From New York Magazine http://nymag.com/arts/popmusic/reviews/16844/
(Photo: Paul Cox/Courtesy of Beggars Group. Illustration by Anders Mutzenbacker.)


 
Everybody listens to music, consumes art for that matter, for different reasons. For some, music is an ambiance to their life, for others it’s a soundtrack. This isn’t to say that music doesn’t play many different roles in a person’s life because it does; but, I believe every single person who listens and consumes music has a primary and secondary purpose for the music they listen to. For me, music is a mood enhancer, a scene setter and a world buffer. At times I’ve also looked for music that challenges me, beckons me to immerse myself and just listen. When I was much younger, I went out of my way looking for stuff that was weird and challenging…which is how I found Skinny Puppy, Tear Garden and The Legendary Pink Dots among many, many others. It was a statement to the rest of the world that I was truly different (of course I wasn’t). It was a statement to myself, to look for things under the layers…to think about what I was experiencing, provide a context…and a subtext to my own life.

Admittedly, I don’t challenge myself very often these days. Maybe I’m getting old; maybe the mundane nature of adult life has steered me towards other more forgiving pastimes; or, perhaps the always-on nature of our culture has trained me to avoid having no less than three things competing for my attention at all times.

The first time I heard about Scott Walker was when I read a review of his album,  The Drift in the UK music magazine MOJO in 2006. I’d love to link to that review, but there are no online archives with that review available. I can say (with very little reliability, because you just can’t trust memory) that the terms brilliant and horrific were used in the same sentence. So, of course I had to check it out.

I am not about to pretend that I can write a review of any piece of music using anywhere near the requisite language required to sound intelligent and compelling, so I will just put it this way: listening to The Drift scares the shit out of me. It is not an album you take lightly, nor do you listen to it before falling asleep. It is meant to be heard with headphones, in a darkened room, with nothing but your imagination as a companion, but beware, that imagination, just like your brain, may turn against you, and wherever you go from there may just land you in a corner, curled up in a ball sucking your thumb for comfort. Or maybe that’s just me.

I think before I post something from The Drift, it would probably be interesting to introduce you to who Scott Walker was:


 
Probably one of the more recognizable songs from his time as part of The Walker Brothers, a trio from the 60s that was huge in England, while hailing from America. Very distinct period pop music…that drew heavily from Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley among others. (On a side note, I can’t help but picture this song playing while a psychopath goes on a killing spree in a watered down made for television horror movie on CBS or Lifetime…or Family Guy)

Obviously Walker didn’t just jump from baroque pop artist to a musical version of Lovecraft…his musical career progressed toward this transcendence almost subversively. I can’t recommend highly enough the documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man if you want to discover more about Walker’s career and how it led him to the recording of The Drift.

The more I explore Walker’s music, and the commentary around his musical output, I start to draw parallels with some of my favorite artists, such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Smiths. Just listen to Mathilde, from Walker’s first solo album, Scott Walker.


 
So, back to The Drift. I leave you with the song Jesse, which features Elvis Presley talking to his stillborn brother Jesse, while dreaming of planes hitting the Twin Towers. Sounds a bit far-fetched, until you listen to the song (nightmare). One suggestion, listen to Jesse, then, if you’re even slightly intrigued, listen to the entire album from beginning to end, the way it was meant to be experienced.

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I recently saw Gary Numan play an incredible show at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It was a cool, crisp, late fall Southern California night when I pulled onto the property and found a spot to park, across from a darkened mausoleum, the tiny glow of a single candle emanating from within. As I stepped out of the car, a light, cold breeze tickled the iconic palm trees that lord over the cemetery, a constant reminder that this otherworldly place still sits smack in the middle of Los Angeles.  The landscape was bathed in the light of a full moon, accented by long shadows stretching from the bases of a multitude of marble headstones of all shapes and sizes. As I started making my way to the venue, the historic Mason’s Lodge near the entrance, I started reciting the following lyrics in my head:

 All our dreams have melted down
We’re hiding in the bushes
From dead men
Doing Douglas Fairbanks’ stunts
Extracting wasps from stings in flight
Who Killed Mr. Moonlight

Although “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” was my first date, it was “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight” that sparked my undying love for Bauhaus.


A few days ago, on a whim, I decided to join a couple of friends to see a free David J show at The Slidebar in Fullerton. I really didn’t have any expectations other than getting out of the house to see live music by someone I admire greatly. I figured it would be a set from David’s solo work and that was it. I hadn’t bothered to actually check David J’s website…the  show was really just a good excuse to get out of the house and hook up with friends.

The night kicked up a notch when I found David J before the set…and he was willing to pose for a photo. I’m not the photo guy type, I tend to keep my fanboyish-ness to myself, mainly out of what I perceive as  respect for the artist; but this seemed like a natural thing to do…and he was very nice to accommodate.

David J @ The Slidebar

David J @ The Slidebar

Then the show started…and it started with a Love and Rockets song and didn’t look back. Quite unexpectedly, David J and his band managed to play almost all of my favorite Love and Rockets songs, including “Haunted When The Minutes Drag” and “Holiday on the Moon” [Thank you Mr. President].

In fact, it was an all Love and Rockets set, aside from one of his solo songs, “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur,” and a Bauhaus song. That song, “Who Killed Mr. Moonlight.”

I’m still buzzing from that show.

