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Archive for July, 2010

Anneke van Giersbergen & Danny Cavanagh, In Parallel (2010)

Ceremony of (Non)Opposites

The operative word here is warmth.  This 2010 release presents recordings from two small (and quite intimate sounding) shows played in the Netherlands in early 2009 by Anneke van Giersbergen (of Agua de Annique, and ex- of The Gathering) and Danny Cavanagh (Anathema).  The sound is clean, simple, and yes, warm, as the two singers trade off singing songs from their separate concerns, as well as a handful of well-selected covers.

The instrumentation throughout is primarily acoustic guitar (with both Cavanagh and van Giersbergen playing), with Cavanagh’s occasional piano accompaniment.  Followers of either of these two singers’ bands know well enough that these folks have been circling the world of Metal with only the widest of orbits in recent years, but that’s not really the point.  Metal is a wide church, and these two friends are among the most golden-voiced ever to have graced its quietest rectories.

The sheer pleasure of listening to this album is not in the revelation of any hitherto-unexplored realm of sound and expression; this album proceeds so winningly because of its striking comfort and familiarity.  Some might argue that such conventional attributes are antithetical to the project of heavy metal, but then again, one can only listen to so much powerviolence or harsh noise before retreating to sunnier climes.  Which is to say, certainly every Skullflower fan could use a little Sonata Arctica in their life from time to time.

Most of the songs sung by van Giersbergen are from her Agua de Annique project, although The Gathering’s “You Learn About It” (from 2003’s Souvenirs) gets a stirring reading.  The set also opens with a delightful version of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” and later features van Giersbergen leading a beautiful rendition of Damien Rice’s great song “The Blower’s Daughter.”

This latter track is one of the most interesting here, because van Giersbergen sings the male lead, with Cavanagh joining in to harmonize where Rice’s version adds female vocals.  I have a sense that a bit more playing around with ‘who sings what’ could have yielded extremely pleasant results – van Giersbergen singing Anathema’s “Are You There?”, for example, or Cavanagh singing Agua de Annique’s “Day After Yesterday” – but this borders on churlish quibbling.

The Anathema songs are primarily taken from A Natural Disaster, with only “One Last Goodbye” digging (slightly) deeper into their past.  One small disappointment, then, is that there is essentially 100% overlap between what Cavanagh plays here, and Anathema’s 2008 acoustic release, Hindsight.  Still, these are powerful songs, and they lose very little when featuring just guitar and voice.  “Flying” is particularly notable for what sounds like Cavanagh accompanying himself with a delay pedal.  It’s tough to pick out exactly what’s going on, but towards the end, I can hear three, or maybe four separate guitar lines winding round and round themselves.

My only complaint (well, I suppose it’s really more of a suggestion) is that with these two fantastic singers playing together, I feel like they could have actually sung together a bit more frequently.  When they do harmonize with one another (as on “The Blower’s Daughter” or Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”), the timbres of their voices work sweet magic, and thus feels rather underutilized.

In sum, this record is a real treat for fans of either singer, and an especial treat for those (such as myself) who are fans of both.  Don’t expect anything earth-shattering here, though, as this really does play like good friends getting together to run through songs whose memory is imprinted in the callus of the finger, and the familiar vibration of a particular note.

This album, I will say again, is above all else warm: this album is a broken-in leather arm chair in a hearth-lit study; it is a glass of ruby red wine; it is a walk along the river with old friends, where the words and meanings are only figural, gestures at an unspoken bond.

Overall rating: 80%.  Old friends / Sat on their park bench like bookends…
———————

In Parallel is out now on Aftermath Music.  Find it here, or maybe somewhere else.

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Indulge me, folks (or don’t), but my brain, it is on a Jag.

So, I must have totally missed the boat, because all of a sudden it seems like our entirely electronic universe has become ghettoized into those things which are Safe For Work and Not Safe For Work.  Seems like probably the whole reason to invent the term was, just so we could have ourselves a nice time with all o’ these, not quite acronyms, but abbrevs: SFW, NSFW, etc.  Never mind that err’time I see ‘NSFW’ spelled out, I think I’m about to encounter some particularly risque news item out of New South Wales.

