Jul 26, 2022
Feb 22, 2022
By Robert Dean
When I was a kid, I had a lot of videotapes. Every weekend, I’d sit around waiting for shows like Headbanger’s Ball, Alternative Nation, and 120 Minutes to come screaming out of the depths of the MTV studios and into our lives by the sounds of My Bloody Valentine Beck, Screaming Trees, or Big Black. I was lucky enough to live in the era of jerky record store clerks who shit on you for mediocre music tastes. Radio DJs took pride in breaking new bands and music television that wanted you to fall in love with rock and roll, no matter what your shape or size was with the noise.
I’m getting older now. It’s weird seeing kids wear Doc Martens and Nirvana shirts but have no idea what either meant to us when both things were not en vogue. One thing that I’ve moaned about repeatedly is while it’s cool and all to adopt the fashion, where was the music? Where are the bands who carry the torch for one of the greatest eras in music history? Someone had to be wondering, “what would J Mascis do?”
Then I got hip to The Dionysus Effect.
The Dionysus Effect is a three-piece off somewhere out of upstate New York, making the right kind of racket. You can never put your finger on what a band listens to or who they were influenced by unless it’s stapled to their chest, scribbled in fanboy blood. But, upon hearing the band’s debut record, there was a flash of riding second-hand BMX bikes to the record store to discover something in the used bin, looking for that new grail to love.
At one moment, the vocal phrasing reminds me of Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio, but then, it’s Nick Cave. The Dionysus Effect’s music sounds like a time capsule from early alternative radio ala bands like Hum, Sebadoh, The Stone Roses, or Pavement. On “Stars,” the guitar work is light and airy, it’s not driven by aggression, the drums handle all of that work, and on “Heroin,” everything again feels like the music was meant to be on vinyl, ready not for a download, but an honest listen.
Given that this is their first go-round with releasing music, you can hear where the band will only get better, where you’ll see the bumpy bits tighten up or be thought about differently the next time they hit the studio. There’s underlying aggression, something many bands manufacture but don’t realize. The creators of the style and sound weren’t trying to outwit one another. They didn’t know other bands were as fucked up as they were – we didn’t have Instagram when Sonic Youth dropped Daydream Nation, or Dinosaur Jr gave us Feel the Pain. You can hear where down the line, the guitars might be a little more violent, where a scream might make more sense than a howl.
If The Dionysus Effect is a good indicator of what’s coming down the line (there's a full album on the way later this year), the kids, as they say, will be alright if these boys show them what’s possible when a world as insane as this one gives you perspective to howl over.
Jul 2, 2020
Jun 9, 2020
Nov 1, 2019
Oct 12, 2018
Mar 5, 2018
Aug 14, 2017
by Robert Dean
Hipster assholes love trashing Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters. For some reason, the guy who played in Nirvana wears a target on his back for shitty Internet comments, and it’s mindboggling. What did the Nice Guy of Rock ever do to you, jerk from Atlanta? Nothing except kick total ass. And you hate him for it.
The Foo Fighters are dad rock as fuck. Sure, the first record rips with its post-Nirvana angst and big, poppy hooks driven from spending a few years with Kurt Cobain, soaking up his aura. But on The Color and The Shape, that was when Dave figured out how to write hits that sounded nothing like Nirvana, and write songs that were dynamic and emotional like "My Hero" or the all time anthem, "Everlong."
But, then they waded into this stream of milquetoast rock and roll records that no matter how hard Dave and company try; they all sound pretty much the same. The songs are big, beefy rock and roll hits. What the Foos crank out are not brash, violent or destroyers – they’re tunes to pump your fist and guzzle a Budweiser to. That’s it. What I think throws people off about The Foo Fighters is the pedigree of what the band features: it’s a guy from Nirvana, a guy from The Germs, and a guy from Sunny Day Real Estate. Sure, Taylor Hawkins played with Alanis Morisette, who’s great in her own right, but not the same acclaim.
