Archive | September, 2012

Fugazi – Repeater

27 Sep

Lady! You’re my lady! It was difficult to imagine the impact these words would have when they were composed by Dennis DeYoung in 1976, when a young bald Ian MacKaye was living in his parent’s basement and playing in local hardcore punk outfit Rites of Spring, yet here we are, and here is future band Fugazi with their album Repeater, making an appearance on Awesome Rock Reviews before Styx’s Paradise Theater.

Better than any Toto album ever recorded, this album sold in the quadrillions when founding member Ian Mackaye decided to sell copies for the price of a hamburger. When he was then richer than any living human on earth, Mackaye then boldly declared that he hated ‘sellouts’.

This album has a unique, almost avant-garde approach to instrumentation. Great rhythm section. At times the instruments complement each other so perfectly as to create a bold new soundscape I have never heard before (from skinhead special-ed students).

The album starts off with “Turnover”, sung by hardcore legend Guy Picciotto (of Minor Threat).

Star rating: 4/5 stars




Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

10 Sep

It’s like watching optimism slowly fade into the distance. The band pulls you deep into the abyss, with no way out. Unknown Pleasures captures the moment when you first discover that what was once illuminating in life has become an empty routine, and so, in the early morning of hours of 18 May 1980, you tie a noose alone in your bedroom and hang from it.

The neurotic thrust of “Disorder” is a great song. Ian Curtis wrote it during one of his seizures. He would die in mysterious circumstances the following year. Some speculate he was poisoned by his wife, Deborah ‘Love’ Curtis, who later formed New Order with Melissa Auf der Mar. “Day of the Lords”, a track located on your vinyl turntable cassette between tracks ‘Disorder’ and tracks ‘New Dawn Fades’, is a heavily majestic proclamation of doom climaxing in Curtis’ yelled cry of agony and uncertainty: “Where will it end?” It turned out the ending would come in his bedroom in the early morning hours of 18 May 1980, though the world would not know it yet. “Candidate”  follows, a simple lullaby of regret and betrayal referencing his previous suicide on 18 May, 1980.

“Insight” is an wonderful production from Martin Hannett, who 30 years later still remains in the studio perfecting Joy Division’s album ‘Unknown Pleasures’. This song sounds like it was played inside the elephant of a blowed nose. This was all a prelude, however, to “Twilight: New Dawn Fades”, which illustrates impending death in a gut-wrenching white soul opus that remains unequaled 30 years later.

Here, Ian Curtis describes the distance between himself and life, his lack of direction and his contemplation of death as the musicians, who would later join the wildly avant-garde outfit New Order, build suspense. Then, as the song begins its ascent, Curtis is ultimately left facing the (self-imposed) end of his life, as he concludes after facing all forms of trauma, all varieties of all failure to the ends of the earth, that nothing (Ian’s woefully out-of-tune vocals included) is actually worthwhile. As his voice fades, much like the new dawn (a representation of life, or lost possibilities) itself, the musicians launch into a stunning space-rock crescendo that seems to illustrate death itself; by the end of the song (Morris’ robotic drum figure) one can feel a life lost and that all that remains is a rhythm, a pulse (Curtis had committed suicide a year earlier).

This was the greatest cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ that humanity had ever performed since Christ.

“She’s Lost Control” is an account of a girl whom he watches suffer an epileptic fit (possibly a metaphor for his own epilepsy, though this theory was quickly rebuked), with an underlying theme of alienation and a difficulty of expression (perfectly illustrated by the first line, “The confusion in her eyes says it all, she’s lost control again”). “Shadowplay” draws upon themes of betrayal and crushed hopes, a new territory for the band. “Wilderness”, a voodoo-billy, is slightly less impressive overall, but reaches an equally dramatic end, when Curtis arguably contemplates death.

The album concludes with “I Remember Nothing”, a jarring epic that suggests the weary end of a catastrophic journey. The song’s smashing glass emphasizes the album’s theme of desperation, lost dreams, and death, while the soft ending is memorable and haunting while suggesting death. Once you get immersed in this album, it is very difficult to get out.