This is pretty moot for me, since I work from home most of the time, and if every now and then my web browser shows me a rhinoceros mounting another rhinoceros, or a Photoshopped image of Oprah just cussing up a goddamn storm (“Please welcome Nancy Motherfucking PeLOOOOOSI”), or my favorite William Shatner Erotic Fiction site, well, that’s my own business, innit?

Still, I think if we want to really find the culprit, we’ll have to reach a bit further back.  Say, to good ol’ Woodrow Wilson, or He Of The Fourteen Points.  You see, Woody has this ambition to start up a, not quite a Covenant, but what I suppose you could call a League Of Nations.  And this League, as it were – along with that nasty little war which preceded it (hint: folks used to call it Great) – was going to make our world Safe For Democracy.  Which presumes, of course, that the world was, at the time, Not Safe For Democracy.

Dude was, for the most part, SFW, and only pretty SFD

Two options, then: Either a) we quit with this silly SFW/NSFW classification, and instead start judging your favorite websites as to whether they Are or Are NOT Safe For Democracy (SFD/NSFD)*; or b) we sit around and wait for the inevitable failure of our very own League Of Nations to reveal the underlying bankruptcy of NSFW.  Y’know, like if Janet Jackson’s boob just up and lays itself out on computer screens all over the country, and the arbiters of Work Safety do NOT A DAMNED THING.

This nonsensical post brought to you by: too much iced coffee this morning, not quite enough sleep, and the psychedelic genius of the Harvestman/U.S. Christmas/Minsk 3-way covers album Hawkwind Triad (out this year on Neurot Recordings).

*Maybe it seems like WikiLeaks is in the back of my mind here, but I promise you it is not.  Serendipity, etc.

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Okay, friends – things are getting serious.  The question I am about to pose to all of you may just be one of the most vexed in all of heavy metal history.  Abandon hope, all ye who enter, et cetera.

Which of these is the best classic heavy metal live album:

- Judas Priest, Unleashed in the East (1979)
– Motörhead, No Sleep ’til Hammersmith (1981)
– Iron Maiden, Live After Death (1985)

????????

I know, I know; this is some next level, Sophie’s Choice shit, right?

The contenders:

Fall to your knees and repent (if you please)

You see, my first inclination is to say that Priest’s live album from Japan is the best of the three.  Downing and Tipton are in lockstep precision throughout the entire set, and Halford’s vocals are absolutely on fire.  I think the thing that really sells this one more than anything, though, is how different these tracks sound from their recorded versions.

Now, I don’t mean that we’ve got any 20-minute “Moby Dick” masturbatory drum solos, or patient explorations of the tonality of the sitar; instead, what I mean is, this album came out in 1979, meaning that the material represented is largely from 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny through 1979’s Hell Bent for Leather (which is really 1978’s British Killing Machine, but nevermind that).  For this earlier stage in their career, Priest still sounded very much like a 1970s metal band, meaning that the production never quite gave them the same bite they were able to achieve in the live arena.

As such, even though the live renditions are quite faithful to the originals, they sound bigger, bolder, and more filled with the righteous flame of heavy metal’s essence.  Check “Victim of Changes,” especially, for one of the most awe-inspiring tracks ever to have been put to tape, to wax, to indelible brain-grooves.

Snake eyes watching you

Now Motörhead live are a completely different proposition.  Where Priest gain power live, it is primarily because of the intensification and clarification of what I imagine must have been their original vision of those songs; where Motörhead gain power live, it’s for no other reason than that the hellish racket made by these three dudes absolutely personifies everything dirty, gritty, fast, ugly, and wonderful about metal, punk, rock, and just basically loud fucking music.

