MONTREAL outfit NO JOY is the emblematic of the emotive depths available within the restless, waves of feed-backed sonic bliss within the genre of SHOEGAZE. listening to them makes me relive my introduction to MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE all over again.
definitely check them out.
NADA SURF is easily one of the most underrated bands of the 1990s (right up there with FAILURE). while their more successful peers (WEEZER & GREEN DAY) rode waves of fame and disappointment, they just strode along consistently creating tuneful and emotionally resonant INDIE ROCK that continues to this day.
i really don't understand why they are not more wildly celebrated, but even so i'm still stoked that they have assembled an enviable staple of well-crafted and thoughtful songs well into middle age. they don't appear to be settling any time soon. i look forward to continuing to grow with their music as it continues to develop. see where frontman/songwriter MATHEW CAWS takes us.
back in the mid 2000s my brother and i went to see JOHNNY MARR & THE HEALERS play a tiny legendary, now defunct, club in HOBOKEN called MAXWELL'S. opening was this guy with a guitar and some kind of rhythmic electronic looping mechanism. it was JONATHAN BATES and his solo act at the time called MELLOWDRONE.
dude sounded fucking HUGE. just these big emotive choruses that swelled up from these almost whispered barely audible verses. it was like that whole famous PIXIES soft verse / loud chorus dynamic on steroids. my brother and i were pretty blown away by the performance, but then thought about it for a second and decided, "well, he did open for JOHNNY MARR. he's gotta be good."
BATES has gone on to front the equally inventive BIG BLACK DELTA in the ensuing years when not working with other acts like M83 and opening for JANE's ADDICTION, NINE INCH NAILS, GARY NUMAN and others.
most definitely worth checking out.
special thanks to BIG BLACK DELTA for engaging with our
IG and TWITTER postings today
SOL PEREYRA is an ARGENTINE singer-songwriter now based in MEXICO whose music is decidedly INDIE POP, being that they are usually upbeat with electronic flourishes. having been a part of JULIETA VENAGAS' touring band for a number of years, she moved to MEXICO in pursuit of her solo career.
like ANA TIJOUX, she is fiercely political and incorporates left-leaning themes into her music. definitely worth seeking and checking out.
photo manipulations by nacrowe
i discovered the SHOW US YOUR JUNK! series on the EARTHQUAKER DEVICES youtube channel a few months back and what it does a great job of presenting is the gear used by musicians and producers in their studio setups.
obviously EARTHQUAKER DEVICES is a company and yes, their pedals are mentioned along with those of their "competitors," but what you learn very quickly is that the equipment on display is merely a canvas and that these producers, many of them prominent musicians from bands like SONIC YOUTH, DEVO, CONVERGE and DEERHOOF are the artists that contextualize these sonic textures in tapestry unique to their sound and aesthetic. if anything, the pedals here are useful in that they help bridge the gap between conception and execution. they are essentially a tool. but i have to say, there is equal if not vastly more time dedicated to non-EARTHQUAKER items in this series. just saying.
much like RIG RUNDOWN goes after the gear setup of a touring musician, SHOW US YOUR JUNK! is dedicated to the recording setup, which in my opinion is far more interesting having spent time around my cousin who is a recording engineer in our former studio at the KREISCHER MANSION. everyone has their own technique and philosophy regarding what makes a compelling sound, which is a topic of endless fascination for me. how does the producer engage with the artist and bring about their creativity. what microphones, preamps, boards do they tend to use? what is the room ambience like at their studio?
for me this series is a great introduction to what makes each of these producers tick, which only makes me dive back into their production discographies that much harder. maybe even make a radio show or two about them (cough, cough, KURT BALLOU and STEVE ALBINI, cough, shameless plug).
by all means check them out below or watch the rest HERE.
