major label debut's dont come much cooler and more fun than WHITE ZOMBIE's LA SEXORCISTO: DEVIL MUSIC VOL. 1 (GEFFEN, 1992) with all of its gloriously and unapologetically SATANIC, PHANTASMAGORICAL IMAGERY via frontman ROB ZOMBIE and the absolutely crushing musicianship via newly recruited guitarist JAY YEUNGER. well, technically this was WHITE ZOMBIE's third record for GEFFEN, as the previous two were released via subsidiary label CAROLINE RECORDS, but in terms of overall cultural impact and popular awareness of the band, this record really is the introductory salvo in a legendary one-two punch that was closed by the celebrated follow-up ASTRO-CREEP 2000 (GEFFEN, 1995).
it was probably either through listening to 106.7 KROQ in LOS ANGELES or watching BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD on MTV at a friend's house that i first became aware of WHITE ZOMBIE via the INFECTIOUS track "THUNDER KISS '65" with its absolutely KILLER opening riff. that song and its day-glo, EXPLOITATION FILM-themed video was instantly MEMORABLE and effortlessly cool. like NIRVANA's "SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT" before it, the track just hooks you in for life immediately upon your first listen. just a DEVASTATING sonic experience with a highly referential yet OPAQUE set of lyrics that dont get in the way. other standout tracks like "WELCOM TO PLANET MOTHERFUCKER" and the IGGY POP-assisted, muscle car themed "BLACK SUNSHINE" are celebrations of EXTREME experiences, which basically summarize the band's aesthetic in general. ROB ZOMBIE once said in an early interview that his objective in making music was to create something that he himself would be willing to pay for as a fan and that ethos seems all over this record. there is a sense on LA SEXORCISTO that MORE IN FACT IS MORE. MORE ART, MORE GUITARS, MORE DRUMS, MORE SATAN. it all just adds up to a DENSE, EXTREME experience that is almost overwhelming on the initial listen. two decades later i still find myself listening to this record routinely and i have to be careful, because if i am driving i may fine myself 10-15 miles per hour faster by song's end.
if you are a fan of artistic METAL or ALTERNATIVE ROCK from the 1990s, you really cant go wrong with either WHITE ZOMBIE's LA SEXORCISTO or ASTRO-CREEP: 2000 (review linked HERE). along with PANTERA, those records serve as the high water-mark for what has since been deemed GROOVE METAL. could not recommend either much more emphatically. this is required listening in my opinion.
i distinctly remember purchasing TINY MUSIC... SONGS FROM THE VATICAN GIFT SHOP (ATLANTIC, 1996) by the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS at the FNAC in PARIS on a family trip the same year we moved to NIGERIA. talk about a whirlwind year that was. at the time i was very familiar with their previous two releases CORE (review linked HERE) and PURPLE (review linked HERE) and i recall being surprised by the change in direction of this then-new release. in fact, i originally thought there must be a mistake but then i checked the liner notes (this being pre-internet) and was confirmed otherwise.
i think part of the reason for this reaction was the dearth of heavy distorted guitars throughout, in fact, this record is very much in keeping with the aesthetics of early GARAGE ROCK, POWER POP and even hints of late 60s PSYCHEDELIA. this record came from a completely different place than the first two records, which was probably a good thing. it seemed that with every release the band got WEIRDER, ARTIER and more CREATIVE. sadly that trend ended here as the delayed follow-up was more of a calculated return to their previous more aggressive sound. for this reason i look back fondly at TINY MUSIC as my favorite STONE TEMPLE PILOTS release. standout tracks include foot stompers like "BIG BANG BABY," "ART SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND," "POP'S LOVE SUICIDE," "SEVEN CAGED TIGERS" and"TRIPPIN' ON A HOLE IN A PAPER HEART" as well as more subdued affairs like "SO I KNOW" and "LADY PICTURE SHOW." to my ears this record sounded a world's away from their ALTERNATIVE ROCK peer group and made such comparison's seem insipid and lazy in retrospect.
it was during this period that frontman SCOTT WEILAND began flexing his creative muscle with regards to songwriting despite bouts with the law related to his burgeoning and soon to be full-blown heroin addiction. this affliction began years earlier in 1993 during the BAR-B-Q MITZVAH TOUR in support of the BUTTHOLE SURFERS, but according to his biography things started to spiral during the recording of TINY MUSIC. previous to its recording, WEILAND had gained confidence with his side project THE MAGNIFICENT BASTARD's celebrated addition to the TANK GIRL (UNITED ARTISTS, 1995) soundtrack in "MOCKINGBIRD GIRL." that carefree, soulful ROCK N ROLL swagger definitely found its way into the new material as well as his subsequent underrated solo album 12 BAR BLUES (ATLANTIC, 1998).
as stated before, this is my favorite era of the STONE TEMPLE PILOTS' career and i consider TINY MUSIC one of the most UNDER-APPRECIATED albums of the 1990s. i consider it required listening for anyone interested in ALTERNATIVE ROCK. highly recommended.
there is an unbridled joy and childlike amorality in the simple melodies and often nonsensical lyrics of MARC BOLAN throughout the T. REX classic ELECTRIC WARRIOR (REPRISE, 1971). during a period of listless and ever-indulgent PROG ROCK and its attendant unfocused masturbatory virtuosity, T. REX and the GLAM ROCK movement it inspired was a back-to-basics affair that very much put the onus on the groove and the sentiment being conveyed. in this sense the music was both transgressive and revolutionary in its paired-back aesthetic, laying the cultural and sonic foundation for the PUNK ROCK that followed later in the decade.
standout tracks include "JEEPSTER," "COSMIC DANCER" "LIFE'S A GAS," "MAMBO SUN," and of course the classic "BANG A GONG (GET IT ON)." much like the impressionistically evocative and phantasmagorical childlike lyrics of SYD BARRETT from a few years prior, most T. REX songs are less about the literal meaning of said lyrics and more about the complex feelings they transmit in tandem with the music. it is that alchemical interplay between the music and lyrics of BOLAN that make his T. REX output so compelling and influential decades after his untimely passing in 1977. that sensibility of possibility very much harkens back to the rudimentary beginnings of early BRITISH INVASION and even earlier to the birth of ROCK AND ROLL with legends like CHUCK BERRY, LITTLE RICHARD and even JERRY LEE LEWIS. when i listen to T. REX i am very much reminded of that progression and that creative lineage.