The Foo Fighters play arena rock, and that’s it. But, what they’re doing as aside from their shows is what’s worth talking about. The Foo Fighters live like big kids living out their dreams and taking advantage of every acclaim given to them, and it’s amazing. While many rockstars hide away in castles doing questionable shit, these guys are finding new ways to do the things we’ve all dreamt about.
Sonic Highways was a brilliant idea where the band traversed across the country, playing and recording in musical cities that affected the history of the band. We were allowed a snapshot of how the band operates, how it sees their place in the world. Seeing them open the doors of Preservation Hall and play to the crowd gathered outside is incredible. That’s precisely the stuff you want from rock and rollers: they’re giving back instead of relying on hypothetical scenarios.
Then there are the shows they play. If there’s anything that’s neat about huge bands, it’s when they make an effort to mix in some tiny clubs into the massive arenas to give their hardcore fans an intimate experience. That shows the band is about the music, not just the dollars. Recently, the Foo Fighters played The Metro in Chicago, which for many is considered holy ground. It seems like lately, the band has made an effort to play shows in every legendary room in the cities they play in.
Just the same, there’s side projects like Crobot, the videos of them playing in Italy, crushing in small towns when the people made the video of "Learn to Fly." If you haven’t seen that, I suggest watching. It’s heartwarming to know that the band cares and is willing to go there for their fans.
The Foo Fighters have taken every chance to play with their heroes, which is also cool. Considered all of the members of the band have paid their dues hustling in vans and are now playing songs with Paul McCartney or Brian May and are beaming with joy – that’s infectious and shouldn’t be looked down upon. They’re living the dream.
But, at the heart of all of this, is that rock and roll lack leaders and its lacking heroes. We have a few core groups, but they’ve been around forever. No one new is grabbing the reigns.
We need new leaders, but until then, Dave and Co. are doing their best to keep the spirit of the community, the music alive and viable. That’s what we should be focused on, not by how much someone doesn’t like their music. If Foo Fighters were this bland, faceless pack of automatons cranking out dentist rock for cash, the argument could be made of their wackness.
But, I refuse to hear someone slam them on account of what good they do for the nature of the music and what we need as a culture. Rock and roll is a feel good music and needs to re-establish its place in popular culture. We should be so lucky to have Dave Grohl there to say hey when it comes back.
May 18, 2017
by Robert Dean
I remember the summer of 1994. I was 13. I was stuck in an emotional paradox of figuring myself out in this kaleidoscope of so many feelings, and so much going on internally. My grandmother had passed away and coupled with the death of Kurt Cobain. My world was on its goddamned head.
My grandmother had passed away from ovarian cancer at 54, and because we were so close, the loss shook the foundation of my being. Losing Kurt Cobain was my 9/11 – my favorite singer was gone, and it made the death of my grammie feel that much more real. To this day, I compound the two as the same loss, and both of their memories are inter-connected. Everything I saw, felt, and experienced was internalized, processed through a childhood rage that didn’t manifest in ways that were destructive, but bled out through what I consumed.
I’d already been a kid into rock and roll, metal, grunge, punk – but, because no other music captured that spirit, the tangibility for emotion, there was no going back. The sound of a guitar cranked to the ceiling with booming drums and a singer wailing their hearts out became the lynchpin to how my emotional process.
At 35, losing Chris Cornell hurts because he’s a mile-marker for that time, for my generation. We had front row seats to his rise. We watched the band become a part of the lexicon. Losing some of the other incredible artists of our lives hurts in their own, signature ways. We process death with a sense of ownership in relationship to our lives and personal experience with that person. Soundgarden’s music was a part of my childhood and remains a part of my culpability as a growing human. There’s poetry in those phrases – they stick with you, they imprint the bones with an aloof suffering. It’s not on purpose. It’s just symptomatic of the generation. There’s always a little tinge of suffering for the Gen – X that’s inescapable, no matter how happy someone may be.
Losing Chris Cornell feels odd. We didn’t expect his death. Losing Layne from Alice in Chains or Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots was sadly not surprising. We wanted them to get better, to regain their forms as idols and icons. But, that would never come to pass.
