Saturday, July 15, 2023

Soltero, Again

Heads up: it's time for a new Soltero show, and this time with drums!

We're playing on August 17th at the 8mm Bar in Prenzlauer Berg. I'll be on bass and will even sing a few words here and there. We've got a full set lined up for you and I'm looking forward to see you there!

For some previews of what we've been up to, check out

[Edit 2023.08.06:] Doors at 7pm, show at 8:30pm. Please be aware that this venue unfortunately allows indoor smoking.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Yo La Tengo - Live 2023.04.25 Huxleys Neue Welt, Berlin, Germany

Yo La Tengo have always on my periphery, but I never took the time to dig deep. I mostly just knew the dream poppy, shoegaze-adjacent albums, which are still my favorites. When a friend suggested joining him for this show, it was an easy choice, despite my relative ignorance.

They’re touring without an opener and just playing two long sets. The first set started loud, but they immediately took it down several notches and played chill and quiet songs. It was almost too quiet, but they managed to command the audience effectively. Some songs were acoustic, and some were more jam-oriented, and a few were both acoustic and jammy. Ira Kaplan’s acoustic guitarwork was right on par with his electric skills, so it was a welcome variation to the vibe.

The second set also started loud, but mostly stayed loud, often very loud. Most songs were exploratory and relatively heavy, which was a slightly more compelling mood. Sometimes the songs meandered a stretch too far, but the subtle strength, energy, and confidence of the trio was captivating. It also helped that they played more songs that I recognized. The last song of the set, “Blue Line Swinger”, was drawn out for what felt like ages, which again was on line of going too far, but the payoff of the buildup was a delight.

The encore was just three covers, with each member singing lead on one. They were all fairly quiet, sparse, and brief, which was pleasant but simple. Of course I loved “Who Loves the Sun”, but the other two were a bit tame. It was something of a reprieve after the louder songs, but not particularly exciting.

With only three members and no backing musicians or guests, there’s a lot of condensed pressure to make the show interesting. I loved how frequently all three traded instruments. James McNew played everything: bass, guitar, keyboards, and drums, and he sang lead and harmony with such a warm, mellow voice. Georgia Hubley, nominally the drummer, played several songs on keyboards and sang several from both behind the kit and in front. Her voice was perhaps just hint too timid and restrained, but so pure and direct. Ira sang more than the other two and was louder, rougher, and rawer. I was surprised at how loose and wild his guitar soloing was. He hit plenty of bum notes, tried some misguided runs, and produced a lot of noise. It kinda worked, though. I find raw emotion more interesting than cold precision, and yet I suppose I expected a higher standard.

While the first set was slow and underexpressed, the second was loud and substantially more intense. The choice of splitting the material in two sections like that made some sense, but it was also a bit wearying to have so much of one approach in series. The individual songs varied enough to keep it interesting, but considering that it was a three-hour show without any real hits, not much pop, and limited melody, I’m not too surprised some members of my party didn’t make it to the end. I was also fairly exhausted, but I found it rewarding. I loved the musicianship, even with my complaints, and the arrangements were consistently compelling. It was an enjoyable show even with its flaws.

Set 1:
01. Sinatra Drive Breakdown
02. Tonight’s Episode
03. Fog Over Frisco
04. Aselestine
05. Until It Happens
06. I’ll Be Around
07. Nowhere Near
08. My Heart’s Reflection
09. Miles Away

Set 2:
10. This Stupid World
11. Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House
12. From a Motel 6
13. Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad [Grateful Dead cover]
14. Stockholm Syndrome
15. Fallout
16. Big Day Coming
17. Artificial Heart
18. Sugarcube
19. Blue Line Swinger

20. Who Loves the Sun [The Velvet Underground cover]
21. This Diamond Ring [Gary Lewis & the Playboys cover]
22. You Can Have It All [George McCrae cover]

Score: B

P.S. Thanks to Tim, Brooke, and Luisa!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Schorsch Kamerun: Der diskrete Charme der Reduktion - 2023.02.17 Vollgutlager, Berlin, Germany

I went to this “concert installation” on a whim when a friend invited me. It was part of the Schall & Rausch Festival für Brandneues Musiktheater organized by the Komische Oper, but at a different venue while their usual home is undergoing renovation. I had no idea what to expect. I unfortunately knew relatively little about Schorsch Kamerun’s longstanding band Die Goldenen Zitronen, but based on that and the name of the event (“The Discreet Charm of Reduction”), I had a good feeling. I wasn’t let down.