ELECTRIC WARRIOR is an absolute classic of a recording that is seemingly universally celebrated by generations of musicians since, including INDIE ROCK, POST PUNK, SHOEGAZE, TRIP HOP, NEW WAVE, ALTERNATIVE ROCK and PUNK ROCK devotees including the likes of JOY DIVISION, THE RAMONES, TRICKY, THE SMITHS, R.E.M., BAUHAUS, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and THE NEW YORK DOLLS among countless others. its the type of seminal record, much like REVOLVER (PARLOPHONE, 1966), AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE (TRACK, 1967), LED ZEPPELIN IV (ANTLANTIC, 1971) or NEVER MIND THE BULLOCKS (WARNER BROS, 1977), that i consistently hear traces of in modern music. most definitely required listening. definitely worth checking out.
i know people get all hyperbolic when talking about BRITISH ALTERNATIVE ROCK band RADIOHEAD and especially their seminal record OK COMPUTER (), but for me discovering this band was a highly EMOTIONAL and TRANSFORMATIVE affair. in my way this record expanded what i thought a rock band could get away with sonically and conceptually so i think of it more in the vein of KING CRIMSON or PINK FLOYD rather than influences like R.E.M., THE CURE or THE SMITHS or even peer bands like OASIS, NIRVANA or THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. RADIOHEAD are very much their own animal.
its kinda crazy to think back on now, but i bought OK COMPUTER on a school trip in SWITZERLAND back in middle school. the french department at the international school i attended in NIGERIA had an annual trip to FRANCE and SWITZERLAND as an extended part of the curriculum. i believe i bought at a FNAC in GENEVA as i have clear memories of listening to this record on a bus when we arrived in nearby LEYSIN as part of the trip. past students from NIGERIA attended the LEYSIN AMERICAN SCHOOL which was small but had jaw-dropping views of the SWISS ALPS as well as access to sports facilities that were built as part of a failed attempt at pursuing the 1994 OLYMPIC GAMES that eventually were awarded to LILLEHAMMER in NORWAY. so that is the backdrop.
i can recall listening to the sweeping soundscapes of "SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK BLUES," "PARANOID ANDROID," "ELECTIONEERING," "NO SURPRISES," and "AIRBAG" while gently falling asleep to unobstructed views of the SWISS ALPS while careening through mountain roads on a bus headed north to ZURICH. i have an intense sense memory of just being overwhelmed by the visual and aural beauty of it all. and its not just those celebrated lush, sweeping guitar tones that drew me in, even the down-tempo, mellow tracks like "LET DOWN," "KARMA POLICE," "EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)," and "LUCKY" are all deeply affecting in no short order due to the incredible vocal talents of frontman THOM YORKE whose voice belied a palpably INTIMATE sense of all-encompassing unadulterated PAIN, RESENTMENT and UNDERSTANDING all at the same time.
thematically the record is committed to understanding the extent to which the modern individual is deluged with information and ultimately DEHUMANIZED through industrial processes of AUTOMATION and COMPUTER INTEGRATION to more and more of our daily lived experience. to me this record is sonically and lyrically concerned with that uneasy yet inevitable integration. its beyond ahead of its time in that regard as the internet was still relatively in its infancy back in the late 1990s. more than 20 years later it feels like a clarion call about the potential political, cultural and interpersonal DISRUPTION that awaited us all in this new digital global order. its fascinating.
if you are unfamiliar with OK COMPUTER, definitely stop reading this and go listen to it now. it is that rare celebrated record that lives up to the hype and even surpasses it. required listening in my opinion.
as with all things LOU REED, the late career return to form with release of NEW YORK (SIRE, 1989) is as COMPLEX as it is INSCRUTABLE. the man was famously INCONSISTENT with his creative output, at once drawing his audience in with singularly POIGNANT insights and diatribes about the complications of MODERN LIFE, only to push them away with subsequent throwaway releases that seemed concocted to either cash in on or refute his previous success. such a dip and dive can be seen in the wake of all his classic releases, from TRANSFORMER (review linked HERE) and CONEY ISLAND BABY to THE BELLS, THE BLUE MASK and NEW SENSATIONS. all were followed up with INCOHERENT, less successful releases that seemed designed to ALIENATE and winnow down his audience (i.e. METAL MACHINE MUSIC).
such was his career.