We mourn him because he was someone we were excited was back with Soundgarden, keeping the flame of rock and roll alive. Despite being elder statesmen in the game, they’re a meat and potatoes band that everyone can carry in their pocket as uniquely “theirs.” Losing Cornell is another showcase of mortality, but also that when our icons die, the feeling like you lost a page of your personal narrative is just too real. For a lot of us, we include the songs we love as psychological footnotes in our greater story. Soundgarden carries that weight for me.
Soundgarden was and is different. They’re a band who crossed the lines of so many styles and categories. Those riffs are powerhouse, sludgy masterpieces. From the vocal range to the destructive, bombastic drums, or the in the shadows, but totally amazing bass playing, Soundgarden was a band of pure players. They’d dabble in metal here, or define a notion of grunge, and I may be mistaken, but I think one song might have some banjo.
There’s an inescapable presence to their music. It’s timeless, and kids will always be into them.
One memory though, it sticks out anytime I think of Soundgarden. I remember they’d dropped Superunknown and the world was at their feet in the wave of Black Hole Sun. While I saved my pennies to buy a cassette, some of my friends weren’t so keen. I remember one of the first experiences in diversity was connecting with a Mexican friend because his world was hip hop and mine was rock and roll. We had the cultural exchange of him showing me Warren G and Nate Dogg’s Regulators and me showing him Soundgarden.
It seems small, but I remember that time of innocence where things like the music you liked didn’t define your friendship, like so many do. I’m a nerd. I obsess about music, about records, about every aspect of the artform. I connect with people who feel the same.
In this memory, the exchange was pure. We took something from one another and accepted it. We defined that summer by trading my grunge or punk or metal, for hip hop. I now liked Snoop Dog or Cypress Hill, and he now liked Metallica or Nirvana.
But, it was Soundgarden that opened that door. I grew as a person because of one song and one summer. It may seem insignificant for most, but I like to remember those pure moments, the ones that exist on the axis of absolute joy and now, so many years later, I still do.
Thanks for that time in my life Chris. See you on the flip side.
Feb 20, 2017
One of the hardest things to quantify for me still is the loss of Kurt Cobain. At 35, I think about his music, his legacy, constantly. No single band has done more for me as a person or emotionally as Nirvana. Nirvana has been my favorite band since I was around 11 or 12, I can’t remember a life that’s pre-Nirvana. While I liked other bands and enjoyed all of the other stuff happening in metal, punk, and grunge, Nirvana’s chord struck the loudest. While we’ve had our ebbs and flows of how much I listen to their music, there’s never an argument about their impact on my life. On Kurt Cobain’s 50th birthday, it’s a springboard for a wealth of emotions when thinking about what we lost that spring of 1994.
Nirvana were proud to be outsiders, they did their own thing without remorse, and did so while wearing a coat of many colors. Nirvana’s music was inclusive for everyone who wanted to be a part of the party – whether that sat well with Kurt or not. That was the allure of their music, their presence, they might not have been the best, or the most talented, or whatever, it’s how they made you feel in a world full of bands like Poison or Guns N Roses.
They took punk idealism and made it mainstream. They took what so many bands felt, said and worked toward waving the flag of, and gave it to a generation. Through Nirvana’s social message of Incesticide’s liner notes, seeds were planted:
“At this point, I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us - leave us the fuck alone! Don't come to our shows and don't buy our records.”
When I was a kid, I re-read and obsessed about every lyric, every thought. Reading this helped me see the world wasn’t my white neighborhood full of working class, Irish tough guys. For many of us, we needed that. We needed to know about sub-cultures, genres outside the mainstream. Nirvana broke that door wide open. Every song just wasn’t some garbage about fucking chicks. We were getting a message what it felt like to be an outsider, when we may have not realized our social status. That’s why the music still endures, because of its honesty in spite of the platform.
