18 August, 2017

Stabbing Westward - "Ungod"

Stabbing Westward - "Ungod"

A portion of my, "not at work" time, is spent in a music community on Facebook in which we rank our favorite albums of yesteryear. Often, in doing so, I run across an album or a band that either slipped through the cracks or were wholly written off at the time. Stabbing Westward definitely fell into the latter of the two. "A shotgun wedding between Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails" is how one of my friends categorized their emergence. I was a little more open-minded, albeit cynical after seeing the video for "Nothing" on MTV. Then, quite unexpectedly, I doscovered they were on a compilation I owned from the year prior, The Cyberflesh Conspiracy, an electronic and industrial collection. Therein was the track, "Violent Mood Swings" and it suggested a band that was more Meat Beat Manifesto or Skinny Puppy. Not a dramatic departure from Nine Inch Nails - I get it, but it definitely stripped away the discourse that this band was some industrial-rock, record-exec manifestation. More importantly, it proved to me that Stabbing Westward's debut on a major label was not simply an overzealous umbrella to reign in that "alternative" sound.

In all fairness, Ungod is a departure from their material in 1992 and 1993 - if Nine Inch Nails is a $15 dessert from a fine restaurant, this album is the kind of dessert a 10 year old concocts. That's not meant to be insulting, but Ungod comes off as an album with hooks instead of chords and the kind of lyrical animosity that sends mailbombs to it's ex. It seems extreme in it's sultry, seething, concussive framework and every track is meticulously crafted to ensnare.

"What is this thing?" It's the Island Of Dr. Moreau of Albums.Tell me, how is that possible in two shorts years? Was it a team of engineers that would rival Madonna's liner notes? Nope - I've seen more production notes on a Jim Nabors record. Then the name pooped out, "John Fryer" - engineer for Depeche Mode, Cranes, Fad Gadget, Love And Rockets, a whole host of 4AD bands, and yep - Nine Inch Nails. Case dismissed? I don't think so. An engineer can turn good into great, and steer the ship - especially a veteran with a new band.

Ungod borrows, and begs and steals, and I'd be foolish to turn a blind eye to that. I'm sure there's a handful of bands who wondered what the line between theft and similarity stood. But Stabbing Westward cannot be so easily dismissed. They brought something to the table that allowed a talented engineer to take it to another level. Even at this young a stage, Stabbing Westward were already developing an uncanny knack at song craft that blended harsh industrial noise into textures that complimented not only their musical proficiency, but also built a framework that fed the angry lyrics of Christopher Hall. The songs are allowed to cascade and build, there is no rush to the reward... all the while whispered to angry vocals lead you on a journey through betrayal and hatred. Hall's vocals may be the most haunting you will find on any industrial rock album of the 90s, but they are able to reach an intensity that evokes believably. Bass lines are actually well-crafted, and compliment drummer, David Suycott's style perfectly. Reading through the liner notes, I saw that writing was shared by several of the members, which added to convictions that Ungod was anything but a corporate whore.

Yes, "Control", "Nothing", "Violent Mood Swings", "Ungod" and "Lies" are extreme versions of a Nine Inch Nails song. I won't deny that, and maybe I should say, "Fuck this album!" and walk away. However, even though the familiarity is painfully too close or unoriginal - these tracks, the albums singles, are extremely well performed and they are a diabetic coma. If somebody took all of the original Jonny Quest characters and made a new series called "Ronny Adventurer" and carried on killing Lizard Men - I'm watching it. Just sayin'.

For me however - if all that I had to sink my teeth into were the aforementioned tracks, I would probably not even write this review. But tracks like "Red On White" and "Can't Happen Here" reflect a Stabbing Westward that's not contrived or lead down the yellow brick road, but a band that paid a lot of attention to the best parts of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult's debut, and Skinny Puppy, and Wolfsheim. There is brilliance is these lesser known tracks that exceeds expectations for a band on their debut album.

As a whole, Stabbing Westward presented an exceptional album throughout. If it's only flaw is that it's familiar, then I'm willing to forgive it's transgressions. It took something done and carried it down the road without falling - good enough for me. Did they do it alone, no... but I believe even without John Fryer, Stabbing Westward would have offered an Ungod equally captivating and solid throughout.

Nine Inch Nails - Not The Actual Events EP (Twelve Inch) - Review


Right off the bat, full disclosure, I've been a fan of Nine Inch Nails from the start. I had Pretty Hate Machine on cassette, vinyl, and compact disc within the first month of it's release, and I had to purchase that album at least a half-dozen times because friends would forget to return it. I've remained a paying customor on the Trent Reznor carnival ride since, but I'd be lying if I didn't also confess that following The Fragile, I began to develop some motion sickness.With Teeth ushered a realization that I may not enjoy every track on a Nine Inch Nails album going forward. Our love affair had run out of steam, though it very much possessed all the qualities that originally brought us into one another's lives.

