21 November 2008


I love Lord of the Rings. Not sure why...there are probably many reasons. Yeah, the movies were pretty good, but anyone who has seen them without reading the books is seriously missing out. (But let's not get into that.) 

Moving on, I've been reading Decibel Magazine's blog a lot recently (see link to your right), and it's really a great one. Excellent writing, a lot of widely varying tastes communicating with each other, great photos and recommendations, and awesome sense of humor. Just as an example, as of right now their latest post is titled: "The  Top 5 Enemies of the Revolution in Latin America Living in the United States." (NOTE: I've just been shocked to realize that this list includes Devendra Banhart...not sure how people can hate on this guy, but whatever. Maybe someone is a lil' jealous. Real mature, Jeff.) I've been discovering gem after gem on their blog, and that's just in the last few days. So, in addition to hearing the term "Invisible Oranges" for the first time (this is absolutely genius...search for it on the blog itself, I can't go into it here), one of those gems is the band CIRITH UNGOL. 

Yes, this band is named after the pass through the Ephel Duath mountains above Minas Morgul, refuge of the King of the Dead, and is the only land route into the realm of Mordor. Honestly, the Deciblog didn't even have to say anything else--the band's name alone got me so excited that I downloaded it approximately five minutes after getting home from work. 

I was right to be excited. Since I very actually worship the first four albums of Black Sabbath in a legitimately religious way, Cirith Ungol's album King of the Dead (1986) is currently blowing my mind all over my face, as my friend Walter says. The Deciblog featured it as their No. 4 Great Albums You Have Never Heard--definitely a list worth checking out. I'm talking about weirdly awesome vocals, fuzzed out wooly mammoth riffs, and DAMN but this record has some serious face-melters scattered throughout. They also do a metal version of Bach's Tocata in D Minor, THE MOST METAL FUGUE OF ALL!!! I'm talking about the entire piece here, not just the beginning, and it sounds amazing on a guitar that sounds like an angry beehive. 

I compared this band earlier to Black Sabbath, but it was not meant to equate them at all. Cirith Ungol are one of those bands where another kickass band's influence is clear, but not overbearing. The aforementioned album also contains a LIVE TRACK that reveals that the band owes almost as much to the Clash in generating their sound as they do to Iommi, Ward, Osbourne and Butler. This band is doing something truly original and obliterative with the Sabbath's legacy, which is really just awesome beyond words. Just wait 'til the upward spiraling solo in the song "Cirith Ungol" carries you closer and closer to Mount Doom. You'll see what I mean. 

19 November 2008

17 November 2008


I understand. I used to be 16 years old and ripping up my clothes and cutting out chunks of my hair for a new trim. I used to hate on the Beatles, and Pink Floyd, and the Grateful Dead, and all of this—as I then thought—sissy music from the 60’s. GUITAR SOLOS ARE FOR FASCISTS!

But you must, as you grow, come to accept and love the guitar solo! It is the natural course of things. Then again, I am extremely biased. I worship at the altar of George Harrison, Tony Iommi, Jimmy Page, Angus Young and J Mascis. At the altar of Ringo Starr, Bill Ward, John Bonham, Jerry Garcia, and Steven Drozd! Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed the change from the old me to the new me. It felt like I was broadening my horizons, and there was certainly a lot of great stuff I was missing.

I’ve been getting completely re-obsessed by the Beatles again lately, and that is clearly the source of all of this. And that happens a lot—I listen to weird new stuff for a few months, and then for a month or two I listen to nothing but my Dad’s records. (These usually coincide with periods of underemployment.) WHAT’S MY POINT? Jeez, I forgot.

Oh, that’s right—it’s an amazing album.

Here is an egregiously overlooked album that might make some Lennon enthusiasts rethink Johnny-Boy’s position in the Beatles pantheon… Every song a gem on Paul’s second solo record. While he has made room for other musicians (Paul played all the instruments on his first, McCartney), including Linda McCartney, with whom he shares the artist credits, this record is a showcase of one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Never really got on board with Wings? Hated Memory Almost Full? WHO CARES?? This man gets a big fucking pass on everything he did after being in the Beatles and making Ram. Put this one on and you’ll forget all the other crap you have against Paul McCartney.

