every now and then on DEER GOD RADIO i like to pepper in some artists that i feel are CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED, including BROADCAST, THE STRANGLERS, DEVIN TOWNSEND, ELASTICA, LADYTRON, TRICKY and DANIEL ASH. i feel strongly that standout 1960s singer-songwriter HARRY NILSSON is of that variety as well. none other than THE BEATLES name-dropped in early interviews and considered him a peer (much like BRIAN WILSON of THE BEACH BOYS later on). my introduction to his music as a child was thought-provoking children's animated film THE POINT! (review linked HERE).
what i appreciate about him is the unique INVENTIVENESS of his lyrics and upbeat SOPHISTICATION of how he constructed his melodies. he could convincingly make any song topic compelling (even a desk!) and was able to evoke seemingly any emotion with a unique voice that was as IMPASSIONED as it was ANGELIC. if you are unfamiliar with his catalogue, then please check out this episode i did on NILSSON back at the beginning of 2021.
i definitely consider it a highlight.
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.
with the revelation in recent years of his diagnosis with PARKINSON'S DISEASE, the cable documentary THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE (A+E, 2020) has the feeling of a long-form EULOGY about the beloved and celebrated singer. PARKINSON'S is a long-term auto-degenerative disease (much like life itself) that attacks the nervous system and is highly debilitating. so stands to reason that now is the best time speak with the man and have him reflect on his life in depth.
to its credit, THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE is as much concerned with the narrative surrounding the iconic and massively influential career of OZZY OSBOURNE as it is with his private relationship with his family, with special attention to his wife/manager/business partner SHARON. notable participants in this documentary include three of his adult children (AIMEE, KELLY and JACK) as well as former bandmates RUDY SARZO, TONY IOMMI and GEEZER BUTLER and industry peers like ROB ZOMBIE (WHITE ZOMBIE), JONATHAN DAVIS (KORN), MARILYN MANSON, POST MALONE, ICE-T (BODY COUNT) and record producer RICK RUBIN.
i will not try to hide my adoration of OZZY. suffice to say i have dedicated not one but two radio show episodes to him and his massive influence (DEER GOD RADIO 12: OZZY OSBOURNE and DEER GOD RADIO 133: OZZFEST). i have also written in the past about watching him perform at OZZFEST JAPAN in 2015 (linked HERE), which in my opinion didnt go well (note: i was not aware of his condition at the time i wrote it). in my opinion the allure of OZZY is his ability to be an everyman. he's not a MYTHOLOGICAL figure like ROBERT PLANT, phenomenal poet like BOB DYLAN or JOHN LENNON or have a preternaturally stellar vocal range / stage presence like RONNIE JAMES DIO or ROB HALFORD. to me he has something more valuable, he makes great music seem TANGIBLE and within reach of his audience. his lyrics are immediate and direct with little need for fancy decorations to show off his cleverness. there is a reason that his work in BLACK SABBATH has influenced every generation of modern rock music since (NEW WAVE OF BRITIS HEAVY METAL, PUNK ROCK, THRASH METAL, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, DEATH METAL, HARDCORE, SLUDGE METAL, METALCORE, POST HARDCORE, BLACK METAL, etc.). and a lot of that has to do with the unique PERSONAL relationship OZZY has with his audience.
so all that being said, i thought it was particularly interesting that THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE moves past the more tabloid-bating aspects of his career (biting the heads off doves and bats, pissing on THE ALAMO, snorting ants on tour with MOTLEY CRUE) and delves into his failings as a father with his first marriage and the time he was so out of his mind on drugs that he attempting to strangle his second wife SHARON. to me that relationship with SHARON is the crux of this film and the central node on which his life and career hinged. the daughter of OZZY's former manager DON ARDEN, it was SHARON that basically willed OZZY to move on with his career after being dismissed from BLACK SABBATH in the late 1970s. her PATIENCE with his ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY which included drugs and infidelity is almost saint-like in some aspects, even as recently as a few years ago. interestingly the very recent public shaming of OZZY for his dalliance with a longtime hairdresser was completely omitted from discussion in the film. that was an interesting decision since here most of his poor behavior is limited to the 1980s.