 The Downward Spiral opened a new facet into what is the totality of a Nine Inch Nails release; those lucky enough to find the promotional vinyl were rewarded with stunning and painstakingly beautiful art and packaging. The presentation of releases, "Perfect Drug" aside, has developed with each consecutive release, and the art is as integral as the music it encompasses. Though I may be rebuffed for claiming it, for me personally, I believe the packaging and it's careful representation is as much collectible for fans as the often limited nature in which it's offered. Unfortunately, Year Zero, suffered from it... fans were so rabid to piece together a puzzle that was scattered throughout the world in forms of flash drives, hidden messages, secret images - that the presentation eclipsed the product. An otherwise solid album suffered from it's own clever design. And because I wasn't in on the game, I felt a little disconnected from my friend of so many years.

I've said all of this to preface a review of Nine Inch Nails' first E.P. (of three planned for release this year), because, yes, I am probably a little biased, but also, that I am capable of being disappointed. The E.P. was released digitally at the end of 2016, and the physical releases (in the form of a 12-Inch) are just now shipping. A lot has happened musically for Trent Reznor between 2013's Hesitation Marks and this E.P. Collaborations with Atticus Ross have scored some of the largest film releases in the past decade; Trent has become involved with Apple, and let's just ignore the fact that he is also a real person with a family and responsibilities the rest of us have, As quiet as Trent may be - he's never far from surfacing in the ocean of life's minutia. Whether it's receiving critical praise for the tours that followed Hesitation Marks in it's creativity and unique adaptation of light and structure; or it's a film score that writhes like a serpent through your subconscious, or it's a blistering performance on Twin Peaks (The Return) - the man simply isn't forgettable or yesterday's big event, he's more like a tsunami that stops for coffee. 

All that said, Not The Actual Events is as strong a Nine Inch Nails release as anything else in their catalog. "The Idea Of You", incorporates piano in a cinematic fashion that transcends everything that has come before it. The track is easily as aggressive as "Burn", but Trent's vocals are muted and beg the listener to spin that volume knob just enough before the assault happens. "Branches/Bones" is a slow burn that is beautifully crafted with exceptional guitar work and layered vocals that soar and collapse you into "Dear World". Lyrically: cynicism, apathy, and self-deprecating introspection... the kind of dim horizon that only Trent Reznor can illustrate with such clarity. The synth-pop, drum-driven track compliments such dark musings perfectly, and it's the sort of fare a DJ craves to manipulate. 'She's Gone Away" and "Burning Bright (Field On Fire)" offer something new to fans. There's a raw studio element to these tracks that almost seems to emanate from a 1950's radio that's still stored away in the attic at this very moment, and the ghosts have the controls. "She's Gone Away", though unique,  offers a flavor very familiar to fans, an undulating journey a la "Reptile" that creeps in an out of all your naughty thoughts. In other words, it's the perfect fit for anything and everything David Lynch. The closest relatives to "Burning Bright (Field On Fire)" emanated from The Fragile... but this family member has been disowned and spent some time stalking Dirty Beaches and Ariel Pink. There is some buried (intentionally) guitar work on the sub-surface that is so striking that I started manipulating my EQ to get a better listen, and just as your are fully in and submerged - it drops you suddenly but gingerly back into reality.

As I said, this E.P. is incredibly crafted and well worth adding to your collection. It will, along with it's two counterparts to follow, likely find a home in your Top Ten this year, and be a record you'll pull out in the years to come. It's not forgettable, or fleeting as Trent has suggested, it's as well done and well-crafted as anything he has done and deserves the praise.

But I'm not done! Right? We didn't touch on the packaging after so much time was spent writing about packaging! Trent Reznor has a theme running throughout this year's releases "existing in the real world" and many really didn't know what that meant. Turning quickly to Year Zero ocd paranoia, fans began dissecting the imagery and subtext. Whether or not there's something there to find, you know what, I'm staying on the train bur I'm not studying what's passing by the windows. This particular twelve-inch and the book the preceded it offer the same evocative imagery that delves into Nine Inch Nails as a physical art form, and presents each owner with a unique reward to make your physical component truly your own, one-of-a-kind item.

