The early 90s in America will not, I believe it is safe to say, go
down in history as a particularly tumultuous time. We had wriggled our
way out of the Cold War with nary a scratch, and save for blood
briefly drawn in desert storm, things remained relatively stable in the
US of A, the country feasting on the remains of the prosperous late
80s. And so, looking back at the 90s, one tends to associate the period
with a certain lightness and, well, “fun.”
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!
I'm more of a peripheral student of the 1970's New York art film scene, and continually finding surprising new things to look at in that loose genre, I haven't worn it to a nub as with other film genres that I've studied since those days. Much of the interesting stuff from back then was really hard to see, it wasn't on cable or videotape - you had to know somebody. Recently my pardner was looking at film clips of legendarily-edgy actor Rip Torn and she pulled up this stunning scene from the end of Norman Mailer's self-written and directed 'Maidstone' (1970), and I found it a very compelling piece of footage, as I love studying very exreme theater and film experiments, and this one appeared to have gone totally haywire, or not; in my opinion, even though Torn is clearly high as a kite, he pushed the film into its most memorable area, reminding me of some scary psychodramatic theatrical 'happenings' that I've witnessed where there was little or no line between the 'drama' and the 'reality' of the moment. And of course Mailer makes such a ripe target to mess with. Some of the many famous names involved with this project were: D. A. Pennebaker, Isaac Hayes, and Ultra Violet. Even though this scene is rather harsh and scary (with some strong NSFW language), it's also hilarious in a David Lynchian kinda way, as it seems 'out of control' somewhat, but since the camera operator just keeps on running, and no one jumps in very soon to 'save' Mailer, at this point in the filming they must have known good and well what they were getting into.
Also included for your edification, the trailer from another Torn opus 'Coming Apart'... 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:
Beyond a few broad, core truths (the Nazis are Evil, the Axis are a Threat), propaganda is by its very nature filled with falsehoods, exaggerations, and lies. It reveals far more about the country that created it than its actual target. In the following cartoons, which cast the most popular animated characters of the time into situations both comic and nightmarish, the concerns of World War II America are laid bare: it's scared, defiant, and strangely obsessed.
During a parable about the idiocy of signing a non-aggression pact with a man who is a wolf AND a Nazi, the Three Little Pigs run into the eldest pig’s house, which is made out of bricks and heavy cannons. There’s a sign on the door which says: “No Dogs Allowed”, except “Dogs” has been crossed out and
Tinsel Teeth live at Death by Audio in Brooklyn on July 28, 2012. These Rhode Island natives are amongst the most 'physical' performers currently out there. This video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Consider yourself warned. Punk is dead? I don't think so.
After the break: Doomsday Student, formerly known as Arab on Radar...
Lately for my radio show I've just been picking through FMU's massive LP collection for hours and hours. Very labor intensive, but I've found a lot of amazing stuff, and a surprising amount of dancehall from the late '80s onward. Snagga is this fella I found who does a mean Snagglepuss impression with some killer keyboard presets and drum sounds. And there began my youtube K-hole...But let me start with my favorite - I've watched Natty Dread (on the top right) at least 25 times this past week.
Watch Odd Future+Trash Talk playing "Radicals" and "Awake" live at 285 Kent on July 26, 2012. Even though they do have a new and pretty wicked industrial sized A/C at the warehouse on Kent, condensation started dripping from the ceiling 2 minutes into Trash Talk's set. Bodies were flying all over the place, swinging from the sprinkler pipes on the ceiling and vanishing in a several hundred people strong mosh pit. It was sheer mayhem and the ruckus was definitely brought to Brooklyn last night. Musically, it wasn't all that. But hey, what does a room full of explosive energy care about song writing finesse.
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:
These days, contemporary R&B seems to be a genre of music with specific attributes and qualities that are easily identifiable—things like slow grooves, smooth production values, and lush vocal arrangements. And, depending on the singer’s gender, the listener is treated to either a Diva or Lothario begging their beloved, earnestly trying to convince the apple of their eye that they need to consummate their love immediately.
While some of these elements can be found throughout the history of the genre, the scope of R&B used to be much larger, encompassing many different, and often disparate, musical styles.
Rhythm and Blues was initially a catchall term; coined after World War II, it was used to describe music made predominately for, and by, urban African-Americans. Under the Rhythm and Blues heading, different
Loren Connors+Thurston Moore playing live at Spy Fest at The Stone in New York City on July 14, 2012. This had to be one of the most sweltering shows ever since that Erykah Badu basement outing a few years ago. If you look up "Melted Men" you'll most likely find portraits of people that attended this show.
After the break: American Hardcore dinosaurs 7 Seconds at House of Vans as well as a lot of noise and experimental mayhem...
Not always, actually quite seldom, is the distinction between art and absurdity a relevant one. And it certainly doesn’t matter when in a TV show you combine live music, in-studio party, fancy dress, videotapes, punk, disco, anarchism, new wave, visual arts, rap, interviews, phone-in sessions, shaky camera angles, crude advertising and live drug taking. All this featuring guests such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Lurie, David Byrne, George Clinton, Fab Five Freddy, Tuxedo Moon, Debbie Harry, Maripol, Iggy Pop, Chris Burden, John Feckner just to name a few. The uniqueness of TV Party, however, was not as a celebration of the apotheosis of the underground, but that this played out on the mass media it rebelled against.
On air for one hour every Tuesday night from 1978 to 1982, TV Party was a piece of DIY experimental broadcasting hosted and conceived by Glenn O’Brien. It pioneered an alternative use of the medium, breaking its rules by looking deliberately amateur and shattering the traditional distinction between the