with that one omission in mind, the film does a pretty good job of providing a portrait of a legendary musician that doesnt delve into HAGIOGRAPHY as is often the case. by his own admission OZZY is flawed human just like the rest of us. maybe his extremes are further out then us mortals will ever go (example: attempting to strangle your wife while intoxicated) but it is precisely his FALLIBILITY that makes him one of the most beloved frontman of all time.
and perhaps one of the greatest as well.
the first time i became cognizant of the LEONARD COHEN song "HALLELUJAH" was a few years back when i learned that singer CHESTER BENNINGTON (of LINKIN PARK fame) sang as a eulogy at the private funeral service of his friend and mentor singer CHRIS CORNELL (of SOUNDGARDEN fame) in 2017. CORNELL had committed suicide a week before and BENNINGTON himself would perish similarly two months later. so given the circumstances there was a certain weight that i attached to this song as it seemed to be used to verbalize and channel this deep well of intense PAIN and SORROW from one close friend to another.
i had owned and was familiar with the first few COHEN releases from the late 1960s and early 1970s, but the popular resurgence surrounding this obscure track from this 1980s track in the 2000s was something i was unaware of. partly due to the fact that i was overseas. so i read ALAN LIGHT's book THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN: LEONARD COHEN, JEFF BUCKLEY, AND THE UNLIKELY ASCENT OF "HALLELUJAH" (ATRIA, 2013), which examines the unlikely trajectory of the song to a modern standard, largely unbiased by personal sentiment toward the song.
what drew me to the narrative surrounding "HALLELUJAH" is the unique FLUIDITY to which the song as a construct has lent itself. it really is incredible that such a well-known song has, in fact, no definitive version. there are lyrical variations with regards to the verses, as COHEN shortly after its release on the VARIOUS POSITIONS (COLUMBIA, 1984) record was still very much tinkering with it in live settings. famously JEFF BUCKLEY recorded a version on his celebrated GRACE (COLUMBIA, 1994) record, which itself was a cover of a previous JOHN CALE cover. to make things even more interesting, the CALE version utilized an expanded "alternate" set of lyrics. most modern covers from the likes of RUFUS WAINRIGHT, K.D. LANG, BON JOVI, IMOGEN HEAP, DAMIEN RICE and BONO are based on this BUCKLEY cover of a cover, so you can see how this game of telephone gets extended indefinitely. the song has been covered over the years by everyone from REGINA SPEKTOR, NEIL DIAMOND, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE and THE OSMONDS to BOB DYLAN, JOHNNY MATHIS, BRANDI CARLILE, MICHAEL MCDONALD and even ADAM SANDLER. its an incredibly unique phenomena that has allowed the song to be utilized by a whole trove of artists and institutions, in both SECULAR and RELIGIOUS settings.
as a former secondary english teacher, this responsive MULTI-INTERPRETATIVE relationship audiences have developed with this song is incredible and utterly unique. it raises questions about the nature of AUTHORIAL INTENTION, as COHEN's original version is just that: a version. it is unlike other modern standards like "IMAGINE" by JOHN LENNON, "LIKE A ROLLING STONE" by BOB DYLAN or "BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER" by SIMON & GARFUNKEL in that new renditions of those songs inevitably become compared and measured to the original. with "HALLELUJAH" the original recorded version is perhaps one of the more obscure versions as it was on a commercially unsuccessful record that relieved little airplay. later iterations are the one's that captured the popular imagination. i cant think of that ever happening elsewhere outside of the GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK songwriters like IRVING BERLIN, JEROME KERN, COLE PORTER or GEORGE GERSHWIN (among many others) who wrote with the intention of public performance. its a very interesting phenomena.
and then there is the song itself. "HALLELUJAH" utilizes references from several the TORAH narratives to draw out the spiritually redemptive power of SEX, INTIMACY, and ultimately, LOVE. he very much is interested in the idea that SPIRTUAL, some would say RELIGIOUS, power embedded in LOVE is when we suffer and are DEBILITATED and DEBASED by it. when one throws up their hands in the air with confoundment and deep FRUSTRATION at the PAIN and SUFFERING it brings and in defiance look up and say screw it, hallelujah. that "broken" hallelujah is the point of the original iteration of the song. what makes the song so FLUID and PLIABLE is the degree to which interpreters play up the various aspects of the lyrics (its SENSUALITY, CELEBRATION, FRUSTRATION, AMBIVALENCE, etc.) and minimize other aspects. coupled with the variated lyrics and multiple established versions of the song and you have a song that is able to be played at both WEDDINGS and FUNERALS, CHURCHES and SYNAGOGUES, COFFEE HOUSES and ARENAS.