One of my favorite aspects of the McCartney mystique is his silliness, and this album doesn’t disappoint as far as that is concerned. In the song “3 Legs”, Paul sings

My dog he got three legs,

Your dog he got none.

In addition, it’s a really great dusty, ramshackle blues-down with buckets of reverb slathered on to great effect. For more silliness, see the close-up photo of two beetles having sex on the album’s back cover. Inside the gatefold are numerous images of Paul doing funny dances, making weird faces, and rocking out. Say what you will about him, Paul is my kind of guy.

Where McCartney started to hint at the power and rockingness of Paul’s solo self, Ram’s big beautiful Beatles arrangements attain a sad and goofy life of their own that really show off.  This is one of those albums that make 1971 one of the most magikal years in music. Big ups to Greg Campaneelay for smashing me between the eyes with this beauty. 

12 November 2008


An earth-shaking pack of evil motorcycles!  Quiet drums drowned out by arcing geysers of bright black magma! One of the heaviest albums of the 90's...AND PERCHANCE OF ALL TIME! 

10 November 2008


            For some reason I see both Michael Gira (Swans, the Angels of Light, Young God Records) and Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips) as giant, floating, bodyless heads, perhaps rising from the Pacific ocean during a Hawaiian sunset. Their music seems to tap into cosmic forces, and when we describe their music as sweeping, we mean literally that—as if they come with giant brooms and sweep away all the shit that distracts us from living beautiful lives.
            Right now I am listening to New Mother by The Angels of Light. It is the first Angels of Light album, which I can only describe as a vibrating purple and Kelly green animal who has learned English and murmurs intimately to you about its regrets, departures, havings, losings, openings, and friends. It is clutter-free, devastating, opening, centering, cycling, de-punishing. In short, it can be a gorgeous medicinal infidel for you in this mundane black hole of a city that we live in. It is for me.
            There is a dark gem at its center called "The Man With The Silver Tongue", and it is fucking incredible:

The man with
the silver tongue
is cutting off
my silver tongue

Etc. This is definitely one of the more disturbing songs on the album, and that is probably because it is about one of Gira's favorite visual artists, Rudolf Schwartzkogler. Go ahead and Google him. Discomfort is definitely a part of this album's experience.
            BUT: songs like "Praise Your Name" and "Forever Yours" are emission nebulae, devotional songs, swelling with love and honest emotion. Angels of Light is not concerned with total demented gore and carnage, and Gira isn't interested in thrills alone; he is obviously an enormously gifted poet. Two of my favorite lyrics ever are on this album. The first is in the song "Angels of Light", a beautiful song that beats with a feeling of ascension:

you're not free now, you're not innocent,
but you're transparent, and you're right

The other is in the song "The Garden Hides the Jewel", about Marcel Duchamp's last work of art:

Pink dolphin lips accept the shape and shine with liquid innocence

All right, I can't say any more about this album. It's truly beautiful, but take heed of the photo that decorates this album's cover. It appears to be the mouth of some kind of cave, totally grown over with emerald-green vegetation. If you look closely, you'll see it's upside down. It's calling to you. Don't worry about coming back.

07 November 2008


RZA, GZA and the Wu are some of the best creators of that vague creepiness in rap that reminds one of traveling through space. I don't know, maybe it's the echoes and the awesomely out-of-tune bass. These guys rap calmly, just because they have some shit to tell you. So I knew that GZA's solo career was probably more of the same, at least in the way that GZA was a blue and RZA was a red in the galactic purple of the Wu-Tang Clan. Well, I didn't really know until just a few minutes ago, when I started listening to GZA's Liquid Swords for the first time. ANYONE WHO SAYS 90's MUSIC SUCKS: I remind you that this incredible, incredible album is a product of that decade/generation...there's always good shit from every decade, but most of it ain't on the radio in the next one. So this album of silvery-blue bubbles, of calm subterranean rap, is definitely one you should listen to. Music of the future. 