The set list (my single-disc CD version has got 14 tracks, though the original issue was just the 11 tracks, “Ace of Spades” through “Motörhead”) is chock full of classics: “Ace of Spades,” “Overkill,” “Bomber,” “(We Are) The Road Crew,” “The Hammer,” “Iron Horse/Born to Lose,” and on and on.  The primary reason that this album vies in such close competition for the vaunted status of  Best Heavy Fucking Metal Live Album Ever is that it is louder, faster, and more shot through with the supernatural power of ROCK than just about anything else.

Seriously, once you’ve got this album into your greedy little clutches, it will most likely ruin you for the original recorded versions of these songs.  They will seem slow, and they will seem quiet, and they will pale in comparison to their livid, whiskey-fueled live bastard children.

Woe to you, oh Earth and Sea...

So, now that I’ve done worked myself into quite the lather over Priest and Motörhead, how could poor ol’ Iron Maiden hope to stack up?  Oh, I don’t know, maybe by BRINGING THE GODDAMNED ROCK AND ROLL SO HARD INTO YOUR EARHOLES THAT YOUR EYEBALLS ROLL BACK INTO YOUR HEAD LIKE IN A CARTOON, BUT INSTEAD OF DISPLAYING SLOT MACHINE ICONS, ALL YOU SEE IS EDDIE SPINNING ROUND AND ROUND, DANCING A HEAVY METAL TARANTELLA WHILST CLUTCHING THE ASHES OF YOUR SANITY.

Ahem.  What I mean is, of these three live albums, Live After Death has the widest selection of absolutely classic tracks.  Yeah, it’s a shame that they didn’t wait a few years so that they could include tracks from Somewhere in Time or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, but that’s really just splitting hairs.  Here you get some of the highlights of Powerslave and Piece of Mind, plus all the old bangers you’ve come to know and love.  Bruce is on fine form, and the crowd(s – the first disc was recorded in Long Beach, CA, and the second disc, coincidentally enough, was recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon, the very same venue at which Motörhead promised no sleep until) is fired up.

Apart from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (a real treat to hear the whole thing live), a few of the lesser-heard gems are “22 Acacia Avenue” and “Phantom of the Opera.”  But really, apart from the specific track selection, this entire recording just oozes the class and professionalism of a band on the top of their game in 1985, and a band which continues to be on the top of their game 25 years (!!!) later in 2010.
———————

Moral of the story is: I can’t choose between these three records, friends.  Each one is perilously close to being too excellent for its own damn good.  In a perfect world, then, we’d each have, oh, say, four hours or so each day to play all three back to back for MAXIMUM HEAVY METAL DAMAGE.

But what about you?  Are you able to choose between these three?  Have I forgotten any other heavy metal live albums of equal importance and stature to these?  (I should point out that I intentionally left off Black Sabbath’s Live Evil, not out of any disrespect for RJD His Damn Self, but because even though it stretches back and cherry picks some of the Ozzy-era classics, it’s not a representation of the classic band at the height of its powers, like are these other three.)

Which live albums strike that holy terror in your soul, and lead you by the hand, ineluctably, to the Spinal Tapdance?*
—————–

*In case I have not yet specified, a Spinal Tapdance is what happens to the body when it is consumed with the all-purifying fuck-thunder of HEAVY METAL.  Think not of dancing ’round a midget Stonehenge, but rather of the real life Stonehenge – y’know, all those fucking giant ROCKS in the English countryside what with them Druids used to get funky – DANCING ON YOU.  Your body twists and thrashes uncontrollably, and your hair stands on lightning-kissed end; this is the Spinal Tapdance.

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Oh my goodness, I can hardly control my excitement (I am using understatement to emphasize my point).

Your friend and mine, Michael Gira, has reformed the band that made us all love the sound of abjection, Swans.  I was sadly unaware of the brilliant music of Swans until some time after they first disbanded (after 1997’s final full-length Soundtracks for the Blind), so I am super-hella-crazy-mega-pumped to finally see them live.

