The Comsat Angels continue to be one of the most underrated of the crop of post-punk bands who would come to typify the icy detachment and morose beauty of fell under the "goth" banner (i.e. legends such as The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxsie And The Banshees as well as similarly underrated brethren like The Chameleons and The Sound); their first three albums (re-issued lovingly in the 2000's after years out-of-print by the Renascent label, but now again maddeningly unavailable) are all essential, with their sophomore opus Sleep No More standing as easily one of the most audacious and sonically arresting post-punk "pop" albums to see creation in the 80's. Here we have the group miming said album's title track amusingly behind translucant curtains on Belgian TV in 1981, while following is a lo-fi, but essential live performance of "Be Brave" (one of my favorite songs from the band) from the same year, supposedly in Germany.
The following collection of videos recorded in December of 1990 at an Elektra Records showcase is absolutely indispensable for any fan of classic hip-hop. The lineup is impeccable: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Brand Nubian, KMD, and Leaders Of The New School. To say that all of these acts were in their prime is understatement; of the four groups, three (Rock & C.L., KMD, and L.O.N.S.) had all yet to release their classic debuts. Thus, all these legends are young, hungry, and have all their creative energies intact, their spirits yet to be hardened by music industry politics and the eventual extreme commercialization of hip-hop as the decade wore on.
Perhaps the biggest treat to get fans salivating over these videos are the appearances of unreleased material in the Rock & C.L. and Brand Nubian vids. C.L. takes center stage (with Rock holding down the decks off-screen) with two still-unearthed gems (to my knowledge, anyway; they don't appear on the 2009 Basement Demos collection, and if they're on an earlier Rock & C.L. demo, I've yet to see it pop up online) bookending the track "Good Life" from the duo's All Souled Out EP which would drop the following year. In the case of Brand Nubian, who are still with Puba in tow following that year's classic One For All LP, the trio perform the unreleased, incendiary cut "The Devil" (which was actually unearthed on the rarities 12" The Now Rule Files), a track ripe with 5%'er anti-"Devil" rhetoric that would no doubt have given the mainstream media more fuel to freak out about regarding the controversial group (their between-song banter no doubt would've sent uptight white media pundits into a frenzy).
As for KMD and L.O.N.S., there are no lost-to-the-ages treasures appearing in their respective sets, but we do get both Zev (who of course would reinvent himself much later as MF Doom) and Onyx The Birthstone Kid working the crowd up with "Gasface Refill" and "Peachfuzz" from their then-current 12" and L.O.N.S. rocking with joyous vigour "Teachers, Don't Teach Us Nonsense" and "Case Of The P.T.A." (which would both appear on their first 12" and their debut album A Future Without A Past). Viewing the L.O.N.S. performance, it's obvious that the young man known as Busta Rhymes was destined to be a breakout star. With that, I give you a bonus Yo! MTV Raps performance of "The International Zone Coaster" at the end of the post.
By the way, if anyone has any info on the two unreleased Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth cuts in their performance (the first rocks the oft-sampled Five Stairsteps "New Dance Craze" break), please let me know! Now to the videos:
Big thanks to Dominick Colucci for alerting me to this great video of master electronics expert and synth-builder Jessica Rylan explaining her abiding love for her craft of choice.
For those unaware of Rylan and her numerous fantastic recordings (both solo and under the Can't alias), be sure to check out the following performance videos as well as WFMU blogger Nat Roe's post from last year on Rylan's deranged destruction of 80's soft-rock/pop earworms that make up her Can't Vs. The World CD.
I was lucky enough to catch Bill Orcutt and Chris Corsano a few weeks back at Roulette in Brooklyn. Both started out the evening with inspired solo sets, with Corsano performing an incredibly moving and invigorating percussion set that ran the gamut from cathartic free jazz bombast to subtle manipultions of his various drum kit implements (for those skeptical about the concept of a solo percussion performance, Corsano is the person to sell you on the idea) and Orcutt exploring the off-kilter, four-string avant-blues his recent solo work has focused upon to great acclaim (he even bestowed us in the audience with the most bizarre and moving interpretation of "Over The Rainbow" I will ever hear).
