i dont believe MONSTER (WARNER BROS, 1994) is the best or even the most consequential record by seminal INDIE ROCK band R.E.M., but it was the one that had the most effect on me during my time growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. OUT OF TIME (WARNER BROS, 1994) reminds me of my time in early elementary school and very much got me into playing guitar (which is ironic because that was a mandolin-heavy record written by guitarist PETER BUCK after being temporarily bored by his instrument), while MONSTER for me was a much more emotionally heavier affair.
originally conceived as a possible venue for collaboration with NIRVANA frontman KURT COBAIN, his unfortunate passing earlier in 1994 is sonically and spiritually all over this record. with its more muscular production and riff-heavy sonic textures and opaque lyrics that referenced and challenged notions of VIOLENCE, IDENTITY and SEXUALITY, MONSTER very much felt like a contemporary ALTERNATIVE ROCK record of the period. or at least as close as R.E.M. would ever venture.
i was 10 when COBAIN passed and it was a shock to me and my friends. my grandmother passed away around that period and between the two it was basically my introduction to the concept of DEATH. in particular i remember hearing "BANG AND BLAME" on 106.7FM KROQ all the time and how that song invoked (to me) the pain of being left behind and sorting out the emotional carnage in the wake of such an event. im almost certain that is not what singer/lyricist MICHAEL STIPE intended, but that was my interpretation. that was definitely a big song during my youth. ive read that "LET ME IN" was explicitly about COBAIN and written shortly after his passing. emotionally there is a sense of catharsis in STIPE's vocals on that track, which almost has a GOSPEL-tinge to it, as if you can imagine him singing it in front of a choral ensemble. the droning, guitars are lifted by a solemn lilting melody sung to great effect.
i remember taking two friends of mine in 1994 to KNOTT'S BERRY FARM for my birthday and my recollection of that period is very much painted by PEARL JAM's VITALOGY (EPIC, 1994) and MONSTER. especially the energetic singles "CRUSH WITH EYELINER," "WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH?" and "STAR 69." the waves of delayed fuzzed-out distortion on those tracks to me are still a high-water mark of BUCK's sound even though i am cognizant of how much of a departure such was from his signature clean, jangly, RICKENBACKER-based sound. to this day i cannot dissociate such from recollections of the period, at this point those tones are part of my sense of IDENTITY. i just remember going into 4th grade and having difficulty internalizing how the world was becoming more complex and my friends were changing (because of girls and puberty in retrospect). it felt like the rules were being altered and it was that moment of TRANSITION and TRANSFORMATION that this record crystallizes in my imagination. and this was all before i moved to AFRICA two years later, which was the real defining transition point of my life i can say now in retrospect. that was the rubicon after which nothing was the same.
so yeah, MONSTER to me represents a point in my youth when everything was up for grabs and the music oddly expresses such in my projected experience. to me AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE (WARNER BROS, 1992) was their best record objectively, but i still hold out at times to MONSTER for emotional and sentimental reasons. it is definitely worth revisiting and further investigation, even among other standout records in their catalogue. highly recommended.
its funny saying this now but i first learned about TOOL from KIM THAYIL of SOUNDGARDEN. i was a huge fun of THAYIL and around the SUPERUNKNOWN-era of that band there were several publicity shots of him playing live with a TOOL shirt on in guitar magazines. same thing regarding THE MELVINS. i wasnt even a teenager yet when my i bought the UNDERTOW (ZOO, 1993) record on a family trip to ITALY in the mid-90s on one of our first trips after relocating to NIGERIA. for what its worth, between my brother and i, we also snagged RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's EVIL EMPIRE (EPIC, 1996) and SEPULTURA's ROOTS (ROADRUNNER, 1996) and CHAOS A.D. (ROADRUNNER, 1993) records on that same trip. no doubt one of the better record hauls of my life.
what i remember about the experience of first listening to that record was how thick, pronounced and upfront the bass guitar was. songs like "SWAMP SONG," "FLOOD" and "PRISON SEX" showcased the instrument as a key fixture of the melody and song composition as opposed to background support, as usually is the case. i should also mention that between the musty smell of the liner notes (which no doubt had to have been related to the small record store) and the transgressive artwork that was found therein, i was wholly engaged through being caught entirely off-guard. my impression was that here was a band that was playing by an entirely different set of rules than i was familiar with.
and that is before i even attempt to discern the opaque and mysterious lyrics of MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN. the whole bit about the cries of the carrots in "DISGUSTIPATED" was something i couldnt even handle as a preteen, much less other subversive tracks such as "PRISON SEX," "SOBER" or "BOTTOM." even after reading his memoir and its elucidation with KEENAN's deep appreciation for the sacred art found with geometry, religion, comedy and the visual arts, i choose to not meet his lyrics intellectually as something to be deciphered. instead i attempt to appreciate them in terms of their poetry or potential allegorical interpretations. my sense is that such is what he would want as well as a gifted writer and performer.
i would be remiss not to mention guitarist ADAM JONES and his incredible PROG-worthy guitar riffage and atmospherics, not to mention the visual artistry of his music videos. also there is the drumming savant that is DANNY CAREY and his mastery of AFRICAN and LATIN polyrhythms. being familiar with their expansive catalogue of material post UNDERTOW, it is interesting to see this record as a blueprint of what was to come. and what followed this stellar record was a sonic vocabulary that makes TOOL a singular outfit of its era, or any era for that matter.