This much-anticipated, immersive experience I set myself up for was somewhat unraveled by a distribution company that didn't carry the mantle of devotion, care, and creativity that brought all of this together. They instead threw my 12-inch into a mailer without any cardboard support and what I received as a result is one jacked-up bent-to-hell record. I've been exchanging emails with Sandbag, Ltd, but so far, I'm stuck with what I have and I'm pretty disappointed. I'm pretty confident this is not what Trent Reznor had in mind when he decided to put out the twelve-inch for fans and take the time to make it unique. He didn't intend for my experience to incorporate a postal-workers bad day at the office. So, Sandbag - not happy. My advice - if you can find another way to obtain your Not The Actual Events EP - then do so. At least save your email with your order number... because Paypal transaction IDs and proof of payment will get you nowhere.

02 December, 2016

Supposition: Revulsion

It's little secret that I am a QueenAdreena fan. Easily, the group is in my top 5 picks that define my musical interests. It is however, an interest fraught with less than desirable results. Katie Jane Garside, for better or for worse embodies the mantle of the band, she is in effect: Queen Adreena. The "wrecked nymph waif" that saunters onstage in a salacious, seemingly-possessed persona that eclipses all the senses is well-beyond any other element of the experience. And it is in that framework that KJG is vilified...

Let's be clear, in appearances alone, the emotionally unsound affect coupled with being barely-clothed and possibly naked and offering yourself to an audience of strangers to grope, molest, and violate is the blanket ingredients to shock value recipe. It is also akin to watching a schizophrenic attempt to coexist in a sterile world. It feels wrong, it feels dirty, it feels like it shouldn't be seen. And that's exactly at the core of what's transpiring. You should feel that way. Unfortunately - with much of society, what we don't want to see, we also don't want to understand.

There has been the obvious comparison to Courtney Love. Both women exude a tortured and unsettled emotion that is a pain that can't be exorcised... and it presents itself in a seething, volatile assault on the listener. But I would draw closed the comparison there. While we know much (probably too much) about the path Courtney Love has traveled, that same cannot be said about Katie Jane Garside. One can assume that there is a lifetime's worth of hurt that is personified in her lyrics and stage-persona, but we don't really know. And it's really not the point, and if you think KJG doesn't realize that, you are taking her wholly for granted. If for instance she made a statement that claimed she had been victimized as a child - it would make it so much easier to understand her presence; neatly categorized and packaged for individual judgment. And now suddenly, it's not as important, I can choose to care about this or not.

I will argue that Katie Jane Garside and Queen Adreena should draw more comparisons to Marilyn Manson than perhaps anyone. MM stoked the conservative rhetoric fire for choosing to be the embodiment of every parent's worst fear. A figurehead that questions organized religion, decency, morality, and packaged it into a fearsome, androgynous, educated and well-spoken antichrist. The image was so disconcerting that few could look past the spectacle to read and listen to the lyrics; to sit back and question what is happening and why? MM made the decision, quite reluctantly, to let America in on the joke... and now he is palatable enough for tv and film.

So, why in this morality lesson that Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Rozz Williams chose to teach us that we aren't ready to go beyond the "transgressions" of KJG? I would offer that it's three reasons: Unlike MM, Bowie, etc., she is unwilling to give definition to this aspect of herself; the music is so seething and angry that it's off-putting; but I am willing to claim that the biggest reason is because sexuality is a much different monster than religion, morality, decency. A women using her body as a statement and eliciting a sexual response without explanation is simply too egregious an act to quantify.

Now, if you couple the image with the word, perhaps the revulsion seems absolutely correct. With song titles like, "Pretty Like Drugs", "Suck", "Kitty Collar Tight", "F.M. Doll" - surely this is all just shock value and that is all that should be elicited as a response. But what is painfully evident when you listen to those songs and read the lyrics is that even from Daisy Chainsaw days, that KJG was drawing parallels between a woman's sexuality being her only currency in a world hell-bent on exploiting that. And suddenly, the spectacle makes perfect sense. The trap has been baited with silence and that enticement was too much to refuse. Out fell, the basest of human decency, the double standards by which women live their lives, and the judgmental bubble by which we navigate life. Accepting that you are a victim of this trap is a bitter pill... thinking that somehow you are better than other's for not swallowing is worse. So much effort is spent on victimizing KJG, when the reality is quite the reverse.

But perhaps it's all a mute point now. The exposition of 10 years of QueenAdreena seems to have slithered away back into the dark... the band has continued on as The Dogbones, and Garside has devoted a lot of time to writing and Rubythroat. I feel it's worth noting, that despite song-writing that remains true to her nearly 3 decades in the music industry, somehow when the stage-stripping, writhing and screaming stopped - the press suddenly expressed a profound love for the "new KJG". It's laughable, I know she's laughing. Being a sedate, intellectual woman is clearly more respectable than an angry, hell-bent, intellectual woman... but I guess we already knew that.