A charming sort of fellow

Of course, the unfortunate thing about it is that, at least as of now, it doesn’t seem that Jarboe is going to be a part of this reunion.  It was probably overly wishful thinking to hope for such a thing in the first place, but I guess I’ll just have to be content with the fact that Jarboe has continued to make excellent and challenging music, both on her own, and, especially, with an extremely notable list of collaborators throughout metal’s avant-garde: Neurosis, Justin Broadrick, Byla, Phil Anselmo & Atilla Csihar on the astonishingly good Mahakali, and Kris Force on the soon-to-be-released soundtrack to some random video game.

Anyway, if you have a love for all that is good and righteous in music, you would be well-advised to seek out the music of Swans, and to attend their upcoming concerts.  Here’s the complete list of tour dates for the U.S. leg of their tour this fall, with more information on European dates available at Gira’s label, Young God Records:

Sept 28 Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero Theater
Sept 29 Washington, DC – Black Cat
Sept 30 Boston, MA – Middle East downstairs
Oct 01 Montreal, QC – Le National – Pop Montreal fest
Oct 02 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
Oct 04 Detroit, MI – Crofoot Ballroom
Oct 05 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge
Oct 06, Columbus, OH – Outland Live
Oct 08 Brooklyn, NY – Masonic Temple
Oct 09 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom

I’ll be kicking it Swans-style here in Chicago October the 5th.  In the meantime, how’s about a few videos to whet your interest?

Here’s a rather unfortunately seizure-inducing video for the title track off of Love Of Life (interesting tidbit: try to see how many of these photos will end up being used as cover art for Gira’s albums as Angels Of Light):

And if that one was a bit soft for your taste, have a nice little palate-cleansing bludgeoning from the much rawer Swans circa 1987:

Go get your tickets, before the tickets get you.  Or whatever.

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So, I must admit that I’m a complete sucker for the bizarre black metal ramblings of Tasmania’s own Sin Nanna, otherwise known as the one-man treblefest Striborg.  I own all of the official full-lengths, and several of the reissues which combine previously unreleased demos.  The sound quality varies from each release, careening from hideous, to god-awful, to subterranean, to wind tunnel, to tinnitus-inducing, and so forth.

Something about this guy’s single-minded devotion to the pursuit of black metal’s bleakest core really appeals to me; no doubt a great deal is added to the experience of the music (which can be quite surreal, particularly at either high volume, or, sometimes even more so, at volumes just low enough so that you can’t quite tell if the sounds are coming from your speakers, or are being whispered into a static ether by shades just beyond your ability to perceive them) by Sin Nanna’s deliberately reclusive persona, which suggests that he lives alone in a desolate forest in the midst of the Tasmanian wilderness with nothing but a 4-track to record his frequent and misanthropic outbursts.

All of this to say, really, that Striborg is fucking awesome, and epitomizes the monomaniacal need for extremity in black metal’s least accessible enclaves.  A somewhat less raw Ildjarn (minus the punkish influences, too) might be the best touchstone, but Striborg is, to these ears at least, infinitely more listenable.

The most recent release on Sin Nanna’s label Finsternis Productions is a “split” release between Striborg and Sin Nanna’s dark ambient alter ego, Veil Of Darkness.  This brand new release collects Striborg’s 1997 demo Cold Winter Moon and Veil Of Darkness’s 1997 full-length album In the Valley of the Shadow of Death (omitting the brief intro track from the original release) on one compact disc stuffed to the gills with good times for the whole family.

Striborg’s side of the split is more or less what we’ve all come to expect, albeit with a markedly less trebly sound than many of his other recordings.  Demented black metal ravings and overdriven, humid-sounding ambient interludes are the order of the day.  Veil Of Darkness ply a similar pitch of blackness, but drop the metal and amp up the ambient, producing something not too unlike some of the dark ambient experiments of the much-vaunted (and still somewhat ridiculous) French LLN (Les Legions Noires, or the Black Legions) scene (particularly Aäkon Këëtrëh or Amaka Hahina).

The closing track “Pure Black Energy,” however (apart from possibly recalling the two lengthy dark ambient pieces which closed out Ildjarn’s Strength & Anger, which were titled “Black Anger”), breaks from strictly creepy dark ambient strictures and layers feedback and looped drum noise in a way not dissimilar to a less mechanized Merzbow.