NEW YORK is a late career revisit to the beloved UNDERGROUND community that he celebrated during his early to mid 1970s heyday. this nostalgic world included his friends that were STREET HUSTLERS, TRANSVESTITES and HOMOSEXUALS who in the intervening years had largely passed on due to the HIV/AIDS crisis. this HARROWING sense of loss and regret can be best seen in the highlight track "HALLOWEEN PARADE" which recounts those left behind during a PRIDE PARADE. in my mind, this track in particular with its direct insights that cut through bone over a MINIMALIST backing track is what REED does best. no bullshit, just a straight sniper shot to the heart. the singles "ROMEO HAD JULIET," "DIRTY BLVD" and "BUSLOAD OF FAITH" all follow a similar tableau of STREET LIFE characters doing what they can to survive in the urban jungle of NEW YORK CITY. but it is that sense of lost opportunity and the transformation of a community that feels like the core thread of this record. ironically at the time REED was living happily with his first wife in rural NEW JERSEY, so the physical and psychic distance between him and this UNDERGROUND world from a decade past is an interest dynamic. the theme was further explored on his follow-up MAGIC & LOSS, which contrary to form was another stellar effort.
there are times where i feel like everything in ROCK AND ROLL has been stated or examined and that everything is just a rehash, a copy of a copy. and then i go back and listen to REED records like NEW YORK and i am confounded by how REVOLUTIONARY his music was, much like the output of peers in LEONARD COHEN, NEIL YOUNG and JOHN FOGERTY, with just his voice and a guitar. it makes me think that what is missing in today's ROCK AND ROLL is not a dearth of sonic exploration, but rather a lack of vicious self-reflection. SOCRATES is said to have stated that an "unexamined life is not worth living." well REED lived a thoroughly examined life and we are all the beneficiaries of such DARK, self-directed entreats.
NEW YORK is most definitely worth checking out. required listening in my opinion.
the BAD BRAINS phenomena, like all of the 80s HARDCORE PUNK scene, was one generation before me. i never saw them live. but i often feel like all of the INDIE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK music i grew up on in the 1990s is very much the ripple effect of this band and specifically the power of their seminal self-titled debut BAD BRAINS (ROIR, 1982) record. bands ranging from FAITH NO MORE, JANE'S ADDICTION, FUGAZI, SOUNDGARDEN and DEFTONES to LIVING COLOUR, BEASTIE BOYS, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and NIRVANA. their sound is marked by an incredible unspoken CHEMISTRY and sense of MUSICALITY that can be described as a hybrid between a subtle and deft use of EXTREME DYNAMICS (almost JAZZ-like) coupled with an unparalleled FEROCITY and BRUTALITY that was entirely jolting and UNPREDICTABLE on first listen.
and to me it is that unbridled ENERGY that marks this legendary band.
you watch old live clips and you realize this band was completely out for blood. their performances were just pure UNPREDICTABLE, KINETIC mayhem that seemed to be the result of a preternatural level of COMMITMENT and TECHNICAL ABILITY. POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE indeed. watching such comes across like the unadulterated real thing. like "this" is what ROCK N ROLL should be. end stop. and it makes perfect sense that their live show was so POTENT and COMBUSTIVE that it became too much for clubs in WASHINGTON D.C. to handle, making way for their move to NEW YORK CITY where THE YELLOW TAPE was haphazardly recorded on a reel-to-reel tape at a live gig in ALPHABET CITY.
this record, like much of the HARDCORE releases in general, was less about sound quality and production as it was about ENERGY. when guitarist DR. KNOW kicks in on the opener "SAILIN ON" you very much know its on. same can be said for H.R. and his uncanny VOCAL PYROTECHNICS on celebrated tracks like "BIG TAKE OVER," "PAY TO CUM" and "BANNED IN D.C." its just powerful. its the type of record you listen to from front to back and wonder where you where for the last half hour.
i revisit this BAD BRAINS record often, no doubt in part due to the fact that every subsequent band i love points right back to this specific record by this unique band as a defining experience and a primal scene in their formation as a musician. THE YELLOW TAPE is required listening for anyone interested in NYHC, PUNK ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK, INDIE ROCK, HARDCORE PUNK or related genres like METALCORE and POST HARDCORE. this is a widely influential record that is most definitely worth check it out.
there were a lot of POP PUNK pretenders back in the late 1990s and early 2000s chasing and emulating the likes of GREEN DAY and BLINK-182, but i think one of the standout (and contender) bands from that scene was the highly INFECTIOUS and strikingly LITERATE work of LOS ANGELES band EVE 6, especially their sophomore release HORRORSCOPE (RCA, 2000).
when i first heard this record sophomore year in high school i remember being taken aback by how dense and descriptive singer/bassist/songwriter MAX COLLINS was about the trials and tribulations of teenage life. that sentiment really spoke to me in songs like "PROMISE," "ENEMY," and "RESCUE" which all seemed to describe the psychodramas happening around me at an elite boarding school in MASSACHUSETTS surrounded by entitled peers with too much money and far too much privilege. looking back that experience was highly alienating and really set the tone for later career as an educator.
so in some ways this album, like the first THIRD EYE BLIND (review linked HERE) record was a soundtrack to this isolating period of my life. whereas STEPHEN JENKINS, another talented songwriter, really played up lush textures on that ERIC VALENTINE (SMASH MOUTH, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECTS) produced effort to convey a sense of world-weariness that matched the lyrical content, here COLLINS and guitarist JON SIEBELS play to traditional POP PUNK conventions in their DON GILMORE (LINKIN PARK, GOOD CHARLOTTE, LIT) produced record in order to create a real sense of DISTANCE and FRICTION between the joyous sentiment conveyed sonically and that of the WORLD-WEARY lyrics. i really love it when bands are unafraid to write that way as it may confuse their audiences, but what it actually shows is a SOPHISTICATION and CONFIDENCE to express a sense of AMBIVALENCE and DISCOMFORT with past events. case in point is the standout ballad "HERE'S TO THE NIGHT" which really nails a hard won sense of BITTERSWEETNESS that comes with the transitory nature of being young. i remember feeling at the time like being young was my time to enjoy life before adulthood caught up with me. like there was a pressure to act and be a certain way. i was pretty miserable.
looking back i think that HORRORSCOPE is an underrated achievement that got lost in the shuffle of all the POP PUNK bands that came out during that period. their intelligence and song-craft separated them in my opinion and i highly recommend them to anyone interested in POP PUNK as well as quality ALTERNATIVE ROCK from that period.