KJG has a new book coming out, if it's anything like her previous efforts, it will be painstakingly constructed and a special piece in your collection:

Katie Jane Garside

26 June, 2016

Link TV

The family decided we were done with our cable television provider for a variety of reasons. Our first choice was U-Verse, but some shady dealings by our former mayor, who happened to be a member of the board on the same cable provider we've been using prevented any competition in providing cable television services for a period of 99 years. So, the loophole in that law was satellite providers - so DirectTV it is. This means for me, I once again have access to LinkTV and it's amazing World Music programming. A lot of the artists I discovered can no longer be found online - their videos only live in my memory.So, in honor of that return - here's my top 10 discoveries from this ground-breaking program.

10: Kamini: Marly Gomont
A French Rapper that originates from rural France. This video went viral before there was such a thing.

9. Yothu Yindi: Ghost Spirits
Aboriginal artist that caught the attention of Alan Wilder (Depeche Mode). He produced and mixed this track.

8. Sultana - Kusu Kalkmaz
Provocative Turkish rapper Sultana churns out political rhymes.

7. Molotov: Here We Kum
Mexican rap/hardcore/thrash outfit Molotov that snagged their share of Grammys, including alum of the year. Spanglish lyrics that run political to satire to misogynistic 

6. Die Antwoord: Enter The Ninja
South Afrikaan artist Die Antwoord started out as a skit on a comedy show on South African television. But demand for more resulted in an E.P. that exploded out of South Africa and into European Markets and the rest is history.

5. Lila Downs: Perro Negro
No official video exists for this track, but the widely popular track that featured Cafe Tacuba's vocalist inspired many fan videos, but none so popular as this one that became the unofficial offical video.

4. Balkan Beat Box: Move It
High energy and infectious rhythms, Balkan Beat Box became the darlings of the international music scene in the early 2000s.

3. Dengue Fever: Seeing Hands
Dengue Fever hails from Cambodia, but their social-political lyrics made waves across the world. They drew the ire of their own government and fled on a world tour that garnered so much attention that it forced the hand of the Cambodian regime to reconsider the prosecution on the band.

2. Emir Kusturica & The No-Smoking Orchestra: Unza Unza Time
Known for his acting chops and film scores, Emir Kusturica also offers up traditional Balkan music infused with gypsy and punk rhythms. Satire and tongue-in-cheek humor flavor this video which I promise will delight.

1. Cafe Tacuba: Dejate Caer
Also hailing from Mexico, Cafe Tacuba blend pop and alternative rock to create infectious tracks. Hugely popular South of the Border, they have also established themselves as tour favorites in The States.

15 February, 2016

Mistape: My Sister's Methedrine

In my flurry of mixtape creation in the early 90s, I started this project of compiling Sisters Of Mercy and bands that embraced their unique sound. The tapes found their way to the bottom of a box when I found myself with too much material for one cassette, but not enough for two. After finding the lost treasure a few weeks ago, I found myself wanting to complete the recordings. So, here's the finished product.


A01 - The Sisters Of Mercy - Lights
A02 - James Ray Performance - Edie Sedgwick
A03 - The Lords Of The New Church - Open Your Eyes
A04 - The Mission - Evangeline
A05 - March Violets - Snakedance
A06 - Fields Of Nephilim - Laura
A07 - Rosetta Stone - Heart And Soul
A08 - Ritual Howls - No Witnesses
A09 - The Merry Thoughts - Black Day
A10 - Pink Turns Blue - I Coldly Stare Out

B01 - Red Lorry Yellow Lorry - Hand On Heart
B02 - Ghost Dance - Yesterday Again
B03 - The Wake - Nazarene
B04 - Every New Dead Ghost - Bleak House
B05 - Gary Marx - Blindfold
B06 - Dreadful Shadows - A Better God
B07 - League Of Nations - Fade
B08 - Fad Gadget - Ideal World
B09 - And Also The Trees - Midnight Garden
B10 - Ausgang - Crawling The Walls
B11 - Balaam And The Angel - Two Into One


C01 - London After Midnight - Inamourada
C02 - Ultravox - I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)
C03 - Sad Lovers And Giants - Echoplay
C04 - Dr. Arthur Krause - Moribund
C05 - The Sisterhood - Giving Ground
C06 - The Sisters Of Mercy - On The Wire
C07 - Love Like Blood - Into The Snake Pit
C08 - Bone Orchard - Princess Epilepsy
C09 - Fields Of Nephilim - Back In Gehenna
C10 - The March Violets - Walk Into The Sun
C11 - Virgin Prunes - Walls Of Jericho