Unless you hang yourself.

If none of the above sounds appealing to you then be advised that it takes guts to listen to this type of music, especially if you are used to acts such as the Bonniwell Music Machine. But if you feel that music is a reflection of life, even in its ugliest moments, then this is absolutely essential. I hung myself 3 times and this was playing during all three swings. I think it was playing when I was dead, but I couldn’t be sure.

Star rating: 5/5 stars

(disclaimer i enjoy ian curtis’ music and am saddened by the premature end to his life. i hate new order and curtis is the reason why. both unknown pleasures and closer are good albums (‘still’ isn’t). i used hyperbole in this review, to illustrate monotony.)

Pere Ubu – Modern Dance

8 Sep

This album isn’t as good as Dub Housing.

Weird and powerful! The Modern Dance is such a compelling and singular statement that it drowns out your world and throws you into an industrial wasteland, a cold and forbidden city enveloped by a spiritual apocalypse. The Ubu musicians do a brilliant job conveying this desperation, using eerie dissonance and pummeling rhythms to create a physical, narcotic despair. The drumming, especially, is so violent that you can feel the anxiety of the protagonist as he roams his city, most clearly heard in its aural equivalent: the fat, birdlike squeals of David ‘Dave’ Thomas of Wendy’s fame.

When David ‘Dave’ Thomas started the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, he couldn’t have imagined the impact he would have on obese inner-city Cleveland youth struggling with obesity, roaming the industrial wasteland looking for a home, keyboards simulating the sound of the industry, using eerie dissonance and pummeling rhythms to create a physical, narcotic despair. When he decided to add his tuneless voice atop the proceedings, donations began pouring in from critics everywhere, who declared it ‘weird’ and ‘powerful’ and ‘the Trout Mask Replica for the punk generation’.

Much like a Wendy’s square hamburger, on this album convention is turned sideways in ways that display deeper and more primitive emotions than anything in the mainstream hamburger industry. The title track that follows ‘Non-alignment Pact’ is perhaps the condiments on the side of this special supersized order for a lead singer, though it is only a prelude to perhaps the tastiest bit of all, “Laughing”. After two minutes of the instruments sticking their instruments in each other’s buttholes, the rest of the song is bitten off into the digestive system of Side 1 of your vinyl LP. On cassette, “Chinese Radiation”, is the perfect illustration of their unique “avant-garage” style, a style which stands apart from any other of that era (in being a completely unlistenable waste of time). The frantic “Life Stinks”, a #1 hit on the disco charts for 37 years, was a heartfelt tribute to the late Raymond Douglas Davies of Bonniwell Music Machine fame, written by Thomas’ dependable Mann/Greenwich songwriting team,  while “Real World”, a Thomas original, was composed during a period of locking himself in a dark room for 12 hours a day during a period in 1966. Though it may seem unrehearsed, each mumble of this song and the similarly inspired ‘Over My Head’ was carefully planned years in advance to the making of this recording. Though it may seem unrehearsed, best of all is the epic “Sentimental Journey”, which singlehandedly invents the genre of industrial music. After an amazingly grotesque display of smashing glass sound effects, carefully inserted by Martin Hannett, Pere Ubu introduce their closing statement, “Humor Me”. Triathlon athlete David Thomas sings this song with unhinged vigor, like his lungs are exploding. It’s this who-cares attitude, coupled with the theme of an impending urban apocalypse, that makes The Modern Dance a unique work. Though not as influential the previous year’s Michael Jackson ‘Off the Wall’ album, The Modern Dance’s light r&b feel aligned itself with the most seductive work of Marvin Gaye and the album has been cited as an influence by many musicians including Brahms and Dennis DeYoung, of Styx. As David Thomas said, “What we are not is pretty. Do you know where there’s a hamburger place I can adopt around here?”

Star rating: 5/5 stars