PRETTY ON THE INSIDE (CAROLINE, 1991) by HOLE is such a BRUTAL record.
even when taking into account the intense PATHOS and TRAGEDY of front-woman/songwriter COURTNEY LOVE's later life and career trajectory, this record still stands out as an all out sonic and verbal assault on all things latently or nakedly PATRONIZING and ANTI-FEMININE. it really is quite the achievement and the palette cleanser of EXTREMITY that laid the groundwork for LOVE's public persona and unique voice in the formative ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the early 1990s. even before HOLE, LOVE had a lifetime of interesting experiences including traveling abroad and play a part in early incarnations of FAITH NO MORE and BABES IN TOYLAND, as well as acting in two ALEX COX films (SID & NANCY and STRAIGHT TO HELL). LOVE even at this stage was knowledgable and confident enough to make a record that made gore-obsessed METAL bands seem tame and cartoonish in comparison.
PRETTY ON THE INSIDE dealt with themes related to VIOLENCE, RAPE and OBJECTIFICATION that seemed designed to stare squarely back at the MALE GAZE and demand submission. standout tracks include "BABY DOLL," "GARBAGE MAN," "PRETTY ON THE INSIDE" and the blisteringly intense "TEENAGE WHORE." when i look back and consider the many industry heavyweights that have attempted to bury LOVE and drag her reputation through the mud (i'm looking squarely at you TRENT REZNOR, LYNN HIRSCHBERG, HARVEY WEINSTEIN, KORN, MARILYN MANSON, TED NUGENT and so on) is because of her formidable artistic presence and status as an equal in a world where women are taught to submit and enfeeble themselves. when i think of LOVE i am presented with a complicated artist that is the unapologetic lineage of the likes of PATTI SMITH, CHRISSIE HYNDE and, yes, even KATHLEEN HANNA (with whom she had a bizarre one-way rivalry with for reasons unknown).
the start of that story is PRETTY ON THE INSIDE. although not as polished or cohesive as LIVE THROUGH THIS (DGC, 1994) or even CELEBRITY SKIN (DGC, 1998), this record established HOLE as a creative entity and LOVE as a formidable player in what became the influential ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the 1990s. for those idiots that claim her late husband is responsible for her success, i present you EXHIBIT A for why such a notion is complete bullshit. definitely worth checking out. highly recommended.
ive written before about what a unique film DAVID BYRNE's TRUE STORIES (review linked HERE). in essence its a multi-tiered fictional narrative from the perspective of a NEW YORKER about various idiosyncratic characters from TEXAS. growing up on a compound in NIGERIA surrounded by TEXANS and LOUISIANANS, TRUE STORIES was a godsend in attempting to understand their backwards ways. and i say that with full contempt.
but the music from the film is what drew me in as a child and had me rewatch countless times. as to be expected, in the movie the characters more or less sing all of the songs, with a few exceptions. the release of the TALKING HEADS' album TRUE STORIES (SIRE, 1986), however, is sung entirely by BYRNE. the songs are forever intertwined with the film, and what is striking about the songs is the range of genres and perspectives captured in these songs. from the good ol' boy perennial bachelor and man-about-town played by a young JOHN GOODMAN singing the lap steel-inflected country ballad "PEOPLE LIKE US" about small town values to TITO LARRIVA (of LOS ANGELES PUNK band THE PLUGZ fame) singing a CHICANO-rock ode to the glory, majesty and mystery of transistor radios (and by extension the computer chip industry) in "RADIO HEAD"; the album is a showcase of the width and breadth of TEXAN culture circa the 1980s. other notable examples from the film range from topics such as the conspiratorial brand of EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY taking shape at the time ("PUZZLIN' EVIDENCE" sung by JOHN INGLE & THE BERT CROSS CHOIR) to crass CONSUMERISM both in commercials ("LOVE FOR SALE") and in newly constructed malls ("DREAM OPERATOR").
taken as a whole i always appreciated how the songs themselves showcase a perspective on small-town AMERICAN life that celebrates both the ARTIFICE of mainstream CONSUMER CULTURE and the value of the community that springs for from it. to be AMERICAN in this milieu just means being plugged in to the latest fashion trends, going to church, eating with your family and working at a nearby production plant. its a film that celebrates conformity, specifically the surface-level safety of buying in to the AMERICAN DREAM without worrying about the finer details of history, inequality or racism.
when i watch TRUE STORIES now as an adult it feels like a searing takedown of all those naive and hopelessly quixotic ideals surrounding AMERICAN CONSUMER CULTURE from the inside out. or maybe i am misreading it. i'll never know which is probably why i continue to keep rewatching it and listening to the soundtrack..
as a music fan i find it compelling to consider the extent to which i project my emotions and psychic energy into the art created by total strangers. maybe that is just the reciprocal nation of art in general. in my experience there is an inherent expectation or sense of trust in the artist to not let the listener down by being inauthentic or explicitly market driven. it is my opinion that WEEZER's second album PINKERTON (DGC, 1996) is one of those select few recordings which collapses that notion in on itself, since many ALTERNATIVE ROCK fans probably wish songwriter RIVERS CUOMO would have been a little more guarded with his lyrics at the time. listening to it today still feels a bit cringe-y and most definitely TMI.
