i came across BREAKBOT, a.k.a. the FRENCH PRODUCER / DJ THIBAUT JEAN-MARIE MICHEL BERLAND, while researching ED BANGER RECORDS for a future DEER GOD RADIO episode. his music immediately caught my ear since it was reminiscent of SYNTH POP artists i deeply appreciate like CHROMEO and ROYKSOPP, which is INTERESTING since he has REMIXED for both in the past. BREAKBOT's sound is FUN, UPLIFTING and UPTEMPO with plenty of SOLID FUNK bass lines and WARPED SAMPLED embellishments. its ELECTRONIC MUSIC that makes you take notice and want to join in immediately on the KINETIC vibe, if only in the privacy of your bedroom.
definitely worth checking outl.
my introduction to the IDIOSYNCRATIC ALTERNATIVE FUNK that is PRIMUS was their main stage appearance on OZZFEST 99. i was fifteen and that music festival was my initiation into concert going as well. so much of that day was OVERWHELMING with its INSANE lineup that included BLACK SABBATH, SLAYER, ROB ZOMBIE, DEFTONES, BLACK SABBATH, SYSTEM OF A DOWN and FEAR FACTORY as well as a FRENETIC, emerging group from the MIDWEST called SLIPKNOT, but i distinctly remember PRIMUS standing out both sonically and in terms of their presentation. they were GOOFY. but WACKY in the sense that they were such ridiculously TALENTED musicians that they could get away with it. case in point was their special guest who was a VIRTUOSO guitarist that wore a KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN bucket on his head with an accompanying JASON mask going by the name BUCKETHEAD. even SLAYER fans were into their set despite it being nothing remotely EXTREME or AGGRESSIVE in terms of EXTREME METAL.
turns out that go around was for their ANTIPOP (INTERSCOPE, 1999) record that found the group playing with a more HARDER-EDGED sound courtesy of all the special producers brought in on this project, including TOM MORELLO (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE), FRED DURST (LIMP BIZKIT), MATT STONE (SOUTH PARK), TOM WAITS and STEWART COPELAND (THE POLICE). not to mention guest appearances by JAMES HETFIELD (METALLICA) and JIM MARTIN (FAITH NO MORE) as well. regarded in retrospect by the band as their least favorite record with a TORTURED creation story to boot, it nearly broke them as they went on hiatus shortly after its release for three years. STANDOUT tracks include "GREET THE SACRED COW," "LAQUERHEAD," "ELECTRIC UNCLE SAM" and "THE ANTIPOP," all employing TRADITIONAL hooks with stop-on-a-dime precision SYNCHRONOUS rhythm playing and ECCENTRIC lyrical conceits to match in the best tradition of KING CRIMSON, THE RESIDENTS, WEEN, SYD BARRETT, DR. DEMENTO and FRANK ZAPPA.
its interesting that ANTIPOP was my introduction to the PECULIAR world of PRIMUS, because it is arguably the least representative of the catalogue. this was a record they made for their label seemingly out of pressure to remain commercially relevant, whatever that meant back in the late 1990s when the writing was on the wall with NAPSTER and file-sharing driving profits away from compact disc sales. it was an INTERESTING time to say the least.
still love this record, but for the uninitiated there are better records to dive into first, like FIZZLE FRY (CAROLINE, 1990), SAILING THE SEAS OF CHEESE (INTERSCOPE, 1991), PORK SODA (INTERSCOPE, 1993) and TALES FROM THE PUNCH BOWL (INTERSCOPE, 1995). just get ready for their PROGRESSIVE ROCK via FUNK sound as interpreted by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART. its a fun mix and required listening in my opinion.
SMALL VICTORIES: THE TRUE STORY OF FAITH NO MORE (JAWBONE PRESS, 2018) is an exhaustively RESEARCHED and adroitly CRAFTED biography of the expansive GENRE-DEFYING creative unit that is FAITH NO MORE. since discovering the band via a BRITISH classmate's taped copy of ANGEL DUST (SLASH, 1992) back in middle school shortly after arriving in NIGERIA in 1996, the band has continued to be one of my all-time FAVORITE groups (along with DEVO, THE SMITHS, MASSIVE ATTACK and JANE'S ADDICTION) through all of its iterations. reading this book was a bit of REVELATION, as it truly ENLIGHTENED and EDUCATED the reader to the inner personal dynamics of the group and the INSPIRATIONS and ALLUSIONS present in much of their EXTENSIVE catalogue. reading this book is not necessary to properly appreciate the music of FAITH NO MORE, but it brought their CAREER and LEGACY into a proper focus that i had hitherto not fully appreciated.