The evening started with the crowd assembled on a roped-off side of a large venue filled with platforms, tables, large yellow balls, and green structures resembling small houses. After a brief introduction, classical singer Ivan Turšić sweetened the air, and we were invited to follow him up a set of stairs to a rampart and then into the rest of the space. Meanwhile, the ropes were taken down and actors, many of whom also sang as part of the Richardchor Neukölln, started scattering across the venue to take up an odd assortment of tasks. Throughout the night, they pushed boxes around the houses laboriously, sat at a table and ate, projected psychedelic patterns with oils on the wall, sang, demonstrated products to each other, analyzed a mess of papers, crawled on the floor, mined clay for some sort of pellets, and at one point became ants that seemed to be preparing for battle. There was a lot going on.

Meanwhile, the primary attention shifted between Turšić, narrator/lead actress Annemaaike Bakker, and Schorsch, who occasionally spoke but mostly sang songs accompanied by keyboardist PC Nackt and a classically-trained ensemble from the Komische Oper. Some of the material was based on previously released songs and some parts were renditions of classical works, but most was newly composed for the performance. The themes, unsurprisingly, were socio-economic critiques of contemporary Western society, particularly capitalism, but also political corruption, war profiteering, globalization, marketing, interpersonal relationships, coping with trauma, and urban versus rural life. I didn’t hear anything that I found disagreeable, but plenty that made me think or laugh. Schorsch didn’t have all the answers to solve our problems, but he did have a few specific suggestions: stop driving private cars and commit to a reduction in productivity to counter the myth of infinitely increasing growth in a closed system.

The experience was immersive and engaging. I’ve never experienced something quite like it. It wasn’t quite interactive, but there were always multiple things going on at the same time, so it was impossible to be bored. The music was diverse and consistently of a high caliber, both in composition and performance. I left in a great mood. It turns out that the venue is part of Schwuz, the longest-standing queer club in Berlin, and at the end, Schorsch welcomed us to have a drink and say hello at the bar. I did, and sure enough, he and some of the performers and crew were to be found on the dancefloor well into the night. I didn’t even have to wait in line to get in, so that was quite an unexpected bonus!

Score: A

P.S. Thanks to Lutz and Anton!

[Update 2023.02.28:] P.P.S. The taz also wrote up a review. Theirs is much more detailed, but it's in German.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Nico - (The) Drama of Exile reissue (1981/1983/2021)

Nico is a curious and frustrating artist. She was a model and actress turned musician, despite limited musical training and an unusual voice that she was generally uninterested in adapting to mainstream taste. She guested on the first Velvet Underground album to great success and then made an album of folk songs largely written by VU members and former male lovers, which she promptly dismissed after the producer sweetened the mixes with extra instruments without her knowledge. And from then on, she never made another attempt to cater to mainstream tastes. Most of her subsequent albums were produced by John Cale and were grounded in her droning harmonium. The arrangements are typically dark, minimalist, and unsettling. Unsurprisingly, the gothic rock and industrial scenes adored her. Bauhaus brought her on stage twice, Throbbing Gristle attempted a full-album cover of Desertshore, and she duetted with Marc Almond. Her spiteful attitude to the press included constant autobiographical reinvention and provocative political statements that further alienated her from mainstream attention.

