Just for shits, I decided to see if I could find my first concert on YouTube. Since it was back in 1995, I didn’t think chances were that high that it was on there. Sure, people were taping shows for the bootleg market, but did they do it for every show? And if so, would they upload them to YouTube?
It took me all of 5 seconds, and there I was just a few people away from stage right on the floor:
Yup. This was my first show. Smells like Children hadn’t been released yet, so the masses hadn’t heard their cover of “Sweet Dreams” yet. In the last year I had picked up the soundtrack for the Stephen Dorff/Reese Witherspoon movie SFW where Marilyn Manson had their song “Get Your Gunn” used. Then during the summer of 95 while I was going to SAT classes, during break I went to the Wherehouse in Palos Verdes that had Marilyn Manson’s first album Portrait of an American Family on tape. And that fucking hooked me. After the demented Willy Wonka introduction, the first words were “I am the god of fuck.” That’s what I needed to hear when I was 16.
I think I went to this concert with my friend Fernando who was the only other person I knew at school who had heard of them. I know we definitely went to see Ministry the next spring during their Sphinctour stop at the Palladium since he gave me my first cigarette — I was going through not only AP tests but also had to deal with the sudden medical issues of my dad who was half a country away. But I remember as we were in line getting into the show, I saw this girl Moro from my Korean school there. It was at this point where we became best friends throughout the rest of high school.
The show was fucking great. As creepy and ugly as Marilyn Manson made himself especially at this time, I was fucking engrossed with Twiggy. I had the biggest fucking crush at the time. Maybe it was the dreads. Although I did catch my breath at the very beginning when he walked on stage on stilts.
I had to take my SATs the next morning at 9. So was it really the best thing for me to go to this show the night before? I don’t know. I ended up getting a 1400 on them, so I think I did a good enough job. And I never saw them again. While I did like Antichrist Superstar, I really did not like the explicit flirtation with fascism. I understood it, but it just left a bad taste in my mouth. And after that I had moved on to other things.
But for that one night in 1995, it was just perfect.
This fucked me up real good. Translated as Sleepwalker, this Japanese band pissed me off that this is only an EP of four songs. I want more, and like Veruca Salt, I WANT IT NOW! You hear the thrashy black metal throughout, but they used collaborators around the world who recorded vocals and elements of classical, folk, jazz and other fucking insane elements without knowing the context, having it mixed after the fact. According to their Bandcamp page, this album “focuses on the notion of self-reflection, intuition and the outward and inner manifestations of phobia as they relate within that singular world.”
Being on the listening end, it was a low-level terror that I get when I’m about to try something new and don’t know how it will end up, whether I will like it, whether it will be worth it. Whether the guy will leave me in a pile of heaving tears with a smile on my face, or whether I will just be lying there wondering why I took the time and effort of douching and prepping just for that.
Moris Blak – Burial + Void
Moris Blak teams up with GenCAB, Kofin, S Y Z Y G Y X and Rabbit Junk on this six-song release that threatens to get my decrepit bones onto a dancefloor or stripper’s pole. I don’t know what “industrial bass” is, as I’m told that this is the genre. I always had a problem drilling down or caring about the sub-genres. The only that really matters is whether it strikes a chord with us, right?
There is a good range of beats from the album-opener “The Abstract” with GenCAB, a safe dancefloor romp, which makes its way into the more aggrotech “Malevolent” with Kofin. Whether it makes you move ethereally or get stompy stomp on the floor, the beat is what gets you to move. “House of the Fallen Suns” with Rabbit Junk is my favorite since the intro really reminds me of Sølve. I still don’t know what characterizes “industrial bass” by this one release alone, but it just makes me note that I need to listen to more Moris Blak.
I got tickets to the Numero Twenty fest just so I could see Unwound again tonight. Also I realized I didn’t have The Future of What on vinyl, so I got a copy along with another tee. It was a shorter set tonight unfortunately, but here it is:
All Souls Day
Go to Dallas and Take a Left
For Your Entertainment
Were Are and Was or Is
Also playing was Karate, Chisel, Tsunami and UI. I missed both UI and Tsunami. Also it was at the Palace Theater which is two blocks from my apartment. So you understand why I had to go see Unwound, right?
On April 1, 2002, we received this following announcement:
Yes, Unwound has decided to call it quits. Due to our inability to do any touring for an indefinite period we have decided to disband. We will continue to play music in different forms (other than unwound) in the future and also hope to release a collection of live tracks, demos and any unreleased material there is. Also hopefully a live/tour video-movie of some sort. Apologies to those who missed their chance to see us last year due to our cancellations. We can’t begin to thank all of those who helped us over the years, so we hope you know who you are! A round of applause from us to all the fans that came and went. Thanks and good night! unwound people
I used to make fun of Fatkid so much for loving Unwound. Mostly because I was (and still!) am an asshole and like poking at people. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really heard their music at all, but hey, anything to amuse myself.
