GG Allin – “Hated in the Nation”

GG Allin was punk rock personified, taken almost all the way to it’s furthest extreme.

Why almost?  Well, GG’s shows became more and more extreme over time, and he promised to end his career by committing suicide on stage during a performance.  Because he wanted to go into the afterlife at the peak moment of his life.  But he never fulfilled that promise, since a 1993 heroin overdose (shocking, I know) claimed his life at the age of 36.  Had he actually killed himself on stage, that probably would have qualified as the ultimate punk move.

Allin was born Jesus Christ Allin (seriously), and to say his childhood was dysfunctional would be an understatement.  He performed with a number of bands, most notably as GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, but also Superscum, The Motor City Bad Boys, and the Scumfucs.  Later in life he was known for his extreme stage performances, which often involved him performing naked, assaulting his fans (including women), intentionally cutting himself, and yes, even more shocking activities involving bodily fluids.  If you don’t believe me, check out his Wikipedia page or, if you’re truly brave, you can watch the documentary on his career, Hated:  GG Allin and the Murder Junkies.  I did, and there are some things in there you can’t un-see.  Even if you want  to.

So what about the music?  I picked up the Hated in the Nation LP and I’m listening to it right now.  Of the 22 tracks (which include answering machine messages…), at least 12 include outright profanity or blatant sexual references in the titles… so no track list to follow, since the internet is kind of a family show.  Production quality is all over the board, including a number of live recordings, but there are some decent punk tracks here, most notably in my opinion “Bite Me You Scum” (<– NOT one of the 12 songs with profanity/innuendo!) and “You Hate Me & I Hate You”.

GG left behind a surprisingly large catalog considering he was constantly poor and probably in debt from extensive hospital bills resulting from broken bones (at the hands of his fans, who often beat him up during his shows), blood infections, and god knows what else.

Was he musically talented?  Some of his earliest stuff is OK.  His punk stuff is a bit over the top, but whatever.  It’s nothing special when just solely for it’s musical merits.  It’s important because of who, and really what, GG was.  The dude was a mess, to say the least.  Is his music worth checking out?   Certainly not if you mean from a quality standpoint.  But if you’re curious about how much of a train-wreck a person can be, and how truly extreme a live performance can be, then the documentary and album of the same name are worth checking out.

GG Allin was a dirt bag.  But he was also punk rock.  The tattoo over his heart, and the matching inscription on his tombstone, sum up GG Allin:  “Live Fast Die”.

DJ Shadow – “Preemptive Strike”

I pretty much have no experience with House/Trip Hop music, but I ran across DJ Shadow while randomly perusing Wikipedia.  I was intrigued by the idea of his album Endtroducing…, which allegedly is the first album ever comprised entirely of samples.  That sounded interesting, so I ordered a used copy of the CD on Friday.

Then over the weekend we did some record shopping, which included a stop at one of my favorite stores, Hi-Voltage in Tacoma.  In the “New Arrivals” bin Holly spied this double LP (released in 1998, the next LP after the aforementioned Endtroducing…), and we figured it was worth a shot (we also picked up a bunch of The Gun Club LPs and EPs, and a GG Allin record <– sneak preview of future posts!).

Now this isn’t normally my style of music, but I don’t hate it or anything.  And this is an enjoyable album.  Our copy was in some moderately rough shape, but the pops and hissing sort of added to the overall jazzy feel, especially the second of the two discs that comprised of “What Does Your Soul Look Like (Parts 1-4)”, which I really liked.  Some nice modern cocktail music.  Some would consider that an insult perhaps, but not me.  Probably because I really like cocktails.

Another plus is that listening to this motivated Holly to go online and order tickets to see Ghostland Observatory in October, and that’s a win.  That will be our local pre-func before boarding a plane for the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik that begins on October 31.

Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel – “Nail”

OK gang, I’m trying something new today.  I picked up a nice used copy Foetus’ LP Nail today over at Easy Street Records in West Seattle.  Now, I know almost nothing about this band – in fact, the only thing I know is the little I read on Wikipedia while deciding whether or not to buy this album (a quick thanks to my employer for the iPhone, which as you can see I’m putting to good use!).  So… I’m going to put this sucker on and write about it while I listen to it the first time through – the first time I’ve heard this album or band.  This may be insightful.  Or it may suck.  We’ll just have to see.

Foetus (the band name sometimes changes, but the word “Foetus” is always in it) is more or less a one man project by J. G. Thirlwell.  The Australian has collaborated with tons of other artists, and has also done production for some serious bands (for example, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson), so he’s legit.  Nail was his fourth Foetus album, and was released in 1985.