While Nico’s music fascinates me, I have to be honest that I don’t actually enjoy most of it very much. The VU album and Chelsea Girl are classics, of course, but of the rest, most of it is just too dark to want to put on very often. But there is one major exception: Drama of Exile, first released in 1981, and re-released with different tracks and mixes in 1983 as The Drama of Exile. It was her only album after Chelsea Girl without Cale or her harmonium. Instead, it features French and Middle Eastern musicians blending instruments, rhythms, and styles from a variety of sources. It may be her most “rock” album, but it doesn’t sound like any other rock album I know. The result is her best album by a wide margin.

[The Drama of Exile (1983).]

However, this album has been long marred by a confusing release history. There are conflicting stories about what happened (which Wikipedia explains in fair detail), but the short version is that the originally released version by Aura in 1981 was unfinished and prematurely released against Nico’s and producer Philippe Quilichini’s wishes. The re-release on Invisible Records in 1983 is supposedly the authorized version. Quilichini claimed it was entirely re-recorded, but it sounds more like a remix with overdubs. Due to a mess of legal circumstances, both versions have been reissued in various formats and in various countries. Some of these tracks also appeared on other releases, such as Icon (1996). Sorting out what is what and what really happened is difficult.

[Drama of Exile (1981). Seriously, who authorized this cover?]

However, thanks to a new reissue on Modern Harmonic from 2021, it’s finally easy to sort out the differences. It features the original 1981 version as well as the 1983 remixes, although for some reason the “Saēta”/“Vegas” single isn’t included, despite that both songs were on the 1983 version. That’s a shame, because they’re both great tracks (although thankfully available on compilations elsewhere), but at least you can compare the rest of the two versions side-by-side. (The Martin Hannett-produced “Procession”/“All Tomorrow’s Parties” single from 1982 is also overlooked, but the Femme Fatale compilation from 2002 has both tracks, although they sound like they were mastered from vinyl.)

[“Saēta”/“Vegas” single (1981).]

So what’s the difference? Well, first off, the 1983 version dropped “Purple Lips” and added “Saēta” and “Vegas”. “Purple Lips” is probably the weakest track of the whole bunch, so that was no great loss. The next most obvious difference is the track lengths: all of the 1983 versions are shorter, except for “The Sphinx”. A few (“Henry Hudson”, “Sixty/Forty”) were sped up, but most are just slightly tighter mixes. “One More Chance” and “Orly Flight” both lost over a minute, including a few lines at the end, but neither is a great loss.

Otherwise, the differences are in the instrumentation and mix. The basic tracks are the same. Generally, the 1981 version is sparser, simpler, starker, and less well-defined. The instruments are generally not very clear and the mixes are a bit thin and muddy. The 1983 version has more instruments, in particular more synths, electric violin, bouzouki, and backing vocals. The mixes are much fuller and more detailed. For example, the 1981 version of “One More Chance” has piercing lead guitar, while the 1983 version has more synth, violin, and vocals. “Henry Hudson” lost the needling violin and gained blaring sax throughout. The original “Orly Flight” has a weirdly compressed sax, synth, or violin part, while the remake has bouzouki and more percussion.

In most cases, the 1983 version is undoubtedly superior. “Sixty/Forty” is a bit hard to call, as the stark austerity of the 1981 version is quite good and almost rivals the more atmospheric 1983 version. (I think I still prefer the latter.) The strangest matter is the two covers. The 1981 version of “Waiting for the Man” is rawer, punkier, and closer to the spirit of the original VU version. The 1983 version trades the prominence of the guitar in favor of the piano, which turns it into something more like the later lackadaisical versions sometimes played by Lou Reed solo. The 1983 mix is also strangely murky. It’s decidedly inferior to the 1981 version. “Heroes” is also complicated. The 1983 version some extra backing vocals and other minor details, but the mix is again rather murky, especially in the vocals. The 1981 version has sax solos, more prominent violin, and a slightly better mix. It’s a hard call, but the 1981 version is slightly superior. I’m not quite sure what happened with those two; how or why did they get worse?