But once I heard them, fuck, I was hooked. Absolute chaos and darkness from the guitars and throat of Justin Trosper that surrounded the steady beat of Sara Lund’s drumming and Vern Rumsey’s bass was sublime. They were less Grateful Dead than early 90s Sonic Youth, more complex than the simplicity of Nirvana and more cohesive than most of the other Olympia bands. All of us who are fans wonder why they were not bigger than they were even after their demise.
Along with Nine Inch Nails, Unwound is (are?) my favorite band/musical act of all time which is why their breakup affected me a lot back in 2002. With their last album Leaves Turn Inside You in 2001, they seemed to reach a zenith in their artistry and could have gone so much farther. But the inevitable communication breakdowns, substance issues and all that typical rock star bullshit even made its way to them.
I didn’t think I would ever get to see them live again especially after Vern died in 2020. But Justin and Sara have come back together bringing along Jared Warren of Karp and the Melvins to fill in on bass and Scott Seckington of one of Justin’s post-Unwound bands Nocturnal Habits on guitars and keyboards. There I was at the Wiltern on the second night of their sold-out shows here in LA. After coming out to what sounded like the National Weather Service radio report of Northern California, they launched into their normal open “All Soul’s Day.” Holy fuck.
Then came “Envelope”, “Hexenzsene” and “Look a Ghost.” Boom boom boom. They weren’t fucking around here. This was for all of us who stood by holding the torch after all of these years. After this section, Sara asked who of us saw them back at the Jabberjaw. Then, perhaps most surprisingly, when she asked who weren’t even born yet when they last played, there was quite a bit of cheering. “This next song is for you,” she said as they launched into “New Energy”, a quick burst screaming for passion, youth and burning shit to the ground. It was also nice to notice that there was a bit of moshing down in the pit which I haven’t seen in ages.
It was spellbinding being on this journey as they calmed things down with “Usual Dosage” to the snarky “Laugh Track” and dark “Corpse Pose” and “Scarlette.” It was hard not to get choked up during “Disappoint” especially when Justin screamed out in the chorus “I never want to dive / Inside this heart of mine,” and then a resigned mournful singing “I’ll disappear and then I won’t know it’s true / Disappointed in me, disappointed in you.”
But, no shit, tears did come out in their noisy culmination of their set “Swan.” A complete banger in 5/4 time signature, it hit me when Justin screamed “What I see is the end of the end of the end,” before the song complete breaks apart into a wall of feedback. As they left the stage, they played a tape of “Pardon My French” on a loop as they took a break and gave us all a change to catch our breaths.
Fuck. That was so fucking good.
I was talking with Shea from San Diego who was sitting next to me. Talking about the last time we had seen Unwound live (he in 2002, me in 2001) over 20 years ago, we chatted about how much things have changed: we used to be the ones smoking cigarettes in venues that we were now complaining about; that we now paid for actual seats because standing in the pit for hours on end is a no-go now. It was just reassuring to be next to someone who was just as into seeing Unwound as I was. (While talking, he even reminded me of the DC band Circus Lupus who I had completely forgotten about!!!!!!)
As we were gabbing, Unwound came back out and launched into “Dragnalus” which brought all of us old folks a lot of excitement. “THIS BOREDOM REALLY SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!” went into another Fake Train gem “Nervous Energy.” There is something about the chaos on that album that really causes the head to violently bang so-to-speak. They slowed it down with “Arboretum” and “Lady Elect” before ending the show with THE trilogy: “Valentine Card”, “Kantina” and “Were Are and Was or Is.” It was here that I really noticed Vern’s absence. While Jared held the fort down and you could hardly tell the difference, there was something mournful as Justin was screaming and pleading, “STAY! DON’T GO!!!!!!”
And just like that it was over. They spent a few minutes handing out the flowers to those in the pit, then the roadies came onstage and turned the amps off. “That was fucking amazing,” I noted to Shea. We both sat there for a few minutes to regain ourselves before going our separate ways.
Yes, I wished they had played “Equally Stupid”, “Unauthorized Autobiography”, “Devoid”, “Summer Freeze”, “Radio Gra”, “Broken E Strings”, “Seen Not Heard.” Sure, I wish this was a three-hour show. But this little tidbit was such a fucking gem of a show which made up for all the lost time.
A lot of old farts around my age (and even some younger than me!) keep bitching about how shitty music is, how Gen Z is ruining music. If the only music you listen to is pop music, then yes. It’s crap. But pop music has always been mostly crap. Pop music is design to be loved by the masses, so of course there will be nothing revolutionary or profound about it.
