For just under the past decade, shoegaze conglomerate LSD And The Search For God have been a prominent constituent in the San Francisco underground, headlining numerous regional leftfield rock events like Gathering of the Tribes, Dreamgaze, and Popfest. The band has simultaneously transcended the Bay Area, attracting notice from Cosmosis Festival (they’ll be at the Manchester, UK fest this March with headliners Wire and Jesus & Mary Chain) and Austin Psych Fest (now called Levitation), the latter at which they played in 2013. Besides festivals and their hometown, LSD have also been shown tremendous praise from the internet’s indie-loving niches. On streaming service Last.fm, for example, LSD often landed in proximity to My Bloody Valentine on the site’s “artist similarity” spectrum (which is unfortunately no longer a feature on the site), opening them up to a greater audience than that of the San Francisco and festival crowds. However, all the band had in their back pocket for proof of their prowess and My Bloody Valentine-ness — in fact, all they had in their back-pocket — was a self-titled EP from 2006.
Along with Last.fm, LSD have gained a lot of their traction from the community of 4chan’s music forum /mu/. They frequently come up in conversation whenever shoegaze-themed threads get initiated, but they’ve also appeared on /mu/’s trademark “essentials” charts and flowcharts: in an example of the former, their EP is listed alongside albums by classic genre acts like MBV, Slowdive, and Ride, as well as other contemporaries like Deerhunter and Have A Nice Life; in one of the latter, the EP is recommended for fans coveting shoegaze “more like [MBV’s Loveless].” As 2006 slipped farther away, LSD’s music was being embraced more and more by these internet niches. However, upon release and afterward, the EP didn’t gather much attention from major music publications (but the band has been featured in some popular San Francisco-based outlets), and there hadn’t been any sign of follow-up material in the works. The Last.fms and 4chans seemed to exude the sole online praise for LSD and their five songs. In essence, they were (and still are) a buzzband without the journalistic validation.
While brief in duration (just 22 minutes long), LSD’s EP is euphony that’s vast and formidable, sounding like a plunge into a chasm of wintery, jagged din that’s at once encumbering and bittersweet. Mixed in with their gazing is post-punk-like unyieldingness, marked beautifully by the droning six-string fanfares and dramatic pockets of silence of “I Don’t Care.” Another one of the hallmarks of LSD’s EP is penultimate track “Starting Over.” On it, guitarist/vocalist Andy Liszt duets with the band’s second vocalist Sandi Denton, their lyrics mostly sounding like inscrutable streams of vowels that seep through levees of consonants. The melatonin-dunked guitars seem unearthed from ancient, sepia found-footage, but they coagulate into a mass of tremolo-picking for the epic choruses. When the lyrics become remotely clear, “Be careful what you wish for,” Denton sings — “‘Cause it might come true,” follows Liszt.
In spite of their abstractness, LSD have been acute at explaining it: “Our music would be perfect for a viewing of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ meets ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ played on mute while reclining in a dentist’s chair five minutes after novocaine shots and a steady flow of nitrous,” said Liszt in an interview with The San Francisco Gate. Liszt’s description is perfect, expounding LSD’s style as a melange of the bizarre, scintillating, paralyzing, and psychedelic — which it is. Their major chords recall Wonka-esque elation, but once they’re filtered through the effects pedals/amplifiers of Liszt and accompanying guitarist Chris Fifield, they become preternaturally grim and overpowering, like Requiem’s cinematic strain of drug trips.
If there’s been any vitriol toward LSD, it’s that they’ve been deemed “too 90s,” as in their grainy, far-from-crystalline production isn’t hi-fi enough for the new century’s general aesthetic. “Too 90s” implies that the band is anachronistic, when in fact LSD sound that way because they have legitimate roots in classic shoegaze. When Stephen Lawrie, head of formative outfit The Telescopes, first performed in the US in 2006, LSD acted as his backing musicians — meaning the band at one point was simultaneously LSD and The Telescopes. Also, LSD have connections with the great Spacemen 3, having opened for a member (specifically Peter Kember, better known as Sonic Boom/Spectrum) and hung out with another (“When I met Jason Pierce [of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized] in 1994 or ‘95, he told me he considers his music to be — if anything — soul music,” Liszt told The Big Takeover). LSD’s roots indicate that they don’t merely play shoegaze, they also live and breath the genre; so despite it not coming out during the 90s golden age of shoegaze, the band’s EP succeeds as a grail of authenticity.
