photo & text by nacrowe
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 JOHNNY MARR is an internationally beloved INDIE ROCK "god-like genius" whose work with THE SMITHS has made him an icon to millions. he has likewise also experienced an amazing career as a journeyman collaborator who has performed and recorded with everyone from THE THE, BERNARD SUMNER (of NEW ORDER), KIRSTY MACCOLL, OASIS, MODEST MOUSE, THE TALKING HEADS, BRYAN FERRY, THE CRIBS, JOHN FRUSCIANTE, THE PRETENDERS to even the noted film composer HANS ZIMMER.
i think what gets lost in that extended discography is the creative streak he has been on with his solo career for the past decade. if you havent done so already, definitely check out and investigate the man's solo work. then again we are talking about JOHNNY MARR here, it was already ordained to be great.
can't believe this actually happened but THANK YOU so much to JOHNNY MARR for reposting us on twitter. it is definitely the coolest thing ever and we appreciate it.
parodies by nacrowe
depending on your persuasion regarding DEER GOD RADIO, this episode is either the best one we ever did by far, or it was a complete disaster. i like to think its the former as THE SMITHS are one of my three favorite bands of all-time (the other two in my holy trinity are DEVO and JANE'S ADDICTION).
i was basically raised on the work of MORRISSEY and JOHNNY MARR by my parents and have been a fan since early childhood. TOM FERRIE of THE NOWHERE FAST SHOW and a co-founder of MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is a certifiable super-fan of the band and upon seeing the "bat signal" of my social media promotions, swung by for the show. basically we talked the entire time about THE SMITHS, just none of it on air. so this is a playlist of THE SMITHS, the solo work of MORRISSEY and MARR, as well as collaborative projects (all MARR) with the likes of THE THE, MODEST MOUSE, BRIAN FERRY, THE CRIBS and ELECTRONIC making it arguably one of the strongest ones to date.
just no commentary. at all. just the playlist unbroken pure and simple.
maybe i should redo this show in the future? nah, no reason to ruin a perfect thing.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
as corporate propaganda goes, ERNIE BALL MUSIC MAN's online STRING THEORY video series on YOUTUBE is pretty effective. they basically created extended interviews with such notable players as JOHNNY MARR, DAVE NAVARRO (JANE'S ADDICTION), JERRY CANTRELL (ALICE IN CHAINS), KIRK HAMMETT (METALLICA), DARON MALAKIAN (SYSTEM OF A DOWN), JADE PUGET (AFI), TOM DELONGE (BLINK 182), STEPHEN CARPENTER (DEFTONES) and J MASCIS (DINOSAUR JR) among many others, all explaining how they came to play guitar and what being a musician / songwriter means to them. somewhere, of course, they mention the strings.
there has definitely been a move towards these types of online cross-promotional infomercials (well-produced as they are) by various companies in the retail guitar space, each showcasing how their product in concert with products by other notable manufactures support recording and touring musicians and allow them to pursue their art. and just in terms of marketing i think that is a smart move since it equates your product with the quality of other well-known brands, in this case guitar manufacturers like FENDER, GIBSON, IBANEZ, G&L and PAUL REED SMITH and amp companies like MARSHALL, MESA-BOOGIE, FRIEDMAN, FENDER, DIEZEL, ORANGE and BOGNER among others.
in terms of each artist, hearing them talk about their influences and how they came about playing guitar as they strum off iconic riffs through their live rigs is just such a sweet spot to hit for any fan of guitar playing. i can never hear enough of "THIS CHARMING MAN" or the solo from "THREE DAYS" in its entirety, no matter the context.
kinda feel guilty for showcasing blatant, unapologetic corporate propaganda, but oh well. enjoy!
photo by nacrowe
this december 2017 episode of the NOWHERE FAST show that i was lucky enough to be asked to document has been a standout highlight of my time collaborating with KRISTIN and TOM over at MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC who have continually supported DEER GOD since its inception. and for that we are grateful to them.
this show was amazing because it showcased rare half-century old ROCKABILLY vinyl singles from obscure (and in many cases defunct) record labels that were curated and commented on by special guest BOZ BOORER of THE POLECATS and MORRISSEY fame. i mean seriously, what a treat that was.
being a total SMITHS/MORRISSEY fanboy i brought a relatively obscure live concert VHS tape to show BOORER and he graciously gave me some contest of how crazy the security was that night. for me that moment was made returning home stateside worth it.
it still blows my mind that TOM would be gracious enough to find a reason to have me around that night and again, we here at DEER GOD appreciate the station and their ongoing mission to engage the local arts community of STATEN ISLAND.
that being said, you should check out past episodes of NOWHERE FAST which are all archived HERE on this website. yessir, all 74 of them!
