one of the aspects i admire about DAVID BYRNE's songwriting is his capacity to write on a conceptually OBSERVATIONAL level at an EMOTIONAL DISTANCE. he always seems to be writing about events and activities from a third-party party perspective without being involved in them. coupled with BYRNE's angular AFROBEAT-influenced guitar work (which comes off oddly POST PUNK during an era that predated PUNK) and IDIOSYNCRATIC vocal delivery, the debut TALKING HEADS record TALKING HEADS: 77 (SIRE, 1977) makes for quite a UNIQUE and COMPELLING listen. standout tracks include "DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT," "PULLED UP," "UH OH, LOVE COMES TO TOWN," "NO COMPASSION," and the celebrated "PYSCHO KILLER."
for me the fulcrum of the album is centered around the OBSERVATIONAL DISTANCE seen in "DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT" which celebrates all things URBAN DEVELOPMENT, CIVIL PLANNING and INFRASTRUCTURE that make our lives better. there is even a shoutout to civil servants as extensive of the narrator's family. lyrically its a very interesting song since it seems to champion MODERNITY and the underlying deliberate processes that make it happen, which are under the auspices and ordinances of local government. its very much a song about COMPLEX SYSTEMS that benefit the individual and how one should feel EMPOWERED by such. the norm within a ROCK AND ROLL context is to rally against perceived oppressive systems and advocate for change, but BYRNE here inverts that expectation which is even by today's standards very compelling and genuinely weird.
"PSYCHO KILLER" similarly is an IDIOSYNCRATIC examination of the mindset of a serial killer. apparently the song was influenced by the outlandish stagecraft and persona of ALICE COOPER during this period. with BYRNE being BYRNE, audience expectations surrounding this serial killer are completely subverted. instead of being an object of commanding AGGRESSION and exposed VIRILITY, this STUTTERING, INSECURE serial killer is "tense and nervous" and just "can't relax." moreover you get the sense that this individual is highly educated (as he/she speaks french), and that this inward capacity makes it difficult for them to deal with the truly abhorred aspects, sense he/she "hate(s) people when they're not polite." in popular culture, serial killers are no different then action stars in that they are self-driven and impose societal change based solely on their own individual initiative. in "PSYCHO KILLER," BYRNE instead presents an individual whose MISANTHROPY comes with wanting to be left alone and undisturbed. personification of VIRILITY not so much.
as a former secondary english teacher i love BYRNE and his ability to subvert expectations on a lyrical level. the fact that the music itself is BOUNCY, prone to quick changes in tempo and groove and highly influenced by AFRICAN and LATIN rhythms makes repeat listens inevitable. there is a reason that BYRNE is so widely celebrated among INDIE ROCK bands for the past forty years. and there is no better introduction then TALKING HEADS: 77. definitely worth checking out.
as a kid in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA i played a lot of sports, but mainly basketball. going into 6th grade i personally knew the head coaches of the three local high schools. its funny to look back at it now, but at the time i was a sports prospect. of course, my family moved to NIGERIA later that year and my whole world literally shifted overnight. but during those late elementary years i have fond memories driving everywhere between LOS ANGELES and SAN DIEGO with my dad on our way to and from basketball camps and tournaments listening to U2 records.
there were certain songs we'd play as hype music which included AEROSMITH's "DREAM ON," THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE's "VOODOO CHILD (SLIGHT RETURN)" and U2's "IN GOD'S COUNTRY" and "WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME" off their landmark THE JOSHUA TREE (ISLAND, 1987) record. i still to this day visualize long drives to places like ESCONDIDO, ANAHEIM HILLS and HUNTINGTON BEACH to those tracks. what drew me to their sound was how they manipulated the idea of SPACE. whether through THE EDGE's reverb and delayed guitar manipulations or those epic slow fade-ins punctuated by BONO's howling voice full of YEARNING and DESPERATION, their just seemed to be a palpable sense of forward momentum. PUSHING FORWARD to new frontiers despite the obstacles. its easy to see in retrospect how those tracks worked as hype songs.