Eight and a half years following the EP, there came new LSD And The Search For God music, when in July 2014 the band posted a video for their track “Heaven.” It’s set to be on LSD’s upcoming EP Heaven Is A Place, which is dropping January 15 on the label Deep Space. Sounding as glistening as its video looks, “Heaven” has a more tonic spirit than that of the 2006 material. Voices, though, get lost in each other within “Heaven’s” harmonies and the lyrics are impenetrable, proving that LSD still reside in the obfuscated. With Heaven Is A Place being an EP, maybe that means it’s a mark of perfectionism (a well-known quality of shoegaze, as evidenced by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields), or maybe the band’s playing off the fact that they’ve been so esteemed thanks to just an EP. In any case, a full-length album is unlikely at this rate and doesn’t even seem to be a goal. While a debut album would be spectacular, any dose of new LSD is something to be excited about. After all, this is a band that’s somehow remained fresh and durable off the pedal-fueled panache of just five songs from nine years ago.
I first heard about godheadSilo from a Kill Rock Stars catalogue included in a CD I bought from the label. In the description of their album The Scientific Supercake, it said that bassist Mike Kunka had gone deaf in one ear during its recording. It was somehow boastful and (I suspect) a little ironic, but it made a big impression on me, nonetheless.
Described in the same catalogue as “electronix junkies” and achievers of “distortion technology,” godheadSilo were somehow similar to bands like Karp (although less heroic-sounding than the Tumwater threesome). They were a bass & drums band that grooved in oceans of fuzz, a sound that was hurtful and percussive and massive by anyone’s standards. They also seemed to want the destruction of all human hearing through repetition. (This is not too much of an exaggeration — just listen to “Guardians of the Threshold”:
Like the early work of another Northwestern tonefucker machine (Earth), godheadSilo’s Sub Popl album Skyward In Triumph was recorded at Smegma’s studio by Mike Lastra with the assistance of former Melvins and future Sunn O))) member Joe Preston, who at the time was doing his own low-end experiments as Thrones. They were obvious inspirations for other compact death units to follow, like Lightning Bolt and Big Business, yet not only does their music still stand on its own, but it also sounds rightfully massive compared to newer bands. Their heavy, repetitive riffs can still obliterate ear canals. What most people overlook, though, is that they also possessed a unique melodicism. Their riffs, drenched in distortion as they were, were memorable, as exemplified by songs like “Booby Trap” and “Just Friends”.
godheadSilo were one of those acts that had an enormous impact, even if they are not widely recognized as such.
Real talk, guys: if forced to name my favorite concert-going experience of all time, I’d probably have to throw all pretense to the wind and say it was Night One of the 2004 Q101 Block Party. The headlining band was The Presidents of the United States of America, who were enjoying an improbable extension to the 15 minutes of fame they experienced in the mid 90s, thanks to the flurry of interest surrounding their comeback album. But they don’t even factor into this. The band that warmed up the crowd for them was Local H, fresh off of Whatever Happened to PJ Soles?. It was a dynamite show, one that got me reacquainted with the band after a long period of estrangement following the end of their major label days. But even THAT’s not what made this show so singularly memorable.
No, the band that forever crystallized this night in the gauzy amber of my memory was the opening act, Sponge. For those of you who are a little hazy on your post-grunge one-hit wonders, Sponge was a group out of Detroit whose major claim to fame was the lead single off their debut album, Plowed. I’d acquired their first two CDs at a garage sale sometime during my second year in college and had developed a pretty serious soft-spot, particularly for the unruly but occasionally brilliant mess that was their ill-fated sophomore set, Wax Ecstatic.