considered by many to be a landmark album that was an inspiration for the EMO movement a decade later, PINKERTON is renowned for CUOMO's diatribes about his DISSATISFACTION with life, specifically the SEXUAL ISOLATION of being frontman for a successful band. himself an object of desire, in a strange inversion he projects his own obsessed sexual ideations on young letter-writing female fans in JAPAN in his lyrics. that interpersonal DISCONNECT and overall DISSATISFACTION with the ALIENATING NATURE OF FAME, in which one becomes a caricature of themselves and lose their IDENTITY to a PUBLIC PERSONA, is all over this record and at times CUOMO seems to be losing that battle for control. his honesty regarding his SEXUAL PREDILECTIONS is maybe a vehicle for reestablishing such IDENTITY from a rabid fanbase that feels they know him, but obviously dont. its a very interesting dynamic and a subject that comes up from time to time, mostly in concept records by the likes of prog-rockers like PINK FLOYD or GENESIS. but not INDIE ROCK bands with no artifice or concept shielding them from criticism. PINKERTON is bare and brutally honest in its execution, especially in songs like "ACROSS THE SEA," "PINK TRIANGLE," "TIRED OF SEX," "THE GOOD LIFE" and "EL SCORCHO." the fact that these songs are ultra-catchy (thanks in no small part to the back-up vocals of bassist MATT SHARP - his last with the group), only makes the vinegar with the sugar that much more potent.
i should mention that the title is a reference to the AMERICAN naval officer in the opera MADAME BUTTERFLY. the character of PINKERTON has a JAPANESE wife while stationed on the island and then promptly abandons her when recalled back home. the opera is about her extreme torment and ritual suicide after being shamed by the relationship and her pregnancy. its a very curious allusion for an album dealing with obsession, mainly because the plot of said opera is rather racist and anti-female. is CUOMO idealizing that level of loyalty from his fans or objects of affection? who is PINKERTON and who is MADAME BUTTERFLY in this scenario?
having lived in JAPAN, i will say that CUOMO was correct in his observation about half-JAPANESE girls being gorgeous. i only bring that up since there is a major cultural taboo about NATIONAL IDENTITY only being recognized in those who parents are both JAPANESE. those that are half something else are often culturally looked down upon and even harassed. its one aspect of their CULTURE i never understood since objectively women that were half JAPANESE and half KENYAN or TURKISH or FRENCH or CHILEAN where absolutely stunning. but such is their CULTURE that anything deviating from the norm is discarded and effectively shunned. case in point was a MISS JAPAN a few years back that was half BLACK, who was brutally harassed online.
i dont know if id recommend PINKERTON to the uninitiated. its a very idiosyncratic record that followed-up a universally praised modern ALTERNATIVE ROCK classic. it makes perfect sense that this record marked an end to his oversharing on record and marked the end of the beginning of their career that brought on a years-long sabbatical in which he re-enrolled in college and rediscovered himself. i support the dude and his efforts, but this record marks the end of WEEZER's time as a cutting-edge band. subsequent efforts seemed to be highly derivative of the sonic template of the first two records.
i remember being back in NEW JERSEY for winter break after my first semester in boarding school up in WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS and first hearing the propulsive and infectious "NEW SKIN" single off of INCUBUS' wildly inventive S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (EPIC, 1997) album on the local NYC ALTERNATIVE ROCK station 92.3FM KROCK. being in boarding school was kind of like being on a religious retreat, i was intently focused on my studies and pretty much unaware of anything outside the confines of the campus. it was an intense period.
INCUBUS was signed to the IMMORTAL imprint at EPIC RECORDS that seemingly specialized in the burgeoning ALTERNATIVE ROCK / NU-METAL scene of the period. other signees included KORN, SNOT, THE URGE and later THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS. its funny now to think that such a multi-faceted group as INCUBUS was lumped together with label-mates KORN, but back in the late 1990s such was the case.
to my ears INCUBUS was sonically adventurous from the get-go. guitarist MIKE EINZIGER seemingly never met a PHASER or PITCH-SHIFTING pedal that he never liked as the band seemed to revel in conked-out interstellar soundscapes and bouncing, melodic textures, which coupled with the FUNK METAL of the incredibly tight rhythm section of ALEX KATUNICH and JOSE PASILLAS made for quite the formidable sonic experience. and then there is BRANDON BOYD, the lead singer. lyrically and conceptually the dude was obsessed with everything from BUDDHISM and EASTERN PHILOSOPHY to SCIENCE FICTION and the philosophical ramifications of living in an infinite universe with a finite set of sensory tools to facilitate any meaning from them. in a sense, id argue that BOYD's outer-body lyricism and potent stage presence actually grounded the band.
more so on S.C.I.E.N.C.E. then all later releases, this album found the band coming to terms with their own intense musical and interpersonal connection as a unit and found them really pushing their boundaries, especially on tracks such as "A CERTAIN SHADE OF GREEN," "VITAMIN," "CALGONE," "REDEFINE" and especially "SUMMER ROMANCE (ANTI-GRAVITY LOVE SONG)." later on their focus was much more attuned to song-craft and cohesive structures that more effectively support a central concept, both sonically and lyrically. but on this record its all out there which is why it is one of my favorite records from this period, right up there with DEFTONES' WHITE PONY (MAVERICK, 2000) and MR. BUNGLE's CALIFORNIA (WARNER BROS, 1999).