In the end, neither version is perfect, but both are good. I’m glad to finally have ready access to both, as well as the other tracks from the same era. I’ve satisfied myself by making a playlist of my preferred version, using the ordering of the 1983 version and most of its tracks, but substituting the two covers from the 1981 version. I’ve added “Purple Lips” and the “Procession”/“All Tomorrow’s Parties” single as bonus tracks. Now I have the best of both worlds!

1981 version: B
1983 version: B+
2021 reissue: A-
“Saēta”/“Vegas” single: A
“Procession”/“All Tomorrow’s Parties” single: B

[“Procession”/“All Tomorrow’s Parties” single (1982).]

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 in Review

Yet another strange year. For one, I shared some news about why live music and this blog haven’t exactly been my priority lately. I definitely saw more shows than either of the last two years, but with mixed results. Apparently, I’m not the only person who’s noticed that live concerts are kind of weird right now. I doubt that I will be much more active next year, but I may surprise myself yet.

Well, at least I bought music in greater quantities again, both old and new. It seems the wave of pandemic albums might be finally over. That’s not to imply the pandemic is over, just that the unique circumstances of altered recording and performances habits seem to have faded back into something we pretend is normal, and the music itself reflects that. Anyway, here are my favorite releases of 2022:
  • Anfängerfehler - s/t EP - Obviously my bias as a member of the live band is hard to ignore, but I really love the work that Tim (and Matt Johnson – no, not the one from The The) did with the production. It sounds lovely. You should probably listen to it.
  • Beach House - Once Twice Melody - Beach House continue to effortlessly create the best vibes, but I wish there were just a bit more drama. Victoria Legrand’s voice is soft and hushed throughout, never reaching its past transcendent peaks. The double album is an impressive achievement: there isn’t a bad song, although it does feel a touch overlong. I love the returning shoegaze vibes seen in full on 7 (2018), but I also love the “experimentation” with acoustic guitar. It leaves me feeling a bit sad for Victoria, though, who seems to have had profoundly rough times with online dating. She’s probably not alone in that.
  • Big Thief - Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You - Another expansive double album. Big Thief have been on the periphery of my awarness for a while but this one finally won me over. “Red Moon” is infectious, “Wake Me Up to Drive” is charmingly lofi, “Change” is plaintively poignant, and “Sparrow” is an excellent study of gender dynamics. The country affectations work fine for me, and I love the subtly psychedelic and occasionally outright bizarre lyrics.
  • Andrew Bird - Inside Problems - Sonically, this is something of a retread of My Finest Work Yet (2019), which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I’m not complaining. I always admire Bird’s carefully constructed folk-pop and his understatedly virtuosic touches. The lyrics are less overtly political, but several are easy to read as socio-political commentary despite his claims in interviews that these songs were intended to be more personal and internal affairs. Bird also recently released “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” with Phoebe Bridgers, a well-crafted adaptation of a delightful Emily Dickinson poem.
  • Kikagaku Moyo - Kumoyo Island - I’m so sad that this is their last album before breaking up. It’s wildly creative, beautifully psychedelic, and playfully hard to pin down. It’s all over the place, yet always pleasurable.
  • Mogwai - “Boltfor” - Pretty par for the course for them, but since not everything they touch turns to gold, it’s still notable when they can drop such an uplifting and ebullient single.
  • The Smile - A Light for Attracting Attention - The exact midpoint between a Thom Yorke solo album and a full Radiohead album. It’s Yorke’s best non-Radiohead album, and if it were marketed as a Radiohead album, I might not even notice the difference. It’s not as good as A Moon Shaped Pool but it lives in that space perhaps more than anything else Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have done. I don’t know anything about Tom Skinner but his drumming is good. I can’t tell if the two dreamy older songs (“Skirting on the Surface” was even played by Radiohead once upon a time!) are simply just great songs, or if I’m biased because I’ve been listening to bootleg versions for ten years.