Sponge had the unenviable task of playing to a still loosely packed crowd that was mostly just killing time until the other bands took the stage. After knocking out two or three songs for an obviously indifferent audience, frontman Vinnie Dombroski dragged the mic stand to the edge of the stage and said, “Okay, anyone out there who’s got one of our albums, come on up front.” I cast a nervous glance to the left and right of me and, seeing no resistance, wove my way to the front of the crowd with my friends in tow. All told, there were probably no more than 30 of us. Dombroski jumped off the stage, crossed through the photo pit, and, with the help of the burliest fan in the bunch, hauled himself up on the railing, where he stayed for pretty much the duration of his set, only returning to the stage to close things down with (you guessed it) “Plowed.”
The intimacy of that act was incredible. I’ve since seen better performances by bands that I more closely identify with, but nothing is ever likely to top that feeling of having one of my pet bands play an entire show for me and a handful of other fans.
One of the songs they played was “Rotting Piñata,” the title track to their debut album and, for my money, the finest in their catalogue. I have memories of blasting the song from my dorm room on the first warm day of spring, windows and sliding glass door opened to the outside world while I danced like a maniac to its joyful opening guitar strains. Like many of the songs on their debut, the lyrics are deceptively heavy. Dombroski contemplates the fate of all flesh with an unsparing eye for detail — insides spilling across the ground, crows eating eyeballs, a wreck of human remains left to decay beneath an uncaring sun. The grimness of the subject matter gains an added emotional punch from one of Dombroski’s most forceful vocal deliveries. The lyrics aren’t so much sung as shouted, his bandmates’ backing vocals either trailing behind or rushing ahead of his. For a song that was surely engineered to the smallest detail by some label exec hoping to create the next Stone Temple Pilots, it feels very rough, even spontaneous.
Looking back on my young adult Sponge fixation, I’d have to admit that part of the appeal was a certain sense of exclusivity — the fact that, by the early aughts, they weren’t a band too many people were talking or thinking about helped to make them more uniquely mine. While I’m still fond of their work (Wax Ecstatic, especially, is a strange, cool little record), it’s not something I find myself revisiting with regularity these days. But no matter how much has changed for me personally since my twenties, I’ll always have the Q101 Block Party, and I’ll always have “Rotting Piñata.”
1997: Bush - “Greedy Fly”
Admit it. You’d all but forgotten about this filthy, dilapidated, and long-buried time capsule of a song, hadn’t you? It’s okay. So had I. 1997 was a heady time to be 14.
And it didn’t only feel that way because high school was right around the corner; irresponsibly Wayne’s World-like rides in hand-me-down cars lacking critical safety features with older siblings were becoming more and more commonplace, and access to menthol cigarettes (and something called “stacking,” wherein you’d take as many back-to-back drags off the horrendous things as possible while lying flat on your back to “maximize the buzz” before handing them over to the next scrawny participant in line) was still exhilaratingly intermittent.
It also just-plain felt weird, like, culturally. Just what did “our music” sound like, anyway? The almighty Cobain (who was himself more of a hand-me-down from those older siblings in those ill-equipped cars) already felt long gone to my friends and me, and try as he might — via the hypnotic power of the checkered flannel patterns and shellacked hair — Gavin Rossdale was most decidedly not him. (“Sure, his hair looks all stringy and straight,” I thought, “but it’s an act! You can tell it’s really just PUFFY and CURLY underneath! Poseur, poseur, poseur!”)
So-the-hell-what if he and his bandmates had literally hired In Utero engineer Steve Albini to record their own “darker” (read: much less well thought-out and far more uneven) sophomore album Razorblade Suitcase? I mean, even “Swallowed,” the single everyone actually does remember from that record, sounded suspiciously sugary to my ears. Yeah, it was cool to sing along to with the cool girls we knew riding home from the cool Friday-night high school football games, but his words were a little TOO easy to remember… that chorus melody just had a few TOO many right notes in it… and the overall sentiment of the track was — in the words of any blissfully misogynistic 14 year old — a little TOO girly (“Chick song, chick song, chick song!”).