So, anyway, it’s pretty great – if you’ve never heard Striborg, I suppose it’s as good a place as any to start (though I might humbly recommend Mysterious Semblance, Trepidation, or Spiritual Catharsis as perfectly excellent starting points as well).  This CD reissue is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, and while I can’t say they’ll go quite like hotcakes, I suspect there are enough similar-thinking maniacs out there in the world that you may want to snap one up while you can.

All of which brings me to my original point, which was, in fact, simply to be the juxtaposition of these two images:

Dark, spooky, altogether GRIM, right?

Dark, spooky, and altogether GRIM...WOMBATS?

This dark, spooky, and altogether grim split album of black metal and dark ambient musics arrived at my doorstep lovingly packaged in a padded envelope adorned with this charming Australian stamp featuring what I can only assume is meant to be a Momma Wombat and a widdle cutesy Baby Wombat.  Aw shucks, ain’t it so sweet?

The first thing that jumped out at me, of course, was the extremely ironic juxtaposition of this intentionally off-putting and anti-social music with this reminder that the primary reason the rest of the world loves Australia is that, beyond ridding us of some of our most troublesome prisoners, it is home to an abundance of super cuddly creatures.

This experience was more than a little reminiscent of the strange experience of ordering Xasthur’s latest (and, sadly, last) full-length album, Portal Of Sorrow, directly from Malefic (A.K.A. Scott Conner) himself via eBay.  Or, rather, the really jarring thing was, after receiving the album in the mail, finding Malefic’s promptly submitted ‘buyer feedback’, in which it was explained that I “made payment quickly, [and am an] honest and responsible e-bayer.”

If I were some black metal militant or ideologue, I suppose it would be easy to decry this intrusion of the modern world and its trappings of commerce and fuzzy marsupials, but instead, I think it serves as a nice reminder that no matter how much the extreme forms of music we seek out with great and fevered intent try to present themselves as cold, distant, alien (or at least alienating), there is no escaping the common world we share.  Frankly, I’m really glad to live in a world where both the harsh black noise of some secretive Tasmanian introvert can coexist with living, breathing, pouch-borne teddy bears.

In some ways, focusing on that shared world, with all its manifold evils and its frequent sweet succor, means that the extreme music we love and continue to support can continue to represent something extreme.  That is, if the world really was shit through and through (as so many of our paragons of metal insist), this music would cease to be an atavistic and artistic outlet worth pursuing, because it would merely be a pale mirror’s reflection of the dull gray cast of the world and all its miserable tenants.

Bring on the goddamn wombats, I say.

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The first time I encountered Lester Bangs’ writing was in college, when a musicology professor assigned a shit-kicking little essay called “James Taylor Marked for Death,” which, while threatening grave bodily harm to said folk musician, is primarily a paean to the rock and roll atavism of The Troggs (yes, they of “Wild Thing”).  I don’t really have anything intellectually notable to say here, I just wanted to highlight for you the brilliance of this man’s writing, and suggest that you go out and learn yourself just how thoroughly it is possible to experience music.

Here’s a particularly inspired passage from the above-mentioned essay, which is not what I intended originally to quote for you, but, things being what they are… :

“I could listen to Chicago or Santana anytime… I don’t think anybody as crass and commercial as they are could possibly be the Enemy.  My spleen is reserved for Elton John, James Taylor, all the glory boys of I-Rock.  I call it I-Rock, even though I just made up the name, because most of it is so relentlessly, involutedly egocentric that you finally actually stop hating the punk and just want to take the poor bastard out and get him a drink, and then kick his ass, preferably off a high cliff into the nearest ocean.