UNDERTOW is a record that deserves all the praise that it has received the past few decades. it has held up and established this legendary band commercially and artistically from whence they pushed further with subsequent albums like ÆNIMA (ZOO, 1996) and LATERALUS (VOLCANO, 2001) that influenced a whole new generation of bands unafraid to mix art with progressive musicianship. cant recomeend this record hard enough. a must listen for any fan of METAL or ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
R&B singer SADE is one of those artists that is a bit of a litmus test for me in that if you cant appreciate her music, i want nothing to do with you. essentially because that would would make you soulless and are effective dead inside. in estimation, SADE is the very embodiment of cool sophistication and effortless sensuality and DIAMOND LIFE (EPIC, 1984) is her high watermark on record. with songs like "YOUR LOVE IS KING," "HANG ON TO YOUR LOVE" and of course "SMOOTH OPERATOR," it is hard not to be caught under the spell of her voice.
i think it was probably my last year of high school or first year of college where effectively i sought out music that vastly different than what my friends and i listened to at the time, which was mainly derivative of ALTERNATIVE ROCK, PUNK, METAL and HARDCORE. this is the period that TRIP HOP, SHOEGAZE, BEBOP, KRAUTROCK, BRITPOP, ALTERNATIVE HIP HOP and FUNK really started to come into the picture. in that context SADE really stood out since her vibe was decidedly laid back and came from a SMOOTH JAZZ background that i was totally alien to. probably still am. in fact, SADE is such a singular artist that i cannot think of another similar artist as beloved in her genre. in less capable hands, her music couldve easily stumbled into MUZAK, and not in a good way. i really think its the sensuality of her voice that makes DIAMOND LIFE and subsequent releases so intoxicating. to this day if i am ever feeling stressed, listening to SADE is something that always calms me down and makes me self-reflective.
so for me the music of SADE is absolutely essential. most definitely worth further investigation.
its pretty cool to learn that SADE was born in the NIGERIAN city of IBADAN, which is just north of LAGOS where i lived in the mid 1990s while in middle school. there is a famous university that dates back to the BRITISH COLONIAL period in IBADAN, as well as a golf course that i caddied for my mom at numerous times. there was also the INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF TROPICAL AGRICAULTURE (IITA) located in IBADAN that was where new strains of plant life was experimented on by scientists from international governments and corporations alike. for all of us visiting from LAGOS, IITA served as a weekend retreat complete with swimming pools, tennis courts and restaurants. it was from here that a friend of mine from school almost got caught up in a roundup of political opponents of then-military dictator SANI ABACHA, who were summarily executed. they missed such by a few hours apparently.
regardless, it is always a pleasure to learn about new connections with places you have a history with. now i have a new association with the town of IBADAN.
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 first became of AMERICA'S LEAST WANTED (MERCURY, 1992) by SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ALTERNATIVE METAL band UGLY KID JOE in the mid-90s shortly after moving to NIGERIA from a fellow AMERICAN oil brat at school that was a few years older. that student also introduced me to likes of FAITH NO MORE and ALICE IN CHAINS around the same time.
like most people, what caught my ear about the band were the distinctive vocals of singer WHITFIELD CRANE and the crunchy riffage and punchy tones of guitarists KLAUS EICHSTADT and DAVE FORTMAN (the latter of which has gone on to a production career working with the likes of SLIKNOT, MUDVAYNE, OTEP and EYEHATEGOD among many others). this is especially apparent on standout tracks like "SO DAMN COOL," "DON'T GO," "PANHANDLIN' PRINCE," "GODDAMN DEVIL" and "NEIGHBOR." the vibe of the record is generally upbeat even when lyrically covering aggressive topics related to personal relationships and the record industry.
when comparing this record to its peers, and by that i mean ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands like NIRVANA, SOUNDGARDEN, JANE'S ADDICTION, FAITH NO MORE and ALICE IN CHAINS, what this record lacks is any credible sense of pathos. much like the cover artwork, the band almost sounds like a cartoon-version of a rebellious rock group. to my ears they come off as if they are having fun (which is great!). this is evident in songs like "EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU" and "COME TOMORROW." those other bands lyrically and sonically seem to be more about an attempt at catharsis, a sense of releasing or channeling some inner grievance or turmoil. UGLY KID JOE are distinctive in that sense, with a more warm disposition that makes them more similar to MOTHER LOVE BONE than PEARL JAM, if that makes any sense. for some reason i see CRANE's persona as very similar to that of the ANDY WOOD as opposed to EDDIE VEDDER. and maybe that is indicative of the era and the general shift within the industry.
regardless, AMERICA'S LEAST WANTED is a criminally underrated and under-appreciated record with some incredible tracks that deserve further investigation for anyone interesting in the ALTERNATIVE ROCK and ALTERNATIVE METAL scenes of the late 80s / early 90s.
i remember this album being referred to as UP ON THE SUCKSIDE by a middle school friend of mine in NIGERIA upon its release in the mid-1990s. i never thought that was a fair assessment.