Enter the 1997 release of “Greedy Fly,” the second single from the album, and, from what I could tell, a much more interesting roll of the “we’re Bush and can probably have another hit no matter what song we release” dice.
And indeed, it was so. The song still charted at #3 in the US. Compared to “Swallowed,” though, “Greedy Fly” sounded — and still sounds — like the introverted younger child. The last-minute wedding date. The black sheep. The shoulder shrug. The improvised plan B. The jerky way it starts and stops, the curiously off-kilter relationship between the pre-choruses and the choruses they dump into, the willfully BAD poetry of the self-loathing lyrics (Matt Diehl, in his Rolling Stone review of the album from November of 1996, was pretty quick to highlight the “nonsensical couplets like, ‘Do you feel the way you hate?/ Do you hate the way you feel?’” that populate the song, failing to recognize that this sort of shit is pure gold to the mind of a budding teenager who tears at the cuffs of his new jeans on purpose) all conspired to push the song somehow into more credible and grunge-pop territory.
“Now THIS is more like it!” I remember thinking when I first heard all those discordant power-chord progressions, unedited guitar-string scrape noises, and semi-flams when the band tries and sorta fails to come back in on count 1 together after a pause. Especially in retrospect, “Greedy Fly” is like Grunge’s fucking death rattle; the last song to really attempt to assimilate Cobain’s oddball devotion to The Beatles’ sense of taut song structures with Beefheart-style primitivism and mall-stylized, sensitive-dude vitriol aimed at some ill-defined set of current circumstances.
And that’s what makes it so fascinating to revisit and connect with some 18 years later. With all those warts and noises, it was as damned decent a death rattle as you could ask for before the trappings of grunge — that a whole generation of kids just like me valued — got cruelly vacuumed up by the pop-metal scene a year or so later. And in that sense, it really is a pretty good time capsule; maybe even better than most Nirvana tunes you could cite. Because of its shortcomings, “Greedy Fly” didn’t just have texture. It had acne. Acne that felt just like mine did. It had “terrain,” the difficulty-level of which was in perfect accord with the map that I was trying to navigate just being alive and 14 in a middle-class, white-ish Chicago suburb in 1997. That is to say: uneven, but ultimately simple enough to resolve; formulaic but still awkward.
Oh, and it had one more thing that you also may have forgotten. An EPIC, SEVEN-MINUTE MUSIC VIDEO (after all, it was 1997).
Björk’s a singer who gets to you. Perhaps she is polarizing, but I find in her everything that’s lacking with so many other pop singers. With her, I find fascination, whether or not I’m 100% on board with what she’s doing. As far as I’m concerned, she is what’s needed, eager idiosyncrasies and all, like Shannon Funchess or Neko Case or maybe even Mike Patton (who was recruited as a contributor for Medúlla’s guttural ambience). We need these people to remind us of the virtues of boundless creative exploration, even as we gorge ourselves on irresistibly (big timey) sensual slices of exotic rhythms and heartwrenching melodicism. Standing inside a Björk song can be like inhabiting a deep-sea observation module, as unaccountable iridescent lights dash around you. It is a rolling yet peaceful space to inhabit.
One shining example of this is the finale of Ms. Guðmundsdóttir’s 1993 album, Debut. “The Anchor Song” is about communing with one’s objectness, as a slack hunk of leaden flotsam resting blankly on the night-blackened ocean floor. It is about security through rootedness and abandon coexisting in the tumultuous place where the water meets the land. It is a prayer and a lullaby, a succinct homage to immobile grace. With just Björk’s sharp, keening voice and simple harmonized saxophone figures, we make our beds in the same improbable peace and quiet. Despite a breathtaking rendition with church choir “ahs” in place of saxophone, “The Anchor Song” will always definitely be one of the great Björk album closers (with “Headphones” running a close second) that leave you feeling like you’ve gone through something unparalleled.