as an adult i have come to appreciate the GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS of U2, regardless of the fact that such is often used as a focal point for castigation and aspersions, especially at frontman BONO. there is something very IRISH about having EMPATHY for another's suffering and i feel that he is coming at his political pronouncements from an inner place of DEEP COMPASSION. i may be alone in that but thats my conviction. when you look tracks like "BULLET THE BLUE SKY" or especially "MOTHERS OF THE DISAPPEARED" (which is about the suffering of mothers whose children were abducted by REAGAN-backed military dictatorships in CHILE and ARGENTINA) there is a conviction to utilize his artistic medium to further AMPLIFY these political efforts and draw world attention to them.
which he did.
less literal are the iconic singles "I STILL HAVEN'T FOUND WHAT I'M LOOKING FOR" and "WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME." its interesting that there is very much a thread of geography and the concept of DISPLACEMENT in much of the lyrical content from this record. again, very IRISH. the idea of searching for something important but unnameable and maybe even unattainable, like LOVE, ACCEPTANCE or even a COMMUNITY is an aspiration that is deeply human. its almost metaphysical in nature. having spent extensive time abroad in places like NIGERIA, ALBANIA, MYANMAR and VENEZUELA, i have literally visited people on streets with no name. BONO very eloquently seeks to provide REPRESENTATION and a voice to the voiceless and those who are FORGOTTEN and looked over by our entrenched POLITICAL and ECONOMIC SYSTEMS that dont value or even acknowledge their EXISTENCE. this is a concept i consistently struggle with.
and that struggle of living with a CONSCIOUS and bearing witness to the STRUGGLES of your neighbor is central to THE JOSHUA TREE. its the thread that ties seemingly disparate tracks like "ONE TREE HILL" with "WITH OR WITHOUT YOU." what is our individual RESPONSIBILITY to our COMMUNITY? what bonds us to each other on an inter-personal level? it really is an amazing accomplishment both SONICALLY and CONCEPTUALLY and for me it is a deeply sentimental record that reminds me of my own CONNECTION with my father.
so yeah, THE JOSHUA TREE is worthy of its hype and well worth checking out.
with PUNK ROCK there are so many people credited with getting the initiating the genre, everyone from THE STOOGES and THE MC5 to the NEW YORK DOLLS, THE RAMONES and even THE DICTATORS. the documentary STIV: NO COMPROMISE, NO REGRETS (CHIP BAKER FILMS, 2019) takes a look at STIV BATORS, frontman of what is in all likelihood is the first PUNK band THE DEAD BOYS (as well as later outfits like SHAM 69 one-off THE WANDERERS and the GOTH-tinged LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH). and its a sad truth that unlike his contemporaries in IGGY POP, DAVID JOHANSEN and JOEY RAMONE and later acolytes like that of JOHN LYDON, JOE STRUMMER and DAVE VANIAN, BATORS is a relative unknown. at least he was to me.
so that is essentially the raison d'être for this film, it is a sort loving effort by former band members, crew and friends to resuscitate his legacy and public profile. what is sad is that despite some archival interview footage of JOEY RAMONE speaking about his former peer, there is little in the way of interview footage by major players, which is a shame. it sort of limits the appeal of what is otherwise a more than competently constructed film which examines his rise out of rural OHIO to starting bands in CLEVELAND and ultimately infiltrating the nascent downtown CBGB's scene in NYC with a vengeance in the mid 1970s. in fact, HILLY KRISTAL (owner of CBGB's) bankrolled their debut and managed them after seeing them play his club. unfortunately that moment was the peak of their career and larger cultural relevance. the band fell apart after a few more disastrous efforts in which they were mismatched with producers unsure of what to do with them or their sound. subsequent efforts were interesting but BATORS seemed to be chasing trends (60s PSYCHEDELIA, 80s POST PUNK) rather than setting. his absurd and tragic death in PARIS seemed a fitting marker to someone steeped in ROCK N ROLL cliches (again following in the footsteps of JIM MORRISON a generation before him).
after watching the documentary i am no closer to understanding why BATORS was a seminal figure in the history of PUNK. not to be cruel, but outside of his niche of devoted cult followers, there doesnt seem to be any real consensus surrounding the nature of his brilliance. i am more than a little baffled as to why this film was released knowing that there wasnt any high profile testimonials/aspersions regarding his legacy.
maybe his relative unknown public profile is right where it should be. i dont know the answer to that. maybe somebody with weight on the subject could tell me because everything ive read in countless books on PUNK ROCK mention THE DEAD BOYS as a footnote to the lasting impact of other later bands in that same scene, i.e. THE RAMONES. i am still interested in the subject, but in my estimation this documentary, however well-intentioned and edited, was half-baked and could have used more credible participants.