  • Stereolab - Pulse of the Early Brain: Switched On Volume 5 - I’m clearly just a sucker for this band. Be that as at may, this compilation does include the 1992 EP Low Fi, which is one of their finest releases and the first appearance of Mary Hansen and Andy Ramsay. It’s been out of print since the early 90s as far as I know, and the licensing is still complicated enough that it doesn’t appear on digital versions of the compilation. Intriguingly, two of the tracks appear to be previously unreleased extended versions, despite not being labeled as such. Much like the rest of the Switched On series, it features a wide mix of songs, but this set covers material that was too experimental or obscure even for those. Despite the name, four songs come from the sessions from their last album during their original career, Chemical Chords (2008), and those aren’t the only ones that I wouldn’t say came from their “early brain”. One wonders why they didn’t swap those for the incongruously early-era tracks on Electrically Possessed, or why they still left a couple songs to the sands of time, like the version of “Cadriopo” from the split single with Fugu or the demo of “The Eclipse” from the same split single that produced “Yes Sir! I Can Moogie!”. Admittedly, this is reaching quite close to the bottom of the barrel, so some of the tracks here are second-rate. Still, the gems still make it worth it.
  • The Subtanks - Prime Numbers EP - Okay, again we’ve got to talk about bias, but old friends Josh King of Joshua and the Ruins and Asher Mendel have finally reunited for a “proper” album, and it rocks. (I haven’t forgotten about Riff City Demons (2010), but this is a wide step ahead in terms of production and composition. I mean, just compare the versions of “Ambitions Renewed”!) The EP lives up to the bold claims of their own description. It keeps turning and changing, and there’s all sorts of sounds, ideas, and references in it. It never gets boring, not for a second.
  • The Veldt - Entropy Is the Mainline to God - The first new full album in 15 years since White Music for Black People (credited to Apollo Heights) is thick and a bit noisy, and the lyrics are frequently indecipherable, just as you’d expect from classic shoegazers. What I can discern is frequently quite explicitly political, which isn’t difficult for them to channel their energy and anger into. They also released the Electric Revolution (Rhythm and Drone) EP earlier in the year, but it only has two unique tracks, and neither is as good as anything on the album or the 2017 EPs.
  • Wilco - Cruel Country - I almost skipped this album after the last three were such mixed bags. This is their most compelling album since A Ghost Is Born (2004), and the most satisfyingly cohesive since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001). The country affections are almost entirely tasteful and well-integrated into their sound. I was worried it’d be a caricature, but it isn’t just a genre exercise. Jeff Tweedy’s voice is occasionally shaky, and there are (very) minor imperfections in the performances, but the project is an opportunity for Tweedy to wield some of his best lyrics, and the arrangements are generally quite good. It is maybe a bit overlong, and it can feel a bit tedious by the time you get to side four, but the sum total is impressive.
  • Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Super Deluxe Reissue] - Okay, an eight-disc version of any album is probably too much even for a masterpiece, but still, I can’t resist this sort of thing sometimes. The radio session interview is a bit cringe, but the live versions with weird intermediate lineups of the band with Tweedy on lead guitar are somewhat special. The real treasure, though, is all the alternate studio versions, even if there isn’t a single one that bests the originally released versions. It’s also great to have these in such high fidelity instead of the incomplete, glitchy mess that has long circulated on bootlegs. But much to my surprise, not even everything from the bootlegs is on this release! Then again, I don’t know if anyone really needs a seventh version of “Kamera”. I saw another review criticize the duplicated transition from “Ashes of American Flags” to “Heavy Metal Drummer” on the Unified Theory of Everything disc, as if that exact moment wasn’t the subject of one of the most pivotal scenes from the I Am Trying to Break Your Heart film (2002). Obviously this is only relevant for superfans, and I think I’ve just given away where I stand.