The following is my tribute to this artist and song and some of what could reside in the invisible depths of its rests. Or just a bit of sacrilegious ballast on a perfectly good song. Your call, as ever.
“TV Set” is quite possibly the most twisted song in The Cramps’ long, depraved catalog. Their debut album, the magnificent Songs the Lord Taught Us, is bursting at the sutures with horror movie imagery: teenage werewolves, zombie sock hops, girls with mysterious facial-wear (the last of which I like to think of as a goofy EC Comics precursor to The Birthday Party’s “Jennifer’s Veil”). But there’s a quaintness to these other selections that doesn’t rest so easily on “TV Set.” It’s a love song written by a madman, an ode to the object of his obsession, whose dismembered body he has distributed among all his major appliances. The song is not without its own over-the-top sense of humor, but the ghoulishness of the subject matter colors it a shade or two darker than the tracks that follow it.
And that’s why it’s a shame that the version of the song that opens Songs is so anemic. Alex Chilton’s production helped bring some really interesting things out of those early Cramps recordings, but he didn’t seem to know what do with a snarling monster like “TV Set.” No, if you want the definitive recorded version of this bad boy, you’ve got to go back to the ‘79 demo sessions, packaged variously as The Ohio Demos 1979 and All Tore Up (the contents of both bootlegs are identical).
The difference is night and day, right? Knick Knox’s voodoo drum beat pounds like blood in your ears, Poison Ivy’s guitars are crisper, and Lux Interior’s vocals are a whole other level of unhinged. There’s more character to his delivery here — the little falsetto yelps that punctuate the thrice-repeated “flippin’, flippin’, flippin’ for ya/ Baby-oh” in the second verse, his unrestrained howl as he returns to the first verse at the song’s end. The dealbreaker, though, would have to be Bryan Gregory’s solos. The studio version thoroughly castrates him, burying his anarchic licks way, way down in the mix. But not so in the demo: this is weaponized guitar, big lacerating phrases that are barely content to keep contained within the song’s suddenly too-frail rhythm.
This is “TV Set” the way it was meant to be heard, in all its gruesome, assaultive glory. Once you’ve experienced it, it’s hard to go back to the album version. It’s just a shame old Lux isn’t around to give it to us live anymore.
As we discussed at the Sip ‘n Dip, here is the “Declaration” transcript, written up and decoded as best as I could manage. I think we’re okay to share this around, although I admit its contents make me a little uneasy.
Peculiarities of diction lead me to believe that the witness is either not speaking his native language, intoxicated, or, fuck it, both.
I still have doubts about the authenticity of the documents — the method of redaction, for example, is not, as far as I am aware, used in any other classified document filed by the FBI, the CIA, MI5, MI6, the CSIS/SCRS, the ASIS, or the NZSIS. There are a few other slight indications of fraud; the redaction method is just the most obvious one.
That said, there can be no doubt that the technical information the witness provides is accurate. This, in addition to lab analysis of printed materials that verifies the given dates (see [Report ZULU 1 4 9 GOLF 0 ALPHA echo 4 hotel]), makes it essential that the testimony recorded on the “Declaration” tape is retained for future analysis and study pending further activity in Central or Eastern Europe or either of the polar regions.
Furthermore, against the arguments presented in [Report KILO 0 1 8 KILO golf GOLF BRAVO 2 ALPHA], I am not inclined to believe that the witness is psychologically disturbed in any pronounced way, given the resources available for diagnosis. Any falsehoods or fabrications included in the statement are just as likely motivated by a desire to impress, for reasons of pride or profit.