parodies by nacrowe
its funny, the DEER GOD RADIO episode i did on the fabulous modern DARKWAVE band DRAB MAJESTY was only a few months ago, but the idea about a doing a show on their small output of releases was at least two years coming. and it represents a dilemma i have when constructing a playlist based on a promising new band: its quite possible their best is yet to come. i have playlists (and artwork parodies) currently waiting for bands like CHILDISH GAMBINO, LA LUZ, THE COATHANGERS, KENDRICK LAMAR, PANDA BEAR and NEW FOUND GLORY among others that im not quite sure whether or not to pull the trigger since its possible their next is the culmination of all their past efforts, like say the previous A DAY TO REMEMBER album (which was released well over a year after the EPISODE 75 show dedicated to them). its a small, insignificant quibble of mine, but its probably the reason i dont do many shows on upcoming bands.
im always rethinking such.
i learned about the band via my brother's ex-girlfriend a few years back. thanks LOURDES! what i love about DRAB MAJESTY is that their music is beyond sonically intoxicating and conjures up all the seductive textural guitar elements i adore from guitarists like JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), DANIEL ASH (BAUHAUS, LOVE AND ROCKETS, TONES ON TAIL), BERNARD SUMNER (JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER), MARTIN GORE (DEPECHE MODE) and especially ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE). in my mind DRAB MAJESTY is a part of that legacy of 80s INDIE and POST PUNK bands who put a premium on songwriting and emotional weight through blending idiosyncratic sound textures. their power is in their ability to evoke a sound without sounding contrived or derivative, which is my personal gripe with DARKWAVE in general. those ringing, ambient guitar lines that wash over one another and culminate brilliantly in a sonic climax also find common bedfellows with the likes of SHOEGAZE icons KEVIN SHIELDS (MY BLOODY VALENTINE) and NEIL HALSTEAD (SLOWDIVE). so basically i was absolutely destined to love DRAB MAJESTY since they remind me of the contagiously melodic, experimental end of all my favorite bands!
my hope is that their next record blows all the others apart. maybe ill just have to do a follow-up or part two. why not?
i cannot encourage you enough to check out their music. DRAB MAJESTY is easily my favorite band of the last 10 years. the recent DEER GOD RADIO dedicated to them is embedded below.
sorry to say, i got into DEPECHE MODE late. like the end of my 20s late. and i dont know why that is.
i really never had anything against SYNTH POP or ELECTRONIC MUSIC per se. in fact, i was a fan since childhood of peer groups like NEW ORDER, PET SHOP BOYS, TEARS FOR FEARS and ELECTRONIC as well as later related experimental acolyte groups such as LADYTRON, ROYKSOPP, DAFT PUNK, HOT CHIP, LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, MASSIVE ATTACK, HOLY GHOST! and NEON INDIAN. and that is not even counting the likes of longtime obsessions like DEVO and KRAFTWERK. but nevertheless DEPECHE MODE escaped me.
i got into them during my brief time in KUKES, when i was working as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA. i remember meeting with RADIO KUKESI, which was the publicly operated station that had a SOCIALIST-REALIST decorated exterior from the 1960s. when my fellow volunteers and i had initiatives within the city, our contacts at this station would publicize such. but in many ways the vibe of that isolated northern ALBANIA town near the foothills of the ALBANIAN ALPS still seemed as CONSTRICTED and OSSIFIED as that of its recent COMMUNIST past a little over a generation before. wealth creation through CAPITALISM was slow going and once proud merchants and farmers had to deal with the relative DISAPPOINTMENT of being small fish in an over-saturated, hyper-competitive marketplace with the likes of ITALY, GREECE and states that emerged from the former YUGOSLAVIA.