But it was when the two came together to perform as a duo that the evening blindsided with a sheer cacophonous rapture that I'd be incredibly lucky to experience again. Being too young to have seen the legendary, untouchable Harry Pussy in concert, seeing Orcutt and Corsano's duo is perhaps the closest I will ever get to knowing that power in the flesh. Orcutt back on electric; Corsano slaughtering the skins. This was by far the best show I've seen this year.
This isn't taken from the Brooklyn show, but it's a clip from their tour stop in Philly; it amply captures the duo at their peak for those who may have missed out.
The best song I've heard this year hasn't even been officially released yet.
It's been immensely satisfying to see soul prodigy D'Angelo make a staggeringly powerful comeback in the face of the personal and professional demons that rendered him missing-in-action for the majority of the 00's (GQ's superb profilefrom this past summer sheds light on this). His long-spoken-of third album, which will follow 2000's Voodoo(easily one of the top 5 albums of the past decade and by-far the best R&B/soul album from the 00's), is still little more than an abstract promise of some kind, but new material has been creeping into his recent live sets. "The Charade" in particular offers proof that the man has not lost an ounce of his genius in spite of some very public setbacks that have seemingly permanently derailed the careers of other infinitely talented musicians (e.g. Lauryn Hill). If his third album follows in the vein of "Charade," this record will without question act as a watershed achievement standing high above the mass disappointment of our stale current pop music landscape.
"The Charade" as of now only exists in fan videos shot from some early performances from this past year in Europe, as well as one from the House Of Blues in LA from this past independence day, and although the audio quality might not always be ideal, it's sonic richness is easy to grasp and imaginatively flesh-out within one's head-space. The best song Prince never wrote, "Charade" hearkens to the most beautifully psychedelic of Prince's mid-to-late 80's run (e.g. the intimately strange "The Ballad Of Dorthy Parker," the powerful "Mountains," the unimpeachable "Pop Life"), but even with its obvious debt to a towering influential musical master, the song never force-feeds the nostalgia. D'Angelo uses this influence as the sort-of building block all great artists who wish to learn and expand upon the masterpieces of their idols while touting their own individuality must strive to craft. It's his song after all, and by the time the bridge passes and the intensity increases ten-fold and taken into transcendent territory by an absolutely wall-shattering solo from former Time axeman Jesse Johnson, it's evident that nobody in the past decade has really approached music with this seemingly effortless passion and masterful sense of composition and arrangement.
The Dead C's 1992 masterwork Harsh 70s Reality was finally re-released on vinyl a few weeks ago in its full, intended form (two songs, "Shark" and "T. Is Never Over I & II" were removed when the double LP was released on CD due to space limitations), and upon revisiting the album, which has been beautifully remastered, I'm confident in proclaiming that this is probably very well my favorite album of the 90's. The only possible album I could see trumping it would be the C's own 1997 sleeper hit Tusk, but I must say that the trio approached the concept of a double LP with great foresight and a mastery of their varied approaches to their no-fi avant-rock dirges. We get the "pop" songs ("Sky"), the morose pseudo-ballads (a powerful, sludgy take on previous single "Hell Is Now Love" simply entitled "Love"), the building bludgeon of some live burners ("Constellation"), and of course, the unreal drone collage epic of album opener "Driver U.F.O." Everything The Dead C have done is worth owning/exploring, but this is an early pinnacle; the plans were set in motion, and they ran with this creative energy to consistently compelling ends.
With that in mind, here's some superb visual ephemera from the New Zealand lads. Starting with a hypnotically low-budget VHS rip of a "Helen Said This" music video (or is it a liver performance? Hard to tell, but that's part of the magic), a live interview and studio performance for Seattle-based web series Live Eye TV, a live performance in London from their appearance at ATP in 2010 I believe, and finally, because it bears posting again, the band's surreal, blistering, violent performance on New Zealand pop music television show Ground Zero. Enjoy!