 

 

And here we go…

Side A

1.  “Theme from Pigdom Come” – Opens instrumental, almost feeling like a part in an opera when some valkyries are going to appear and start messing some people up.  From there it gets downright martial, before coming to a sudden stop.  Entirely instrumental.

2.  “The Throne of Agony” – The lyrics come in immediately and are kind of rockabilly-sounding, but still keeping with the overall opera feel.  I hope this doesn’t foreshadow some type of industrial version of Tommy or Rocky Horror Picture Show… but overall it sounds solid.  Actually reminds me a bit of something off of Blue Oyster Cult’s Imaginos, another concept/rock opera album.  But better.  This may set a record for the number of times the word “agony” is said in a song.

3.  “!” – Sounds like someone is taking a beating on this extremely short (four second) track.

4.  “Pigswill” – The music is pretty industrial – in that much of it sounds like banging pipes and other mechanical sounds, and relatively sparse at that.  The pace picks up though, keeping that industrial sound with some really grinding vocals.

5.  “Descent Into the Inferno” – Thirlwell mixes it up here… this sounds almost like a jazz track, both musically and in the pacing of the vocals.  But the message is still dark, and Thirlwell’s voice is still gravely.  “Another hungover morning in the bottom of the black lagoon / Purgatory disguised as a room with a view / I used to be in heaven looking down / Now I know the inferno from the inside”.

Side B

1.  “Enter the Exterminator” – Now this is some pretty industrial music.  The lyrics are more hissed/whispered, and it creates a pretty intense mood. Definitely something you could play on Halloween to scare the crap out of any kids who came to your door.  That being said… it’s my favorite track so far.

2.  “DI-1-9026” – The word “explode” appears 27 times in this song.  I counted.

3.  “The Overture from Pigdom Come” – An instrumental track… back to the classical/opera sound found on the first song on Side A.  I’ve got to say, the instrumental stuff is pretty good.  In fact, it’s better than pretty good.

4.  “Private War” – Someone is breaking some metal stuff here.  And then burning it.  Bad news for someone.

5.  “Anything (Viva!)” – This sounds like something you’d hear in a fairy tale, the part where the evil character appears and sings about why they’re so bad, and all the terrible things they’re going to do to you.  The vocals almost have a Rob Zombie sound to them.  You’re probably thinking, “well, I guess this song sucks,” except it all actually works pretty well.  It ends with a very opera-like build-up and finale, which kind of implies the end of the world.  And not in an R.E.M. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” kind of way.  More in an “oh crap, there’s nobody left alive” kind of way.

Wow.  Nail certainly was not what I was expecting.  It certainly seems like a well integrated concept album, in that the tracks seem to carry a consistent message, though I don’t think there’s a story per se.  And I have to say, the sheer volume of lyrics is impressive as hell – there’s a lot of material here packed into a 40 minute album.  While the music has an overall industrial feel, songs are done in various genres – there is classical, jazz, pop, bluegrass, and even hip hop sounds and pacing here, which makes the whole thing feel a bit unsettling… and I think that’s the point.

The liner notes include a long quasi-song/poem/rant that does not appear on the album, entitled “Helstinki Jail 8/7/85”.  Somebody seems like they were pissed at the world, and not terribly optimistic, a feeling that carries through for the entire recording.  I actually think the message here is pretty deep and powerful, but it’s a tough one to listen to all the way through.  I know it’s going to require a few more spins on the turntable before I can really decide if I like it as a whole, but regardless it did generate an emotional reaction, and I don’t think that was an accident.

Þeyr – “Mjötviður Mær”

Þeyr (a.k.a. “Theyr” in English) were an Icelandic New Wave/Punk band formed in the late 1970s.  Between 1980 and 1983 they released three LPs and four EPs on their way to becoming one of the most influential bands in the Icelandic popular music scene.  Even after the band’s demise members continued to hold sway, with Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson and Sigtryggur Baldursson becoming a part of KUKL, alongside its more famous female lead singer, Björk (and the less widely known but brilliant Einar Orn, currently with Ghostigital, one of the more intense live bands you’ll ever see).  Sigtryggur was later a member of The Sugarcubes, further cementing his place in Icelandic popular music history.

OK, so why the hell should you care about this album by an Icelandic band you’ve probably never heard of, that had limited international distribution, and is sung mostly in Icelandic?  Well, in large part because you can hear the development of some of the music that later evolved into KUKL, The Sugarcubes, and Björk’s solo projects.  Plus it’s pretty cool.