Actually, there was a lot of good music this year. So here are some extra honorable mentions:
  • Belle & Sebastian - A Bit of Previous - This album has moments that feel like conscious throwbacks to their glory days, but most of it continues the threads of their last few albums, which is to say the music is a bit too precious and overproduced. Nonetheless, their blend of maturity and ageless playfulness is as rewarding as ever. There are few standout moments and some well-intentioned but awkward political statements (what’s the deal with “Do It for Your Country”?), but I appreciate that they are trying to push themselves and expand their horizons.
  • Cremant Ding Dong - assorted singles - They’re still going, although they haven’t really shown any signs of changing the formula. Well, Eva (the cute cat) sadly passed, but Rosa (the new cat, also cute) looks uncannily similar. Somehow every song is still a banger.
  • Cup Collector - The Interior Key - Is this an EP? A maxi-single? A mini-album? It doesn’t matter, of course. This is almost like a best-of compilation of CC’s styles. Each track is a different method of reaching a similar vibe: warm, cozy guitar drones. These songs make me feel settled in and at peace. Jim also released a track under his full name (James David Fitzpatrick) that’s in a somewhat related vibe, but more spontaneous: it’s just him freestyling on an acoustic guitar with the windows open. The heavy reverb suits it well.
  • The Cure - Wish [Deluxe Reissue] - The Cure’s reissue series continues it’s lackadaisical pace and half-hearted repackaging. The much-hyped remaster (or is it a remix? Some fans are really missing the slap sound from “High”, and honestly it is weird that it was removed, especially since it’s still in the 12" mix!) is not really much different than the original, and the only bonus tracks of note are the lovely instrumentals from the fan club-only Lost Wishes EP (1994) and one extra instrumental outtake (“A Wendy Band”). The rest are forgettable remixes and another slew of at best marginally interesting demos. And seriously, what is the point of the Partscheckruf Mix of “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea”? And why is the mastering of the 12" mix of “Doing the Unstuck” so much obviously worse than what was already released on Join the Dots (2004) 18 years ago? At least this time I don’t think there are any re-recorded vocals on this one.
  • Ian Fisher - Burnt Tongue - This album is a bit softer than what came before, probably in large part due to the influence of producer Jonas David. It works for the more sentimental songs like “A Mother’s Love” and “I’ll Be There”, but the darker and moodier songs like “I’m Burning” and “How Far” are missing a bit of heft. The lyrics and performances are still great, though. Ian also released the pseudo-album Marcella & Peggy Go Driving via Fanklub. It’s just sparse arrangements of his favorite country tunes, many of which he’s been playing for years on stage. There are no real surprises, but it’s nice to have recordings of his mellifluous melancholy voice on these songs.
  • Lutzilla - First We Tape Manhattan - Punkier than I was expecting, meaning that I hear some traces of Fehlfarben. The lyrics are as incisive as ever, particularly the critiques of consumer culture and social media. Uli’s bass steals the show, and Carola’s drumming gives these songs the solid rhythm they deserve. “Was bleibt!?”, rerecorded from Lutz’s solo 2019 album Selbstportraits, is a marked improvement with the help of his compatriots.
  • Mitski - Laurel Hell - I didn’t like Be the Cowboy (2018) as much as everyone else, so I told myself I should keep my expectations low, but this album is a step up again. Mitski tries on a load of retro sounds and commands them with ease. Her lyrics grappling with fame and career choices feel strangely relatable; certainly “Working for the Knife” applies to more than just indie rock stardom. The glide guitar touches are great, too.
  • Sharon van Etten - We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong - Great album title, great music, incredible voice, and good themes, but I still don’t actually connect with the lyrics much.
  • Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin - Ali - The Malian guitarist teamed up with everyone’s favorite vibe-setting Texans to cover the former’s father’s songs. The result is a good blend of both artists’ strengths, and yet it has a way of blending together a bit too much.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Uwe Schütte - Godstar: Die fünf Tode des Genesis P-Orridge (2022)

