder of the TAMIL TIGERS (an ethnic SRI LANKAN separatist group in open conflict with the corrupt national government). she's revolutionary because she is outspoken about her experience as an immigrant, a status that is universally derided, discarded and intentionally misunderstood by first-world inhabitants. she's revolutionary because she is unafraid to speak her truth. and i wont lie, her flipping off the camera at the SUPER BOWL was probably the greatest thing ever on such a telecast (right up there with PRINCE's rainy performance).
what made her documentary MANTANGI MAYA M.I.A. (CINEREACH, 2018) so compelling is how you see this cultural behemoth finding her identity through 22 years of archival footage shot by MATHANGI ARULPRASAM herself. most interesting is her initial trek to SRI LANKA as an adult, seeking to learn about a struggle she was separated from and the disconnection she felt. as a THIRD CULTURE KID myself growing up in NIGERIA and KUWAIT, i can relate to being stuck between cultures and continents. my whole life i felt disconnected from AMERICAN life which has only been exacerbated during the TRUMP era. i can relate to the experience of being tied to an identity of which you have little control, as an AMERICAN who lived abroad for years in NIGERIA, ALBANIA, KUWAIT, VENEZUELA and MYANMAR. that dilemma definitely hits home. and i believe part of my reason for having so much respect for M.I.A. is her fearlessness in speaking her truth in spite of intellectual charlatans like LYNN HIRSCHBERG and BILL MAHER and the tired conservative media and corrupt political interests they facilitate in effectively silencing and putting down BLACK and BROWN people. its that idea of speaking up for a forgotten population and not shutting up when the WHITE adults in the room tell you to shut up. honestly fuck them.
i dont know how one doesnt respect her fearlessness and moral clarity.
this documentary is also the type of film that makes me uncomfortable in that it showcases the triviality and shallowness with which of our national discussion regarding war and human suffering. i was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to teach secondary english at an international school in MYANMAR a few years back and was taken aback by the dismissive tone by western journalists when discussing the suffering of the ROHINGYA population. apparently AMERICAN blood is more precious. the pain and suffering of BLACK and BROWN people was less newsworthy. same here with regards to SRI LANKA.
again, i am glad for her voice and look forward to her new album. cant wait to see what she chooses to address this go around given the state of the world. i think deep down she knows she has the respect and admiration of her people, so being deliberately smeared by western media conglomerates isnt her worry. it comes with the territory.
it proves that she is dangerous. that she is a revolutionary.
cover by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent secret, unannounced episode of DEER GOD RADIO that celebrated recording artists i've written about in the CHECK OUT THIS BAND section of the DEERBLOG over the past year. writing about music and exposing artists i admire is a passion of mine so this is a special episode for me. more to come!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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!
parody by nacrowe
waaaay back in november 2018(!), BRIAN and i did our 20th episode of DEER GOD RADIO on the 90s BRITPOP movement, which is something near and dead to my heart.
growing up overseas in NIGERIA during the mid 90s, i had the pleasure of spending time in ENGLAND visiting extended family. being AMERICAN, its hard to relate how disorienting it is to be in a country that speaks your language (hell, they invented it) yet has few of your cultural references. people call that culture shock, but for me it was always the most exhilirating part of the process of being abroad since over time you acquiesce to their culture and these blindspots disappear.
regardless it was around the mid 90s when i was introduced to ELASTICA, OASIS, PULP, BLUR, SUEDE, SLEEPER, LUSH, SUPERGRASS, PRIMAL SCREAM, RADIOHEAD, PLACEBO, SAINT ETIENNE, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS and various other groups from the BRITPOP scene as well as other electronic groups like MASSIVE ATTACK and PORTISHEAD from the coastal TRIP HOP scene. not to mention THE PRODIGY who emerged concurrently from the underground electronica scene at the time. it was quite the time and these bands were part of the soundtrack to my years living in NIGERIA with peers that were probably more indebted to the BRITISH sphere of influence than the AMERICAN one.
this show i embedded below goes into the roots and legacy of the scene, which you can also read about in my BOOK REVIEW of JON HARRIS' BRITPOP: COOL BRITANNIA & THE SPECTACULAR DEMISE OF ENGLISH ROCK as well as past SPOTLIGHT features GRAHAM COXON and ELASTICA. i have future shows planned on exploring my favorite various groups from this period as well, so look forward to that as well. endlessly fascinating for me as it was a diverse period with top-notch songwriting all around and was arguably the last time ROCK N ROLL had any large scale cultural or political sway in the UNITED KINGDOM.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the mid-90s means i was very much aware of local legendary LOS ANGELES rock station KROQ 106.7FM. it is almost absurd to consider the amount of bands that have broke big internationally due to exposure at this single radio station. i still think its incredible that such a corporate entity still had room for the esoteric pursuits of legendary resident taste-makers like RODNEY BINGENHEIMER.