i think SOUNDGARDEN's DOWN ON THE UPSIDE (A&M, 1996) suffered in comparison to the iconic ALTERNATIVE ROCK band's previous SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1994) and BADMOTORFINGER (A&M, 1991) records, which were stellar examples of tuneful songwriting and massive-sounding music production that resulted in a sound that effectively split the difference between BLACK SABBATH and THE BEATLES. to my ears this album was more musically experimental sonically and texturally with songs like "APPLEBITE," "SWITCH OPENS," "ZERO CHANCE," "TIGHTER & TIGHTER," and "BOOT CAMP" all playing with droning open chords and looping drum patterns that create a hypnotizing mantra of sorts not that dissimilar from traditional INDIAN music. i can see now such would be a bit off putting to a fan of those previous aforementioned records. of course there were singles such as "PRETTY NOOSE," "BLOW UP THE OUTSIDE WORLD" and "BURDEN IN MY HAND" that showcase the incredible vocals of CHRIS CORNELL and the idiosyncratic guitar heroics of KIM THAYIL in a more recognizable and traditional SOUNDGARDEN format that would makes sense on previous releases.
a standout track for me includes "TY COBB," which is such a spit-in-your-eye fury of aggression that never seized to get me revved up as it did as a teenager before a sporting event. in a sense its lyrics did give off the misanthropic and malcontent vibe of the actual TY COBB with its "hard-headed, fuck you all" refrain. a similar vibe is also apparent on "NO ATTENTION" and "AN UNKIND."
my memory of this record upon its release is clouded by the breakup of the band a few months later. i really remember being bummed about that since i felt that was a DOWN ON THE UPSIDE strong record that was more diverse and ultimately interesting than their previous output. seemed a waste. i was overjoyed when they returned many years later if only because it meant the return of the immensely inventive and criminally underrated and under-appreciated THAYIL, who was always a favorite of mine going back to childhood.
definitely check out DOWN ON THE UPSIDE, an under-appreciated album by a seminal rock band.
i cant help but smile every time i hear a song off the JAILBREAK (MERCURY, 1976) album by THIN LIZZY on the radio.
to me that record is the very definition of bravado in rock music. this is no doubt largely due to the contributions of singer/basist/songwriter PHIL LYNOTT, who is a absolute legend and arguably the great IRISH frontman of all-time (sorry BONO). i carry an IRISH last name and he is the sort of dude (like SHANE MCGOWAN, OSCAR WILDE or JOHNNY MARR) that makes me proud of my ancestral heritage. which is funny because LYNOTT has little in the way of vocal range, but makes up for such immeasurably with an everyman, working-class swagger and attitude that makes you root for him implicitly, especially in celebrated songs like "WARRIORS," "THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN" and "JAILBREAK". that sense of audience connection is really what THIN LIZZY is about at their core.
thats not to say that their sound wasnt influential. the synchronized dual lead guitar work of BRIAN ROBERTSON and SCOTT GORMAN, especially on the epic "EMERALD" provided the template that was later adopted by NWOBHM bands like JUDAS PRIEST and later THRASH METAL bands like SLAYER, METALLICA and MEGADETH and their acolytes in MASTODON, AVENGED SEVENFOLD and beyond. the synchronized dual lead sound THIN LIZZY popularized is such a potent, powerful sound. to my ears it seems very reminiscent of CELTIC FOLK MUSIC, which often relies on the interplay of stringed instruments coming in and out of synchronicity, creating a complex, overpowering sonic texture to sing over. it also creates a sense of immediacy and emotional power, which makes sense given the IRISH lyrical traditions of celebration and mourning the best and worst life has to offer. again, its a sound that is very IRISH at its core.
a seminal record by a historically criminally underrated band from the 1970s. well worth revisiting and checking out again.
its difficult to verbalize how mind-altering and identity-shifting this JANE'S ADDICTION record was for me when i first heard it as a MIDDLE SCHOOL student living in NIGERIA. NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) is an absolutely classic record by a seminal band. in my heart the only bands that match them are DEVO and THE SMITHS: that is my holy trinity.
often credited along with FISHBONE and FAITH NO MORE (among many others) with trailblazing in the late 1980s what would become the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene, JANE'S ADDICTION had an eclectic sound that ranged from GOTH ROCK and POST-PUNK to HARDCORE and even THRASH METAL. for me the music begins and stops with the mantra-like, hypnotic, circular and criminally underrated bass grooves of ERIC AVERY. these grooves on tracks like "SUMMERTIME ROLLS," "MOUNTAIN SONG," and "UP THE BEACH" are eerily reminiscent of AFROBEAT to me, which is the context i first heard them in, and provide the foundation for the rest of the band.
JANE'S ADDICTION is an example of a band where all the sum of all the parts is much greater than each individual member. in fact, there have been so many side and splinter groups (PORNO FOR PYROS, POLAR BEAR, SATELLITE PARTY, DECONSTRUCTION, THE PANIC CHANNEL, BANYAN and countless solo projects) of varying combinations of members that it really makes listening to NOTHING'S SHOCKING and its follow up RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL (WARNER BROS, 1990) that much more intriguing. there really is an alchemical reaction going on there that hasnt been touched since.
what drew me initially was the voice of the shamanistic PERRY FARRELL, who i thought sounded like an alien. i literally couldn't place in my mind when first fearing "UP THE BEACH" whether it was a woman or man singing. his voice was beyond gender and seemingly sonically beyond space and time or any other human construct. i think lyrically there is a distinctly romantic worldview and sense of childlike amorality throughout his lyrics. in songs like "JANE SAYS" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" there is a sense of escapism through romantic love and being in the moment. that this deeper bond is what sets us free and makes us human. HENRY ROLLINS once made a prescient point about the band when he stated that "they pointed it out without pointing to it," which i implicitly agree with. lyrically NOTHING'S SHOCKING covers a lot of ground from the manipulating potential of mass media ("TED JUST ADMIT IT...") to the quiet banalities of daily life ("STANDING IN THE SHOWER...THINKING"). it all adds up to an emotional and intellectual range that is rarely witnissed historically in rock music of any age.