it was within this context that i discovered DEPECHE MODE and, like most people, that included their seminal VIOLATOR (MUTE, 1990) release. to my ears their mechanical yet emotionally nuanced sound really fit the CLAUSTROPHOBIC atmosphere of a living within a post-COMMMUNIST EASTERN BLOC state perfectly. there is a palpable sense on tracks like "WORLD IN MY EYES," "CLEAN," "POLICY OF TRUTH" and "HALO" of being in a prolonged UNEASY state of general PARANOIA. with the exception of MYANMAR, living in rural northern ALBANIA is unlike other situations ive lived within in that there is a profound sense of cultural and historical distance, as if the country is beyond such CONSTRAINTS. its not even like living in a TIME WARP, KUKES was like living in a situation that was beyond history, such was the impact of their prolonged ISOLATION under a militant COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. being in that situation in a sense felt like my own sense of IDENTITY was discarded in favor of this POST-CULTURAL and POST-HISTORICAL context. how do you talk about events for which most people have no reference point. it was a bizarre but thrilling situation. and tracks like "SWEETEST PERFECTION," "PERSONAL JESUS" and especially "ENJOY THE SILENCE" was the soundtrack to sense of having your IDENTITY wiped clean.
so oddly when i hear DEPECHE MODE, any era, it basically takes me back to living and working in KUKES. the land that time forgot.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the DARKWAVE band DRAB MAJESTY!
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!
their catalogue speaks for itself.
the BRITISH indie label CREATION RECORDS during its run had some massively seminal and influential bands, everyone from PRIMAL SCREAM, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TEENAGE FANCLUB, RIDE, SLOWDIVE and THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN to SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, THE HOUSE OF LOVE, SWERVEDRIVER, SUGAR, SAINT ETIENNE and, of course, OASIS. culturally the label is very much synonymous with the two BRITISH INDIE ROCK exports of the period, SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. and while all of those bands get their spot in the documentary UPSIDE DOWN: THE CREATION RECORDS STORY (DOCUMENT FILMS, 2010), the focus is on its founder all around INDIE ROCK pied piper, ALAN MCGEE.
the label is very much created in the image of MCGEE, who was a SCOTTISH punk who made his way down to LONDON with his band subsequently decided to put out music by his friends. and that tribal bond was basically the defining ethos of CREATION RECORDS throughout its run. in the film MCGEE even attests to the fact that he signed interesting, creative people and not bands. needless to say, thats an odd tactic but definitely describes the innovative people he brought into the fold including KEVIN SHIELDS, BOBBY GILLESPIE, GRUFF RHYS and NOEL GALLAGHER.
what i found interesting is how the story of CREATION RECORDS mirrors that of other artistic-minded labels in their peer group, many that came out of the existing POST PUNK scene of the previous generation like FACTORY RECORDS. these INDIE ROCK labels were seemingly fronts for producing great art rather than being a functioning business with longterm economic targets and vertically integrated efficiencies. CREATION RECORDS pre-OASIS was in a constant state of owing money to recording studios, printing presses and the like and was under constant threat of being eaten up by a major. its ironic that the period that saw the label at its mid-1990s cultural zenith, the period around OASIS' second record WHAT'S THE STORY (MORNING GLORY)?, also marked their fall into eventually being consolidated and sold to SONY. MCGEE during the entire OASIS period had hit a wall with his drug use and saw him through a long recovery which meant his non-presence at the label allowed for the implementation of structural changes which in turn weakened his hand. this led to the label being swallowed up by a major, who of course had no idea what to do with its idiosyncratic and eccentric catalogue.
but the fact that the label ended in 1999 doesnt reduce its impact. its arguable that the label nurtured the BRITISH INDIE ROCK scene post-SMITHS throughout the late 80s and 90s and laid the groundwork for what would be the last great global rock phenomenon in OASIS. once that genie is out of the bottle its arguable that their legacy was cemented and where do you go from there?
i dont know.
but growing up overseas this label's catalogue was essentially synonymous with my young adulthood, especially MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE. i love the guy just for giving world those two bands. definitely check out this documentary if you have any interest in music history or ALTERNATIVE ROCK and INDIE ROCK bands from the 1980s and 1990s including SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. thoroughly enjoyable and required viewing.
discovering DEVO on a family trip to GREECE was one of the highlights of my high school years. at the time my family was stationed in KUWAIT and the culture and school environment was culturally and socially CONSERVATIVE in the extreme. the band may have been a NEW WAVE / POST PUNK ART project that utilized a stilted, ironic, DADA-inspired visual and aural aesthetic to both critique and poke fun at the rigid hypocrisy corporate AMERICA, but for me at the time i felt like i was living in an absurd ORWELLIAN reality.
because i kind of was.