attached below are but a few noteworthy iterations of the song. again, its a compelling trajectory of a lost song, on an album initially rejected by his label, that found a second life as one of the most popularly appreciated, and commercially viable, songs in modern history.
its really mind-blowing. id recommend THE HOLY OR THE BROKEN for anyone interested in the delicate interplay between AUTHOR versus AUDIENCE and AUTHORIAL INTENTION versus INTERPRETATION. it is worth reading for those interested in the CREATIVE PROCESS as well as LITERATURE in general, since COHEN very much was a TRANSCENDENT literary talent.
much like their ICONS (linked HERE), RIFF LORDS (linked HERE) and THE COLLECTION (linked HERE) series of videos on YOUTUBE, THE SONGBOOK is likewise another vehicle for GIBSON GUITARS to promote their product through linking such with the narratives of prominent recording artists. except this time around is a more laidback setting with acoustic performances by the likes of AFI, CAVE IN, PETER HAYES (BACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB) and YUNGBLUD among numerous others that are meant to showcase song-craft.
and i dont hate it.
GIBSON has many storied acoustic models that go back to their origins as a mandolin manufacturer back at the turn of the 20th century. the J200, DOVE, HUMMINGBIRD, L-00 and J45 are all eagerly sought after on the vintage market for their association with WOODY GUTHRIE (L-00), JOHN LENNON (J45), JIMMY PAGE (J200), TOM PETTY (DOVE), BOB DYLAN (DOVE, J45, J200), BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN (J45), THE EDGE (HUMMINGBIRD), EDDIE VEDDER (L-00), GEORGE HARRISON (J200), BILLY CORGAN (DOVE), BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (J45), KEITH RICHARDS (HUMMINGBIRD), DUANE ALLMAN (L-00), ALEX LIFESON (DOVE), and THE EVERLY BROTHERS (J200). so it makes sense that they would attempt to associate with a more contemporary batch of artists. seems only healthy and a much better vehicle for brand integration than their horribly ill-conceived "PLAYIN AUTHENTIC" campaign from a few years back. jesus, that was a misstep. thankfully GIBSON put themselves out of the way and let the artists add value to their product.
cant wait to see what series they cook up next.
as the lyrical and conceptual genius behind WEST COAST HIP HOP legends N.W.A., all eyes were definitely on ICE CUBE when he released his first solo record AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED (PRIORITY, 1990) after his departure from the group as well as their label RUTHLESS RECORDS.
when the narrative of 1990s HIP HOP is written and talked about, there is often much acceptance of the idea that there were these opposing rival forces regarding the scenes centered around LOS ANGELES and NEW YORK CITY. this is more than largely due to the later tragic TUPAC SHAKUR / NOTORIOUS B.I.G. debacle and the shadow it had over the industry writ large. but AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED really renders that storyline for what it is: complete bullshit.
much like the GARAGE ROCK and GLAM ROCK scenes of the 1960s informed the later development of PUNK ROCK, there is an argument that the direct, in-your-face production work of DR. DRE (along with contemporaries DJ MUGGS of CYPRESS HILL and DJ QUIK) was informed by the example of THE BOMB SQUAD production team associated with PUBLIC ENEMY. and vice versa. these guys were all contemporaries and there was much innovation happening in the late 1980s in both scenes.