while i contend that the bass grooves of AVERY and the lyricism, mystique and vocal idiosyncrasies of FARRELL are the two main ingredients for this band, i would be remiss to not mention the stellar rhythm section of DAVE NAVARRO and STEPHEN PERKINS. i should start by saying that i am biased in this regard since NAVARRO along with JOHNNY MARR are my two favorite guitarists ever. NAVARRO is both an acolyte of the songwriting and lyrical guitar playing of 70s classic rock musicians like JIMMY PAGE and DAVID GILMOUR, as well as deeply indebted to the sonic experimentation of 80s POST PUNK musicians like ROBERT SMITH and DANIEL ASH among others. with this knowledge it is deeply interesting to see the interplay of those influences throughout his career, which finds him using everything from e-bows, delay effects and even dildos to create a lush sonic landscapes while also creating crushing riffs that any self respecting CLASSIC ROCK musician would enjoy. in essence, when i think of the sound of ALTERNATIVE ROCK, i think of that interplay within the guitar work of NAVARRO.
i think the drumming of PERKINS is criminally underrated but vastly essential the the group's success on NOTHING'S SHOCKING. from his signature use of steel drums on "JANE SAYS" to his pounding, kinetic METAL inspired pummeling on "MOUNTAIN SONG" "PIGS IN ZEN" and "OCEAN SIZE," there is a range at play that makes everything appear cohesive and ultimately authentic, no matter the genre being utilized at any moment. tribal drumming is now considered a cliche that has been adopted (and abused) by the METAL scene, but i would also credit PERKINS and his love of AFRICAN polyrhtms for help create such intoxicating, mantra-like textures in songs like "UP THE BEACH" and "SUMMERTIME ROLLS" and basically the second side of RITUAL DE LO HABITUAL.
easily one of my all-time favorite records that i clearly know i am not doing justice. suffice to say it is worth checking out as it is one of the most transcendently great rock albums of all-time.
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.
when i lived in MYANMAR i remember flying from YANGON in the south to MANDALAY in the north where i taught. on that flight right after take off you could see this notorious prison from the colonial period called INSEIN PRISON which had this unique circular shape. it was the embodiment of this BRITISH concept of the PANOPTICON, whereby from one spot you could view virtually everything.
i remember my song of choice to listen to while viewing INSEIN PRISON from the air was "ELECTRIC EYE" by NEW WAVE OF BRITISH HEAVY METAL pioneers JUDAS PRIEST off their SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE (COLUMBIA, 1982) record. that song concerned itself with the idea of modern spy satellites looking down on you from space bearing witness to your every move like a pernicious, judgmental god. again, perfect song to listen to in that situation.
long considered the real follow-up to BRITISH STEEL (COLUMBIA, 1980) after the misfire of POINT OF ENTRY (COLUMBIA, 1981), SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE to my ears is where the modern sound of JUDAS PRIEST cemented itself and established them as one of the premier METAL bands of the new decade and a prominent influence on the then-emerging stateside THRASH scene. just look at all those dueling guitar leads of the leading bands (SLAYER, METALLICA and MEGADETH) and say no more. makes sense that those bands couldnt compete with the real ace in the hole of PRIEST which is the operatic vocals of ROB HALFORD, which to this day still stand as some of the best ever in the genre (arguably only RONNIE JAMES DIO is in the same discussion).
obviously "YOU'VE GOT ANOTHER THING COMING" is the standout single from the record, and well it should be. it is a classic pop song for the ages. i have heard it overseas at rock bars from CYPRUS to CROATIA and it never fails to get an enthusiastic response. it is a stone cold METAL anthem. that being said, i veer way more towards the more adventurous songs of this record like "PAIN AND PLEASURE," "DEVIL'S CHILD," and of course, "SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE" that all seem to point the way to what would much later culminate at the dawn of the next decade in my favorite PRIEST album PAINKILLER (COLUMBIA, 1990). that album absolutely crushes.
so in summation, SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE is required listening for any fan of METAL. definitely worthy of revisiting and reexamination. it absolutely stands the test of time and continues to inspire modern musicians.
it is often written about to the point of cliche that the success of NIRVANA's NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) was a paradigm shift in the music industry, but the truth is in the bands that followed in their wake that arguably would never have had an opportunity from a major label pre-1991. specifically i am thinking about bands like GREEN DAY, THE OFFSPRING and especially WEEZER.
that is not to say that their eponymous debut WEEZER (DGC, 1994), widely known as THE BLUE ALBUM, had much to do with NIRVANA in sound or substance. NIRVANA frontman/songwriter KURT COBAIN came out of the parallel INDIE ROCK / HARDCORE scenes of the 1980s whereas WEEZER frontman/songwriter RIVERS CUOMO decidedly was more influenced by the concurrent NEW WAVE and METAL scenes of the same era. where i feel the two align is in a presentation of an alternative MASCULINITY that wasnt based on caveman-like caricatures of unbridled machismo that dominated the 1980s.