S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is a great starting point for anyone interested in investigating the more adventurist and idiosyncratic of 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
there is this seemingly effortless fluid LYRICISM to JOHN COLTRANE's sound up until he shot into space in the late 1960s and explored the outer reaches of his saxophone. i am well aware that his dynamic playing style was a testament to his preternatural abilities of IMPROVISATION, COLLABORATION and ACTIVE LISTENING. to merely state that he was a genius is to cut such efforts short, as was the case with the beat writers, who when confronted with BEBOP hailed such gifted musicians as COLTRANE, DIZZY GILLESPIE and CHARLIE PARKER with praise of being physically gifted which in itself was a tad bit racist. it denied them their own agency in the process.
regardless, COLTRANE's take on popular standards on MY FAVORITE THINGS (ATLANTIC, 1961) such as "SUMMERTIME," "EVERY TIME WE SAY GOODBYE" and the title track do have an a lilting and lifting feeling within the listener. his playing is highly lyrical as if his saxophone is intimately singing to you in hushed somber tones from across the room. its RELAXING and an absolutely INTOXICATING experience. i believe that it is this LULLING effect which allows him to glide through such complicated arpeggiated measures with little aplomb, slight diversions on a smooth journey through our inner consciousness. i personally enjoy it when i hear a musician make artistically merited yet highly technical musical decisions without such getting any special fanfare in terms of the composition. these are not guitar solos that are setup to be admired and obsessed over, COLTRANE's saxophone runs are more part of an overall experience or aesthetic that just washes over and subsumes you. once you notice something its on to the next thing.
like a lot of people, i thoroughly enjoy this period of COLTRANE's discography and highly recommend investigating not only MY FAVORITE THINGS, but also GIANT STEPS (ATLANTIC, 1960) and of course BLUE TRAIN (BLUE NOTE, 1958). not to mention his other collaborations with the likes of MILES DAVIS and MILT JACKSON during this period. you will not regret it.
being introduced to BROOKLYN INDIE ROCK group ACID DAD was one the great pleasures of filming at MARKET HOTEL a few years back. i remember being immediately hooked on their melodically sophisticated psychedelic sound. i sought out their self-titled debut ACID DAD (GREENWAY, 2018) record not long after and was relieved to discover that such matched the power and intensity of the live performance we had just filmed and recorded.
they have a sound that is at once clean and precise yet lush and distinctly PSYCHEDELIC with a healthy dose of reverb on the guitars and vocals. its a very unique sound that is very much about the layered guitar and vocal interplay between co-frontmen VAUGHN HUNT and SEAN FAHEY. standout tracks include "MR. MAJOR," "2Ci," "DIE HARD," "COME OUTSIDE" and "MARINE," but my personal favorite has long been the PRODDING and BROODING "CHILD," which sounds like it belongs in a modern western. sonically it is quite an understated yet impactful achievement and was an intense EMOTIONAL and PSYCHIC experience the first time i heard it. almost has a "BEETLEBUM"-esque (the epic BLUR track) quality to it in that regard.
if you are into thoughtfully constructed INDIE ROCK with a distinct flair for expansive psychedelia (think THE STROKES meets UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA), then definitely check out ACID DAD's debut. most definitely worth the effort.
from my perspective, when considering the transformative HIP HOP albums from a lyrical and production standpoint, the ones that tend to immediately come to mind include:
1) PUBLIC ENEMY's FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET (DEF JAM, 1990) with its strident political firepower matched by THE BOMB SQUAD's unapologetic bombastic production.
2) BEASTIE BOYS' PAUL's BOUTIQUE (CAPITOL, 1989) and it's postmodern pastiche of film soundtracks, found sound and esoteric 70s vinyl courtesy of the DUST BROTHERS that matched the carefree, idiosyncratic, stream-of-consciousness lyrical content of the group.
3) DE LA SOUL's 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING (TOMMY BOY, 1989) and PRINCE PAUL's kinetic, playful bouncy production likewise constructed utilizing countless samples that synchronized perfectly with the group's intellectually curious, almost SURREALIST mindset.
in my opinion 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING is the last of a breed records that came out around that time, not only from PUBLIC ENEMY and the BEASTIE BOYS, but like-minded groups like A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, WU-TANG CLAN and MOBB DEEP. there is a sense with these artists that samples utilized are an extension of a perspective shared by the group itself. it is like an extension almost of their collective ego. these artists also had identifiable producers/production teams that tailored their sonic identity, whether such be J DILLA, THE BOMB SQUAD, THE DUST BROTHERS, RICK RUBIN, MARIO CALDATO JR, Q-TIP, THE RZA or HAVOC. i dont believe that is the case anymore with modern producers instead marketing their signatures sonic compositions for in-house stables of artists or at a premium for outside artists, think TIMBALAND or PHARRELL WILLIAMS. shit evolves. that is now the model more or less.
in PRINCE PAUL compositions off 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING like the iconic "ME MYSELF AND I," "POTHOLES IN MY LAWN," "EYE KNOW," "BUDDY" and "SAY NO GO" there is a kaleidoscopic, playful blending of JAZZ with 1970s R&B/FUNK/CLASSIC ROCK samples that serves as a perfect sound-bed for a group equally concerned with SOCIAL JUSTICE, POST-COLONIAL BLACK IDENTITY and SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS. what i love about this era in HIP HOP and this specific record in particular is how the interplay between the sample and the MC and how they transform and contextualize one another. it is an absolute palimpsest of complex meaning that is only deepened over time. it is a special alchemy that i go back and enjoy all the time.
but it probably wont happen again. due to copyright laws and usage rights, a record like 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING is not evil possible without a mammoth budget due to permissions needed and copyright holders paid. the nearest thing to this record to come out in recent memory was DANGER MOUSE's notorious yet savant level JAY-Z/BEATLES mashup THE GREY ALBUM (SELF-RELEASED, 2004) which likewise entirely skirted copyright regulations. its unfortunate because these artists and producers transformed said content. and it is that contextualization, that transformation, that ALCHEMY which is the basic active ingredient in the magic of HIP HOP.