what makes ICE CUBE's first album historically interesting is how it is the first record i am aware of (and i am sure there are people out there that will correct me) where a major artist associated with one coast made a record almost exclusively with the production team from the other. the vast majority of AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED is produced or coproduced by THE BOMB SQUAD and given such it is pretty revolutionary. there is even a CHUCK D appearance on the track "ENDANGERED SPECIES (TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE)." like most his work before and since, ICE CUBE the storyteller is absolutely eviscerating in his depiction of a BLACK COMMUNITY under siege by a corrupt political class and judicial structure that materially benefits off the brazen and draconian enforcement policies of the LAPD. and this is pre-RODNEY KING and pre-LA RIOTS, which is incredible to consider when listening to this record. the dude was pretty prescient and uncompromising in his lyrical vision. it is difficult to also not hear echos of ICE CUBE's work in later artists like KENDRICK LAMAR, YG, NIPSEY HUSSLE and VINCE STAPLES in their sober assessments of the same community a generation later. standout tracks include "A GANGSTA'S FAIRYTALE," "WHO'S THE MACK," "AMERRIKKKA'S MOST WANTED" and "THE NIGGA YA LOVE TO HATE," which is probably one of the most confrontational tracks ever, even considering his previous discography with N.W.A. and his later output, including the likewise transcendent follow-up DEATH CERTIFICATE (PRIORITY, 1991).
if you are a fan of WEST COAST HIP HOP or just HIP HOP in general, AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED is required listening. its a searing lyrical firestorm that is relentless in its focus on the dark, racially-motivated underbelly of AMERICAN life. it is also a singular achievement and testament to the art of collaboration from various artistic perspectives, a plot that got lost a few short years later. highly recommended.
celebrated both for his work as singer / lyricist / songwriter with 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK veterans INCUBUS as well as his published efforts as a gifted VISUAL ARTIST, it is not hyperbole to state that BRANDON BOYD very much is a modern-day renaissance man. but i think what has often been criminally overlooked is his solo material as well as his side project / collaboration with producer BRENDAN O'BRIEN in SONS OF THE SEA.
to my ears BOYD's solo work is less adorned and more direct in both concept and orchestration than his work with INCUBUS, which is renowned for its INVENTIVE ORCHESTRATION and use of LUSH, COLORFUL SOUNDSCAPES. both projects showcase a poet with EASTERN PHILOSOPHICAL leanings concerned with our connection to EACH OTHER, our ENVIRONMENT and OURSELVES. SAME MESSAGE from a DIFFERENT MUSICAL PERSPECTIVE.
the solo work of BRANDON BOYD is compelling and well worth investigating and checking out, irrespective of whether or not you are a fan of INCUBUS.
i always find it interesting when a band seemingly emerges out of nowhere and basically crystallizes all the elements of movement into a cohesive for the first time to the point that they are basically synonymous with it. case in point is LINKIN PARK who came out years after KORN and LIMP BIZKIT yet did the HIP HOP/METAL hybrid thing so seamlessly that they are the standard bearers for that genre. end stop. same with NIRVANA and the 1980s INDIE and HARDCORE scenes that informed the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene. it is not that either necessarily created a genre, its more like they just did it way better than anyone else before them.
for me A DAY TO REMEMBER is very much on that plain. they very much have the intensity and WIZARD-level riffage necessary for any more-than-competent METALCORE band, but they somehow find a way to integrate MEMORABLE and MELODIC POP PUNK choruses in the mix without sounding shrill or corny. it is quite the achievement because for most bands doing one well somehow cannibalizes the other. not with A DAY TO REMEMBER who have the composition and melodic chops to have both bolster each other through an emotional dynamic range that carries the listener intently throughout. when i listen to A DAY TO REMEMBER, i am given a sense of aural CATHARSIS. that there is a DUALITY to life and that both feed into each other. those you love the most also have the potential to hurt you more deeply than that of others. that mix of emotions is expunged throughout the peaks and valleys their music.
i think they are a totally unique band that deserves to be more celebrated than they currently are. maybe its the pandemic or the death of radio or even the internet age, but this is a band for the ages.
im glad i got to do a show on them on my birthday two years ago. check it out below.
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.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
iconic ALTERNATIVE ROCK musician DAVE GROHL of NIRVANA / FOO FIGHTERS fame has been on a bit of a creative streak the past few years, diversifying his many interests into a string of well-received documentaries and HBO specials centered on the role of music and its many facets (production, recording, touring, inspiration) in society. it doesnt seem that far-fetched that the next outlandish GROHL production would be a schlocky HORROR film that effectively parodied his self-perception as the slavedriver of the FOO FIGHTERS.