THE SMART STUDIOS STORY (CONEY ISLAND STUDIOS, 2016) is documentary about the outwardly unassuming yet highly influential recording studio in MADISON, WISCONSIN, that was founded and run by STEVE MARKER and BUTCH VIG. the creation of the studio was at an interesting inflection point in american culture as there was a definite influx of underground HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK bands that were supported in earnest by college radio and a nationwide network of bars, VFW halls and small clubs not to mention independent promoters and independent record labels and record stores. what connected all these stakeholders in the scene was a sense of self-reliance and DIY ETHIC. maybe its simplistic to say that the puritan ethic of the midwest played a role in this community, but essentially this mindset led to an era of experimentation in music that was free of financial considerations, because none of this was supposed to go commercial. given that VIG was a musician (drummer in local bad SPOONER with future GARBAGE collaborator DOUG ERIKSON) he also had the added benefit of being able to listen and suss out the needs of a band, how to bring out their sound in a fun, experimental atmosphere. he was also able to know firsthand what worked and didn't work from a musician's perspective in "professional" studios. i think his versatility is underrated and part of his work ethic and gets lost in the shuffle when success for his production duties gained global notoriety.
enter NIRVANA and THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, the two bands whose albums NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) and SIAMESE DREAM (VIRGIN, 1993) altered the landscape for VIG and the underground scene seemingly overnight with the inception of a financially viable ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene that was supported by commercial radio, promoters and the commercial infrastructure of corporate AMERICA. this allowed VIG freedom in choosing projects since SMART STUDIOS was now a destination studio and his services a known commodity.
i think given that sea change it is to his credit that VIG along with MARKER and ERIKSON expanded their craft by utilizing technology and incorporating new techniques in their band GARBAGE. for me their incorporation of HIP HOP and ELECTRONICA elements into a new hybrid style are one of the defining sounds of the 1990s. the fusion of such is only that much more impressive given the cultural impact of his celebrated yet sonically more straightforward catalogue of ALTERNATIVE ROCK production work.
its ironic that this embrace of technology is also what brought down the studio, as digital recording software on personal computers made this DIY ETHIC spread to a new prosumer base of musicians. the time had come to move on.
my takeaway from this documentary is that good music can come from anywhere, no matter how far off the beaten path. SEATTLE, MINNEAPOLIS, PORTLAND. in this case WISCONSIN. innovation is a personal pursuit and must be met on its own merits. in many ways BUTCH VIG's career as an established producer was entirely a fluke of circumstance. on the other hand he was talented and was prepared to take advantage of opportunities when presented.
makes me wonder what other crevices of the UNITED STATES or even the golbal scene have i not considered researching. where should i look next? because i'm always searching.
photo manipulations by nacrowe
R.E.M. BY MTV (VIACOM, 2014) is a pretty straightforward documentary cobbled together from, you guessed it, archival interview and performance footage of the band on MTV from throughout their career. the result of which is a surprisingly intimate narrative that for the most part is told in first-person from the band's perspective, as well as a sprinkling of record producers, record executives and the like.
the value of this documentary for me had nothing to do with their biography (of which i will spare you any plot summary), but rather the mysterious alchemy that was their songwriting process and how it was affected over time by external factors. in a sense their process was very pure as their was a communal ethic to their process. each brought in material and as a group they would mold it into shape. importantly this was concept was buttressed by the business decision to split publishing royalties evenly, which might sound like a boring detail but you'd be surprised how many bands have fallen by the wayside due to this important decision. over their career there was a sense of group ownership of their material which only deepened their trust in each other as financial incentives were not an issue.
when i think of guitarist PETER BUCK and his sound it very much reminds me of what JOHNNY MARR termed in his memoir as a "anti-Rockist" approach. like MARR, he tends to have a RICKENBACKER sound that can be at times clean and precise in an almost traditional FOLK sense and then impressionistic with suspended chords drenched in reverb. with R.E.M. there is a definite contrarian streak throughout their career and BUCK's guitar approach reflects such. his use of mandolin on OUT OF TIME (WARNER BROS, 1991) and the incorporation of sounds based in electronic music on later albums in the wake of drummer BILL BERRY's departure being prime examples. fundamentally his work, along with the rhythm section sets the tone that singer MICHAEL STIPE reacts to in his lyrics and vocal approach.