D01 - The Sisters Of Mercy - Lucretia, My Reflection (Long Version)
D02 - The Legendary Pink Dots - Golden Dawn
D03 - Einstrurzende Neubauten - Total Eclipse Of The Sun
D04 - Phallus Dei - Circles On Circles (The Final Realm Mix)
D05 - New Creatures - Post Valentine
D06 - Ultra Vivid Scene - The Ascent
D07 - Christian Death - Lacrima Christi (Italian Version)
D08 - Petali Del Cariglione - Altra Donna

Download My Sister's Methedrine

18 January, 2016

Mixtape: Sticky Brilliance (Eclusion)

A few weekends past, I found myself digging thru boxes of tapes. I probably have about 1000 cassettes in my collection, 100 or so of those are cassette bootlegs (mostly of a Rozz Williams nature) and probably an additional 100+ mixtapes of varying degrees. It's not because these collections are remarkable that I wish to share them, in fact, quite the contrary. I believe that if anything, what is illustrated with my mixtapes is a glimpse in to my music collection and how it developed and the tangents it takes. As I sat on the floor of my office I looked at the tapes, more precisely, the songs included on those tapes almost as seeds; where a sound, a genre, an artist took root, grew branches, bore fruit, and offered up new seeds. It's almost a surrogate family tree, because in all honesty, it's where I stole my culture, my tongue and my failures. This as much paints the decades of one person, as a museum in honour of one artist. So, the reason I want to share these tapes is either because I want my own museum; or I need to visualize the paths to today, and most importantly, not lose sight of the precious influence of my dearest friends and loved ones; or I need to pry open the doors to who I was and where I am today; or I simply want to hear these tapes again after so many years.

Sticky Brilliance (Eclusion)
Compiled in 1993. As previously stated, this collection sheds a painful light on how limited my music collection was at the time. I had a collection of vinyl, but no turntable at the time, so I was relegated to cassette and compact disc, and the issue I had with cassette was that I couldn't control the recording volume. Not wishing to have a mix of songs at various recording levels - I kept my selections to those that maintained that aesthetic. 

Having said that, here is the selection. Please note, the original playlist is in tact, but not as presented. I have remixed the track listing to be a little more cohesive. Inclusions I am most proud of are by Flowerhead and Walt Mink... early pieces in my collection that I was quite fond of and took me through the deeper catalogs of Caroline Records and correspondence with members of Flowerhead. Without saying, this is pre-internet forays into looking for new music, and more importantly, new visions and talent.

A01: Beastie Boys - The Biz vs. The Nuge
A02: Beastie Boys - Time For Livin'
A03: Ice Cube - Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside)
A04: L7 - Wargasm
A05: Nirvana - Molly's Lips (BBC Session)
A06: Pixies - Is She Weird?
A07: Sonic Youth - Mildred Pierce
A08: Daisy Chainsaw - Dog With Sharper Teeth
A09: The Jesus And Mary Chain - Tumbledown
A10: My Bloody Valentine: Only Shallow
A11: Nine Inch Nails - Head Like A Hole (Opal)
A12: Nitzer Ebb - Godhead
A13: They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
A14: Violent Femmes - Mother Of A Girl
A15: Bingo Hand Job (Billy Bragg w/ R.E.M.) - Tom's?

B01: Faith No More - Midlife Crisis
B02: Soundgarden - Birth Ritual
B03: The Infectious Grooves - Do The Sinister
B04: Living Colour - Type
B05: Soul Asylum - All The King's Friends
B06: Live - Waterboy
B07: Flowerhead - Everything Is Beautiful
B08: Walt Mink - Factory
B09: Pixies - Bone Machine
B10: The Smashing Pumpkins - Siva (BBC Session)

15 September, 2015

Swagbucks - Day Four

Today - it felt like I couldn't take a survey even if I really wanted to. I tried 12 surveys and only qualified for 4. Not very good odds for success. I once again found myself in an endless loop when trying a Peanut Labs Survey... but aside from the one instance, I found a better acceptance rate using the Peanut Labs. Even if I wasn't selected for a survey, Peanut Labs consistently provided at least 1 SB  in reward. I have found that Gold Surveys very rarely now provide a complimentary SB when disqualified.

The only outside of the norm effort I made today was taking a stab at "Tasks". This gives you a list of jobs, many of them thru an outside vendor where you rate a website, or play a game. I couldn't gain access to any of these, or I was told that user limits had been met. I will give this another shot tomorrow because I am curious.

I earned 229 SB today, for about 2.5 hours of effort.

My total after 4 Days: 1271 SB, or $12.71. I'm earning about .25 per hour. Buah ha ha!