in STUDIO 666 (ROSWELL FILMS, 2022), whose title is a reference to the band's longstanding BURBANK recording facility STUDIO 606, GROHL is demonically possessed after setting up shop in an old abandoned hillside estate and recording there. again, this conceit is parodying GROHL's recent real-life proclivity for cooking up ever more outlandish concepts for recording albums (i.e. his home on tape for WASTING LIGHT or utilizing studios across AMERICA in SONIC HIGHWAYS, each studio a different song about that city). its pretty funny that its actually conceivable that recording in a haunted house would could probably be the hook or premise of an actual FOO FIGHTERS album (or even recording in space or on ANTARCTICA or in a submarine).
now i will fully admit that i am not a fan of HORROR films, especially the 1970s and 1980s SLASHER variety that thrives on gore and jump scares. its arguably the only genre i avoid. exceptions include early GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST films and the later inspired series of UNIVERSAL MONSTER movies. but in STUDIO 666 i see much less GEORGE ROMERO or TOBE HOOPER and much more HERSCHEL GORDON LEWIS or even MEL BROOKS. in essence the violence is so over-the-top and ridiculously that its beyond hilarious. its very much reminiscent of DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (BROOKSFILMS, 1995) with regard to how the ultra-violence is interpreted and ultimately perceived.
obviously the real-world passing of drummer TAYLOR HAWKINS a month after STUDIO 666's release makes watching it a bittersweet experience. there has been quite a bit of discussion and controversy over a universally derided hit piece by the ROLLING STONE which essentially stated that HAWKINS was overworked and suffering from exhaustion and was looking to limit the band's brutal touring schedule before and up to the time of his passing. people close to the band have bitterly stated that this is complete utter bullshit, but its still uncomfortable that the subtext of the film's basic plot surrounds the band going along with GROHL idiosyncratic notions despite their own reservations. its just a little unnerving and odd, thats all.
my hope is that GROHL will continue when the time's right and find the proper creative venue for his passion of connecting people through music. its what he does and to me that is what the FOO FIGHTERS legacy very much is about. even this goofy and schlocky labour of love deep down is ultimately about that need to connect and find a sense of community (in METAL!!!!).
sending all my love to the band at this horrible moment.
R.I.P. TAYLOR HAWKINS
in his book A COLONY IN A NATION (NORTON, 2017) THE NATION editor / MSNBC host CHRIS HAYES deliberates on the historical, political and cultural roots of our bifurcated justice system in which in-group/out-group dynamics related to race have fundamentally defined the AMERICAN experience. his basic argument is that one of the root causes of said bifurcation is that extent to which the power and influence associated with WHITE FEAR has been at the helm of both policy and implementation of our criminal code.
and, in essence, we are all culpable. ALL OF US.
i think the power of HAYES argument lies within his own self-examination as a PRIVILEGED, EDUCATED WHITE NEW YORKER who benefited from gaps in the universal application of criminal codes. whether such be innocent infractions regarding marijuana use and possession at college (or the NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONVENTION) or his benefiting from CONTROVERSIAL "BROKEN WINDOW" policy in BROOKLYN and the rapid reinvestment that has defined the hyper-gentrification of the borough in the last two decades. at the core there is this latent assumption that the push and pull, ZERO-SUM of AMERICAN democracy and our style of CAPITALISM is that all the benefits i enjoy come at the expense of someone else's maltreatment and denied opportunities. and that is a bitter pill to swallow. it is a dynamic that HAYES struggles with throughout the book. the extent to which WHITE FEAR subconsciously internalizes the majority of our decisions regarding public SAFETY, ORDER and even criminal REHABILITATION.
denying others their status as citizens of the realm has been backed into our culture going back to the first ENGLISH colonies on the eastern seaboard. subjugation of others was a defining characteristic of the colonialists definition of success. and that has yet to change. through our criminal justice system we seek to SECLUDE and PUNISH those that have trespassed our laws, denying them their humanity and any opportunity at realistic REHABILITATION. what does that say about us as a country? as a people? are we all AMERICANS or is that an adjective that necessitates further qualification? because the implementation of said laws and moral codes is more tied to a continual system of "haves and have-nots" than any universal prescript. its all a fraud.
or so it seems. i wrestle with this sort of question all the time living comfortably and quietly in suburbia. the only disorder i see is dogs barking out of control on the FOURTH OF JULY or perhaps some lost STATEN ISLAND driver moving erratically on the parkway. who am i trampling on? what SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION am i unwittingly supporting and REINFORCING through mindless CONSUMERISM. i appreciate HAYES forthright self-examination and it has resulted in me doing the same.