Years later, after numerous imitators and front-man Jon Spencer's 90's Alternative Nation-esque stardom with his ubiquitous and hyped Blues Explosion excursions, one might sometimes forget just how completely radical and unhinged Pussy Galore were in their prime. Whether or not they were in on the nihilistic excesses is besides the point; they ruffled feathers (including rather infamously those of the more PC sectors of D.C.'s punk scene) and had the caustic sound to back up the bile. I'm sure I don't need to sell them in this space as I'm sure WFMU fanatics are well aware of the band's ability, but it bears sharing this great, grimy, scratchy VHS rip of the band tearing into their audience circa 1987. I'm still bummed that I missed their one-off reunion opening for Yo La Tengo last December, so this will have to suffice in the meanwhile. Ain't it always that way. Sigh....
A huge, huge thanks to my pal Gabe for directing me toward this interview with DJ Premier and Pete Rock in which the two legends relay wonderfully detailed stories behind the creation of some of their most notable records. In my mind, they are hands down the two most important producers in 90's hip-hop (and both top my list of favorite hip-hop producers of all-time, along with Large Professor), and thus this sit-down is indispensable for any fan of the genre circa the early to mid 90's. Here how Rock ghost-produced A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)", how an overbooked Premier crafted Biggie's "Unbelievable" at the last minute, how Jeru The Damaja's "Come Clean" was nearly a more expansive sonic affair, how Premier scrapped his original production of Nas' "Represent" during the recording of Illmatic after being floored by Rock's work on "The World Is Yours," how Diddy infamously jacked Rock's ideas for Biggie's "Juicy" without giving proper credit....shit, the whole thing is a treasure for any serious head. This chat was available as a bonus on a DVD release documenting a battle/show Rock and Premier undertook in Japan. Without question, this is essential viewing:
Massive thanks to my good friend Wendy Vogel for alerting me to this. I've seen bits and pieces here and there of German industrial stalwarts 1986 film Halber Mensch here and there, but now some wonderful soul has uploaded the complete package. Tons of great performance footage and surreally unsettling quasi-music videos spread throughout of Blixa and company in their prime.
On a related note, the film's director, Gakuryū Ishii, had perviously directed this film, entitled The Crazy Family, that I wish to make a point of seeing immediately:
"In 1984, Ishii directed his most widely-acclaimed movie to that point, The Crazy Family (逆噴射家族), the title of which literally translates to The Back-Firing Family (or more crudely, "the fucked-up family"). A savage satire of Japanese family life, it depicted an average household (mother, father, son, daughter, and later grandfather) moving into a new Tokyo home, only to have their perfect life collapse due to pressures from within and without. The daughter obsesses over her singing career; the nominally-demure wife does table-dances for the guests; the son stabs himself to stay awake during his exam-cram sessions; the father digs a giant hole in the living room floor, finds termites, buys ant poison and tries to kill everyone en masse. The film garnered the Grand Prix at the Saruso Film Festival." (from Wikipedia)
And back to Neubauten, here's a 1981 performance of the title track from their incomparable, underrated true first full-length album (not counting some early cassette works) Kollaps:
I almost want to get into a whole rant bemoaning the distressing lack of any perverse "theatricality" in most underground music these days, or the abysmally scant amount of genuine creepiness coming from whatever passes itself off as goth at this point, but man, it must be said that they really don't make 'em like the Virgin Prunes anymore. Aside from their ingeniously flamboyant and unsettling nightmare of a live show, the band, especially in the early days, had a great post-industrial undercurrent seeping through their sonics (their Herese release is especially representative of the band at their most chaotically perverse). Anyway, here's Gavin, Gigi, and the crew doing what they do best, all with a slyly campy, deadpan creepy cool. Still hard to believe they were old buds of U2, eh?