with that being said, WEEZER is an absolutely seminal ALTERNATIVE ROCK record. beyond hits such as "BUDDY HOLLY," "UNDONE (THE SWEATER SONG)" and "SAY IT AIN'T SO," which were all the soundtrack to my elementary school years in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, there are melodic, bittersweet paeans to all things summer, girls, social isolation and KISS. these include personal favorites like "IN THE GARAGE," "SURF WAX AMERICA" and "THE WORLD HAS TURNED AND LEFT ME HERE." to my ears this is a perfect record in that it combines a preternatural sense of MELODY with pop sensibilities and a lyrical stance that is as much about NOSTALGIA as it is about LONELINESS. whereas COBAIN takes this core sense of alienation and seemingly gets caught up in a vortex of self-flagellation, CUOMO takes that same intimate sense of self-loathing and turns it on its head. makes it something beautiful as it still conveys PAIN and SOCIAL ISOLATION.
part of that bubblegum sheen comes from producer RIC OCASEK (R.I.P.) of BOSTON NEW WAVE band THE CARS-fame who created a work that updated his signature style for a younger, more angsty generation. in my mind there is a definite through line between "BUDDY HOLLY" and classic CARS songs like "LET'S GO" or "DANGEROUS TYPE." both are just fun to listen to and dont feel dated in the least. i should also mention the vocal contributions of original bassist MATT SHARP and his incredible background harmonies which adds an almost BRIAN WILSON-esque depth on songs like "IN THE GARAGE" and "HOLIDAY." this element has long been missed since his departure years after the release of this album after the band's first break-up.
WEEZER is also an interesting record in how it compares to its much adored follow-up PINKERTON (DGC, 1996), which is decidedly more personal to the point of being uncomfortable and unhinged. WEEZER is the sound of a upstart band firing on all cylinders. it still sounds great and is basically required listening to anyone who is a fan of rock music of any era. unlike other subsequent records, this hasnt aged at all. it is absolutely still relevant.
up until my family moved to NIGERIA when i was 12, we basically never went on trips. the two exceptions to that was a basketball camp i went to in ARIZONA and a memorable road trip to SAN FRANCISCO that included stays in MONTERREY, SOLVANG and SAN SIMEON. its funny because since our big move in 1996, ive now been to somewhere north of 60 countries in the past 25 years. which i admit is insane. but that trip north was a pretty big deal for me.
it was also the trip i got NIRVANA's last record IN UTERO (DGC, 1991) along with its predecessor NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991) at the former TOWER RECORDS in near FISHERMAN's WHARF on columbus avenue and bay street in SAN FRANCISCO. years later after graduating high school i got TRICKY's MAXINQUAYE (FOURTH AND BROADWAY, 1995) at that same store.
anyway, like most fans of INDIE ROCK, PUNK ROCK and ALTERNATIVE ROCK, for me NIRVANA was an important band. by the time i got the STEVE ALBINI recorded / produced IN UTERO, frontman KURT COBAIN had been deceased for a few months. what struck me about the record at the time was how raw it was compared to NEVERMIND, which stunned me. COBAIN is obviously celebrated for his preternatural sense of melody and opaque lyrics, but as a 12 year old that was beyond me at that point. really i fed off the aggression and sense of pain in his voice. specifically i am referring to songs like "TOURETTE'S", "RADIO FRIENDLY UNIT SHIFTER," "VERY APE," "SCENTLESS APPRENTICE" and especially "RAPE ME." to me that is the real power of NIRVANA in general. just that vibe of being dissatisfied with the world / yourself. in essence IN UTERO has been the soundtrack to me youth, from moving to AFRICA and visiting places like SPAIN, GHANA, ITALY and COTE D'IVOIRE. i hear the songs and i am snapped back to those trips with my family. alienation is a universal experience, but being a THIRD CULTURE KID really puts that sense of disconnect in perspective. at some point you come to feel comfortable in unfamiliar settings.
in some ways that is how i look at IN UTERO as an adult. COBAIN at that point in his life was at a point of great transition in his life, becoming a father, a generational icon and a hardcore drug addict. all that is reflected in his lyrics which i would argue the most poetic and meaningful of his career, due undoubtedly to the influence of his criminally underrated wife COURTNEY LOVE. dont believe me? read her lyrics from HOLE albums of the period and tell me they are not superior. i think it is beyond doubt that her influence, for good or ill, is indelibly reflected throughout IN UTERO. songs dealing with themes of childbirth, death and reproduction as well as the guilt, shame and lack of control associated with emotional dependence and drug addiction. i cant even begin to imagine the disorientation associated with becoming a media sensation in your mid-20s, especially given his isolated biography and inward artistic leanings. then again he feverishly chased that attention so at the very least the dude was a deeply conflicted and endlessly fascinating figure. with IN UTERO you are given a sense of his mindset post-fame with songs like "DUMB," "PENNYROYAL TEA," "HEART-SHAPED BOX" and "ALL APOLOGIES" being both intimate as well as caustically sardonic and self-lacerating. it really is quite the achievement.
this is one of those records that i feel strongly shaped my identity, worldview and even sense of masculinity from a pretty early age. because of that it is difficult for me to separate it from my own lived experience. it is easily one of my favorite records from the period, only SOUNDGARDEN's SUPERUNKNOWN (A&M, 1993), TOOL's ÆNIMA (ZOO, 1996), RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE's RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (EPIC, 1992) and ALICE IN CHAINS' DIRT (COLUMBIA, 1992) are in the same ballpark in my opinion. culturally IN UTERO and NIRVANA in general represent the last impactful movement in ROCK AND ROLL.
its been 30 years and we're still waiting for someone to match it. still. waiting.