My professional opinion is that the value of this testimony is primarily technical. The biopolitical/sociological stuff I am not prepared to dismiss out of hand — I would rather place it in parentheses pending further research. It should come as no surprise that the activities of the Collective overlap with the activities of other secret organizations worldwide. I believe that if we could verify this part of the testimony it would prove extremely valuable for recruitment purposes.
Let me know how you want me to proceed. Love to Katie and Miles.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 10/11/60. Testimony recorded on open-reel audio tape a/k/a the “Declaration” tape. Transcript encrypted using FBI regulation encryption methods of that era. Redactions retained. The identity of the witness is unknown. The location of the recording is unknown. The tape is sealed and marked “CLASSIFIED CONFIDENTIAL 1-A” / “DIRECTOR’S EARS ONLY” / “BLUE BOOK ADDENDUM”
“Declaration” transcript, w/ redactions
We developed an engine which turned a free energy machine into an energy converter. It was coupled to a ____ [“band/banned”] Generator and _____ vortex dynamo. They [sic] affected gravity and reduced mass.
This device we mounted on to a [“tear-shaped/T-shaped”] craft covered with _____. We armed the craft with heavy guns. These guns had cascade oscillators connected to a long-barrel shrouded transmission rod. The rod was wrapped in a precise [sic] tungsten spiral. The resulting burst could pierce _____ enemy armour, but the guns destabilized the craft. We then started to use ______.
The first craft, the ______, was 25m in diameter. It had a crew of ______ and could achieve the velocity ______ low altitude. Further enhancement enabled them [sic] to reach ______. Flight endurance was 18 hours.
The ______ was 26m in diameter. It had a crew of ______. It could achieve supersonic speeds with a flight endurance of 18 hours.
The ______ was 71m in diameter. It had a crew of ______. It could achieve hypersonic speeds with a flight endurance of 8 weeks.
Eventually the ______ arrived. ______ initially contacted [Hitler] in a covert fashion. Upon seeing ______ we ______. We then came to learn they came from ______. They were the ones who initially created ______ as part of ______ [an] experiment. Upon learning that the crew of the previous spacecraft had perished, they left with a promise to return.
The ______ was used to evacuate certain key personnel to ______ and other ______ locations. ______ [R&D] on these projects continued in underground installations. ______ our work continued. The ______ returned. They had received orders to begin ______. They assumed control of our operations.
We instructed a number of our scientists to surrender to the Allies. We could then ensure that the Allies would not discover our technology. They instead directed NASA to more primitive, liquid fuel types of propulsion. They built rockets instead of highly navigable spacecraft. They went to the moon long after we had established underground bases there.
______. ______ [we have discovered that] ______ were there first. That ______ were created there. ______ . That the massive monuments ______ were built by ______ under the direction of ______. ______ the hieroglyphs on the structures can [also] be found ______. ______ the bones of the killed by excessive ______ are still scattered all over ______.
The ______has begun. We are now working with an elite society ______. Vast underground facilities have been constructed ______ throughout Antarctica. Evacuation centers have been established ______. ______ interconnected colonies, based entirely on [the] pursuit of the development of science and technology as a means to bring about the ______, exist throughout the world.
______ ultimate goal is to restore order ______. ______ restricted by ______ laws which govern abandoned projects. ______ were not destroyed ______, ______ must be eliminated in order to resume the project. The salvageable ______ must be rescued, and the rest must be allowed to naturally ______.
______. This is done using a variety of methods.
Aberrant sexuality is to be condoned and protected.
Abortion is to be promoted as the first viable alternative to giving birth.
Those who are financially successful will be looked on as inherently corrupt and exploited. They will try making charitable donations. The donations ______ will feed the ______ classes. This in turn will keep the ______ classes from rising above their station. This redistribution of the wealth, through taxes and charity, will eventually eliminate the ______ classes. The resulting mass of uneducated, resourceless ______ will ______ easy ______, ______ control ______ their own self-destructive tendencies.
______. ______. ______ will be instructed to blame themselves, and their culture, for the shortcomings of others. They will excuse destructive behaviour. They will eliminate the death penalty and petition for the rights of their destroyers.