thats my opinion at least.
much like their contemporaries DINOSAUR JR, PIXIES, THE REPLACEMENTS, R.E.M. and THE SMITHS in the 1980s INDIE ROCK scene, SONIC YOUTH is a seminal band whose expansive sound essentially exploded the sonic palette and listener expectations of what was acceptable and possible within a band context. arguably DAYDREAM NATION (ENIGMA, 1988) is their finest achievement and a proof of concept for their tunefully crafted WHITE NOISE.
to understand their musical point of view, you have to look back at the NO WAVE scene that happened just after the peak of the downtown NYC PUNK ROCK scene that birthed the likes of THE RAMONES, PATTI SMITH, TELEVISION, BLONDIE, DEAD BOYS and TALKING HEADS among many others. the NO WAVE consisted of experimental musicians who took the cue from the PUNK scene and took the sonic avant-garde tendencies much much further (incorporated EXTREME DISSONANCE and angular, jagged sonic JUXTAPOSITIONS with nontraditional song structures) and in many ways pointed the way towards modern-day EXPERIMENTAL music (POST ROCK, AMBIENT, etc). bands from the brief NO WAVE scene include the likes of SUICIDE, TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS, DNA, SWANS, THEORETICAL GIRLS, DINOSAUR L and MARS among others.
essentially SONIC YOUTH took that sonic EXPERIMENTALISM and love of unyielding DISSONANT TEXTURES and placed them almost oxymoronically within a traditional pop context with recognizable song structures. it is a formula that initiates the listener into accepting a new SONIC VOCABULARY while contextualizing such within a framework they can recognize. arguably the best examples of such on DAYDREAM NATION include the two singles "TEENAGE RIOT" and "SILVER ROCKET," both displaying a hazy, YOUTHFUL ENERGY amidst a fog of dueling distorted guitars courtesy of THURSTON MOORE and LEE RANALDO.
vocally bassist KIM GORDON and MOORE present an odd coupling, but it absolutely works. MOORE has a juvenile delivery that sounds both NAIVE and forward-looking as he bellows over an uneasy bed of undulating and interweaving guitar textures whereas GORDON comes off as the epitome of COOL DISAFFECTION. she never sounds as if she is anything but in total control. its an interesting role reversal of cultural constructed NORMATIVE VALUES associated with gender, especially within a rock setting. i am convinced that GORDON is the reason SONIC YOUTH became so influential, because as off-the-rails the sonic experimentation got (especially on earlier records), her voice and AUTHORITATIVE PRESENCE grounded the experience. its a real statement when you consider the blatant CHAUVINISM of the cultural scene during this period (including INDIE ROCK) and it makes it all the more crushing that MOORE outed himself years later as just another selfish creep.
DAYDREAM NATION is required listening. definitely worth checking out especially if you have any interest in INDIE ROCK and ALTERNATIVE ROCK or the preceding PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK and NO WAVE scenes that helped spawn it.
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.
out of their entire catalogue, ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (ELEKTRA, 1988) is unique in that it showcases METALLICA, for better or worse, in a moment of transition. you can definitely see the first three records (KILL EM ALL, RIDE THE LIGHTNING and MASTER OF PUPPETS) as an early version of the band made up of a triumvirate of talented songwriters and composers in that of JAMES HETFIELD, LARS ULRICH and CLIFF BURTON. with BURTON out of the picture due to his tragic untimely passing, essentially the rest of their career has been heralded by HETFIELD and ULRICH, with ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL their first foray.
and it shows.
BURTON arguably was the most versatile musician within METALLICA and the most open to outside influences including CLASSICAL MUSIC. this is pretty much gone and what is left is a epically brutal album filled with complex time signatures that are constantly shifting, lyrics dealing with retribution, pain and suffering, as well as (famously) little to no bass guitar. this is an album that is pretty much all about HETFIELD and ULRICH and thus primarily guitars and drums. it is almost impossible to listen to this record and not think of how BURTON would have made these collections of riffs and song ideas more cohesive and impactful to the listener.
taht is not to say that this record does not have standout tracks. "BLACKENED," "DYER'S EVE," "HARVESTER OF SORROW," "...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL" and of course "ONE" absolutely crush and are fan favorites to this day. me included. in fact i wouldnt even say that this record is a disappointment since it shows METALLICA at the their most uninhibited and least restrained peak. where it falls is only in comparison to their stellar previous two records, which arguably (in my opinion) are two of the best METAL albums ever bar none.
it is a record only made more interesting given the follow-up a few years later that largely abandoned its complexity and ambition in favor of a more streamlined sound. i agree with those that add this record with the BURTON-era albums as the essential METALLICA records, and its been interesting see the risk-taking and artistic risks the band has made since. its just that the post ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL output has been not as convincing for fans of their 1980s output.
i couldn't recommend ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL any more strongly. an essential THRASH METAL record that is absolutely required listening.
parodies by nacrowe
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i was a senior in high school in KUWAIT when the 9/11 attacks happened and shortly thereafter i quickly departed the MIDDLE EAST to live with a relative in SACRAMENTO of all places. it was a jarring and disorientating time in my life, irrespective of geopolitics of the time. i was basically dropped overnight into a cultural backwater full of naive, privileged white kids and their parents. i got through it.