While some laud Kurt as nothing more than an over-hyped junkie, I saw him as a figurehead that mirrored my problems. While yes, they were my favorite band at the time of his death, was resonated more was my sense of personal loss. When Kurt Cobain committed suicide, my grandmother had passed away from cancer at 54 a month earlier. I’d lost one of the most important people in my life, arguably just as important as either of my parents and now, my hero was dead, too. I compounded both losses into one mutated ache. Nirvana’s music became more than enjoying angst. It became about loss and recovery. With the tired cliché of “your music got me through so much” as a footnote to life, it’s true for me – I leaned on the death of Kurt Cobain as another way to process the loss of someone I’d loved so much. When I sang those songs, they weren’t anthems of jaded youth, but trying to process a world I wasn’t close to understanding, and in a lot of ways, I still don’t.
All of this music hit me like a sledgehammer. It was a good time to be a kid in the 90’s. I got all of the rock and roll I could take, in all of its forms. Punk made me socially aware, Rage Against The Machine paved the way for my passion for politics. But, Nirvana’s music was raw, it was powerful, and hadn’t suffered from a slump. A lot of bands release crappy albums, but not Nirvana. Like the Beatles, the loss of Kurt encapsulated the music, so it’s one vision, forever. We’ll always be left asking what and why, and what could’ve been.
Looking back on Kurt Cobain’s legacy, we’ve got so much to consider. So many feelings to sift through. While yeah, to many he was just a guy who killed himself. For us watching MTV like it was CNN in 1994, we watch Kurt Loder break the news that it was over, he was gone.
It’s still so hard to fathom, to consider, or to place your finger on why it felt like a dagger in the heart. Rock stars are meant to feel bigger than life, but Kurt felt like he was as big as your living room. It was his aloof attitude of the fame, or maybe it was despite being a millionaire with oodles of power, they didn’t follow up Nevermind with a slick collection of hits; instead, it was In Utero, which DGC thought would ruin the band. It didn’t. It only made them more endearing to what they were, verse perceived to be. Who else would take a platform as big as theirs, as the biggest band in the world, and write songs like Rape Me or Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle? Who else would 'squander' their precious Unplugged taping and fill it with obscure cover songs, only for it to become a heart-wrenching classic, which defined the medium as a whole? That was their power and vision.
The world has changed considerably since Nirvana. But, we still adore their legacy, and new generations of kids still see Kurt Cobain as a mile marker to their growth. Those words, the moodiness of the music, it’s not dated, it only gets better with time. In a world of sell outs, they never did, and they’re not in soap commercials, or selling Nikes to assholes. Nirvana is still pure. We honor Kurt’s memory by remembering he was the one to tell us we weren’t alone, even when he was gone. A scared kid who’d just lost the woman who took him to buy In Utero for his birthday needed that.
That’s why we love Nirvana, and we love Kurt Cobain – he was many things, and now, he’s an icon, but he’s still managed to do something after death: remain yours, no matter how many times he’s been shared amongst friends.
Happy birthday, Kurt. We miss you so much.
Feb 17, 2017
By Robert Dean
Back in the pre-internet age, the underground music scene was ran from zines. Yes, there are still zines, but they’re not as plentiful as they were a long time ago, Mr. Know It All, Comment on Everything Hipster.
Zines were how you discovered new bands, heard about social causes, or found out weird, subversive art. Most were handcrafted, collectives of multiculturalism, or just filled with a lot of weird shit. Some enterprising folks with a vision put a lot of effort and idealism into crafting zine culture and just about all underground scenes benefitted. Because no one in bands like The Cramps or KMFDM were getting on MTV aside from the occasional bone from Headbangers Ball or 120 Minutes, indie labels or even in some cases, the majors, relied on the local music programs, or zines to help spread the gospel of new bands.
As a young buck, I worshiped the record store. I saved up all of my money to continually buy cd’s, band shirts, music magazines, and zines. I gobbled up Maximum Rocknroll, scoured the racks for NME, and even had subscriptions to Circus and Metal Edge. But, there was zine I’d read and was after it like the Holy Grail: Black Market Magazine.
They allowed artists a platform for dark art and darker opinions. Nothing in the realm of Black Market was taboo.