They will oppose war, because war ultimately strengthens ______, [they will] adopt a passive position. They will voluntarily give up ______ and surrender ______ in response to disinformation. They will not reproduce, based on artificial concerns.
We are now entering the next phase _____.
The “Declaration” recording:
2009: Gowns - “Marked”
While their sole full-length Red State garnered all the love, Gowns’ Broken Bones EP might be my favorite release by the all-too-shortly-lived collaboration that brought Erika M. Anderson to the world’s attention. Recorded as part of Southern Records’s Latitudes series, the five-song set was an attempt to capture the live sound of the recently expanded four-piece lineup, resulting in a more forceful and shambolic record than its better-known forerunner. In addition to chaotic re-envisionings of two of Red State’s best tracks (“White Like Heaven” and “Mercy Springs”), the EP boasted a queasy spoken-word piece by Anderson and the hymn-like “Griefer,” one of Ezra Buchla’s most gut-wrenching offerings. And, of course, it also featured an early version of “Marked.”
We are long past the point of looking for “the next Kurt Cobain,” but if you divorce that impulse from the erroneous notion that rock mu$ic can still be some kind of grand, unifying cultural force (if it ever truly was), I think Anderson is about as close as we’ve come to a suitable candidate. Like Cobain, she is adept at weaving surreal, free-associative imagery, and confessional disclosures into a dense personal mythology. There’s no finer example of this in her discography than “Marked.” The song begins with a vision of the speaker’s arms as “bloodless, skinless plastic” and slips from this haunting non-sequitur into heavy meditations on a relationship. “Don’t you know that I would never hurt you/You are such a pretty thing,” Anderson mutters, and we can’t be totally certain who is speaking or why, but when, a few moments later, she begins chanting with increasing fervor, “I wish that every time he touched me left a mark,” it’s hard not to interpret the situation we’re glimpsing as abusive or view her devotion as a kind of Stockhom Syndrome, though no less affecting or keenly felt for that fact. There is a canny artlessness to some of her lines in the song’s back-half (“These drugs are making me so sad/but I can’t stop taking them in”) that, when contrasted with the gruesomely crafted opening imagery, helps render the speaker’s desolation in terms both immediate and genuine.
Most of us received our introduction to the song, along with its companion piece, the a capella “Coda,” as the centerpiece of EMA’s solo debut Past-Life Martyred Saints. We know it as a bruised and vulnerable thing. Anderson’s voice is a husky whisper that cracks when she raises it, like she laid down vocals at the end of a long day when her throat was worn raw from overuse. She sounds exhausted on a spiritual level. Beaten down. Wrung dry. You can hear her fingers screeching up and down the fretboard, striking dead notes that reverberate through the stillness.
By contrast, the Broken Bones rendition is a much more strident affair. The tempo is quicker, the guitar tones less hushed. Jacob Heule’s drums lend a propulsive quality to the rhythm that’s lacking in its more fragile descendant. While the back half of the PNM version dissolves into a cloud of ethereal synth, the Broken Bones version doubles down, with Anderson belting out lyrics that would later make up the “Coda” and then looping back around to the opening lines. If the later iteration of the song is the one you’d hear on MTV Unplugged, then this is the one that would resound across the muddy banks of the Wishkah.
There are other interesting aspects of the arrangement, like the heavily distorted, barely audible voice (Buchla’s I assume? But it could just as easily be Anderson’s own, fed back into the mix) that burbles along just beneath the surface of the main vocals or the soaring backing harmony the band adds to the song’s big finish. Overall, though, it’s not the song’s most appropriate incarnation. The PLMA arrangement gels more organically with the soul-bearing lyrical content, and the many rich textures Anderson assembles bring it to life in a way that feels definitive. Still, “Marked’s” older, harder rocking ancestor offers a delicious alternate take on one of the finest songs written in the past decade.