like most fans, i am obsessed with the work of MIKE PATTON, in and of his involvement with FAITH NO MORE. he's been on a CREATIVE STREAK for years with his myriad of COMPELLING yet DISPARATE projects like the seminal MR BUNGLE as well as FANTOMAS, TOMAHAWK, LOVAGE, PEEPING TOM and COLLABORATIONS with the likes of ZU, HANDSOME BOY MODELING SCHOOL, THE DUB TRIO and composer JOHN ZORN among many others. PATTON is very much a singular entity in modern music well beyond the confines of ALTERNATIVE ROCK and is UNIVERSALLY CELEBRATED by most modern rock musicians, end stop. SMALL VICTORIES makes the INTRIGUING CONNECTION between the CHARACTER STUDIES he inhabits in his lyrics and his formal pre-band STUDIES as an ENGLISH major in college, which i was most definitely not aware of. but it makes total sense since his FEARLESSNESS as a VOCALIST and writer come from a PERFORMATIVE need to due the MATERIAL justice (regardless of its author), not of SELF-EXPRESSION per se. case in point, PATTON's abundant ENTHUSIASM to sing "BE AGGRESSIVE" on ANGEL DUST, a song about the pleasure of homosexual oral sex as written by bandmate RODNEY BOTTUM about his own experience with the subject. for PATTON, this was a SINGULAR professional OPPORTUNITY and CHALLENGE presented to him that he did hesitate from, instead throwing himself into the track. something arguably most IMAGE-CONSCIOUS frontmen from the period would have second thoughts regarding, not wanting to associate themselves with what was then still very much a TABOO subject that would raise questions about their MASCULINITY (which we all know is bullshit). it is a FASCINATING dynamic that the singer, usually the focal point of a band, within the context of FAITH NO MORE, is just ANOTHER INSTRUMENT. in fact, the core of the creative unit is essentially BASSIST BILLY GOULD and KEYBOARDIST BOTTUM (who were childhood friends) and DRUMMER MIKE BORDIN. this means that one of the truly INNOVATIVE and INVENTIVE modern rock bands was steered in general not by the GUITARIST or lead SINGER, but rather by the RHYTHM SECTION. its a wholly UNIQUE situation in that regard and a sign of each members' ability to control their ego for the sake of the whole, especially the VOCALIST.
that being the case, the band was blessed with two entirely DIFFERENT yet highly EFFECTIVE generationally TALENTED frontmen in CHUCK MOSELY and MIKE PATTON. this was after years of a rotating cast of stand-ins that even famously included COURTNEY LOVE at one point. for GOULD, BOTTUM and BORDIN the focus was on the quality of the INSTRUMENTALS and the VOCALS was an ancillary necessity in order to secure live gigs. same with GUITARISTS. if you listen to ANGEL DUST the CRUSHING guitars fo not take center stage but act as a rhythmic bed for the EXTENSIVE PRODUCTION elements like the PROMINENT SAMPLES and KEYBOARDS and processed VOCALS. that immersive aural landscape is what provided contextual COMPLEXITY for the more traditional DISSONANT guitar tones of JIM MARTIN, and is what made that record such a MIND-MELTING experience for the listener. FAITH NO MORE were not a straight METAL band, or arguably a METAL band at all, but their SOUND transformed sonic expectations for the genre through such EXPERIMENTATION, as well as their SPECIALIZED sense of HUMOR and CONTRARIAN penchant for ABSURDISM that bucked audience and industry expectations. ultimately it is that STUBBORNNESS that has led them to be such a BELOVED cult(?) band.
SMALL VICTORIES shines in its attention to important details and its fondness for SESQUIEDALIAN passages that immerse the reader into the MINDSET of individual band-members through time. i recommend this book to anyone interested in FAITH NO MORE or the cultural underpinnings and history of the pre-NIRVANA ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement of the late 80s and early 1990s. i am most definitely going to seek out more publications by the author ADRIAN HARTE. SMALL VICTORIES is quite an achievement and one of the better biographies i have read since beginning this blog.
RIP CHUCK MOSLEY
ive already written here about the fact the best live show ive ever witnessed, and its not even close, was PRINCE at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN in 2004 on the MUSICOLOGY LIVE 2004ever tour. pretty sure it was the last time he explicitly tour playing "the hits," but yeah, i had like eighth row seats or something. dude was beyond INCREDIBLE. but ive written about that before (linked HERE).
lately ive gone down the PRINCE rabbit hole again. he is one of those handful of artists the i double back to when i start to feel jaded about music. and im probably speaking about new music here in that sometimes stuff feels like a COPY OF A COPY OF A COPY. which i acknowledge technically that describes everything that has or will exist since there are only so many chord progressions, but you get the idea. PRINCE was seemingly endlessly INVENTIVE and had the COURAGE and DRIVE to just go and do it. he didnt care about gatekeepers or critics, just was completely on his own tip and followed his muse to where it led him. and its really hard not to respect that. people speak of freedom, but mostly we limit ourselves within comfortable established social confines. with him i just hear pure ARTISTIC EXPRESSION. he was an original of a breed that i can only point to a few other examples: LITTLE RICHARD, GEORGE CLINTON, MILES DAVIS and SUN RA. all dudes that did their thing despite consequences ranging from very real threats of physical danger to looking ridiculous. in SPINAL TAP there is that classic line about there being a "very fine line between stupid and clever" and these artists were never on the stupid side, but they definitely did risk it at times.