obviously STIPE is an iconic and celebrated singer who both popularized the COLLEGE ROCK / INDIE ROCK of the 1980s as well as helped usher in and very much participated in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the 1990s. but to consider what it was he actually contributed is much harder to discern. its almost like the HEISENBERG UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE in that the closer you look, the more you are missing the point. taking his cue from the impressionistic sound of his band, there is an intuitiveness to his lyrics and voice. he almost seems to revel in ambiguity, especially early in his career. songs were more about presenting an emotion rather than delivering an idea. the fact that songs are gender neutral only adds to this ambiguity. only after their initial run of albums did he alter slightly his approach to address the bigger crowds at their shows.
what interests me about STIPE's career is how his writing and stage persona tackled this problem while maintaining his credibility. given his greater platform and the vapidness and skullduggery of dealing with the press, he consciously addressed issues he was passionate about including AIDS awareness, animal rights, gun legislation, LGBTQIA issues, etc. maybe this was influenced by his allies in PATTI SMITH, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, ADAM YAUCH, EDDIE VEDDER and KURT COBAIN, all who similarly fearlessly addressed such matters without fear of blowback, almost inviting it. some find this kind of outspokenness pretentious. some find STIPE's opaque lyrics in general pompous as well. as immortally stated in SPINAL TAP, "its a fine line between stupid... and uh, clever." luckily despite such external pressures, STIPE is the type that of artist that has a strong sense of self and follows his own trajectory.
and for me that sense of purpose is the legacy of R.E.M. even years now after their breakup. they are a great example of not compromising artistically and being commercially viable. and that art vs. commerce balance is quite the tight-rope act.
just the idea of listening to yourself is empowering. thats what i take from R.E.M.
ACID DAD was one of the standout bands the we came across during the filming of our live performance series OFF THE M at NYC independent venues MARKET HOTEL and TRANS-PECOS back in late 2018/early 2019.
their is a sense of deja-vu when listening to modern ROCK N ROLL bands in general, where you can identify immediately what era or vibe they are going after, which only contributes to the sense that you've heard all before probably better.
not with ACID DAD. when i listen songs like "Child," "2ci" and "Marine" i am transported. not really sure where, but it feels like when i first discovered films by DEREK JARMAN, GREGG ARAKI or PIER PAOLO PASOLINI in high school. its a world i want to return to as soon as i can.
they are an INDIE ROCK group with a definite sense of melody and song-craft while maintaining an edge. like the first time i heard NIRVANA, i wasn't sure what the lyrics were about per se, but i knew they were genuine and authentic. ACID DAD's 2018 self-titled release on GREENWAY RECORDS is one of my favorite records in recent years.
definitely can't wait to see what they produce next.
whether in DEERHUNTER or his solo project ATLAS SOUND, ATLANTA-based INDIE ROCK songwriter BRADFORD COX really has a way with a hook. its difficult pinning his sound down because it encapsulates aspects of PSYCHEDELIC ROCK and EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC, but what draws me in is his knack for melody amidst intriguing sonic textures. its almost like a more experimental version of SONIC YOUTH (if that is even possible), if they were strictly equally obsessed with SYD BARRETT and STEREOLAB.
definitely worth checking out.
witnessing RITUAL TALK perform at TRANS-PECOS back on a frigid winter night in 2018 was one of the highlights since being involved with DEER GOD. to my ears they conjure up the best experimental aspects of bands like JANE'S ADDICTION, FRIENDLY FIRES and even THE POLICE, the drums locked into an ambient groove going while shifting thumping bass lines and arpeggiated guitars swirl abound.
i loved that show. if it was up to me, we would have done an OFF THE M episode of their entire set.
parodies by nacrowe
depending on your persuasion regarding DEER GOD RADIO, this episode is either the best one we ever did by far, or it was a complete disaster. i like to think its the former as THE SMITHS are one of my three favorite bands of all-time (the other two in my holy trinity are DEVO and JANE'S ADDICTION).