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.
i recently came across the INFECTIOUS INDIE POP sounds of MINI MANSIONS, which to my ears splits the difference somewhere between the likes of AUTOLUX, THE DANDY WARHOLS, NEON NEON and THE BEATLES. by that i mean their songs are impeccably constructed with MEMORABLE melodies built around LUSH and experimentally PLAYFUL soundscapes.
its like fun pop music for smart people. not that im saying that includes me. MINI MANSIONS is definitely worth checking out.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating SLUDGE METAL icons MELVINS!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
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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.
what the documentary ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BADN (DIAMOND DOCS, 2019) examines effectively is the mercurial nature of that special alchemy that makes musical collaborations work. its a mysterious process that is deeply rooted in our most basic need for connection, which is what i feel when i am entranced and under the spell of music.
this documentary is, in essence, a look back at criminally short and influential career of THE BAND from the perspective of ROBBIE ROBERTSON. it examines everything from his childhood split between TORONTO and a FIRST NATION reservation to his introduction to early ROCK N ROLL and beyond. having discovered AMERICAN ROCKABILLY and BLUES artists at a young age, ROBERTSON taught himself guitar and began writing songs while still in his teens. this gift for songwriting coupled with his indomitable drive led him to a gig with RONNIE HAWKINS AND THE HAWKS (where he met future THE BAND bandmate LEVON HELM) that morphed into LEVON AND THE HAWKS before becoming BOB DYLAN's backing band on his famed 1966 "electric" tour and then finally solidified into THE BAND.
what is interesting is how THE BAND's musical chemistry was what enabled their ability to shape-shift so abruptly with such conviction and authenticity, from RHYTHM & BLUES to FOLK ROCK hybrid to what would later be deemed AMERICANA and ROOTS ROCK. the tragedy is that this unspoken bond was challenged and ultimately discarded due to tribulations related to addiction, publishing rights, recognition and family. its a cliche story now but its interesting to look back at a period nearly half a century ago when such traditional interpersonal stress points were not widely known. its also particularly sad that for a musical outfit that succeeded based on their ability to fruitfully and selflessly collaborate, that it was this gnawing of said relationship that led to their downfall.
forget the music, but it feels like that abandoned relationship is the real tragedy elucidated throughout ONCE WERE BROTHERS. it was that connection that made peers gravitate to them immediately, as seen through recent interviews and archival footage of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, GEORGE HARRISON, BOB DYLAN, PETER GABRIEL, TAJ MAHAL, JIMMY VIVINO, JOHN HAMMOND and VAN MORRISON, ERIC CLAPTON, JANN WENER and MARTIN SCORSESE attesting to such.
my sense is that such a connection is frail combustible entity that must be nourished and renewed and sacrificed for. its almost like a surrogate family of sorts. which is odd, because my interpretation of THE BAND was that they were a band of brothers or family of sorts. their music has that intimate vibe of shared experiences, mutual admiration and sacrifice. i guess heroin trumps such more than it doesnt.
this film is well-constructed and worth watching whether or not you are interested in this seminal and revolutionary CLASSIC ROCK band.
the graphic novel EPILEPTIC (PANTHEON, 2005) is a harrowing account of the psychological horror that comes with growing up and watching your family IMPOTENTLY confront the routine seizures of one of its own. celebrated FRENCH cartoonist DAVID B through this recollected memoir of his early development provides incredible insight into the DEBILITATING EMOTIONAL ABYSS of watching his older brother effectively lose his own sense of AGENCY and ability to live a normal life.
the effects of such a trauma on DAVID B are devastating, cartoons and invented realities become a shield of sorts from the harsh reality of the outside world. similar can be said about the efforts of his mother, who seeks out a revolving carousel of ESOTERIC and NONTRADITIONAL medical practices from various global traditions (SHAMANS, ALCHEMISTS, DIETICIANS, MAGNETIZERS, ACUPUNCTURISTS, MASSAGERS, etc.) out of love but all are ultimately in VAIN. nothing works. and what makes EPILEPTIC such a compelling read in my opinion is how effectively it showcases that projection and transference of stunted emotional development onto the family, who as a unit despite all possible efforts, finds themselves imprisoned by this unrelenting foe.
