Thursday, August 2, 2018

311 & Offspring trade covers

As a promotion for their co-headlining tour Never Ending Summer Tour, 311 and The Offspring have released covers of each others' arguably best songs: "Down" and "Self Esteem".

Spurred on by the likes of Weezer covering both "Rosanna" and "Africa" from famed band Toto, these Nineties rockers from are trying the thing that worked for the other band from that same time period.

It's a pretty fun gimmick, I guess--provided they're good covers. Could you imagine the PR nightmare if they both sucked?

Personally I like 311's better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

All right, let's talk about Tool

I really really hope Maynard didn't do what this person is accusing him of. Let's get that out of the way right now.

Tool--they've been with me since I was a kid. My cousin Nat recommended Undertow to me. I got it on CD. Then Ænima came out. Then ... Ænima ... came out. October, 1996. I was 14 years old. My friend Josh got it on CD. The cover moved--there were four different moveable images in the liner notes! The music was incredible! Then the music videos started coming out--did David Lynch take even MORE acid and direct these? IT'S THE GUITAR PLAYER WHO'S DOING IT ALL?!?!? I didn't have the money to get it immediately, but as soon as I saved up $20, I bought that fucker ASAP, from my local Manistee, Michigan record store, M&M Records. Owned by Jan.

BTW, Antichrist Superstar came out that same year. Two incredible albums in artistic rock, metal, and industrial, from two very different bands. What a great year for me! I was swimming in these two albums, so dense and worth exploring every inch.

I listened to Ænima every day for about 3 solid years before I took it out of daily rotation. The change from Undertow to Ænima was like, whoa, these guys have turned it around! From Undertow's already groundbreaking original tracks--like Intolerance, Sober, Prison Sex, 4 Degrees, the Henry Rollins-featuring Bottom, and the lengthy hidden track (track 69) with three distinct parts--to Ænima's sensitive, yet curse-laden, true prog rock tracks, dropping all the uncomfortable sexual innuendos of the previous album in favor of a look at psychedelics, relationships, human evolution, catharsis, continental destruction, mother nature, and including experimental filler tracks between almost every single song, the jump was incredible. Ænima was like a strange, wonderful movie that everyone can have their own version of--IN THEIR OWN MIND. No album conjures images as well as that one, for being a work of sound. Tool had crossed canyons between those two records.

Ænima is just a monster of a concept album, all of it centering around a Jungian fantasy of California breaking off from the continental United States. It was, in my humble opinion, one the best things that had ever happened in rock music, full stop. It rivaled and even topped Megadeth, Metallica, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pantera, Ozzy, and all the best heavy bands of the time. Tool basically took the cock rock genre, and didn't kick it in the face and eviscerate its body or give it heroin, but gently set it aside in a cushy chair, gave it a Gameboy and a snack, and let it watch, as a child, what the adults in the real band were now ready to do. Tool is, above all, mature. A band for the intellectual in us all. They're consistently meditative, exploratory, and patient.

Their proceeding albums are less exciting. Tool were showing signs of having jumped the shark, as they basically repeated themselves in a less exciting fashion. Lateralus was great, and really stands alone as a fantastic album, but it's less explosive and exploratory than Ænima, and more easily palatable. Good for some fans, not for me. I like dissonance, weirdness. Lateralus wasn't weird enough for me, but does move me to tears--don't get me wrong. The title track is my fave.

10,000 Days is so boring. I just don't care. Chug chug in odd timings. The same Drop-D tuning from Adam and Justin, the same 1 - 3 - 5 Dm progressions in all the songs. It was getting old on Lateralus, and on 10,000 Days it's just annoying. Boring performances from Maynard, who sounds like he just doesn't want to be doing this anymore. It's almost like he's phoning it in. No hooks, no memorable passages. Danny does his best to make it exciting but he's up against brick walls. They had a pretty consistent 5-years-between-albums release schedule, with Ænima dropping in 1996, Lateralus in 2001, and 10,000 Days in 2006. You can almost hear how they were all getting bored, not feeling confident in themselves, running out of ideas, knowing it, and being rushed by the record company to deliver a product. That would make any album suck.

So now that it's 2018, 12 gosh darn years since their last album, and Tool's been saying they're working on the new album, and it'll come out this year! Fans are salivating. Then a few days ago Google tells the world that Tool released a new album! It's actually by Tool$, a hip hop artist. Funny. Everyone went crazy for about 5 seconds there. I woke up to that notification on my phone, and like everyone else, clicked on it and was like, 'Yeah that was too good to be true.' That's how I find out about it? Nah, Tool had better do something cool, like release it like Beyoncé drops albums. Put some thought and planning into it. Make it big and cool.