it just feels to me like everything CULTURALLY IS SAFE right now. and i dont mean in some type of whining, cry wolf ELON MUSK / DAVE CHAPELLE "woe is me" cancel culture screed about the state of discourse on the internet. i mean that artists are not taking CREATIVE CHANCES that may unsettle their base and the STREAMS, MERCH SALES they depend on to make a living in this increasingly FRAGMENTED DIGITAL MARKETPLACE. sure there are modern artists like THUNDERCAT, MIKE PATTON, FLYING LOTUS, BJORK and so on that create increasingly divergent recordings that challenge their audience, but they are few and far between.
maybe that was also the case. as PRINCE once said after playing a few bars of ELVIS PRESLEY's "JAILHOUSE ROCK" at that 2004 MADISON SQUARE GARDEN show, "you cant be no king if you aint no prince." truer words never spoken.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to PRINCE. enjoy!
been a crazy week with DONALD TRUMP getting his tacky FLORIDA pleasure palace raided by the feds on monday. dont know if anything will come of it but i see no reason not to celebrate it nonetheless.
back in november 2019 i did a show on one of my favorite bands growing up RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. not only are they one of the best live bands ive ever seen, but they are one of the few political bands whose sonic onslaught and INNOVATION matches and maybe even exceeds that of their relentlessly strident PROGRESSIVE POLITICS. my big gripe with bands like the MC5 or THE CLASH was always that they would talk a big game, but then aurally it left more than a little be desired in terms of stepping away from traditional song structures and being EXPERIMENTAL. guitarist TOM MORELLO is renowned not only for his flawless technique but also his disregard for the instrument itself, often utilizing various IDIOSYNCRATIC, self-directed techniques meant to render his instrument as DJ turntables. for MORELLO, everything is fair game including tapping, plucking bending, pulling, unplugging and feed-backing sometimes al at the same time. ironically he has a spartan gear setup which makes his sonic landscapes that much more impressive. he is very much the embodiment of INTENT TRUMPING TECHNIQUE.
for me personally listening to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE has always been a godsend, especially in the years since i returned from working and living extensively abroad. coming back home during the TRUMP years was tough and i felt utterly gutted and isolated by what i saw my country devolving into. i had spent time in developing countries, military dictatorships and more than one failed/struggling democracy. to see members of my extended family fall under the spell of TRUMP was demoralizing. listening to RAGE helped me cope with that aggression and attempt to do my part in fighting the guy. in that regard i am still immensely proud of the music video DEER GOD did in collaboration with DOLLTITS half a decade ago for their clever anti-TRUMP song "LOCKER ROOM TALK." definitely check it out.
for me the legacy of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, irregardless of whether they ever decided to record a new album, is their authenticity and ability to fully realize their intention. they are a singular force of nature and have inspired people to persevere even when your country is turning to shit. same goes for all their solo and side projects over the years such as PROPHETS OF RAGE, AUDIOSLAVE, ON DAY AS A LION, WAKRAT, STREET SWEEPER SOCIAL CLUB and THE NIGHTWATCHMAN.
its all good.
oh and by the way, that is not a MAGA hat im wearing in the embedded video below. my brother got it at a PROPHETS OF RAGE show and it says "MAKE AMERICA RAGE AGAIN." just wanted to be extra clear on that point. dont want to be confused for a MAGA loser.
along with BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK (WARNER BROS, 1991), the CALIFORNICATION (WARNER BROS, 1999) record is generally celebrated as the other landmark RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS release, not least in part due to the fact that it marked the return of the virtuosic guitarist JOHN FRUSCIANTE to the fold. to appreciate this record you have to consider how ALTERNATIVE ROCK had evolved into the late 1990s when HIP HOP-influenced METAL (LIMP BIZKIT, KORN, LINKIN PARK, etc.) was all the rage. with the exception of the FOO FIGHTERS (as well as several less than credible POST GRUNGE pretenders), there was little vitality in the way of AMERICAN ALTERNATIVE ROCK at the time.
to my ears what made CALIFORNICATION such a revolutionary listen was its simplicity. this record is celebrated and often cited as evidence of FRUSCIANTE's genius (as well as the rhythm section's preternatural chemistry and dexterous musicality) as he evokes so much emotion from his guitar by pairing everything down to a minimal set of notes. for such a technically gifted musician it is the act of pairing everything back to its essence that gives this record its power. CALIFORNICATION sonically is a minimalist affair and is very much a case study in a less is more mindset and aesthetic. case in point are seminal tracks such as "SCAR TISSUE," "OTHERSIDE" and the title track "CALIFORNICATION." to me the arrangements almost have the feel of BEBOP and JAZZ, which should come as no surprise given bassist FLEA's musical background with a trumpet. in fact, subsequent releases will benefit from his formal studies within the genre, further adding to an already advanced group sense of compositional dynamics.