photo & text by nacrowe
JOHNNY MARR is a singular talent whose legendary partnership with MORRISSEY in THE SMITHS puts him, in my mind, in the highest echelon of songwriting talents that rock music has ever produced. his story could've ended there but he went on to expand his musical vocabulary by pursuing an expansive career that includes collaborative efforts with the likes of TALKING HEADS, PET SHOP BOYS, BRIAN FERRY, THE PRETENDERS, THE THE, ELECTRONIC (with BERNARD SUMNER of NEW ORDER), BILLY BRAGG, KIRSTY MACCOLL, OASIS, BLACK GRAPE, MODEST MOUSE, THE CRIBS as well as a stellar string of successful of recent solo releases.
all that being said, what struck me most from reading his autobiography SET THE BOY FREE (DEY STREET BOOKS, 2016), which deals with him recounting his extraordinary career was his ability to be in the moment. this moment. i cant imagine what it must be like being defined work (however transcendentally awesome) you did as a teenager. for him it was a determined focus and drive, perhaps rooted in his struggling IRISH immigrant MANCUNIAN working-class upbringing, that allowed him to not get caught up in the hype and hysteria of riding such a phenomenal critical and artistic wave so early.
as a fan, i'm always struck by his career choices which always appeared to each be a labour of love and over time he cultivated a following that came with him, which is incredible given that most successful artists are mindful of no alienating their audience. if anything MARR is taking them on the journey with him.
i want to add that MARR's voice as a writer is very direct and deliberate and this has to be one of the better written autobiographies i have read in recent years. perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise given the literary aspirations of his work over the years and the quality of project collaborators he has sought out. i wouldn't expect anything else but quality in his writing.
as NOEL GALLAGHER is apt to saying with regards to MARR, "dude is a fucking wizard." by all means, check out his work if you haven't and down the road after a lifetime of enjoying his music, consider reading his excellent autobiography.
i came across GIRL IN A COMA years ago in the late 2000s when JANE'S ADDICTION guitarist DAVE NAVARRO spoke about them in an interview. i think he may even have a tattoo of them for some reason.
anyway, this NINA DIAZ-fronted trio from SAN ANTONIO (an yes there name is a reference to THE SMITHS track "Girlfriend in a Coma" - so kudos if you caught that) has released a three stellar rock albums via JOAN JETT's BLACKHEART RECORDS and they have really evolved as songwriters over the past 10 years.
their track "Smart" from their latest EXITS & ALL THE REST (2011) was my soundtrack to being a PEACE CORPS volunteer years ago. to me it just captured that vibe of being both hesitant and excited by a new environment. by nature i'm a reluctant, shy person but being tossed into a small albanian community with a strong distrust of foreigners forced me out of my shell and make connections with my neighbors, some of whom i still communicate with via social media (which is crazy).
their sound is a mixture of INDIE, SHOEGAZE and meat & potatoes ROCK N ROLL, but what makes the band for me is frontwoman NINA DIAZ's ability to let her vocals go where they want, sharp or flat or whatever she is feeling, even if that means coming off as a whine. to me that vocal choice is totally authentic to their vibe as a band, which is loose but deliberate and cutting. almost like they are inviting you to critique them.
i always appreciate it when musicians, especially women, make choices that go against gender prescriptions. there is a whole littany of male artists that have successfully done this from LITTLE RICHARD to DAVID BOWIE to PERRY FARRELL. with regards to women i'd say musicians like PATTI SMITH, BJORK or PJ HARVEY come to mind when i think of artists that consciously attempt to expand their audiences gender prescriptions.
i'm not putting GIRL IN A COMA on that level, but in their own way they are going for it and i definitely appreciate that. in a way they are the manifestation of JOAN JETT and her legacy as well.
one of my all-time favorite writers. and not just because he writes about the part of brooklyn my family is from.
in the united states there is this force-fed optimism shoved down our throats since birth through our education systems and mass media that basically propagates the narrative that if you work hard enough, good things will happen. reading any HUBERT SELBY JR novel essentially an exercise in looking the AMERICAN DREAM straight in the face and laughing at it. and not one of those belly laughs were you see the folly, but one of those nervous ones were you realize how much of your identity is swallowed up in this hollow fantasy.
the three novels of his i am familiar with are LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN (1964), THE DEMON (1976) and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (1978). two obviously have been made into excellent film adaptations by ULI EDEL and DARREN ARANOFSKY, respectively. love them both but such will be the topic for another post. what unites them all is a sense of competing drives, not necessarily good vs bad, but constructive vs destructive tendencies brought on by ambition. the central question of his novels is "what is it that we want?" and "what is the price of attaining it to your psyche?"