everything about going to school and living in KUWAIT was absurd. reading about what amounted to honor killings in the english-language newspapers, being unable to mention non-MUSLIM or non-CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS, PHILOSOPHERS or LEADERS at school or being unable to hang out with my classmates in public without being harassed by KUWAITI men. it was an OPPRESSIVE environment where the innocuous was deemed TRANSGRESSIVE. i dont want to come off culturally insensitive here, as i can already assume some criticism from my past comments along the lines of "it is their country." this is true, but KUWAIT is rotten to its core in how it exploits foreign labor and oppresses non-ARAB MUSLIMS and limits free thought. there is no progression or forward momentum, its a stilted country that is well behind its direct EMIRATI competition for cultural hub of the MIDDLE EAST to which it aspires.
anyway, that was the context from which i grew to love DEVO as they seemed to by a collective that seemingly identified a sense of freedom and discovery within its self-determined creative limitations. robotic drums and cold, stabbing synth lines seemed to accurately encapsulate the stark lyrical bent of MARK MOTHERSBAUGH throughout NEW TRADITIONALISTS (WARNER BROS, 1981) amid his lyrics regarding personal liberation from the REPRESSION of POLITE SOCIETY ("JERKIN' BACK 'N' FORTH"), SOCIAL EXPECTATIONS ("THROUGH BEING COOL"), GLOBAL GEOPOLITICS ("BEAUTIFUL WORLD") and INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS ("LOVE WITHOUT ANGER," "RACE OF DOOM," "SOFT THINGS"). basically everything. even the title feels paradoxically both TRANSGRESSIVE and OPTIMISTIC, as if to look forward you must disregard and move beyond the past by creating new traditions, new ideas and new solutions.
the obvious highlight of the album is "BEAUTIFUL WORLD" which is one of the most divinely TRANSCENDENT (and BITTER) songs of all-time. with its soaring synth refrain and upbeat lyrics that seemingly celebrate all the PROMISE, INGENUITY and potential for global SOCIAL HARMONY that mankind is capable of in an impossibly OPTIMISTIC fever dream, only to utterly subvert it completely with the line "it's a beautiful world for you. not me." "BEAUTIFUL WORLD" is the ultimate song about being completely disconnected from society, its tone and beauty only serve to fuel that sense of REJECTION, ISOLATION and a caustic sense of REPULSION at the outer world. without doubt my favorite DEVO song and probably top three favorite song of all-time (i'm also partial to THE ANIMALS' "DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD" since childhood and "RUBBER RING" by THE SMITHS).
i could not advocate anymore strongly for the NEW TRADITIONALISTS album. required listening in my view, irrespective of your opinion of the merits of NEW WAVE, POST PUNK or even SYNTH POP. it is a TRANSCENDENT record that is most definitely worth checking out.
the doomed DARKWAVE atmospherics and POST PUNK angularity of PORTLAND-based SOFT KILL gets me right my sweet spot. i am a total sucker for bands that mix pop hooks with a healthy dose of SHOEGAZE-esque guitar layering and an ominous palpable sense of dread. obvious similar bands include DRAB MAJESTY, COLD CAVE and, of course, JOY DIVISION.
i am keeping an eye on this band and they are most definitely worth checking out.
with the advent of modern social media and the internet as the central focus of commerce and our economy writ large, its always interesting to see how major retailers attempt to catch out attention and pique our interest. instrument and music products retailer REVERB.COM a few years back came up with the YOUTUBE series SYNTH SOUNDS OF as a means of drawing attention to the keyboards, sequencers and various software, both vintage and contemporary, they have on offer.
the series showcases musician / producer WILLIAM KIRK who guides the audience through the compositional ingenuity and sonic experimentalism at play in classic songs primarily from the 1970s and 1980s FUNK, NEW WAVE, DISCO and SYNTH POP catalogue. im talking about acts such as TEARS FOR FEARS, PRINCE, DEPECHE MODE, TOTO, GIORGIO MORODER, HALL & OATES, TALKING HEADS, PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC, MADONNA, TALK TALK and even recent acolytes like BRUNO MARS and FRANK OCEAN. i originally found the series when researching what the vintage SEQUENCIAL CIRCUITS PROPHET 5 our studio had inherited from my cousin was capable of.