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.
basically everything related to THE SMITHS i was was predisposed and probably indoctrinated to appreciate from my father. he's definitely to blame for my love of all things MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR in all their permutations. i can place myself in our beat-up burgundy early 80s HONDA ACCORD shuffling along IMPERIAL HIGHWAY with him listening to tapes of BONA DRAG (HMV, 1990) or STRANGEWAYS HERE WE COME (ROUGH TRADE, 1987) on the stereo as he drove to work in LA HABRA on a typical sunny SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA afternoon.
i distinctly remember when he received the early ELECTRONIC singles "GETTING AWAY WITH IT" and "GET THE MESSAGE" and how i'd stay in his office reading CALVIN AND HOBBES listening to them on repeat. i had no idea who BERNARD SUMNER or NEIL TENNANT was or even NEW ORDER or PET SHOP BOYS for that matter. but this was my introduction to ELECTRONIC MUSIC in general. ELECTRONIC (FACTORY, 1991) by ELECTRONIC was the basis for all other further explorations into SYNTH POP and INDUSTRIAL MUSIC in my teens. basically everything from DEPECHE MODE to KMFDM and THROBBING GRISTLE started with those first few ELECTRONIC singles for me.
i dont believe the single "DISAPPOINTED" was initially on this album, but i think it was released as a single around that time. for me those three singles ("GETTING AWAY WITH IT," "GET THE MESSAGE," and "DISAPPOINTED") are permanently etched in my experience of early childhood.
a few years ago i saw JOHNNY MARR playing a solo set at IRVING PLAZA in NYC with my father and brother and he played "GETTING AWAY WITH IT" which was beyond cool. i know i come across as a fanboy (because i am), but the versatility of his musicianship in various contexts is pretty mind-blowing. it is probably why myself and many others are always interested in what collaborations or musical avenues he is venturing down next.
if you are not familiar with this record, in my opinion it is definitely the ELECTRONIC record to find.
i know that SUBLIME get a bad rap due to the fact that their fans are by and large assholes. and by that i mean oafish frat boy meatheads and their adjacent WHITE PRIVILEGE and warped sense of ENTITLEMENT that use the band as an entry point into REGGAE without having to understand thorny issues like JAMAICAN / AFROCENTRIC politics, history and culture. in essence SUBLIME get tagged for WHITE-WASHING REGGAE and DUB in a similar fashion to how ORANGE COUNTY third-wave SKA did for that genre.
i get that. i really do. the number of times ive been to a beach somewhere stateside or even in SOUTH AMERICA, SOUTHEAST ASIA or the MEDITERRANEAN where AMERICANS are vacationing and inevitably listening to "BADFISH" off of their 40oz. to Freedom (SKUNK, 1992) is to many to count. its cringeworthy.
however, that being said i dont question the intent or integrity of the late songwriter BRAD NOWELL when he released his string of records in the mid 1990s. in a sense he was able to bridge the gap between SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK and ROOTS REGGAE, which he got into after a childhood trip to JAMAICA with his family. SUBLIME was one of several bands (311, RANCID, etc.) playing with this sort of hybrid but in my estimation they had more of an edge. they re-contextualized it for the work-class white inhabitants of the SOUTH BAY in greater LOS ANGELES.
their eponymous, and final, record SUBLIME (MCA, 1996) was the high-water mark of the band and their sound. even now it sounds unique and hasnt really been co-opted and aped as was the case with other influential bands of the era, namely NIRVANA (which begot bands like PUDDLE OF MUDD, SEETHER) ALICE IN CHAINS (NICKLEBACK, GODSMACK) or RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (NU-METAL in general). songs like "SANTERIA," "WHAT I GOT," "WRONG WAY" and "DOIN' TIME" were all well-constructed hits on ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio at the time, but for me this record is really about the skanked-out bliss of songs like "PAWN SHOP," "APRIL 29, 1992 (MIAMI)," "SAME IN THE END," "BURRITOS" and especially "GARDEN GROVE." for me those songs successfully crossed PUNK ROCK with REGGAE in a cohesive, seemingly organic manner while lyrically providing commentary on issues of ECONOMIC INSECURITY, SUBURBAN BOREDOM and RACIAL INEQUALITY.
just kind of sucks that the band is associated with FRATERNITY culture. i think NOWELL deserved better.
DOUBLE FANTASY (GEFFEN, 1980) by JOHN LENNON and YOKO ONO is probably the most depressing album ever made. and that is not to say the songs are bleak or somber in tone, in fact it is the opposite. songs such as "BEAUTIFUL BOY," "WATCHING THE WHEELS" and "(JUST LIKE) STARTING OVER" find LENNON in a state of DOMESTIC BLISS, after surviving his years-long lost weekend away from ONO, and unbridled optimism about his new son SEAN. this record is so PAINFUL and HEATBREAKING to listen to because of its BUOYANT outlook and CHEERFUL, UPBEAT tone.
this is one of those records that is nearly impossible to listen to and divorce it from the fact that LENNON was senselessly murdered by a fan shortly after its release. similar albums in this regard that come to mind are JOY DIVISION's CLOSER (FACTORY, 1980) and NIRVANA's NEVERMIND (DGC, 1991). but those two are not comforting records celebrating FATHERHOOD and the benefits of COMPANIONSHIP. knowing about LENNON's own biography and the role his mother JULIA played into his fear of ABANDONMENT (she deserted him as a child), the very idea of him finding a sense of IDENTITY and SALVATION through LOVE at the moment his life was snuffed out from under him is too much to bear. even now more than 40 years later. at the risk of sounding entitled i'll say emphatically that we were all robbed.