Matter of fact, if I ever get down to Carolina I’m gonna try to figure out a way to off James Taylor.  Hate to come on like a Nazi, but if I hear one more Jesus-walking-the-boys-and-girls-down-a-Carolina-path-while-the-dilemma-of-existence-crashes-like-a-slab-of-hod-on-J.T.’s-shoulders song, I will drop everything (I got nothin’ to do here in California but drink beer and watch TV anyway) and hop the first Greyhound to Carolina for the signal satisfaction of breaking off a bottle of Ripple (he deserves no better, and I wish I could think of worse, but they’re all local bands) and twisting it into James Taylor’s guts until he expires in a spasm of adenoidal poesy.

EXTRA! TRAGEDY STRIKES ROCK! SUPERSTAR GORED BY DERANGED ROCK CRITIC!! “We made it,” gasped Lester Bangs as he was led by police from the bloody scene.  “We won.”               — Rolling Stone

But fantasies and jokes – none of that is really any good.  If they just don’t seem to be playing your song much right now, well, stop feeling sorry for yourself, scout the terrain and see if we can figure out where to go next.  Because there’s always gonna be something around in the tradition.  But fuck the tradition, I want the Party!” (Bangs 1987, ed. Greil Marcus, pp. 71-72)
——————————

Mighty entertaining stuff, right?  Well anyway, what I really wanted to direct your attention to was the following inspired burst of writing, from a 1971 essay entitled “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: A Tale of These Times.”  Reading this passage really struck a chord with me, and perhaps it might resonate with you as well:

“…nothing more nor less than a record, a rock ‘n’ roll album…could ever pulverize my lobes and turn my floor to wormwood.  I knew, ’cause I had a brief though quite similar spell of disorientation once over the Question Mark and the Mysterians album!  I was at a friend’s house, and I was high on Romilar and he on Colt 45, and I said: ‘Yeah, I bought the Question Mark and the Mysterians album today,’ and suddenly the equilibrium was seeping from my head like water from the ears after a sea plunge, a desultory vortex started swirling round my skull and gradually spun faster though I couldn’t tell if it was a breeze just outside or something right between the flesh and bone.  I saw my life before my eyes, and that is no shit – I mean not that I saw some zipping montage from birth to that queasy instant of existential vertigo, but that I saw myself walking in and out of countless record stores, forking over vast fortunes in an endless chain of cash-register clicks and dings at $3.38 and $3.39 and $3.49 and all the other fixed rates I knew by heart being if never on the track team unquestionably an All-American Competitive Shopper, I saw litter bins piled high with bags that stores all seal records in so you won’t get nabbed for lifting as you trot out the door.  I saw myself on a thousand occasions walking toward my car with a brisk and purposeful step, turning the key in the ignition and varooming off high as a hotrodder in anticipation of the revelations waiting in thirty-five or forty minutes of blasting sound soon as I got home, the eternal promise that this time the guitars will jell like TNT and set off galvanic sizzles in your brain ‘KABLOOIE!!!’ and this time at least at last blow your fucking lid sky-high.  Brains gleaming on the ceiling, sticking like putty stalactites, while yer berserk body runs around and slams outside hollering subhuman gibberish, jigging in erratic circles and careening split-up syllables insistently like a geek with a bad case of the superstar syndrome.

But that’s only the fantasy.   The real vision, the real freaking flash, was just like the reality, only looped to replay without end.  The real story is rushing home to hear the apocalypse erupt, falling through the front door and slashing open the plastic sealing ‘for your protection’, taking the record out – ah, lookit them grooves, all jet black without a smudge yet, shiny and new and so fucking pristine, then the color of the label, does it glow with auras that’ll make subtle comment on the sounds coming out, or is it just a flat utilitarian monchromatic surface, like a schoolhouse wall…?  And finally you get to put the record on the turntable, it spins in limbo a perfect second, followed by the moment of truth, needle into groove, and finally sound.