KIRK is knowledgeable, personable and absolutely ridiculous (i still cant handle those MEMBERS ONLY jackets!), which makes this series fun and engaging. he seems to get the feel of the period and is respectful without being too reverential in the process. SYNTH SOUNDS OF may have failed in getting me to buy anything, but it has beyond succeeded in making me more conscious of the artistry involved in the use of electronic keyboards, pads, triggers and vintage analog synths.
and it made me dance. so there.
what is there not to love about the TEXAS DARKWAVE / POST PUNK revival duo TWIN TRIBES? the sparse yet melodic, synth-heavy sound of LOIS NAVARRO and JOEL NINO feels like the perfect comedown from an all nighter. it feels like something LYDIA from BEETLEJUICE (WARNER BROS, 1988) would be excited about while living her life in one big dark room.
TWIN TRIBES is probably my favorite discovery outside of DRAB MAJESTY from a few years back. hits that same sinister sweet spot. definitely worth checking out.
i just love how SAN FRANCISCO INDIE ROCK band POW! takes the best the nervous, skittish rhythms of POST PUNK and marries them with the synth-ed out madness of classic NEW WAVE. it is such a refreshing sound that doesnt attempt to hid its experimental nature without sacrificing melodic pop hooks. it is quite the balance and really quite an achievement.
POW! is most definitely worth checking out.
my family left IRELAND three generations ago in the early part of the 20th century, relocating to NEW YORK CITY. i carry an IRISH surname that traces its roots back to the small village of CAPPAWHITE just outside of LIMERICK in COUNTY TIPPERARY. in my teens i was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit IRELAND with my family and witness a part of my heritage that really i only primarily knew through music.
specifically that of THE POGUES and U2.
whereas THE POGUES in my mind represent the complex mindset and identity of the IRISH DIASPORA, U2 seems (especially during their early career) to be a stridently modern IRISH band. influenced by the sonic experimentalism and lyrical insularity of POST PUNK, their early output seems militantly focused on presenting a vision of an IRELAND that is full of dignity and passion, as well as vulnerability.
WAR (ISLAND, 1983) in particular to me is the soundtrack and aural memory of the interpersonal brutality and cultural devastation that was THE TROUBLES. standout tacks such as "SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY" and "NEW YEARS DAY" showcase the personal toll of growing up when such unceasing and indiscriminate violence was occurring with little end in sight. those songs may be located in a specific geography and time related to IRISH HISTORY, but for me growing up it was a touchstone when traveling and encountering sites of human cruelty, tragedy, despair and mass casualties in other locations in KOSOVO, CAMBODIA, BOSNIA and GHANA (CAPE COAST CASTLE). that is not to say that these songs are sullen or depressing, in fact its the opposite. they are anthems to the human spirit of persevering and carrying on despite every evidence to the contrary that all is lost and humanity is depraved.
BONO is often mocked (sometimes rightfully so) for his often quixotic megalomania with regard to global initiatives. but i see that sort of inner fire, that very IRISH sense of empathy percolating first through these early songs in which he put his passion and sense of moral righteousness in his music. these songs touched me as a child and informed me of what it meant to be IRISH, that of being lost and itinerant yet never losing a sense of self or empathy for the other; essentially being at home in the world and finding commonality with all, including your enemies. maybe the dude was secretly BUDDHIST. regardless, i consider this album a deeply IRISH album that i return to from time to time when thinking about my ancestors and starting anew in a new country. something i have done several times on several continents.
sometimes you come across a musician that is hard to pin down on first listen and seem wholly original yet strangely an extension of what you are familiar with beforehand. im thinking of songwriters and performers like BJORK and TRICKY who had antecedents in experimental ELECTRONIC MUSIC and HIP HOP, but took such influences to another new terrain.
thats kind of how i feel about KING KRULE, the creative project of ARCHY IVAN MARSHALL, that incorporates everything from TRIP HOP and INDIE ROCK to JAZZ FUSION and POST PUNK. its a heady eclectic mix but is cohesive through his unique persona and reflective yet opaque lyrics.