But there has been some good music to come out this year. Here are some of the things that I’ve kept in rotation that came out this year:
Petrol Girls – Baby. If there is anything as exhilarating as “Baby, I Had an Abortion”, I don’t know what is. Angry feminist post-hardcore from the UK and Austria, this is a perfect soundtrack to the post-Roe dystopia we find ourselves in. Long live the riot grrl!
Chat Pile – God’s Country. Sludgy guitars and heavy lyrics from Oklahoma City. To quote their Bandcamp page: There’s a sick irony to how a country that extols rhetoric of individual freedom, in the same gasp, has no problem commodifying human life as if it were meat to feed the insatiable hunger of capitalism. If this is American nihilism taken to its absolute zenith, then God’s Country… is the aural embodiment of such a concept.
Diamanda Galás – Broken Gargoyles. Fuck. Just fuck. Here Diamanda features words from German poet Georg Heym who wrote about the horrific state of people institutionalized with yellow fever. Their delirium, the treatment they suffered and the isolation in early 20th century Germany just feels appropriate after the last couple of years, huh? This is just two tracks, each clocking around 20 minutes, and they are pure horror.
Rhys Fulber – Collapsing Empires. Is this industrial? Ambient? Trance? Whatever it is is quite mesmerizing, soundscapes that you lose yourself in. It’s definitely not as harsh as everything listed above, and it’s certainly not Front Line Assembly. It is good in its own right and shows how amazing Rhys’s ear is.
As for older things, I’ve been listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails, particularly The Downward Spiral and The Fragile. But one thing that I couldn’t get enough while I was in Europe a few weeks ago was Hole’s compilation My Body, The Hand Grenade. Not only does it have early songs like “Turpentine”, “Retard Girl” and “Dicknail”, but it also has “Old Age” which always fucking brings me to tears:
Maybe because I’m not sure if Courtney wrote this or Kurt did since Nirvana also has a version of this song. But I prefer Hole’s version.
Also on the comp are several songs from their MTV Unplugged session including their cover of “He Hit Me (It Felt like a Kiss)” written for the Crystals by Carole King. There is something about Courtney’s voice, command and dramatics that make these early Hole songs so captivating still all these years later.
This past Friday and Saturday brought the Susbtance 2022 festival to the Los Angeles Theater a convenient two blocks from my apartment. A two-night gathering of different nostalgia acts like the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Chameleons, Miss Kittin and the Hacker and Clock Dva mixed in with current goth/industrial/darkwave/weirdo acts like Kanga, Youth Code, Linea Aspera and Kaelan Mikla on three different stages.
These were the first shows I’ve been to since the pandemic, and hence, since I moved to Downtown. And it was for shit like this that I moved here, to be able to just stroll over to the venue, get wasted and then crawl back home safely. Okay, so the getting wasted part didn’t really happen. Neither did the crawling really. But it was nice to be able to just stroll right back home at 2 am and not have to worry about driving amongst the drunks, or paying for parking, or whatever.
One thing that Sara Taylor of Youth Code said during their set on Sunday was how great it was to see folks come out and support these bands and the scene. And it wasn’t just old fucks like me who used to go to Perversion, Das Bunker and all the other goth nights back in the 90s heyday. There were tons of kids and other age-appropriate folks dancing to the old groups like Jesus and Mary Chain (AND singing along to “Head On” as well!!!) while dancing their asses off to all the more current acts like MVTANT, Lustsickpuppy and Light Asylum. It was also cool to see that while the scene historically has mostly been a white and Latin scene, I saw more black folks than I expected which filled my heart. The more voices we have in the scene, the better.
I really do hope this festival turned a profit just so that it will continue. It was great to be absorbed by the music and letting it wash over me. I really do like these newer musicians and excited to see what they come up with in the future.
Here is the first sentence on Chat Pile’s debut album God’s Country‘s Bandcamp page about the album:
There’s a sick irony to how a country that extols rhetoric of individual freedom, in the same gasp, has no problem commodifying human life as if it were meat to feed the insatiable hunger of capitalism.
Keep that in mind while you close your eyes and imagine that being delivered along with the dissonance of Jesus Lizard and the screaming earnestness of a young Kurt Cobain.
Those of us who loved premillennial non-metal guitar music have given up hope. Either we have to listen to the dad rock and soothing beats of Wilco and Spoon or just go back to spinning our old LPs and 7″s just remembering when we paid $5 to pile into a room on the verge of collapse or someone’s living room just to sweat and get bruised and beat up while incrementally losing our hearing and getting tinnitus. It almost makes you want to say, “Those were the days.”
Except we have been conditioned to fucking hate nostalgia, to mistrust our own hazy memories mostly because they’ve been clouded over thanks to the meth, the coke, the pot, the heroin and everything else we polluted into our bodies all the while sanctimoniously claiming to be vegan. You know, cuz we’re better than you.