The Queen is Dead

Here’s how this particular trip down the rabbit hole went:

When I started this post, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. All I knew was I wanted to highlight a couple of bands I saw at The Echo back in December…

Holograms
TV Ghost

I started with referencing one of my favorite movies, Riding Giants (Mavericks is going off today as of the time of this writing). Unfortunately, it became too convoluted…and thematically weird.

Then, I thought I would examine post-punk…because that’s the overwhelming influence on both of these bands. This led me to Wikipedia and a quote from Jon Savage describing the sound of post-punk and groups like Devo, Throbbing Gristle, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Slits like:

harsh urban scrapings/controlled white noise/massively accented drumming

This brought me to a 2010 article by Jon Savage in The Guardian: The Queen Is Dead is an anthem for our times:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2010/dec/15/smiths-queen-is-dead

And finally I ended up here:

The Smiths…the greatest band of my time. And yours.

Aside  —  Posted: January 27, 2014 in Music
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I have to be honest, everytime I listen to the album, Psychotropic Jukebox by VUM (available on iTunes and Amazon), I can’t help but feel transported to a bowling alley somewhere  in America back in the 70s. Not that I would associate VUM with bowling, but there is a certain ambiance in their music that evokes in me a sense of dingy Americana during a decade in which everything and anything that hearkened back to the 40s, 50s and early 60s was in decline. Bowling alleys were one such example of this cultural neglect…at least as I remember it. Stepping into a bowling alley was like stepping into another world, where the only inhabitants were all members of the same club that cleaved to pompadours, flat tops and black, heavy-rimmed glasses; wearing bowling shirts with the name patches that said Don, Ray or Dick; exuding the scent of Aqua Velva and Lectric Shave. Walking into a bowling alley always required a couple of minutes for the eyes to adjust to the darkness. The brightest spots were always the lanes, everything else just faded into a dim fluorescent and neon haze that seemed to die once it reached the dark wood paneling of the bowling alley bar (and grill depending on the venue). Since I was a kid during that time, going into the bar was taboo, so it was left to the imagination as to who hung out in there and what really went on in that den of darkness. The cacophony of pins forcefully slamming, en masse, off the walls of the pit, booming announcements over the PA system and the faint melodies from the jukebox in the bar all combined to bounce off the concrete walls with a reverb unique unto its own.

Hopefully I haven’t offended the sensibilities of Jennifer Pearl, Chris Badger and Scott Spaulding, the collective known as VUM. They became one of my favorite bands of 2013 after I saw them open for Wovenhand in January of last year at The Satellite. That show would actually be one of the more impactful shows of the year for me as I not only experienced first hand the lyrical and musical intensity of Wovenhand, discovered two very good LA bands in VUM and Little Red Lung, but I also witnessed a beardo re-creation of the Hobbit reunion scene at the end of The Lord Of The Rings: Return of the King that scared me straight from wanting to grow a beard, or watch LOTR ever again.

Wovenhand-VUM-Little Red Lung

Image  —  Posted: January 14, 2014 in Music
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The cherry on my first credit card was popped at Music Market in Costa Mesa, CA in the late 80s. I couldn’t tell you what I bought, but I can tell you that having the freedom to buy almost anything without having to pay for it immediately was immensely exhilarating. And Music Market was the first place I knew I wanted to break out this new piece of plastic nirvana.

Maybe I bought After The Snow by Modern English. Or Catastrophe Ballet by Christian Death. Or perhaps it was Mange Tout by Blancmange. I do know two things: whatever releases I bought were cassette tapes; and I spent at least three hours in that store, that day, just perusing the music and going down the rabbit hole chasing bands I knew, bands I’d heard of, and bands whose album cover art looked interesting. At that time, I don’t think you could hear previews of the music you were about to buy, so part of the thrill was knowing you were taking a flyer on an unknown band based on the look of their album art alone. The cool thing about Music Market (and most independent record stores I frequented for that matter) was that the staff was more than willing to impart their knowledge if asked, or if they happened to notice you browsing a favorite album of theirs. I know that’s what helped me settle on Catastrophe Ballet by Christian Death. It also helped that I was in my third year at a conservative Christian college and the very thought of blasting such blasphemy in my Hyundai Excel with the windows down while driving through the school parking lot made me feel like a real rebel. On a side note, I did the same with Bodies by The Sex Pistols. I was a subversion legend in my own mind.

Fast forward to the digital age. I no longer spend time in record stores. I think my last trip to Amoeba Records was almost 5 years ago. The rabbit hole has moved to the internet, just as my CD collection has moved to HDD and the Cloud. YouTube, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Vevo, Pitchfork, Slicing Up Eyeballs…they and other countless websites all form the walls of the hole through which I constantly lose myself, seeking out music, new and old (or just new to me and old to those in the know) to quench a thirsty soul. This is my attempt to share what I’ve found. What is curated on this blog is based on my tastes alone…and I’m arrogant enough to think that others would benefit from being exposed to my music tastes, because quite frankly, my MP3 player contains the greatest collection of music in the history of music. And yes, I still use an MP3 player…my trusty 30GB Creative Zen Vision M.

I will end this first post with a track that features a side project of one of my favorite artists of all time, Trent Reznor, remixed by a band I discovered in 2012 and had the pleasure of seeing them play live twice in 2013, The Soft Moon. Enjoy!

Quote  —  Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized
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