back when i took an introductory psychology course in college, i remember their being much discussion about the profound effects of one person's chronic condition (i.e. DEPRESSION, PTSD, EATING DISORDER, PERSONALITY DISORDER, etc.) on their family. that sense of helplessness that comes with being unable to ease a loved one's trauma, which over time wears one down. a version of this narrative can be seen in the doomed efforts of the late imperial ROMANOV family (TSAR NICHOLAS II and ALEXANDRA) when attempting to seek assistance for their son's HEMOPHILIA. this desperation led them to seek out nontraditional practitioners, and mercenaries, like GREGORIO RASPUTIN. i point you to ROBERT K MASSIE's NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (review linked HERE) for further information. for me, this book is less about the often competing and complex emotions DAVID B felt towards his older brother, as well as the intense GUILT involved in that process, and more about the toll of said condition on the family. a family whose efforts were done out of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
the other work this graphic novel with all of its PHANTASMAGORICAL, MYTHOLOGICAL and stark FANTASY-inspired imagery recalled for me was SPIKE JONZE's film adaptation of the children's book WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (review linked HERE). the chaotic, seemingly unraveling imagery that DAVID B produces gives us a sense of a child's perspective who is unable to verbalize and process feelings of deep TRAUMA. much like how the temper tantrums of MAX in the film are his way of expressing that which is OVERWHELMING and inherently INEXPRESSIBLE, DAVID B has similarly provided a visual analogue to that same phenomena. the visuals in this manner do not clarify or elucidate meaning, more they are there as emotional markers of ANGER, CONFUSION, DESPAIR and REMORSE projected at a cruel adult world with no innate sense of fairness or moral center.
EPILEPTIC is a deeply fascinating graphic novel that asks more than it answers and leaves one contemplating their own TENUOUS relationship with REALITY and how we as individuals construct an internal MYTHOLOGY to deal with our own STRUGGLES and SHORTCOMINGS. highly recommended.
narrated by celebrated RANCID/OPERATION IVY frontman and modern PUNK ROCK icon TIM ARMSTRONG, the NOISEY series UNDER THE INFLUENCE was a short-lived documentary series on their YOUTUBE channel that investigated three influential 20th century music scenes.
what stands out about this series to me is the loving care the producers took to more or less let the participants of the scene take control of the narrative, where ARMSTRONG's voice drops in from time to time to clarify or connect a few points. his famed marbled-mouthed voice is both JARRING and UNCONVENTIONAL, yet works its magic as it forces you to actively listen to his words.
obviously with regards to RANCID, the NYHC and 2-TONE SKA scenes are two essential ingredients to their sound and it is interesting to get a sense of the HISTORY and POLITICS, both within the five boroughs as well as the receding sunset of the BRITISH EMPIRE, that informed how these musical forms and communities came about. in the case of NYHC and 2-TONE SKA it was a clash of cultures, an amalgamation of styles that created evolution. with KRAUTROCK you had a whole post-WWII generation of WEST GERMANS that wanted a collective CULTURAL YEAR ZERO. they wanted new forms that indebted NOTHING to the previous GERMANIC culture that had been pilfered and bastardized by the NAZIS. a new sound for a new WEST GERMANY.
whats also cool is how they connect these past scenes to RIGHT NOW. its not academic so much as it is prologue for vital CREATIVITY currently happening. these segments are just as INVIGORATING and UNEXPECTED as the original scenes themselves.
definitely check out these three episodes. they are beyond INFORMATIVE and well-produced and are definitely worth your time.
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..
formerly a member of the now defunct SEATTLE INDIE ROCK outfit CARISSA'S WIERD, JENN CHAMPION (who also records under the S moniker) is a talented songwriter who is not afraid of having fun. i love independent music but oftentimes the rock world can be a tad bit insular and joyless. what strikes me as interesting with her dual CHAMPION/S output is how she jumps head first into SYNTH-laden pop music (and seems to be have fun doing it) without losing her identity in the process. S is more of a traditionally intimate LO-FI bedroom recording type project. both seemingly allow her to pursue both ends of her musical identity.
to me JENN CHAMPION just comes off as a fearless musician and i definitely think her catalogue is worth checking out.