Earlier this year, I received a curious email inquiring about using a photo in one of my reviews for a book. Naturally, I was happy to share it. As I traded emails with Uwe Schütte, I realized that I had seen and photographed the last performance of Psychic TV and Genesis P-Orridge. Of course I had known that P-Orridge died in 2020 just as the pandemic was unfolding, but it hadn’t occurred to me to reexamine their performance history and compare notes.

So, as a result, my picture now graces Godstar: Die fünf Tode des Genesis P-Orridge, released this year via Verlag Andreas Reiffer. I received a complementary copy and it immediately jumped to the front of my reading queue. Schütte had told me that the book is really more of an essay than a biography, and the parenthetical subtitle only found on the inside cover page, which translates to “something of a secret history in pop culture”, alludes to this as well. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant in practice, but it did make me curious.

[Godstar: The Five Deaths of Genesis P-Orridge.]

Indeed, the book is a wide-ranging and wandering essay about a broad range of topics, most notably esoteric magic and Brian Jones, the subject of the song “Godstar”. There’s a lot about Aleister Crowley and Satanism, as well as a few sections about the artist Marina Abramović, presumably because of her similar style of shock-tactic performance art. The Pandrogyny Project comes up, as do the antics of COUM Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, and even Coil, Cosey & Carter, and Marc Almond. I could’ve gladly taken even more gender discourse, more about the music itself, and maybe more about what the TOPY really was about, but regardless, few of Schütte’s sidetracks weren’t worth the diversion. They kind of work together to build a picture of Genesis’ environment and interests. There’s plenty of political and general pop-cultural commentary, most of which is sharp. On occasion Schütte might be a little too critical of what doesn’t suit his tastes, but rarely did he fail to make a strong case.

I’m also glad that Schütte didn’t shy away from P-Orridge’s dark sides. He writes plainly of their abusive relationship with Cosey Fanni Tutti and others (and Jones’ and Crowley’s similar behavior), their domineering authoritarianism in their bands and other projects, and their repulsive actions in the name of art. P-Orridge is a complicated person, which makes for excellent material for pop-cultural discourse, but it requires stomaching a lot of rather triggering information.

The legacy of P-Orridge’s “Godstar” project is another one of those things were the truth is hard to find. Schütte presents the book as a sort of continuation of a legacy that Genesis started with a pop song in 1985, continually reworked, and never quite finished. Supposedly they intended to produce a film about the life of Brian Jones, but they never managed due to money troubles. In reality, I suspect that such a film was just such a huge project that they never quite had the focus and perseverance to see it through, and instead they were easily distracted by new ideas and other projects. The closest they ever came to really producing something towards that goal was Godstar: Thee Director’s Cut, a double-disc compilation of songs and remixes mostly originally released in the 1980s on the excellent The Magickal Mystery D Tour EP (1986), the fairly good Allegory and Self (1988), and assorted contemporaneous singles. In truth, it feels more like another instance of “reissue, repackage / re-evaluate the songs / double-pack with a photograph” than any sort of truly newly assembled masterpiece. “Godstar” and a handful of other tracks remain classics, and the rest remains forgettable.

[Godstar: Thee Director’s Cut.]

The book ends up being a great alternative reading of pop culture through the lens of subversive, radical art and anti-establishment religious practice. In fact, I learned far more about esotericism than I ever expected to, and I came away feeling like I finally understand a part of society that I regularly run into but never could quite make sense of. It’s probably still not for me, but the concepts of seeking your true self, making your own forms to suit your individual needs, and living outside of the bounds arbitrarily placed upon us by uncaring institutions all resonate strongly with me. I’ve been literally searching for the same things my whole life.

[The only other picture I took at the fateful concert. See the original review for the picture used in the book.]

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Gabe Bullard on what makes a band

I'd like to point you over to a great article over at Number One with a Bullard about what defines a band, and specifically whether a band with none of the original members is still the same band. This is a question I've concerned myself with many times over the years. Inspired by one of those conversations with Gabe, I literally asked the same question about The Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan when I saw the act billed as the former in 2012. It came up again when I saw Tangerine Dream a few years ago, and in that case it did not at all negatively affect my enjoyment of the performance.

Anyway, Gabe's been writing on all sorts of topics in media and culture relevant to my interests, asking and answering plenty of questions that have rolled around in my head as well. Go check it out. There's a written version and a podcast version (at least for the newer posts), and they're usually very similar but sometimes have slight differences. It's all worth it.