Young Jeezy’s Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 turned a decade old in July. The seminal work for the Atlanta rapper was honored with a sold-out anniversary concert and critic re-praise, forums reopened debates of its importance, and the aura of 2005 crept back in the room it built. If you were near a radio 10 years ago, you heard “Soul Survivor,” and you recognized the raspy drawl. It was familiar in that it was unmistakably coming out of Atlanta, a city that was becoming rap’s epicenter more and more by the week. While describing Atlanta’s increasing dominance in an excellent write-up of Jeezy’s anniversary show, Rembret Brown points out that Atlanta artists held the top spot of Billboard Hot 100 for 42 of 52 weeks, a trend that abruptly ended in 2005 and left a mega-hit void brought on by Outkast, Usher, and Ludacris in years past.
A clear cut through the stale fog crunk left on Atlanta’s charts was a narrative used by UGK, 8 Ball & MJG, and, for Atlanta, Dungeon Family, and a sound structured two years prior on T.I.’s Trap Muzik. Jeezy pulled a three-way combo, with a trap narrative, Shawty Redd’s now-signature trap sound, and a city-first, us-over-everyone attitude that Atlanta thrives on (cc: Freaknik). But TM101’s colossal boast is its replay value. 2005 saw 50 Cent’s The Massacre earn Billboard’s best-selling album, Urban Legend and Who Is Mike Jones? were 39 and 40 respectively, while Jeezy clocked in at 55. I spent the second half of 2005 riding around in my buddy’s rundown 92 Chevy listening to TM101 over and over and have spent hours revisiting it since. The Massacre fell off and took 50 with it. Urban Legend continued T.I.’s shoot-for-the-singles style in the best way, and Who Is Mike Jones? – a very underrated album – rose to #40 on the charts on the back of “Still Tippin’.” But both pale by comparison. It’s insane: post-Cash Money Mannie Fresh, early solo Bun B, T.I. and Lil’ Scrappy on a Jazzy Pha beat, still shining from Black Album Jay Z, Akon’s first major feature. Then Jeezy’s solo efforts like “My Hood,” “Bottom of the Map,” “Air Forces,” “Trap Star,” “Let’s Get It/Sky’s The Limit” — every song needs its own space. Listening to Let’s Get It: Thug Motiviation 101 isn’t nostalgic. There’s a timeless quality to the project, one that keeps its influence from fading and each play as absorbed as the last.
When it comes to the recent string of synth-heavy solo acts, bands, and reissues, my opinions can go either way. Sometimes a record comes along that blows me away with creativity, originality, or an ability to breathe new life in an otherwise desiccate form. Other times, I’ll listen, shrug, and move on to the next thing. Austin quartet S U R V I V E originally released their self-titled debut on Berlin’s Mannequin Records, but Holodeck Records (co-run by the band’s Adam Jones, who also moonlights in Troller) and Light Lodge Records have done the lord’s work and re-released the record for domestic audiences. In many ways, this release is a “homecoming,” as the label puts it, because, in addition to Jones, most of the S U R V I V E crew are part of the Holodeck family. The nine dank synth workouts on this LP are a natural fit for the label, as Holodeck has spent the past couple of years curating a roster of like-minded and eclectic sounds from Austin and beyond.
The reissue comes at an appropriate time, as the band had music from this release included in Adam Wingard’s film The Guest, and S U R V I V E’s brand of sci-fi synth tunes have become de rigueur in the indie music world. Labels are pressing new versions of old sci-fi and horror soundtracks (yawn!), whose necessity of being unearthed continues to spark debate, while bands out of L.A., New York, and bedroom studios in Anytown, USA are exploring synth-based, sci-fi-leaning works. It’s fitting that S U R V I V E have come back to show the kids how it’s done, as none of the jams have lost any of their potency. From the ambient leaning “Deserted Skies” and “Shunting Yard,” to the hard-hitting, beat driven “Hourglass” and “Floating Cube,” S U R V I V E brings it. The analog synth heads will be frothing over these tunes.