KING KRULE is definitely worth check out.
what i love about DETROIT's standout POST PUNK-influenced INDIE ROCK band PROTOMARTYR is their ability to be genuinely weird. and by that i dont mean they are attempting to be different for the sake of being noticed, more that you get the sense that they are presenting their authentic selves. it feels too often that ROCK MUSIC is sanitized and neat around the edges. with their angular guitar riffs, love of dissonance and JOE CASEY's elegiac lyrics and vocal delivery (which brings to mind echos of IAN CURTIS), PROTOMARTYR are a unique band in today's scene.
definitely worth checking out.
as ive mentioned before in this forum, during my senior year of high school back in the wake of 9/11, i left my family who were stationed in the MIDDLE EAST and relocated to SACRAMENTO with a relative. it was a pretty isolating year for me, but during that period i discovered TRIP HOP artists like PORTISHEAD, MASSIVE ATTACK and TRICKY as well as POST PUNK bands like THE CURE and LOVE AND ROCKETS. and man did those artists make what woudve been a boring, lonely period seem so exciting and invigorating.
i should begin by stating that i am a big fan of LOVE AND ROCKETS guitarist DANIEL ASH and his love of looper, droning and feed-backed guitars that create an almost mantra-like experience for the listener. its a sonic texture that is very apparent in later more experimental ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands like JANE'S ADDICTION and FAITH NO MORE. this can be seen throughout the LOVE AND ROCKETS (BEGGARS BANQUET, 1989) record on standout tracks like "****(JUNGLE LAW)," "MOTORCYCLE" and "NO BIG DEAL" which both have a propulsive groove that never lets up. in fact, it is the irrepressible sense of pummeling rhythm that makes this band standout from its former incarnation in the seminal POST PUNK outfit BAUHAUS, of which all members (DANIEL ASH, DAVID J and KEVIN HASKINS) are original members of.
whats funny to me is that "SO ALIVE" was the big hit single from the record (and their catalogue in general) as it is such a sonically uncharacteristic song for the group. ASH's singing as well as the female backing vocals are more prominent in the mix than minimal bass groove that undergirds the minimalist track. my preference with regard to their more downtempo songs that explore an interior space using DELAY, CHORUS and E-BOW effects include "I FEEL SPEED" and "NO WORDS NO MORE." both those tracks really find ASH exploring interesting aural textures with unconventional riffs and chord progressions. its probably the reason i have continually revisited the LOVE AND ROCKETS catalogue since discovering back in high school.
it still sounds fresh. definitely worth checking out.
i had the good fortune a few years back to film the POST PUNK-influenced BROOKLYN INDIE ROCK band BIG BLISS at MARKET HOTEL when we were producing our OFF THE M series. what drew me to them initially was their expansive, angular sound couple with earnest, personal lyrics and an undeniable stage presence. after filming bands night in and night out for a few weeks, it was always apparent and obvious when a band was clicking, and they definitely were capable, engaging and effective musicians.
since filming them i've kept tabs on their social media and have been more than impressed with their commitment to social justice issues in the wake of the 2020 protests in response to the murder of GEORGE FLOYD. i respect this band even more now for sticking to their guns and putting themselves out there in the streets and voicing their truth.
i know they have a new record coming out so definitely keep an eye out for that. most definitely a talented local band worth checking out.
i should start by saying there are a whole slew of great CURE albums. THE HEAD ON THE DOOR (FICTION, 1985), JAPANESE WHISPERS (FICTION, 1983), PORNOGRAPHY (FICTION, 1982), WISH (FICTION, 1992), THE TOP (FICTION, 1984) KISS ME KISS ME KISS ME (FICTION, 1987) all come immediately to mind. im confident that if you talk to five different CURE fans you will be met with five different favorite albums.
of course for most fans that learned about them after the fact (like me), DISINTEGRATION (FICTION, 1989) is the obvious entry point with many crowdpleasers like "FASCINATION STREET," "LULLABY," "PLAINSONG," "PICTURES OF YOU," and "LOVE SONG." growing up an indoctrinated SMITHS fan from birth, my introduction to THE CURE was surprisingly late. i discovered them in earnest in late high school at the same time i got into other similar bands like LOVE AND ROCKETS. which in a sense makes sense as both ROBERT SMITH (THE CURE) and DANIEL ASH (BAUHAUS, LOVE AND ROCKETS, TONES ON TAIL) have a similar expressionistic approach to their guitar playing which is less about technique and more about layering and emotive use of delays and chorus effects. to that extent SMITH Is the poster child for a certain type of POST PUNK sound that directly influenced other great players like TRENT REZNOR (NINE INCH NAILS) and DAVE NAVARRO (JANE'S ADDICTION) who likewise searched out unorthodox delicate soundscapes as much as classic riffs a la JIMMY PAGE (LED ZEPPELIN).