i literally cannot listen to this record without getting emotional. LENNON most definitely had one of the most affective singing voices ever which is severely underrated during and after his time. the former BEATLE had a unique instrument in that regard that allowed him to come off EARNEST and TUNEFUL without coming off as overly CONTRIVED or PROFESSIONAL. it worked in his favor throughout his career and gave his material the illusion of being effortless and of the people. it gave his songs an EVERYMAN quality. to this day when i hear PUNK ROCK, i hear LENNON.
since childhood every time i hear this album it makes me think of my father, much like hearing "BABY LOVE" by THE SUPREMES reminds me of my mother. its just such an astounding affecting achievement and too tragic for words. a seminal recording by an iconic generational talent that should be heard and appreciated by everyone.
i know its hard to believe now, but there was a period - however brief - that THE OFFSPRING did not suck.
1994 was a big year in music for a lot of reasons, but i distinctly remember what it was like to be in elementary school in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA when SMASH (EPITAPH, 1994) went big that year. at the time i was big into BASKETBALL and played lots of tournaments of with a traveling team, i even knew the coaches at the three high schools in my area (ORANGE COUNTY) as i was a known entity at that time. so i remember going to basketball tournaments all over the state when songs like "COME OUT AND PLAY" and "SELF ESTEEM" got played during warmups. at the time i knew THE OFFSPRING were a local band (BUENA PARK) and i knew the record was massive. i didnt have MTV as none of my friends had cable, but i did listen to 106.7FM KROQ out of LOS ANGELES. at the time i became conscious of music, the SEATTLE ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene was massive and ubiquitous so it was cool to know that a local band was on that level. this was a time that was before the national emergence of SUBLIME (LONG BEACH) and NO DOUBT (ANAHEIM) but concurrent with that of GREEN DAY (EAST BAY).
looking back now, SMASH and its predecessor IGNITION (EPITAPH, 1994) were both albums that were made by musicians that obviously had a love for LOS ANGELES HARDCORE bands like THE GERMS (HOLLYWOOD) and BLACK FLAG (HERMOSA BEACH) yet were noticeable influenced by the melodicism of other local acts like THE ADOLESCENTS (FULLERTON), AGENT ORANGE (PLACENTIA) and THE DESCENDENTS (MANHATTAN BEACH). to my ears this record is a marriage of those two approaches and a fairly successful one at that. for some odd reason which i cannot explain, after this record the band decided to go a more "WEIRD AL" YANKOVIC route and make novelty songs that double as lame social commentary. for me and a lot of other earlier admirers this really killed their appeal. i am almost certain that there are some reading this that share this antipathy for the band in general.
but there was a moment that THE OFFSPRING didnt suck. and this album was it. what caught me off guard was when i moved to NIGERIA in 1996 and met fellow classmates from places like ISRAEL, NORWAY, KENYA, LEBANON, ENGLAND and GHANA who knew about the band and were fans of the scene they came from. i realized then the true scope of this record. all future releases by seminal bands from my former hometown would be experienced as an outsider as i never moved back. i dont feel nostalgic about my time in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (i was happy to leave), but hearing this record, especially lesser known cuts like "GOTTA GET AWAY" and "NOT THE ONE" take me right back to being a pre-adolescent in ORANGE COUNTY.
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.
i have early memories of U2's ACHTUNG BABY (ISLAND, 1991). specifically seeing the evocatively colorful and downright sensuous STEPHANE SEDNAOUI-directed "MYSTERIOUS WAYS" video on small tv in the guest room of my family's house in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. i must have been 7 years old.
there was a definite energy happening with that record. to date its easily my favorite U2 record with standout tracks like "EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING," "LOVE IS BLINDNESS," "ZOO STATION," "ACROBAT," "UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD," and the aforementioned "MYSTERIOUS WAYS." even today, this record still moves me. also, how do you not love a record whose titled references a scene from the cult comedy THE PRODUCERS (EMBASSY, 1967). forget and put aside any ill will you may harbor towards BONO and his pretentious JESUS complex for a moment, realize the dude named a record after reference to a MEL BROOKS film. that is the very definition of awesome.
any fan of the group will know that this record marked an important transition for the band where they in essence gutted and discarded the sound they had mined on previous releases throughout the 1980s. essentially guitarist THE EDGE was known for a jangly, delayed sound that made previous albums like WAR (ISLAND, 1983) and THE JOSHUA TREE (ISLAND, 1987) such seminal recordings. that ended with this record. sonically he explored digital / inorganic soundscapes with the help of returning producers DANIEL LANOIS, STEVE LILLYWHITE and BRIAN ENO that made use of everything from phasers and wah pedals to god knows what else behind the scenes. the results were startling and expansive, yet still sounded like THE EDGE through his unique melodic sensibilities that shone through new layered textures.