05 November 2008


67 minutes of benevolent alien brain scans. Wear your headphones. 

03 November 2008


A few years ago, when Tower Records still existed, I ran into a high school friend there. This guy, Pete, was basically my hero; while I was busy getting panic attacks from trig, his band was playing at the Knitting Factory. He’s a cool dude, and he used to turn me and my friends on to weird stuff like Necrophagist and Devo and Lightning Bolt and the Locust. So I didn’t know what to get at Tower that day and Pete, of course, had a suggestion. He recommended Worn Copy by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffitti, which I bought and did not listen to for a long time. The cover was weird, the music was impenetrable to my 18-year-old punk ears, and something about it didn’t sit right with me. What I would come to realize, however, was that getting handed this CD by my buddy Pete that day many years ago was like looking for a dollar you threw out by accident and finding a VCR full of dirty jewels in the dumpster.

It’s lo-fi, meaning muddy and echo-y, but it’s not amateur in the least. This guy has written some of the best pop songs I’ve ever heard. He knows every move, every school of pop music, and uses them whenever he feels like it, at will. He takes the best of 80’s metal, doo-wop and Motown, and rock and…well, the genres he manipulates are irrelevant, because he creates his own. In short, he’s a goddamn professional.  

Fortunately for us though, Pink’s charm rests fully on the quality of his songs and their unique sound, not on anything overthought or scientific. He’s weirdly funny, and completely insane. Only a songwriter with Ariel Pink’s ebullient creativity could write a greasy rhinestone rock song about his cat getting neutered, especially one that features the lines just cause you’re a cat don’t mean you ain’t a man.  The name of the song? “Jules Lost His Jewels.”

Another track, “Artifact,” begins with the line I am the sun of the future, 25 years from now. I believe it whenever I hear it. Ariel Pink is writing for the future, or perhaps from the future. He speaks, in this song, as a sort of jaded prophet of a future consumerist society even worse than our own: son, I gotta tell ya bout the future see it’s a living hell, not at all like the golden age, they’re gonna kill yer comforts with worries, pertaining to your health, pertaining to ya future, pertaining to yo mama. That’s the kind of sad humor we get from Pink, and the almost frighteningly earnest/bizarre music ain’t just background, either. It’s the perfect music for pronouncement: swirling and electronic, with a chunky rotoscope lightsaber feel to the guitar that would date this song (80’s) if it weren’t brilliant-sounding.  

There’s a lot not to like about Ariel Pink—I can understand that. Abrasive feedback, strange Tourette’s-like outpourings of lewdness and, as I said earlier, borderline-frightening weirdness. Admittedly, that last trait is one thing I love about Pink and his music. What makes all this acceptable, even DESIREABLE, though is that it is coupled with vocal harmonies and interlocking quadruple rainbow guitar overdubs that are so achingly beautiful they would make George Harrison’s eyeballs explode. Ariel Pink makes sad music, some of the saddest, in fact. But lying in bed at 2:30 in the morning listening to this stuff, you’d swear that loneliness tastes great. 

02 November 2008


I tried to take the weekend off. I really tried.

Some of you readers may know Kiddus I from his brief role in the greatest movie of all time, a movie that every human being should see--Rockers. Anyone who watches the scene in which Kiddus knocks out a take of one of his only international reggae hits (included on the Rockers soundtrack--mad propzz to Daddio for that one!!!), "Graduation in Zion", will be instantly convinced of the merits of reggae/rasta culture. More on this wonderful film later. If you're a zealot for another religion, don't watch it. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here's an interview I found today with the man himself, Kiddus I. Chock full of rasta wisdom, upfulness, and amazing pictures.

Roots rock reggae. Jah Live.