Oklahoma City’s Chat Pile’s debut album has the sounds of that nostalgia but cuts through it with clear protests on things going on now. While Jesus Lizard’s and Nirvana’s lyrics were cryptic, Chat Pile is more direct. Hell, their name is taken from piles of byproduct of lead-zinc mining in northeastern Oklahoma. Raygun Busch bellows, “Why do people have to live outside/In the brutal heat or when it’s below freezing,” in “Why.” “Deeper cuts/Bloody sheets/Making money/Man on/TV/Haunt You/Haunt Me” on “Tropical Beaches, Inc.”
See? Pretty straightforward.
The initial drum beats and the scream by Busch, the explosion of the sludge guitars on album opener “Slaughterhouse” instantly made me hard. All of the sounds then combined to scramble my brain making me want to punch someone, have them punch me back and get fucked hard leaving us all in a dirty disheveled heap with bruises, blood, sweat, spit and cum.
After the initial shock of the album, the album kept pushing making the complex seem effortless. The augmented and diminished chords, the tritones and nonstandard song structures: all may seem accidental on the surface but are actual genius in how they are combined to make this concoction hauntingly beautiful.
I’m not going to say that this is a sign that our version of rock and roll is back, that we can dust off our aching bones and muscles and again cram into these now-condemned buildings (oh shit, they have been demolished and turned into fucking condos!) But here is something from 2022 that we can bang our heads to, turn the volume up and have these Millennial and Gen Z pussies cry out, “Ouch my ears, what is that fucking noise?”
Here are some albums in no particular order that have grabbed my attention this year. What’s notable was despite the overall shittiness of the year, the music was pretty damn good. Either that or I finally paid attention. You can load your Spotifys and listen to these tunes. You’re fucking adults. And if you really like them, you can purchase a copy of your very own that won’t be subject to the fickle whims of content license agreements. Most of these folks are on Bandcamp.
Mamaleek – Come and See
Black metal fucking jazz fucking avant-garde fucking noise fucking our oppressive inside spaces and how they affect us. It’s appropriate this was released on my birthday. I’ve been listening to it off an on throughout the year, and it’s always held my attention. I want it to cum on my face.
clipping. – Visions of Bodies Being Burned
Slash me up and stab me and fuck me and leave my body a messy maggoty steampile, but don’t forget to leave no evidence.
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – May Our Chambers Be Full
Where the fuck have I been? I don’t know what blanket of depression I’ve been living under, but I’ve been ignoring music for far too long. Sure, I’ve listened to what pops up on Spotify or just some glancing items that I see on Facebook. Somehow, someway, I saw this album pop up, and after 53 seconds of ambient noise and feedback, a burst of music pumped out of the speaker ushering in a wave of pleasure, regret and mourning right over me.
I had no idea who Emma or Thou were, whether I should have known who they were or anything like that. What I heard is music that is a harder version of Seaweed with the folksy haunting voice of Emma accompanied at times with the demonic screaming of Thou. It’s the dirtiest of early 90’s Seattle regurgitated into the swamps outside of Baton Rouge near the Comite River and emerging in a sweaty Frankensteinian mess that reaks terror.
I eventually figured that Emma Ruth Rundle is a singer-songwriter from Louisville and Thou are a sludge metal band from, appropriately enough, Baton Rouge who made a Nirvana cover album earlier this year and had somehow been featured on NPR. But all of this I found out after a couple of listens to this.
I don’t know if the nostalgia of the sound hit me, or if was how gorgeous the juxtaposition of Emma’s voice was to the music that threatened to drown her out but never managed to. But I just thought about how I could have missed out on this and how my stupid depression just kept be in a haze that allowed me to ignore everything and stay in a cocoon by myself. And that I must wake up and emerge into whatever world this is.
Sure, this world they paint through these seven songs and 36 minutes is scary and ugly. In “Ancestral Recall,” “I’m not of this world, this decaying existence / I’m not shackled to their cold, cruel and morbid logic / It tells a truth known to everyone who / Truly knows me.” This is a dark world not for us designed to keep us tied up. But there is a dangle of hope there, that we can like them be unshackled to this, that we can get over it.
In “Magickal Cost” which starts out mournfully and explodes in a guitar-fuelled battle, it ends with “My voice reaching back / Of rippling impulse / True, real raw hunger / My voice reaching back.” What we need to fight is within us anyhow.
Maybe I’m making too much out of this. I do acknowledge that the lyrics can come off as a bit cheesy and prog, especially as the album ends on “The Valley” with “You see them there? / Ancient and seething / Up in a pyre / Get them out of my way.” But I guess we need a little of that in our lives sometimes. I mean, how many fucking people loved Game of Thrones?
But I like that despite the bleak narrative, there is something within us that transcends all of that bullshit and help us become free.