I have to thank my buddy Travis Johnson for alerting me to this bit of incredibly surreal realness: extreme metal legends Napalm Death performing on a BBC musical program for children (apparently called What's That Noise?). I really have nothing more to add to that. Just, wow. Perhaps most amusing of all is the band's decision to play their infamous second-long masterpiece "You Suffer" from their classic debut Scum. Or just the fact that's near impossible to get extreme music on ANY television show, let alone a children's program.
I've been on a rather consistent Scissor Girls kick this past week, especially when it comes to continually penetrating the late, great Chicago no-wave/noise-rock trio's disjointed, schizo, brilliant 10" so that you can start to see what S-T-A-T-I-C-L-A-N-D (with recording help from one Tom Smith of To Live And Shave In L.A. fame, who's fingerprints seem to linger over the record's fractured aesthetic). There sadly are too few bands these days with both the sonic and visual audacity that the Girls possessed; here are some moving picture diversions from the band's archives:
Cryptic, amusing interviews and some short, but solid live footage from Chicago TV show Ben Loves Chicago:
It goes without saying that Suicide were immeasurably influential for the worlds of industrial, dance, and electronic music as a broad, brilliant whole. And with that kind of path-paving comes the need from the students of such a singular act to give a little back, as Soft Cell fittingly do here on the BBC. Foetus mastermind Jim Thirlwell, a.k.a. Clint Ruin, joins Marc Almond in channeling Alan Vega's cryptic, snarling aura, both rendering with an amphetamine sheen the Suicide classic "Ghost Rider" into something approaching a dance-floor-enticing "Frankie Teardrop" (mainly through Thirlwell's flailing shouts). Wild and cathartic:
Wyatt Howland is one of the best folks making harsh noise these days, sticking inflexibly to the genre's unapologetic sonic repulsiveness while engaging expertly in various shades of dynamism.
This video from 2010's Neon Marshmallow Festival in Chicago finds Howland utilizing my subconcious maxim for harsh noise live performance: always leave them wanting more...much more. Here Howland blasts the crowd with crude aural pain for a little over a minute before literally throwing his gear to the wind. A hilariously short set? Sure, but not one of us was disappointed. Take note charlatans:
This post is exactly what it says it is. American noise performance artist Crank Sturgeon, a legend of ecstatic absurdity, playing a set while ostensibly taking a dump. I caught Crank this past weekend at the Ende Tymes festival in Bushwick, and although I'd seen him blow me away in years past, it really hit home for me this time around that Crank is a clown in the most classical and creative sense of the term. The man is beyond noise and beyond comedy, a consummate performer who can never be imitated. And with that, "Crank has a movement in Lowell" (as the uploader of the video puts it):
Here's an impressively masterful recording from NY avant-guitarist Alan Licht entitled "The Old Victrola" which features a recording of the musician improvising an ethereal guitar drone over loops from Donna Summer's 1979 hit "Dim All The Lights". One of those ideas one wouldn't think would work, but the execution is wonderful. For further bizarre synergy, the piece is bookended by covers of Captain Beefheart's "Well." You can find this one on his 2000 CD Plays Well.
The Beastie Boys weren't my introduction to hip-hop (I like to credit A Tribe Called Quest and their 1993 album Midnight Marauders, which I picked up on tape in fourth grade, for really getting me obsessed with the genre), but they without a doubt became an important group within my exploration of the genre. So I was devastated this past week when I was informed of Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA) losing his battle with cancer. I don't know what I can say that has not already been said at this point, but I will always admire the fearlessness and ecleticism promoted through the music of Yauch and his bandmates. And in spite of their crossover to rock audiences at various points in their long career, they always remained first and foremost a rock-solid hip-hop act. Any MC worth their kangol treasures Paul's Boutique, and as evidenced by the outpouring of grief from figuress in the hip-hop community as varied in their respective approaches as Talib Kweli, Bun B, Chuck D, and Big Boi, the Beasties always maintained their respect and influence in hip-hop even when finding success in other genres. With that, I'd like to give a huge R.I.P. to Yauch, and in honor of the Boys, I present some cuts you may have missed:
"Sure Shot (Large Professor Remix)"
The Boys' 1994 smash gets an overhaul at the hands of the incomparable Extra P, who lays down a head-cracking snare and the "UFO" sirens to set this one off.