What then occurs is so often anticlimactic that it drives a rational man to the depths of despair.  Bah!  The whole musical world is packed with simpletons and charlatans, with few a genius or looney tune joker in between…

I realize that this sounds rather pathological – although I never thought so until laying it out here – and this Freudian overtones are child’s play, I guess.  But what I don’t understand is what it all signifies.  Don’t get the idea that my buying of and listening to records per se has always been marked by such frenzy and disorientation, or even any particular degree of obsession and compulsion.  It’s just that music has been a fluctuating fanaticism with me ever since – well, ever since I first heard “The Storm” from the William Tell Overture on a TV cartoon about first grade… and hearing for the first time things like John Coltrane and Charlie Mingus’s The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady and the Stones and feedback and Trout Mask Replica.  All these were milestones, each one fried my brain a little further, especially the experience of the first few listenings to a record so total, so mind-twisting, that you authentically can say you’ll never be quite the same again… They’re events you remember all your life… And the whole purpose of the absurd, mechanically persistent involvement with recorded music is the pursuit of that priceless moment.  So it’s not exactly that records might unhinge the mind, but rather that if anything is going to drive you up the wall it might as well be a record.  Because the best music is strong and guides and cleanses and is life itself” (Bangs 1987, ed. Greil Marcus, pp. 11-13).
———–

Anyway, if you ask me, that’s some pretty white-hot writing, and it’s pretty much exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about recently when I wrote this post.  It seems to me that although Bangs never uses the word ‘nostalgia’, his phrase “the pursuit of that priceless moment” is a way of getting at the same sort of thing.

The anthology of Bangs’ writing from which these quotes are drawn is available here, and surely loads of other places.  Good music writing, I think, can approximate (if not quite surpass) the experience of good music, and music writing rarely gets better than this, so check it out.

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So, I just saw this news item over at Blabbermouth, and my initial reaction was:

“What.  The.  Fuck.”  Followed by a fit of stomping around and blasting “Overactive Imagination.”

A secondary, and slightly more measured reaction, was as follows:

If’n you don’t feel particularly inclined to follow random links, the gist of the post is that a concert is being held this weekend in New York which is billed as a “Chuck Schuldiner Benefit.”  Now, I mean absolutely no disrespect, because Chuck’s legacy in heavy metal is absolutely without question.  Mantas, Death, and Control Denied deserve all the respect and accolades in the world, and Chuck’s status as one of the prime movers of the early American death metal scene has been well-documented.  The thing is, Chuck Schuldiner died of cancer back in 2001.

This was obviously a great tragedy for his family and friends, and I always feel a little iffy suggesting that adding my condolences as only a fan of the man’s music can really amount to anything meaningful, but still.  Whether or not I am qualified to comment on the loss to the metal community represented by Chuck’s passing is somewhat beside the point here.  What I would really like to put out there, actually, is an open letter to the concert organizers:

To Whom It May Concern (A.K.A., Event Planner With An Unfortunate Choice Of Words),

Hello.  Are you well?  Just a few friendly words from your pal here at Spinal Tapdance.  If you are going to plan a concert to honor the memory of a well-respected and massively influential heavy metal musician who has been gone for nearly a decade, STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE WORD ‘BENEFIT’.  THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU MEAN, AND THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU SHOULD SAY.

I’m thinking that a better word to have used is probably ‘tribute’.  See, “Chuck Schuldiner Tribute Concert” has a perfectly wonderful ring to it.  You can still have it headlined by the (officially-sanctioned) Death tribute band (see how that works doubly there?), and you can still use it to showcase local talent.  All of these things are good.  All of these things are right.  But if you carry on calling your show a “Chuck Schuldiner Benefit” without further specifying precise what or who stands to benefit from it, I suspect that the very canny and cagey heavy metal community will begin to question your bona fides.

They might even get irritable.

Now, maybe I’ve got this all wrong.  Maybe what you actually meant to specify in your press release is that this is a benefit concert for Chuck Schuldiner in the sense that some of the proceeds will go to his family, or perhaps to a scientific foundation which researches rare brain tumors.  If this is the case, here’s a pro tip: Tell us that.

Otherwise, with all due warmth and affection, might I kindly ask of you to fuck right along with this ‘Benefit’ language?

I remain, as always,
Your friend in heavy metal,

Spinal Tapdance.

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