which brings me to the other ingredient at play here: extreme dynamics. given the single note minimalism of the many iconic FRUSCIANTE riffs that abound this release, such are compositionally showcased by maximalist dynamic shifts in tempo and pitch. such is on display on tracks like "AROUND THE WORLD," "GET ON TOP," "RIGHT ON TIME." the use of extreme dynamics creates an unpredictability that is both propulsive and undeniable engrossing. very much reminds me of that kinetic sensibility i felt when i first heard classic GEORGE CLINTON tracks on his PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC records.
it was during the CALFORNICATION-era of the band that i saw them live with the FOO FIGHTERS at a gig in PROVIDENCE. i was in boarding school in MASSACHUSETTS at the time and the show was a school sponsored trip. i just remember that evening being a respite from the grind of school and in some odd way got me in touch with my CALIFORNIA roots which i had long abandoned some four years before when my family moved to NIGERIA. there is just something about the band that seemingly exudes the attitude and aesthetic of the GOLDEN STATE, much like JANE'S ADDICTION, X, THE DOORS, SOCIAL DISTORTION, THE BEACH BOYS and THE GERMS before them. at a point in my life when i felt no connection to my surroundings, seeing that show made me feel like i had a tribe out there somewhere.
and im still looking.
GEORGE CLINTON is the man. just want to get that out of the way right at the beginning.
the DON LETTS-directed BRITISH television documentary GEORGE CLINTON: TALES OF DR FUNKENSTEIN (BBC, 2006) recounts his enduring cultural legacy for permanently expanding the sonic and thematic parameters of the R&B/SOUL idiom with his revolutionary, conscious-expanding, psychedelic FUNK bands PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC. CLINTON himself is interviewed throughout the film as well as current and former band members, writers and notable acolytes including MACY GRAY, ANDRE 3000 (OUTKAST) and SHOCK G (DIGITAL UNDERGROUND).
one of the big takeaways from the film is how much of a pied piper CLINTON really was and still is, by not only attracting all the eccentric musicians (famously BOOTSIE COLLINS, BERNIE WORRELL, WALTER "JUNIE" MORRISON and EDDIE HAZEL) and experimental artists (PEDRO BELL), but also letting them flourish. PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC was his band, but functioned more as a collaborative party. case in point, he would record with players that were unfamiliar with each other and even have people play instruments they were inexperienced with or make non-vocally trained individuals sing. it all feels very CAPTAIN BEEFHEART-esque in its pursuit of putting to wax something new. this was all, of course, the antithesis of MOTOWN RECORDS and traditional R&B/SOUL music of the period which attempted to project an image of BLACK AMERICA that was contained and dignified. PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC was pure id. unrestrained, unadulterated creativity and artistry. being in the moment and letting your freak flag fly.
it makes total sense to me that the later HIP HOP generation caught up with CLINTON and incorporate his music and, for the most part, the social/political mindset he established with PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC. i speak of essential groups from the NYC HIP HOP, NATIVE TONGUES and WEST COAST HIP HOP movements like PUBLIC ENEMY, DR. DRE, ERIC B. & RAKIM, DE LA SOUL, DIGITAL UNDERGROUND and so on. since the filming of this film i feel his role has yet to wane in modern AMERICAN culture. we are still very much attuned with the mothership connection.
much like the ICONS and THE COLLECTION series covered before, RIFF LORDS is another string of YOUTUBE videos promoted by GIBSON GUITARS under the GIBSON TV moniker that seeks to reestablish the brands bonafides with the guitar-playing public via celebrity musician endorsements after the disastrous "play authentic" campaign of 2019.
the hook regarding RIFF LORDS is that these famous guitarists are allotted an extended-period to not only go over their most notable riffs, but the PHILOSOPHY, THEORY and TECHNIQUE behind their composition. noteworthy participants include that of BUZZ OSBOURNE (MELVINS), NICK HEXUM (311), JADE PUGET (AFI), LER LALONDE (PRIMUS) and CLAUDIO SANCHEZ (COHEED & CAMBRIA). this sort of territory has been mined for years by the likes publications like GUITAR WORLD and PREMIER GUITAR (not to mention online vendors like REVERB and SWEETWATER) for years, but the extended time and lack of an annoying an unnecessary interloctur makes this series of videos more immediate and engaging.
i play guitar so this hits me right in the sweet spot of seeing some of my favorite artists talk at length about their playing. now if they could only get DAVE NAVARRO or JOHNNY MARR... here's hoping.
internet musical equipment retailer/reseller REVERB.COM recently put out a short-form documentary called THE MU-TRON STORY where they interview engineer and MU-TRON creator MIKE BEIGEL about the famous phase pedal and the nature of creation.
now you find any discussion of OSCILLATORS, CAPACITORS and ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS to be a blur of garbled technical speak, but what draws my attention to content such as this is the process by which new sounds are introduced to the world.
and that gets heavy real fast to think through the implications of such. new signal chains equal new vibrations which equals an expanded range of possible sounds. the lexicon of music has thus been furthered, expanding our consciousness and emotional capacity in the process.