besides the sonic experimentalism at the core of the record, the lyrics and persona of BONO went through a huge transformation. in essence he discovered irony. yes there are earnest tracks that call back earlier materials such as "ONE" and "WHO'S GONNA RIDE YOUR WILD HORSES," but those are an exception to other more forward-looking tracks like "EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING" which seem to thrive on playing with the concept of authenticity in a world dominated by MASS MEDIA , specifically the newly emerging power of CABLE TELEVISION. its a heady concept that makes me think of other conceptual art pieces by the likes of DAVID BYRNE and TALKING HEADS. another song i really adore is "UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD" which on first glance seems to be a classic love song where the protagonist is self-loathing and conscious of being unworthy of reciprocated love, but what you realize is that the subject of the story is in fact JUDAS ISCARIOT and his betrayal of CHRIST in the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE. i know BONO is CATHOLIC and all, but this interplay of romantic and spiritual love through betrayal is very clever. maybe even literary. at the very least it is not standard rock fare by any means.
my favorite songs on the record are "LOVE IS BLINDNESS" and "ACROBAT" which i believe were entirely written by THE EDGE about his then divorce. those two tracks are so completely and utterly raw and nakedly vulnerable. really quite the achievement. it seems en vogue to hate U2, but i always go back to those two songs which i would put up against anything by any artist during any period in ROCK N ROLL history. i do believe they are that great.
i should also mention that during my elementary school days participating in local SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA sports events, one of the songs in the car on constant rotation was "ZOO STATION." for me that song is divorced from its BERLIN metro station origins (which i did get to visit!) and to me represents summer track meets and soccer tournaments as a youth. so i have deep sentimental attachments to this record. just want to put that out there.
so much more i could go into in terms of production (recorded at the legendary HANSA STUDIO) and history (recorded near the recently opened BERLIN WALL), but suffice to say this is a great album by a great band at an important inflection point during their career when they really outdid themselves. arguably that hasnt happened since, but man what a great album. definitely worth looking into and investigating further. higly recommended.
it is hard to downplay the cultural and historical importance of the massively influential debut BLACK SABBATH album BLACK SABBATH (WARNER BROS, 1970). it basically created METAL as a genre. in fact, BLACK SABBATH is such an important band that there are whole current sub-genres that trace their origins back to specific songs from various albums.
of course this is all in hindsight, at the time of its release this record was not a critical favorite and the band were never considered to be at the vanguard of ROCK N ROLL or anything particularly unique or special. that fascinates me. this is the type of stuff i find intriguing about art in general, how each generation rediscovers and cherry picks from the past. how the inscrutable 16th century DUTCH painter HEIRONYMOUS BOSCH was a favorite of the SURREALISTS some 400 years later. how KRAFTWERK and KRAUTROCK in general influenced early HIP HOP acts like AFRIKA BAMBAATAA. why is BLACK SABBATH arguably as celebrated as LED ZEPPELIN with modern METAL musicians? its beyond interesting.
putting that aside, what always struck me about their debut was how much a JAZZ element there was to it. if you listen to the interplay of the drums and bass on songs like "N.I.B." and "THE WIZARD" there is a definite swing element at play. in fact, it really grooves. i think that aspect of their sound is criminally overlooked. on subsequent releases they streamlined this sound which eventually became further developed with subsequent bands like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, METALLICA, SLAYER into various beloved subgenres ranging from the extreme in GRINDCORE, BLACK METAL and DEATH METAL to the streamlined in THRASH METAL and the experimental in SLUDGE METAL, POST METAL and even DOOM METAL.
obviously the most celebrated track is the opener "BLACK SABBATH" with its iconic tritone riff and creepy atmospherics. when i envision it the adjective cinematic comes to mind. it just sets a mood long before singer OZZY OSBOURNE enters in. obviously OZZY is one of the great frontman in ROCK N ROLL history, but id argue not from his voice which is evocative but rather limited. i dont think he'd disagree with me on that. where his gift lies is in his commitment to the material and his presence as a relatable avatar for the every-man. i find OZZY immensely more relatable than contemporaries of the 1970s like ROBERT PLANT, ROGER DALTREY or even members of the then-recently disbanded BEATLES. no disrespect to any of them but they cover an altitude beyond us mere mortals. to my ears, OZZY comes off as something attainable. i think this is why he is beloved by every ROCK N ROLL iteration since, including PUNK ROCK and all its incarnations like 1980s HARDCORE and 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK. i also think lyrically OZZY is never given enough credit for the intelligence of his lyrics. in my mind the song "BLACK SABBATH" can be a substitute for your pick of any existential crisis, global or personal.
i should also mention that the riffs of guitarist TONY IOMMI are legendary and the aforementioned TRITONE PATTERNS (specifically diminished 5ths) as well as detuned guitars (to accommodate his recently disfigured right fretting hand) and ample distortion is in effect the very template for the sound of METAL for the past 50 years. its hard to downplay his impact on this and subsequent records. his riffs alone are copied by modern guitarist to this day. IOMMI basically is METAL.
i was lucky in that as a teenager i got to see a reunited BLACK SABBATH at OZZFEST numerous times and hearing specific tracks like "BLACK SABBATH" and "N.I.B." in a love context always sounded haunting and absolutely massive. even in their waning years they were a force to reckon with even after supporting acts like SLAYER, PANTERA, SYSTEM OF A DOWN, JUDAS PRIEST, SLIPKNOT or ROB ZOMBIE. never did they disappoint.
again, its hard to downplay the importance of this record. as i stated before, it is also one of those records that gets rediscovered year after year by young musicians, much like THE STOOGES or THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, and continues to influence and shape modern culture. seminal record by a seminal band. definitely worth your time to investigate.