aside from being renowned for his guitar-playing, for me what makes THE CURE special and especially the DISINTEGRATION album in particular is the alchemy of his voice and lyrics within that unique emotive sonic bed. THE CURE offer a world into themselves. it is almost cinematic. i remember being a teenager away from family living with a relative in CALIFORNIA and DISINTEGRATION was like a cloak i could wear to separate me from the outside world. there is a real sense of interiority with this album and it really got me through me tough times. i remember seeing THE CURE play at their namesake CURIOSA FESTIVAL in 2004 at RANDALL's ISLAND and it being an odd experience. namely the idea of being in a group event for a band that had such a commanding hold over my emotional inner dialogue was a little unnerving and uncomfortable if that makes any sense. havent had that experience before or since but seems a testament to the power of the band and the unique songwriting abilities of ROBERT SMITH.
special album by a very special band that is dear to my heart. well worth rediscovering.
i recently came across the BRITISH POST-PUNK / INDIE ROCK band SHOPPING and have come to appreciate not only their angular riffs and infectious circular melodies, but also their quirky and highly original videos.
to my ears their sound seems to split the difference between GANG OF FOUR and TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB. its also a pleasure to hear and ENGLISH band that does not shy away from their native accents. too often that is the case, which is a curious phenomena dating back to THE BEATLES.
anyway, great band definitely worth checking out.
BOOK REVIEW | "A MULTITUDE OF SINS: GOLDEN BROWN, THE STRANGLERS AND STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS" BY HUGH CORNWELL
so full disclosure, i was basically raised on THE STRANGLERS. been told my whole life that my first concert was seeing them play in SPAIN. well sort of, i wasn't born yet. but in a sense i was there.
as i mentioned in my radio show dedicated to THE STRANGLERS back in OCTOBER 2019, my earliest music memories are being driven by my father listening to some mixture of THE SMITHS, THE KINKS, THE BEATLES, THE ANIMALS and, of course, THE STRANGLERS. im completely indoctrinated so take that for what you will.
A MULTITUDE OF SINS: GOLDEN BROWN, THE STRANGLERS AND STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS (HARPER COLLINS, 2011) by former frontman, songwriter and ringleader HUGH CORNWELL delivers what on what the title promises: tales of about sex, drugs and rock and roll. not that this book is a complete cliche for CORNWELL is a gifted writer and storyteller, which should come as a surprise to no one familiar with his song lyrics. his writing style is very conversational and stream-of-conscious and often sifts back and forth from one anecdote to the next that span both geography and time. you'd think that would make it hard to follow but everything flows remarkably well and is intensely engaging. the result is a very personal narrative that almost feels like you are hearing it from a gifted orator a few stools down at a local pub.
chapters are organized according to subject and CORNWELL at the outset invites the reader to get out of it what they want. if voyeuristic anecdotes about drugs and sex is what you are after, then he points you in the direction of those chapters right at the introduction.
for me personally i always viewed THE STRANGLERS as a bunch of misfits that didnt fit the time that well yet ironically were the perfect band for that time. as CORNWELL explains, the band was too young and not musical enough to be part of the ENGLISH PUB ROCK scene in of the mid-1970s yet too old and musically accomplished to be a part of the original PUNK scene that followed shortly thereafter. their sound is identified with POST PUNK (hell, i even categorized them as such on my show and in the DEER GOD RADIO list of shows) but they were chronologically concurrent peers of JOE STRUMMER and the like. their sound is massively influential converting acolytes in ENGLAND everyone from NEW ORDER to WIRE to ELASTICA. but all that music critic bullshit doesnt really matter, to me their music is both complex and deliberate, their lyrics sarcastic and literary yet entirely sincere and soberly brutal.
the section of the book i found most compelling was the inclusion of writings he produced shortly after his time in prison for a trumped-up drug charge in ENGLAND. they are based on interviews he did apparently. they showcase an individual with a strong sense of moral clarity and fairness, even for his captors, in a situation that is meant to browbeat and strip individuality. his empathy for those working at the prison, whose position dehumanizes them as well, is pretty remarkable. for me, understanding his capacity to put himself outside himself, even during a moment of great stress, seems to share something about voyeuristic nature of songwriting itself. his songs seem to be about the emotional backage that come with decisions, relationships and situations, not the actual things themselves. that emotional intelligence and ability to empathize with others seems to be a cornerstone of his prowess as a gifted writer and songwriter.
makes perfect sense after learning of his ordeal in prison. interesting stuff.