What I hope Tool does on their new record is this--drop the Drop-D tuning on the guitars, in favor of any other tuning. Could be standard, could be Open G, whatever. The point is that it would force Adam and Justin to come up with new tricks and new sounds when writing and performing. I want weirdness. I want dissonance. I want all those small experimental filler tracks between songs that help tell a story. I want to be surprised. I want Tool to do something out of their element. Above all, I don't want it to be the same old rehashed Dm Drop-D stuff! Change key signatures for once, jeez! I'd love to see some cool guest spots and features. Lyrics about new topics. I want it to be like Twin Peaks with a bunch of stuff I can't figure out right away, but really want to! I want mystery, intrigue! And darkness. Can't forget the darkness. Make it scary at some points. Hold the releases for key moments, and make them sparse. There, that's what Glenn wants. You're welcome.

Here's Tool's first demo, I just learned about it. Has some early versions of songs. Interesting to hear. It'll be great to hear the contrast between their new album and this one. One thing I loved about them as a beginning band was Maynard's tendency to be at once brutal, and soft with his singing, but more than that--his incendiary word choices. "If consequences dictate my course of action and it doesn't matter what's right, it's only wrong if you get caught, if consequences dictate my course of action, I should, I should play God and just ... SHOOT YOU MYSEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLFFFFFFF"

That kind of incendiary, button-pushing attitude has been lost in Tool's few most recent albums, and I want it back! Fuck what people think, say what's on your mind, Maynard! Fuck it if people don't like it, stand behind what you say and mean it. That's what I want. No regard for what people like or don't like, what they want or don't want to hear. I want the truth from Tool--which means the truth from Maynard. I want Maynard's Truth .... haha that would be a good movie title.

Don't show me the boring old man who just sits in his vinyard in Ari-fucking-zona and shuns the world. I don't care about that man, honestly. He doesn't rock me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

RIP Glenn Branca

RIP Glenn Branca. Linked article below by Sam Barsanti for AVClub.

Lee Ronaldo and Thurston Moore met thru this guy, I believe. Stunning compositions Branca wrote. Shitloads of guitars making noise. He's not an incredibly popular guy, so I thought I'd help spread the word about his passing, at least.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thantifaxath takes its metal spaceward on Void Masquerading as Matter (2017)

One of my favorite black metal albums of the past decade was "Sacred White Noise" by Thantifaxath. It's a sprawling masterpiece of mindfuck horror, without relying on tropes like blood, gore, or vulgarity, but with actually terrifying concepts like eternity and purgatory. It's all handled tastefully too, in my opinion--with reverence to the craziness that must have went into the writing.

img via Bandcamp
The band just released "Void Masquerading as Matter" this month. The news caused excitement to flow upwards and out of me. I will now review the new EP briefly.

This is the kind of music I'd like to make someday. I could listen to this over and over. Thantifaxath have done it again with this EP. Four songs, 33-ish minutes of music, takes you on an epic journey, is sparsed out properly, stylistically unheard of, and will probably be imitated in the future.

This is weird, but I'm starting with track 2. I listened to track 1 a week or so ago when it was released, and it kind of flew in one ear and out the other. I wasn't paying enough attention. Gonna skip it this time. #dealwithit

"Self Devouring-Womb" is scary and hisses all the way thru, but takes the listener thru the whole gamut. It starts slow, has a big rise in its vast middle, and ends with a completely different type of sound and style, adding to the mythos of these ideas they've conjured up there in Toronto, the Far East Stronghold of Canada.

"Cursed Numbers" comes in so smoothly after the previous track that you'll miss it if you're not listening closely for the track change. So far, the songs seem to be thematically connected. This song features the band trying out some new ideas, but they're still staying really close to the style they've created.

Somehow these guys make black metal that sounds like no other black metal I've ever heard. Sometimes I'm reminded of the band Shining--not the suicidal depressive one, but the Blackjazz one.

The way they slow down at the 4-minute mark of "Cursed Numbers" and feature these processed distorted vocals is really cool. Then the sounds of black metal space appear. Sometimes this band reminds me of a sci-fi film. Like "Alien." But they seem firmly rooted in this idea of the afterlife and massive spans of time. This album seems more sci-fi than religious, like their last album, "Sacred White Noise." But the musical style is the same--written and performed by the same three guys, obviously. At least I don't think there were any lineup changes.

Around 7:40 on "Cursed Numbers" the lead guitar is amazing to me. There are sounds of screaming too. It's super scary and technically proficient. The time signature is about as far from 4/4 as you can get, yet it's still head-bob-able.