BEIGEL speaking about how difficult it was to get his invention off the drawing board and into physical world, yet lived to see it transformed again by the likes of STEVIE WONDER, FRANK ZAPPA, JERRY GARCIA, BILLY CORGAN, BOOTSY COLLINS, ACE FREHLEY and NEIL YOUNG among many others is a pretty satisfying narrative arc to take in. it becomes apparent that those circuits have entered into a spiritual realm, affecting us all.
THE MU-TRON STORY is definitely check it out if you have the inclination.
growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS feel like a cultural institution at this point. coming out of the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s and being primed on all the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK of that era, while also integrating other influences (most predominantly the ethos and sonic complexity of classic FUNK records) this band, along with others like FAITH NO MORE, JANE'S ADDICTION and FISHBONE, in my eyes exemplifies that tipping point when ALTERNATIVE ROCK began to boil over culturally and laid the groundwork for NIRVANA to later charge the gates. given how commercially viable the band has been for decades, its difficult to discern how revolutionary their sound actually was back when their fifth release, BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK (WARNER BROS, 1991) came out at the beginning of the 90s.
its easy to point out the sheer musical dexterity and chemistry of their rhythm section in FLEA, CHAD SMITH and JOHN FRUSCIANTE. it is arguably one of the great assembles of musicians in the history of rock music, probably right there with LED ZEPPELIN. the immense aural pleasure of this listening to this record is how tight and connected they are as a unit. songs like "SUCK MY KISS," "THE POWER OF EQUALITY," "NAKED IN THE RAIN," "FUNKY MONKS," "THE GREETING SONG," and "MELLOWSHIP SLINKY IN B MAJOR" just start and stop on a dime with such energy and gusto that GEORGE CLINTON would most definitely nod with approval. and then there are tender ballads composed in an attempt to almost transform FOLK music and INDIE ROCK into some odd hybrid, i.e. songs like "BREAKING THE GIRL," "I COULD HAVE LIED" and the iconic "UNDER THE BRIDGE."
where this record breaks down relates to frontman ANTHONY KEIDIS, who is arguably the wild card and often a perpetual weak link in their discography. there are plenty of sex-crazed, cringe-inducing lyrics on "SIR PSYCHO SEXY" and the titled track "BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK," which have not aged well especially in light recent allegations of habitual and continuous sexual impropriety during this era in the band's history. these allegations the band has attempted to address and atone for, so i will take them at their word, but it still makes some of the more lurid subject matter a little bit hard to stomach given such.
my recollection of this record at the time was watching them play "GIVE IT AWAY" at the 1993 GRAMMY's with GEORGE CLINTON. i was in third grade so i just remember it all looking and feeling ridiculous. years later in 1999 when attending high school in MASSACHUSETTS i was able to see the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS play RHODE ISLAND on their co-headlining tour with the FOO FIGHTERS in support of CALIFORNICATION (WARNER BROS, 1999). it was the return of the classic lineup and i jst remember being enthralled by FRUSCIANTE and FLEA. their sense of musical connection is really something to be witnessed. one of the better live bands ive ever seen.
so in summation, BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK is a classic, if not problematic, record by a seminal band who undoubtedly inspired everyone that came after to create new hybrid sounds not heard or imagined before. and that is pretty cool.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the eclectic independent record label STONES THROW RECORDS owned, operated and curated by the inimitable PEANUT BUTTER WOLF.
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!
honestly i only really came to appreciate this record a few years ago when i was teaching 6th graders in MYANMAR. this school was AMERICAN but i wasnt teaching AMERICAN or foreign kids, instead it was the sons and daughters of local business, political and military interests. the school was relatively new, less than 10 years old and was initiated to capitalize on what was assumed to be foreign corporate interest in the region as it became further democratized and open to foreign investment. sadly with recent events that optimism and hope seems to have been severely trampled upon.
i taught ENGLISH and i was always hesitant about utilizing AMERICAN cultural concepts as the basis for lessons. i was teaching the language and not necessarily the culture if that makes any sense. there were times i let that slide and as was the repeated case with music, especially JAMES BROWN, ARETHA FRANKLIN, LOUIS ARMSTRONG and RAY CHARLES. anyway so there i was teaching a typical class on HALLOWEEN, which the school promoted as an event, when i asked the class if they'd ever seen MICHAEL JACKSON's "THRILLER" video? they hadnt. well i fixed that immediately. i nixed the last half of class just to watch it twice. the kids were transfixed. the music, the choreography, the melody, the howling. from knowing nothing about MICHAEL JACKSON to dancing in the hallways and their next two classes (sorry!), they very much got the gist of the true spirit of HALLOWEEN.