his characters tend to have what SIGMUND FREUD would recognize as a very strong will to self-destruct, or as he termed it, a "death-drive." all of his protagonists (incidentally all share the name "Harry" in his novels) seek validation through community, money, vice, or otherwise and in each case they get into trouble. its almost like he chooses each novel as a way of elucidating different facets of how the AMERICAN DREAM is a hoax and a quixotic fallacy on par with any other human construction (family, religion, community) used to motivate a sense of identity. in terms of narrative the protagonist's character arc is inverted, as you undoubtedly encounter them initially at their highest point, the peak of their powers and sanity. from here on out its a downward spiral, with any solace in brief periods of calm merely red herrings making the free-fall to come that much more brutal and inhumane.
it is a dark, bleak and ultimately realistic portrayal of reality. when i read his work i am often thinking about my own motivations, goals and what the actual cost of such are. yes in america there is opportunity, but what is the price of the success we seek? what are you giving up to achieve it and fundamentally who are you at the end of that process? what has that process done to your sense of self? that is the gift of his work in my opinion. they are almost bitterly self-reflective in nature in a way few others are.
as a former english teacher i really appreciate the fact that his characters are so singular and well-constructed that HUBERT SELBY JR imposed a very unique writing style where he would not use quotes and never specifies what characters say what at the end of sentence. characters speak in all caps and by context you know who said what without being told. it is a really neat trick that just further showcases the depth of his writing.
other side note: THE SMITHS' THE QUEEN IS DEAD album is named after a chapter in LAST EXIT TO BROOKYLN. just saying.
when i used to go on interviews for high school teaching gigs i would almost be guaranteed to be asked if given the choice what book i'd want to teach. my answer was always ALAN SILLITOE's novel about working class masculinity SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1958) of which the legendary KARL REISZ film was based.
british kitchensink dramas of the 1960s tended to deal with working class-related themes such as class and domesticity, which for me makes them far more interesting and real than their american counterpart films. there is rawness to the subject matter as well as the production, as it is obvious these were made quickly at low cost.
but what drew me to both to the film and the book was this idea of exploring the performative nature of masculinity. in working class midlands england in the post-WWII period, where this films takes place, the main character ARTHUR SEATON struggles to come to terms with how to transcend his repetitive factor job and womanizing ways. for he doesn't get any satisfaction from his work and the only avenue for being dominant was swooning the bored housewives of what he deemed "slow husbands." its as if his conquests was more of a badge of honor to his male mates than an expression or projection of his will. essentially this behavior was a ironically a form of impotence.
i'm almost certain this dynamic, as well as the geographical and cultural similarities of nottingham (where the film takes place) to manchester are what drew a young MORRISSEY to transpose the line "why don't you ever take where it's lively and there's people" into THE SMITHS' iconic song THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT. just saying.
i saw this idea of male identity defined through work almost everywhere growing up but especially in the arab world, where at times you would see young men of immeasurable means doing dangerous things out of sheer boredom. this was in kuwait and since their financial, social and political connections were bulletproof, it was as if they had to develop a new pissing contest to set themselves apart. as a foreigner it was fascinating to watch and mock but at some level i really pitied them and their circumstance. it was like they were neglected and were in a dead-end.
this book and film present to me a dead-end scenario that is transcended through hard fought self-reflection. and for me that concept is one meaning that both the novel and film explore effectively: the need for self-analysis apart from your circumstances.
art by nacrowe
cult filmmaker and queer icon DEREK JARMAN was a visual artist of the first order. he gave voice to a community that was largely ostracized, forgotten and pushed to the periphery of western society during the twin reigns of 1980s reagan's america and thatcher's britain.
given the new world order we find ourselves in at the current historical and cultural moment, his largely claustrophobic set pieces with equally harrowing narratives dealing often with whisper campaigns (EDWARD II), coded behavior (CARAVAGGIO) and persecution based on identity (SEBASTIANE) seem wholly prescient and beyond relevant to today's jumbled digital clusterfuck of identity, reason and truth.
JARMAN may have been writing and speaking from the perspective of an uncloseted homosexual in the 80s dealing with the AIDS epidemic, which ultimately took his life, but in his immaculately constructed scenes of fringe characters fighting for dignity and purpose in a world that offers neither, I find a overflowing well of both.
his films show that you don't need outside affirmation to have real meaning and purpose, even if you are doomed.
artwork by nicholas crowe
check HERE out this latest episode of DEER GOD RADIO where we explored music by the IRISH as well as those descended from them.
was a fun exercise in investigating how ideas like displacement and community have come to define IRISH literature, music and culture through the generations. enjoy.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.