part of getting through it was developing a ravenous reading and listening schedule where i basically investigated everything that caught my interest. musically this included discovering and investigating POST PUNK, SHOEGAZE and TRIP HOP. it was an interesting time because not that long after i dove headfirst into groups like PORTISHEAD and MASSIVE ATTACK i saw TRICKY (with MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD!) open for TOOL at the local stadium. the synergy of that moment was so cool, although some dick behind me was constantly asking his uninterested companion "who is this n----r?!", which is yet another reason why i will always continue to hate SACRAMENTO with a passion even over two decades later. i bought TRICKY's iconic debut MAXINQUAYE (4th & B'WAY, 1995) at the former TOWER RECORDS on columbus and bay near FISHERMAN'S WHARF in SAN FRANSCISCO right before flying home to NEW JERSEY after graduation in 2002. it was literally my last day in CALIFORNIA.
along with several APHEX TWIN releases, NOTHING'S SHOCKING (WARNER BROS, 1988) by JANE'S ADDICTION or TROUT MASK REPLICA (STRAIGHT, 1969) by CAPTAIN BEEFHEART, MAXINQUAYE is definitely one of the most transformational records i have ever heard. it is a deeply personal yet highly idiosyncratic record that seemingly splits the difference between HIP HOP, REGGAE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK. named in reference to his mother who passed when he was four, the record is very much thematically tied to his mixed-race experience growing up in a BRISTOL council estate with immigrant parents. being one of the architects of the TRIP HOP sound through his collaborations with MASSIVE ATTACK, of which he is an extended member, there is a sense of the music being the creative embodiment of a new, diverse and multi-cultural GREAT BRITAIN. with his debut MAXINQUAYE, the music is much less optimistic and seemingly the perfect sound-bed to his lyrics on "PONDEROSA," "OVERCOME," "AFTERMATH," "HELL IS AROUND THE CORNER" and "SUFFOCATED LOVE" that deal with personal themes of PARANOIA, OPPRESSION and SELF-DECEPTION.
one of the defining traits of TRICKY as a songwriter is how he utilizes the female voice. the contributions of TOPLEY-BIRD cannot be understated, especially on haunted tracks such as the "PUMPKIN," "FEED ME," "ABBAON FAT TRACKS" and the PUBLIC ENEMY cover of "BLACK STEEL." its really interesting hearing a female singer voice the words of a male narrator, which is a juxtaposition that TRICKY has employed ever since with other collaborators. but never more affecting than with TOPLEY-BIRD on this record who holds her own and is arguably the star of the record.
when i got into TRICKY in the early 2000s it was an aural journey of self-discovery that really made me rethink the inherent value of musical concepts like genre or audience expectation. his records were experiences into a headspace of someone who was lost but always searching, always on the hunt for the truth. he is one of my favorite artists and arguably MAXINQUAYE is his finest moment.
i cannot recommend this record more empathically. it is most definitely worth revisiting and checking out.
LIMP BIZKIT gets a bad name, which is probably more than well deserved. the dull-witted MISOGYNY and general WHITE PRIVILEDGE frat-boy behavior and incessant whining by frontman FRED DURST has not aged well in the least, not to say it was that welcome back when their debut THREE DOLLAR BILL, Y'ALL$ (INTERSCOPE, 1997) came out in the late 1990s.
DURST is a terrible frontman. i believe that is common knowledge at this point. so i want to go beyond him and discuss what i like about this album and LIMP BIZKIT in general, which are the actual musicians in the band.
i feel wholeheartedly that LIMP BIZKIT has one of the most talented (and criminally underrated) rhythm sections of their era. starting with WES BORLAND who is an absolute wizard at guitar. his highly IDIOSYNCRATIC style has an IMPRESSIONISTIC and layered PAINTERLY vibe that feels like a hybrid between PRIMUS, WEEN, SLAYER and THE CURE. the dude is incredibly talented (just check out his superior side projects BLACK LIGHT BURNS and BIG DUMB FACE as well as moonlighting gigs with everyone from MARILYN MANSON and FROM FIRST TO LAST to JONATHAN DAVIS and COMBICHRIST). his LES CLAYPOOL-inspired double-hand tapping technique is all over this record, most prominently on tracks like "STALEMATE," "INDIGO FLOW" and "SOUR." in terms of big riffs, there is a certain angular POST PUNK flair, which are absolutely scorching despite the fact that they are usually in odd time signatures. BORLAND is treasure that modern guitarists respect despite the mind-bending stupidity of DURST in much the same way people separate the bigoted views of PHIL ANSELMO from the stellar musicianship of DIMEBAG DARRELL.
JOHN OTTO has a FORCEFUL, hard-pounding snap to his drumming that is pretty iconic to their sound, especially on heavier tracks like "COUNTERFEIT," "POLLUTION" and "CLUNK." in later albums he would develop and integrate modern double-bass into his arsenal, but this record seems to be a bit more hands-centric in how forcefully he hits the toms and snare, and with speed and precision.
not to be forgotten are the memorable SLINKY bass-lines of SAM RIVERS which provide a sense of grounding, but also much needed FUNK to the festivities. tracks like "STUCK," "EVERYTHING" and even the GEORGE MICHAEL cover "FAITH" showcase keen sense of DYNAMICS and an artistic freedom to float in-between the guitar heroics of BORLAND and the hard-hitting groundwork of OTTO. taken as a whole, the rhythm section is UNRESTRAINED, UNPREDICTABLE and UNRELENTING.
just too bad about that singer situation. we're talking MIKE LOVE / DAVID DRAIMAN / BONO / CHRIS MARTIN / IVAN MOODY / SCOTT STAPP level terrible. although id love to hear BONO front LIMP BIZKIT. that might work.