so yeah, even 30+ years late on a culturally neutral, unbiased and unsuspecting audience full of preteens (the most critical of judges i would argue), that video still resonated like it did in the early 1980s. i was shocked. but there you have it.
does the THRILLER (EPIC, 1982) have some corny songs on it. absolutely. the PAUL MCCARTNEY duet "THE GIRL IS MINE" is beyond lame and cringe-worthy. the RICHARD CHEESE 2005 version with STEPHEN HAWKING is way better. "BABY BE MINE" and "HUMAN NATURE" are likewise pretty strikingly bad.
however, that hook on "P.Y.T. PRETTY YOUNG THINGS" still kills as shone with its repurposing to similar intoxicating effect on KANYE WEST's "GOOD LIFE" track off of GRADUATION (DEF JAM, 2007). of course "BEAT IT" and "BILLIE JEAN" are iconic stone-cold classics that dont need any vouching on my behalf. probably my favorite song on the record is "WANNA BE STARTIN' SOMETHIN'" which has a very "ROCK WITH YOU"-vibe from his previous outing OFF THE WALL (), my personal favorite record he did.
anyway, regardless of my opinion of this record and the merits of its individual tracks, this album crushed with pre-teens nearly 40 years after the fact in MYANMAR. i think that speaks for itself. it just devastates me that this opening of dialogue between cultures that i experienced seems to be on the way out just at the moment it was getting started.
with MIDNITE VULTURES (DGC, 1999), its hard to discern whether gifted songwriter / cultural chameleon BECK is parodying 70s/80s FUNK and R&B (a la PRINCE) or lionizing it. case in point is the song "DEBRA" which finds him coyly crooning and then wailing away with his impressive falsetto about his feelings towards a woman and her sister, whom he think is named, well, Debra. its so ridiculous yet virtuosically performed that it really walks that line. its also my favorite song on the album. to this day i cant discern whether it is pastiche or parody and maybe that ambiguity is the point.
other standout tracks such as "BROKEN TRAIN," "GET REAL PAID," "SEXX LAWS," "NICOTINE & GRAVY" and "MIXED BUSINESS" all utilize the synth lines, gated reverb, clipped percussion and synth pad textures that make the genre such a sonically pleasurable experience. it is a fun record that seems less concerned with the pastiche techniques utilized in his universally celebrated ODELAY (DGC, 1996) record and more directly interested in exploring the sonic oeuvre of classic FUNK from ZAPP and LAKESIDE to PARLIAMENT and the THE GAP BAND with a healthy bit of AL GREEN, LIONEL RITCHIE and BOBBY WOMACK thrown in the mix. at least that is what i hear.
this record is basically the answer to the question "what would a PRINCE record sound like if BECK made it?" it makes sense to me that he could pull it off given his staggering gift for songwriting and mercurial persona. and that core identity as a songwriter is what makes his discography so interesting, irregardless of genre or recording techniques, however experimental. this is his FUNK record, but he shines just as brightly in a FOLK or HIP HOP context.
i first heard this record when it came out. at the time i was in boarding school in NEW ENGLAND and like most things i was exposed to during that period, i had no context for understanding it. at 15 i wasnt familiar with the pioneering DUST BROTHERS pastiche production innovations found within the BEASTIE BOYS' PAUL'S BOUTIQUE (CAPITOL, 1989) record, much less classic FUNK. i just knew it sounded energetic, fresh, idiosyncratic and above all else, fun.
and that is pretty much why i still go back to this record. its just fun. its definitely worth revisiting and pays dividends for those seeking experimental audiophile easter eggs and classic pop hooks alike. recommended highly.
after i graduated from undergrad i took a job at a bookstore and one of the other clerks was really into underground music. stuff id never been exposed to previously. bands like STEREOLAB, PAVEMENT and GALAXIE 500. that was cool and interesting and all, but the real revelation was what he was into in terms of HIP HOP, having clued me into the likes of MADLIB, MF DOOM and J DILLA. i believe those three are what many consider the preeminent artists from STONES THROW RECORDS. just the energy, creativity and dynamism of those three artists was the closest i ever got to the qualities that previously led me to my all-time favorite HIP HOP acts: the WU-TANG CLAN and A TRIBE CALLED QUEST. as with anything, you get jaded by what you know, and then new artists get the wheel going all over again. STONES THROW is a label in my opinion in constant search of new sounds and new experiences.