my problem was that in this pre-internet age (yep i am that old) i oftentimes didn't know who the bands were since the rotation of songs weren't often tagged by the DJs, which makes sense given how ubiquitous these songs must have been to their regular audience. as a child and later a preteen, i was definitely not that clued in unfortunately.
it wasn't until years later in middle school abroad in NIGERIA that i realized songs i was familiar with were by bands like ALICE IN CHAINS ("MAN IN THE BOX"), NIRVANA (obscure b-side "SAPPY"), SPACEHOG ("IN THE MEANTIME") and THE BREEDERS ("CANNONBALL").
one of these bands was ELASTICA and the song was "CONNECTION." i distinctly remember hearing that song while waiting in line for SPACE MOUNTAIN at DISNEYLAND in elementary school. sadly, i didn't rediscover this band until high school in the early 2000s after relocating to SACRAMENTO from KUWAIT during my senior year. to me their debut album ELASTICA (GEFFEN, 1992) is a perfect album, easily the best thing to come out of the whole 90s BRITPOP movement (check out this BOOK REVIEW i did if you are unfamiliar with that scene). what i loved about it aside from JUSTINE FRISCHMANN's snarky, seductive crooning was angular guitar work which after further investigation introduced met to POST-PUNK bands that influenced them like WIRE and GANG OF FOUR. the inter-textual nature of art where different scenes, eras and modes are referenced and re-appropriated is something i've always appreciated. ELASTICA to me is an example of a stellar band that encourages me to stay curious, dig further and expand my ears to different sounds. i don't tend to fixate, if anything each new great band i learn about only serves as a new nexus point for other new discoveries.
if you aren't familiar with ELASTICA, check out either of their two releases. along with THE SMITHS, they are on my bucket-list of bands i hope and pray to see play live on day. nobody is cooler than JUSTINE FRISCHMANN. no one.
photo by nacrowe
John Harris' BRITPOP: Cool Britannia & The Spectacular Demise of English Rock (DA CAPO, 2004) is a comprehensive exploration 1990s British musical culture and all that came with it: the rise of the Labour Party, Ecstasy, Kurt Cobain, Hip Hop and heroin. It covers every major band of the period from OASIS, BLUR, SUEDE, PULP, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, SLEEPER, RADIOHEAD, SPIRITUALIZED, MASSIVE ATTACK, LUSH, SUPERGRASS, PORTISHEAD and (my personal favorite) ELASTICA but ultimately the key narrative BRITPOP harkens back to again and again is how to express British identity in a modern context where the nation itself is becoming more diverse, jaded and fragmented.
Harris makes the argument that by actively seeking to shed NIRVANA's influence (in terms of their sound & aesthetic) and by becoming politically active (video of NOEL GALLAGHER at 10 Downing Street) with respect to the rise of New Labour, the movement marked itself as something new. something that had not been seen before in terms of political and cultural influence.
as much as i love the music of this period, and i do (ELASTICA, MASSIVE ATTACK, BLUR & OASIS especially), i don't think they were that influential beyond the UK. the very fact that a lot of this music of this period was constructed in opposition to or in the tradition of something else marks it for me. What do I mean?
DAMON ALBARN's early celebrated work with Blur uses fictional characters and settings meant to parody or mimic the narrative styles of RAY DAVIES, LENNON & MCCARTNEY, JOE STRUMMER, PETE TOWNSEND or countless other classic British songwriters of the 1960s & 1970s. He grew out of this and made exceptional work, but during this period he was consciously pushing himself to be in this musical tradition in opposition to american bands of the day.
To mention the OASIS' indebtedness to 1970s Glam or THE BEATLES is beside the point. They fact that there was a blueprint that they kept so close to kinda shackles them a bit. The fact that they were such a strong band and that NOEL has largely transcended this as well to be in the greater aforementioned pantheon of great English songwriters (along with ALBARN), is a testament to his def ingenuity, craft and talent. Its just during this period he kept to the script, and why not?
the one band from this period that exemplifies this push and pull of establishing a new identity by transcending its component parts is MASSIVE ATTACK. ethnically diverse, geographically remote, economically lacking and politically estranged, this group reinvented hip hop, reggae/dancehall/, film music, r&b and rock into a seamless concoction that perfectly reflected the emerging new face of Britain that came from the far reaches of rural council estates. their music still sounds fresh and it is hard to pin point an antecedent sound that predates it, given its surreal originality (in my opinion).
listen, i love 1990s Britpop. even dedicated a radio show to it. i just don't think you can call something revolutionary if it is actively seeking to reimagine, re-contextualize, re-live something that came before.
That ain't revolutionary. That's reactionary. But no doubt the music was still great.