Mjötviður Mær (1981) was the band’s second LP, released late in the same year that also saw the creation of their EP Iður til Fóta.  Clocking in at just over 32 minutes, it’s 12 songs are… well, let’s just say they’re eccentric.  Sort of like David Bowie, with a backing band on speed.  Or an Icelandic version of Devo with vocals by a synthesized robot.  But better (as if that doesn’t sound good enough).  Some tracks sound like mash-ups of multiple different songs, smashed together in a way that oddly works.  The vocals become almost like another instrument in the mix (especially if you don’t speak Icelandic…), and actually a pretty good one at that.

There are some straight-forward sounding New Wave tracks here, notably “Rudolf” and “Never Suck”.  Others like “Það er Nóg” are more bizarre, with lots of synth and modulated vocals.  There are also some disturbing elements as well.  The band was known to sometimes perform in Nazi garb, and they included a clip of a speech by Adolf Hitler in the track “Rudolf”, causing many to misunderstand the message of the song, which is actually anti-fascist (Rudolf is your shade, your double / He knows your thoughts, he knows your troubles / You are invited / To share his fate / To stand united in your common hate).  If I were to pick a favorite track, I’d probably go with either “Úlfur” or “Hva-Than”, both of which are somewhat disjointed, but have beats that seem to fit the era.

The album was never re-released, so it’s not available on CD or through iTunes.  However, nine of the tracks are on the band’s 2001 compilation Mjötviður til Fóta, with “2999”, “Never Suck”, and “Hva-Than” failing to make the cut and being replaced by three tracks from the Iður til Fóta EP.  Which is too bad, because the songs excluded were really solid.

Don’t let the odd musical stylings keep you away.  There’s a lot of great stuff on Mjötviður Mær if you go into it with an open mind.  And are not disturbed by the male full-frontal nudity on the cover.  Or the male rear nudity on the reverse.  The music is what’s important.  Not the naughty bits.

Why vinyl?

That, my friends, is a very good question, and one I’ve asked myself more than once over the last year.  I’m not what you’d call an audiophile.  I don’t have any opinions about whether or not vinyl recordings sound “warmer” than digital, nor do I think mp3s lack soul. In fact over the 30 or so years since I made my first music purchase with my own money (The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” on 45), I’ve bought stuff in a variety of formats including vinyl, cassette, compact disc, and mp3 (too young for eight track and reel-to-reel, not adventuresome enough for things like DAT), and enjoyed them all.  So why vinyl, and why now, when there is so much music available at our fingertips 24/7?

In psychoanalyzing myself, I think there are three basic reasons:  (1) nostalgia, (2) a moderately disfunctional collector-type personality, and (3) an interest in somewhat obscure music, much of which didn’t make it to CD or mp3.

Nostalgia:  I love albums.  I love album covers.  I love liner notes.  I like the physical process of handling records.  I mean, I can remember seeing a copy of Dio’s Holy Diver LP at the store when I was maybe 12 or so and being flat out terrified by it.  You can’t get an emotional response like that off a little CD cover, or worse yet the puny album art that comes with your mp3s.  Here was a huge demon about to chain-whip a priest who was bound and drowning!  That blew my 12-year-old mind!  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that the cover of the cassette copy of Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil, which I secretly bought and didn’t show to my parents, scared the crap out of me too… but that was really only after listening to the intro) So vinyl kind of takes me into the way-back machine, to the days when New Wave was giving way to Hair Metal and before I’d ever even heard of Led Zeppelin.

Collecting Mindset:  I don’t think I really “collect” vinyl today.  I buy it, I listen to it, sometimes I burn it to mp3 so I can put it on my iPod, but I’m not really interested in the monetary value of this stuff.  That being said, there is still that element of having a physical object, a representation of the music, something solid, that you just don’t get with mp3.  It’s irrational, I know.  But whatever.  I’ve collected lots of things over the years – sports memorabilia, comic books, broken bones… so I seem to gravitate to having “things”.  I know what psychologists would say about this kind of behavior, but maybe they should mind their own business and worry about more important things.  Like why so many women decided to sleep with Lemmy from Motorhead.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like Motorhead.  But seriously, Lemmy?  Really?

Obscure Music:  A lot of really cool music never made it to CD or mp3.  If you want to check it out, you have to get it on vinyl or some other format.  Maybe there’s a certain pretentiousness here in trying to find obscure stuff, but its fun to put on something by a band you’ve never heard of before and see what’s there.  A lot of the time it sucks (like a punk compilation I bought that sounded like all the songs were recorded inside a toilet… and not a clean one either).  But sometimes it’s great (like The Gun Club’s Two Sides of the Beast).  And on the blog I’ll share some of the stuff I’ve really enjoyed.  Maybe some of the crap too if it’s especially noteworthy.

Hopefully you’ll come back.  And even better, maybe you’ll read about some band here and check them out, and get to experience something new.  For now, though, I need to go burn some vinyl to mp3!