OUR VINYL WEIGHS A TON: THIS IS STONE'S THROW RECORDS (GATLIN PICTURES, 2013) is documentary that looks into the artists supported and curated by the innovative label and its founder, CHRIS MANAK, a.k.a PEANUT BUTTER WOLF. peers such as a A-TRACK (FOOL'S GOLD RECORDS) TALIB KWELI, KANYE WEST, COMMON, MIKE D of BEASTIE BOYS, EARL SWEATSHIRT, QUESTLOVE, FLYING LOTUS, TYLER THE CREATOR, J-ROCC and SNOOP DOGG are interviewed in this film along with past and current and roster-mates such as MADLIB, MF DOOM, J DILLA, DAM-FUNK, MILD HIGH CLUB, JAMES PANTS, MAYER HAWTHORNE, ALOE BLACC, GUILTY SIMPSON, J-ROCC and BARON ZEN among many others.
in essence this film is bout WOLF and his eclectic musical tastes and how he fearlessly throughout the history of his label sought to put out music he believed in. even when considering the threadbare profit margins of independent labels, before and after the digital file-sharing revolution of the early 00s, there has always been a base marketing template followed a desired demographic chased. yes the iconic records both solo and collaborative by the likes of MADLIB, J DILLA and MF DOOM will largely define the label to many an indie music appreciator and vinyl junkie alike, but there been just as many records with, as FRANK ZAPPA used to say, "no commercial potential." STONES THROW is responsible just as much for FUNK, R&B, experimental NOISE ROCK and SHOEGAZE INDIE ROCK records. the through-line essential is WOLF and his musical taste, for good or ill.
i feel that during a time when labels are attempting to optimize their profits by seeking music that will stimulate the most widespread of demographics, it is refreshing that there is someone out there whose basic requirement for inclusion is the quality of the work itself. WOLF doesnt appear to be chasing a market, if anything he is cultivating a consumer base that will grow to appreciate his offerings and give an unbiased listen, irrespective of genre or other considerations. i think for artists that is all you can really hope for: exposure to an engaged audience and a community of supportive peers.
if only that was the norm in the music industry.
CHICANO BATMAN is an eclectic INDIE ROCK outfit out of LOS ANGELES that has a real killer feel-good, laid-back vibe, almost like an after hours lounge band with killer FUNK / R&B chops and deft LATIN JAZZ percussion. the more i listen to them, the more i can suss out their affinity for 60s PSYCHEDELIA, POWER POP, PROG ROCK and all things CLASSIC ROCK with a distinctively diverse ANGELEÑO edge.
to my ears they sound totally original with a relaxing ambience that makes them the perfect antidote for the comedown from an energetic night out.
definitely worth checking out.
join us TONIGHT at 10PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a playlist that explores the influential HIP HOP / R&B / INDIE ROCK / FUNK music that has come out via the iconic indie label STONE THROW RECORDS over the years.
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.
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if there is one thing i love its musicians that bring the FUNK. for whatever reason this hasn't been a big concern in music outside of HIP HOP and DANCE music for a long time. i don't get it. maybe artists think that somehow making your rhythms sonically adventurous and unpredictable and, you know, fun to listen to makes them less serious? again i don't get it.
but thank god there is CHROMEO, a CANANDIAN duo who are not afraid to bring the FUNK in all its variations during its 70s and 80s heyday. not that they are retro or looking back to recapture a moment. to my ears they sound like right now, or at least a sound that should be mimicked moving forward.
great hooks, great songs, great production. cannot push this band any harder. definitely check them out.
if you are fan of music then you already know about NILE RODGERS. he is arguably one of the great composers, arrangers and musicians of the 20th century with a list of musical collaborations that spans from DAVID BOWIE, SISTER SLEDGE, DEBORAH HARRY, MADONNA and BRYAN FERRY to AVICII, DURAN DURAN, DAFT PUNK, GRACE JONES, THE B-52s and even his legendary 70s outfit CHIC. he is very much a musician's musician and no less a guitar-playing connoisseur than JOHNNY MARR named his son after him. just let that one sink in for a moment.
but until recently his public profile was behind the scenes in production.
the documentary NILE RODGERS: THE HITMAKER (BBC, 2013) is attempt to change all that. filmed during a break from rehearsing for a worldwide CHIC tour at time he was fighting prostate cancer, this film very much feels like an opportunity for the man and his admirers to give their props should the worst happen (thankfully he survived and continues to work to present day).
and survive the dude has. raised by heroin-addicted, bohemian parents in MANHATTAN, he grew up intimately aware of street life and drug culture along with the lexicon of music by devouring his parents JAZZ and CLASSICAL vinyl records. their is an aspirational quality to the uplifting, kinetic rhythms of CHIC and their escapist messaging to the audience of the emerging DISCO scene all over NYC. their is an almost symbiotic relationship between his guitar work and the pulsing, driving FUNK rhythms of bassist and collaborator BERNARD EDWARDS. They rode that initial wave in the late 1970s until the xenophobic, anti-BLACK and anti-LGBT DISCO SUX wave effectively stopped them in the their tracks. this led to his production career which was jumpstarted by DAVID BOWIE with the "LET'S DANCE" record basically has sustained him since as an in-demand writer, arranger, composer, guest musician and producer.