The music, though – that was what was mind-blowing. The Rollins Band, Marilyn Manson, Megadeth, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains – every cool band from the era found its name plastered between the covers of Black Market. What’s interesting seeing the magazines these years later, Black Market was not only a pioneer in their artistic nuance, but they did interviews before the modern culture molded certain figures to a particular light. The journalism, the questions were sharp, and in a way, the style precluded the VICE styled music journalism we see today with Noisey.
Being out of print for so long, re-reading the issues doesn’t feel dated. If anything, the magazines hold up now better than ever. They’re time capsules into an era when dying your hair meant you were a freak, and visible tattoos meant you were a scumbag. Bands like Type O Negative or Samhain were frightening, and indeed a big, detailed picture about priests engaged in questionable acts as a social statement weren’t exactly en vogue. You had to embrace and earn culture like this. Black Market shoveled all of the best things about goth, industrial, punk, hardcore, and metal into one oozing corpse and made us all love it in return.
Aug 10, 2016
Apr 18, 2016
A review by Robert Dean
Being a father, some things get to you. You start to question a lot of your life choices, what you’ve achieved, what your health is like, and what kind of legacy you’re leaving for your kids. On Sturgill Simpson’s new album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, the eclectic troubadour explores the ups and downs of fatherhood for his young son, the only way Sturgill Simpson knows how.
Track by track, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a logical follow-up to the massively successful Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – it’s even riskier, bolder and is entirely his own. The record is a complicated onion of layers, emotions, and sounds. To even call it country is almost impossible.
While country is prevalent throughout the themes of A Sailor’s Guide, the songs are darker, the songs are deeply personal, everything isn’t a story carved out of some Nashville guy’s notepad, it’s Sturgill’s actual life – his mistakes, his moments of glory. This record is a play by play of what it’s like to be a man in a world that can be cruel with absolute certainty.
But, that’s not to say the record isn’t brilliant. It’s easy to see why when other country artists are relegated to a strictly country or Americana, or roots audience while Sturgill finds love in all corners. Being one of the few to play the main stage at festivals like Coachella one weekend, and Lollapalooza, the next, Sturgill Simpson is in a world unto his own.
This batch of songs, they’re beautiful, ugly and oceanic – one minute everything feels like 1970’s Stax straight from Memphis, oozing with Soul, and the next, we’re tonally somber with the reflections of a man who’s atop of the world. The horns are vibrant and bright, they lend so much, then we’re treated to the juicy organ. There’s just so much going on; it’s almost too creamy, too delicious to fathom the heads exploding out there in country blinder land. A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is NOT for the Luke Bryan fans of the world. (Editor's note: It's not even for a lot of Americana fans, apparently)
"Keep It Between The Lines" is a groovy, funky, filthy jam. It’s pure cool that can’t be replicated; it’s the kind of song that just…happens. It’s one of those brilliant moments when it all comes together in a song and works – if Sturgill tried to recreate it at any time again in his career it would never work. "Brace For Impact," the record’s first single is a foot stomper that sets the bar pretty high upon first listen. But, in typical fashion, the album’s single isn’t even the first track, it’s near the end of the record. Instead, we’re taken down a musical road that’s long and winding with sonic overtures that feel more Pink Floyd than Waylon.
"All Around You" is almost as if Sturgill found a way to marry doo-wop and traditional country in the most decadent, salacious way, tasting like pure chocolate cake. And then there’s the elephant in the room: Sturgill's take on the Nirvana classic "In Bloom." And to be honest, it’s the only way covering Nirvana works. Kurt Cobain left a legacy that’s along the lines of Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, The Stones: when you cover the music, you’ll always be harshly judged for your vision of what perfection is.
"In Bloom" was covered in a way that would please Kurt, it’s haunting, stark and without the jagged vibrato of the original, and by doing so, the song stands on its own amongst an album that’s thick and just goddamned perfect.
Behold world, Sturgill has done it again. Buy A Sailor’s Guide To Earth right now and help us throw gasoline on the establishment while Sturgill Simpson is the preaching madman we’ve all been waiting for. Let his church welcome all those who are lost and share his message: get weird, or die tryin’.
It's available everywhere... you don't need links.