i was basically raised on the work of MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR by my parents and have been a fan since early childhood. TOM FERRIE of THE NOWHERE FAST SHOW and a co-founder of MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is a certifiable super-fan of the band and upon seeing the "bat signal" of my social media promotions, swung by for the show. basically we talked the entire time about THE SMITHS, just none of it on air. so this is a playlist of THE SMITHS, the solo work of MORRISSEY and MARR, as well as collaborative projects (all MARR) with the likes of THE THE, MODEST MOUSE, BRIAN FERRY, THE CRIBS and ELECTRONIC making it arguably one of the strongest ones to date.
just no commentary. at all. just the playlist unbroken pure and simple.
maybe i should redo this show in the future? nah, no reason to ruin a perfect thing.
in the right circumstances i think its all good when a corporate entity that has a relationship with a SUBCULTURE attempts to get some good marketing going by using its platform and advertising muscle to promote it.
such is the case with VANS which obviously has a long-standing relationship with the SKATE, SURF and BMX communities that has only flourished since the 1960s. makes perfect sense for them to develop a series of performance videos to showcase talent associated with those scenes.
kudos for creativity to whomever decided to have the bands play in a shoebox. its a great idea. i look forward to watching these whenever they come out irrespective of the band.
the following embedded below are what i consider the highlights of the ongoing SIDESTRIPE SESSIONS series. enjoy!
photo by nacrowe
much like his later JIMI HENDRIX biography ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS (SCEPTRE, 2005) which we reviewed (linked HERE), CHARLES R. CROSS in HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN (HYPERION, 2001) arguably provides a definitive account of another troubled SEATTLE musical icon, KURT COBAIN of NIRVANA.
and i don't think that is an irrelevant connection to make. aside from both being part of the bullshit "27 Club," they both navigated multiple worlds and transcended less than hospitable family situations. HENDRIX dealt with issues related to RACISM and VIETNAM, as well as dealing with fame that came from his genius remolding of BLUES and ROCK traditions and bending them to his singular artistic will, essentially defining his era. COBAIN similarly reinterpreted INDIE ROCK and HARDCORE punk culture into what later was termed GRUNGE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK and effectively transformed 90s culture in his image.
both in my opinion dug from a deep well of pain that was rooted in isolation (HENDRIX being an army brat and COBAIN the forgotten, neglected son of a painful divorce) and their gifts were transmitting that depth of feeling into music that touched the world.
HEAVIER THAN HEAVEN is a well-researched, dry affair that relies on public records, published interviews and background info from COBAIN's family and former bandmates and peers. you get the sense from reading it that CROSS strove to create a definitive document and it reads as such. that choice has its pros and cons as there are moments when as a reader i do not feel that COBAIN was in his right mind and could be counted on for accurate information. case in point: his excuses of stomach pain necessitating his abuse of heroin. seems like an excuse to a layman, but i understand CROSS' dilemma. bullshit excuse or not, that was the logic that informed his decision so he needs to report it. i just wish junkie excuses like that would have been given some context by professionally as, no doubt, there are people out there that will mimic such in their misguided fealty to COBAIN as some type of doomed demigod or divine messenger. people are crazy and the story of COBAIN seems to be a teachable moment as any to provide the proper support needed to readers dealing with issues of drug abuse or mental illness.
or maybe that isn't the job of the author. i don't know.
well-researched and expertly written in an almost academic way with little flair. a must for any fan of COBAIN, NIRVANA and the 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene in general.
LOS ANGELES-based INDIE ROCK musician ARIEL PINK is a hard one to pin down as his work is highly experimental, often utilizing odd instrumentation (electronic, field recordings, woodwind) with dissonant results. that being said, his music has a distinct classic pop sensibility. this keeps him in tradition with THE BEACH BOYS and THE CARPENTERS as if channeled through CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and R STEVIE MOORE.
super interesting, multi-textured music that is definitely worth checking out.
parodies by nacrowe
tonight's new episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM EST on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is focused on the BROOKLYN INDIE ROCK record label GREENWAY RECORDS and their current roster.
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!