what i appreciated most about this film was how past collaborators spoke of his uncanny ear to see space in a mix where he could contribute a guitar line or texture. these small contributions are the details that make a record pop and although maybe unnoticed by your average listener, these are the sonic details that musicians strive to achieve in the studio. they notice. participants included that of BRYAN FERRY, JOHNNY MARR, DEBBIE HARRY and CHRIS STEIN of BLONDIE, JOHN TAYLOR of DURAN DURAN, STEVE WINWOOD, LA ROUX, NORMA JEAN WRIGHT of CHIC and NILE RODGERS himself.
I think it is touching that this documentary was showcased before his biggest hit in decades, "GET LUCKY" by FRENCH electronic duo DAFT PUNK, was released to worldwide admiration. just proves the dude always has something up his sleeve.
BOOK REVIEW | "BROTHERS BE, YO LIKE GEORGE AIN'T THAT FUNKIN' KINDA HARD ON YOU?" BY GEORGE CLINTON & BEN GREENMAN
seriously, was there ever any doubt that a memoir by the visionary behind FUNK icon GEORGE CLINTON of PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC was going to be anything else but amazing?
worry not because BROTHERS BE, YO LIKE GEORGE AIN'T THAT FUNKIN' KINDA HARD ON YOU? (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2014) definitely delivers the goods and is required reading for anyone interested in music. any era, any genre. period. i mean, PRINCE even referred to him as "the father of this funk mothership." so get on board.
in many ways it reads like a history of the evolution of FUNK music, from GOSPEL and DOO-WOP, MO-TOWN and SOUL / R&B to JAZZ and BLUES-based BRITISH INVASION bands to PSYCHEDELIA and later FUNK and beyond. you really get a deep sense of CLINTON's appreciation for not only the power an brilliance of songwriters but also the performative nature of music. that instinctual ritual of connection between an audience and a deep groove. it was that sensibility that allowed him to sense when culture was shifting, which in the late 1960s was definitely the case, and ingeniously position his group PARLIAMENT between R&B and the PSYCHEDELIC BLUES-based rock bands of that era. for a band that never veered to much into political concerns outside of pro-free thought anthems like FREE YOUR MIND AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW, it could be argued their very presence as a musically ferocious freight train of BLACK MUSICIANS was inherently political during that era. such allowed them to play both the underground CHITLIN CIRCUIT and white college towns concurrently across the country.
there is so much to unpack in this book that i could write forever about it, but here are some quick thoughts in no particular order:
1. the fact that CLINTON utilized his HENDRIX-inspired out there space imagery as a way of using personas (in a very MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN-esque manner) to sidestep being pigeon-hold stylistically, politically and in terms of radio programming. it allowed him ironically to keep the focus on the music and maintain his personal identity separate from his stage personas.
2. most of the generations of players (such as EDDIE HAZEL, BOOTSY COLLINS & BERNIE WORRELL) in both groups were from the NEWARK and PLAINFIELD communities in NEW JERSEY area where CLINTON grew up and had owned a hair salon
3. the idea that having multiple bands on different labels extended the buy-in from the record industry into the PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC operation. essentially the WU-TANG CLAN model decades before WU-TANG CLAN.
4. the idea that he used MOTOWN RECORDS as a model for franchising out the PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC extended family of associated acts insured he had constant product to keep the brand out there.
5. CLINTON's opinion that the EAST COAST HIP HOP groups did a better job of utilizing PARLIAMENT-FUNKADELIC samples in creating new juxtapositions than their WEST COAST peers, whom CLINTON felt used the material wholesale with little to no imagination.
6. the idea that keeping your ears open to new concepts from the youth is a way of renewing your interest in music and combat jadedness is a must. throughout his career to the present CLINTON has sought out musicians, producers and collaborators that have challenged and enriched his work and it was a deliberate choice on his part. it kept his music fresh.
this is easily one of the most enjoyable memoirs that i've come across since starting this blog and highly recommend it to anyone interested in music from the last half-century. CLINTON is a deliberate, steady voice that cuts through the mix and gives a fair assessment of his failures and achievements, warts and all. his memoir is required reading.
brooklyn R&B/FUNK trio THE VISIONS go way back with DEER GOD. back to the days of the former [the end] studio in greenpoint where they were recorded and mixed by our engineers.
they definitely have a sound that channels classic PRINCE with their lilting falsettos and supporting harmonies that really set a chill vibe. all while keep the groove as a live ensemble on their instruments. they are quite the live band and having witnessed their labor intensive recording process firsthand i can attest that they work very hard to produce harmonies this easy on the ears.
recently they put out a new single "ONLY ONE" which you should definitely check out below or hit up their BANDCAMP for further info.