"Void Masquerading as Matter": do you like new-school Sunn O)))? Then you'll like how this track starts. It's beautiful, quiet, and thought-provoking, and contains perfectly captured performances by at least one guest vocalist.

And wow, do they stick with the theme on this closing track. It's a wild ride. I'm tense the entire time. That was masterfully executed. Well done, Thantifaxath. I'm not going to review the first track, you can listen to it yourself, and I've gotta put my kids to bed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fink's "Resurgam" delighted me when I was hating hard on modern music

"Resurgam" (Sept 2017) by Fink is a good album in a style I wouldn't have thought would resonate with me, indicating that it could be an album with appeal to a wide range of audiences. It's mellow, ambient folk with an electronica feel, some shoegaze mixed in. Usually that's a big turnoff, but because of the quality of the music, and Fink's understated, minimalist, chill delivery, this thing was enjoyable.

I was annoyed with popular music when I found "Resurgam", and had been digging for some time. The new Marilyn Manson song, "We Know Where You Fucking Live," is more of his usual tripe. It's revolting to me, as a former huge fan of his. I get so excited each time he releases new music, and it's always the same thing, repackaged in his hollow, self-congratulatory and -obsessed style: the album cover is a picture of his face, his music sounds the same as the last album, his vocals delivered in murky laziness, the picture of him hides his double chin at exactly the line at which it'd be exposed with a tall collar on his jacket, and he shows no signs of stopping. He'll just keep churning out shit for the rest of his usefulness. Ah well. Some people are just lost to the cause, you know? If he's taught me anything at this point, it's that teenagers, like I once was, are gullible, humans lose their fire when they get older, our heroes are fallible, and cocaine's a hell of a drug.

The new Björk song "the gate" is too mellow for me rn. Maybe later. "Resurgam" is mellow too, but it's a mellow that doesn't force me to study it with a fine-tooth comb to find something I care about.

The new Foo Fighters album "Concrete and Gold" is not as heavy as I want it to be, at least not the 1st two tracks. "Run" starts promisingly, but diverts from the heavy, dirty guitar groove into pop too often. It feels like a betrayal of what Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl meant when they were starting out. That they try that desperately to give each song a hook, and sing-song, memorable passages, kills the artistry. It's like they try to lure me in with a tasty carrot, and then slam the door shut to the Jail Cell of Mediocre Rock behind me, only the door is weak af, it's only made of bologna and Swiss cheese. It's like, are you guys even trying anymore? Breaking out of there actually nourishes me! Slightly. Cheese and bologna aren't healthy--that's why it's dangerous to step one foot in the waters of Mediocore Rock Created By Our Heroes Who Haven't Been Good In 30 Years. The first track on Concrete and Gold--"T-Shirt"--I enjoyed. I like short songs with ideas that only come once, and don't repeat.

The times for our musical heroes of the past are over. They rocked us hard once, so they keep receiving more money, getting more chances--like Ricky Gervais and Seth McFarlane in the film world--and they relentlessly churn out predictable, safe tripe that bends no boundaries, is cowardly at its root, and ultimately adds nothing to the musical lexicon. The marketplace of ideas will shut them out eventually. Their new albums won't nearly stand the test of time that their old ones did. Not even close.

Not every album can be mind-blowing, but it could at least be original, and at least the artist could try. IMO if you're not working really hard, it's not gonna be good. These bloated fat fuckers with their money--and this is different from poor people being fat because the food industry actively tries to poison poor people by making cheap food unhealthy--just thinking they can stride on into the studio and bang out some shit without suffering for it can take their crowning achievement and bury it in the ground. Yay for them. Let's celebrate them more in popular media. Great job. Meanwhile, new and emerging artists struggle to be heard.

So I was looking thru the rest of the new releases on Spotify by album cover, annoyed and impatient, and I saw Fink's "Resurgam" and it looked interesting. Visually it's not incredibly original, but it does fit the mood of the music, and I like the blurred out face--it shows the artist without being self-indulgent. He's emotional, but not putting his entire heart on his sleeve like a teenager. Fink's music is chill, reserved, gives you just enough to go on, and has a cool rhythm.

This was my first time hearing him, mind you, and I only listened to half the album. It looks like he's been releasing music since 2000. I apologize to hardcore Fink fans if "Resurgam" is, to you, more akin to what I described above à la "Concrete and Gold", but it hit me in just the right place.