Searching for videos of Smegma is a laborious prospect, both due to the obvious turn for the worst that comes searching their name (for obvious reasons) as well as the thousands (it seems) terrible bands who've called themselves "Smegma" or utilized the term in their moniker (mostly juvenile, toilet-humor worshiping jocks from what it looks like). But of course the Smegma I'm referring to is the delightfully debased, maniacal improv ensemble tied to the infamous Los Angeles Free Music Society and residing for many years in Portland, OR. Since the 70's, the ensemble has performed and recorded arrestingly damaged and sublimely erratic takes on free-improvisational form along with dabbles into demented forms of punk, jazz, and garage rock (see their single "Swamp Dick"). My search for 70's and 80's video came up empty-handed, but here's a couple solid early 90's clips along with a more recent missive at a Smegma "house party." Dig:
Dick Clark's American Bandstand was obviously an important and inescapable pop-music institution, the importance of which will no doubt be analyzed and mulled over in light of Clark's passing a couple days ago. The one drawback of the show, and its numerous imitators and descendents for that matter, was its insistence of its musical acts miming their performances to a studio recording, a practice that results in considerable frustration when digging deep for live footage of certain under-documented bands of yesteryear.
Still, although it's pretty obvious those stacks in the background aren't allowed the opportunity to immolate the teeny-boppers in the stands, it's nice to have proto-metal legends Blue Cheer tearing it up on TV, even if it's all a put-on of sorts. While many in my circle, in light of Clark's passing, have rightly been posting the infamous and ingenious Public Image Ltd. performance that saw the Metal Box-era lineup taking advantage of the artifice of Bandstand to jovially chaotic ends (that's not even mentioning the total mindfuck of having the band at their most sonically confrontational being pumped into the homes of no-doubt terrified suburbanites), it's almost as equally surreal to see the LOUDLOUDLOUD burbling fuzz and grime of Cheer taking the young-in's for baptism by fire.
Stay for the spectacularly stoned-out interview between the always-chipper Clark and the Cheer boys. In spite of Clark's relative enthusiasm, this interview with the late Cheer mainstay Dickie Peterson notes that there was definite contention off-screen:
"At the time, we were being managed by 'Gut' Terkl, who'd been a Hell's Angel, and Gut and I were sitting in the dressing room smoking a bowl of hash, and Dick Clark walked in, and looked at us, and he says, 'PEOPLE LIKE YOU GIVE ROCK 'n' Roll A BAD NAME!' We looked back at him, and we said, "Thank you very much!" That was the last time we were ever on Bandstand."
I've had a rather difficult time looking for footage of classic Australian industrial group SPK live from their strongest era, that being the from the years 1979 through to around 1983. Their subsequent forays into pop music have done nothing for me, and unfortunately, much of the live footage I've come across online has been taken from this period.
Finally, I found this gem tonight, footage from a live performance in Sydney in 1981. Donning cryptic costumes that run the gamut from Arthurian knights with Nazi armbands to bondage gimps, the band debuts material that would end up on 1982's superb Leichenschrei LP, still probably my favorite industrial record of all-time. The uncompromising noise and metallic percussion are in full force, definitly bringing to mind some of the more unforgiving aspects of 1981's Information Overload Unit album. Speaking of "unforgiving," some unsettling autopsy/medical autrocity footage in spliced into the performance (a live tactic carried over from much of the group's album art motifs), so probably NSFW or NSFWS (not safe for weak stomachs).