And I hadn't even smoked any weed when I heard it! So the overall point of this review is that, if you're feeling like you want some new music, check this shit out. It might take you out of the same bad mood I was in and let you groove and dance a little and forget your troubles and be a tiny bit hopeful for the future, but also live in the moment, cuz that's what it did for me.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

George Michael dies on Christmas 2017

George Michael, who wrote Careless Whisper, died today at 53 years old. He passed away peacefully at home, and police say there were no suspicious circumstances.

Wham! Ugh, please 2016, don't take anyone else away from us! Now I really have to watch that Behind the Music about the guy.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Liturgy is black metal's savior

Brooklyn's Liturgy approaches black metal truly individualistically. It's black metal, definitely--not speed, thrash, grind, hardcore, punk, or anything like that. This, to me, is black metal and no other genre. Yet, Liturgy's sound and visuals are not fully, rigidly black metal--there's just no other term available with which to compare them, because no other band sounds like Liturgy. It's why they're more famous than contemporaries who dwell in works of the past, in non-innovation and repetition of sound.

Liturgy represents growth, fury, defiance, and beauty--even hope. They're like a fine wine. They're like a crazy new friend who comes into your life. Sometimes they're a depiction of heaven--rare, wondrous, and breathtaking. They blend so much together so deftly, both within black metal confines, and breaking out of said confines, spilling over effortlessly. Black metal as a genre cannot hold the greatness that is Liturgy. They shine forth with a power none may restrain.

No other band sounds like Liturgy, so if nothing else, they're unique. That alone warrants further exploration.

So y'all know I love Zev Deans, and he of course has had his hands in some Liturgy videos, because he picks awesome bands with which to work. Here, watch some more of his stuff here at his website's music page, if you want. He's got a growing body of unique work, aided in large part by Ghost, one of my fave bands alive today.

Peep this video for "Returner," track 3 from Liturgy's 2011 album Aesthetica, directed by Deans. This'll give you and idea of how Liturgy started, which will lead into where they went.

So that's pretty black metal-heavy, right? But the religious and church and high-minded aspects are there. Aesthetica was Liturgy's second album; on 2015's The Ark Work, that religious aspect was heightened--the music alone exemplifies this. The visuals compliment the mood perfectly--the album art, and the way Ark's music videos look.

Liturgy definitely has a mind toward high heights, and they use concepts of God, angels, and an ever-expanding brightness as vessels of conveyance. It's nothing like what actual churchgoers would feel free to conjure. It took a backing away from religion and its ever-safe-tenets, to give us a real look at a possible God we do not understand, but could feel safe in the embrace of. It's about vulnerability. It's about accepting what is before you, and the brilliant warmth you feel when you realize it's not going to be anything but positive and enlightening. It's like the closest you can come to an acid trip without the acid.

This video for "Quetzacoatl," directed by Aujik, exemplifies this perfectly.

Two people, witnessing this swirling whirlwind of angels. Isn't it great? That the music is constantly going in unexpected directions amplifies the feeling of "this is new and amazing." You can't help but just fall into Liturgy's arms. You have no idea what to expect, but what they're giving you is beautiful.

A few days ago I listened to The Ark Work in its entirety, and I had this thought, near the middle-end of the album, where everything is really quiet, and solemn, and there's this wavering keyboard thing going, and the mood is really meditative, and accepting, and quieting, and it really made me feel at peace. It was like, a true peace. Not one that panders to our desires for sugar, it was a truly relaxing thing. It sounded religious too. Like a religion that wouldn't detest me. Like something I'd actually like to be a part of.

Then all of a sudden, the music blasts into this unbelievably positive and intense whirlwind of major-key, symphonic, fast-as-fuck black metal. But is it black metal at this point? There's nothing black about it. It's just Liturgy. It's a bright, shining future. I had this thought: "They're giving me heaven right now." They're just giving it away. It's recorded, it's there. I may consume it. It's a gorgeous depiction of heaven and it made me feel like I was floating, as I was standing there drying dishes. That it's not being played in huge cathedrals, but in homes and kitchens like mine, seems a waste.

Of course, Zev had to make more than just one Liturgy video. Peep this The Ark Work album trailer he directed, and feel your jaw drop at the sheer power of the visuals, combined with that shaking keyboard thing I mentioned above:

So okay, next watch this live video from 2015. I love the way this venue is set up. I want to be there, one of those kids walking out the door to smoke a cigarette; one of those kids watching the show; one of those kids playing the show. Liturgy is humble up there--not trying to wow you with theatrics, but with true musical innovation. The bassist and drummer are also hawt.

Here's the last thing, it's "Follow" from Ark, from 2015, played in a studio where you can hear everything perfectly. The bell guitar effect is so cool along with black metal rhythms. It's controlled chaos. The vocal processing is really cool too, I want to know how he does that live.