Resonance: Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails

Of the songs that stand out, “Head Like a Hole” and “Terrible Lie” are probably the two songs I was familiar with before I knew the name Nine Inch Nails. My musical coming of age not until I was in my adolescence, there are vague memories of a muffled rendition of “Head Like a Hole” playing on my sister’s stereo behind closed doors. I didn’t know what it was, I would have been about six, but what I did know is it was different from other things, the things I usually heard my sister play on the radio. Flash forward to my burgeoning hormonal teenage years. Bored homeschooling dNine-Inch-Nails-Pretty-Hate-Machine-Album-Coverays of music catalogue perusals led me to the discovery of band called Nine Inch Nails. I didn’t know who they were, there was no internet back then, at least not one readily accessible to a middle class citizen in the mid 1990s. The album I acquired then, some of you will remember was called Broken, an E.P that forever changed the way I saw music, and realized its intense power over emotion and influence. It was at this time that I connected “Head Like a Hole” to Nine Inch Nails. The problem was, for a boy of 13, in the era of the compact disc and accessibility to music only available through purchase or radio and cable music television, the album Pretty Hate Machine was scarce (available in cassette tape at the time, but who bought cassette tapes then?! They were as passe as compact discs are today, however, back then, CD was the way of the future). When I finally got my hands on Pretty Hate Machine we were somewhere in limbo between Downward Spiral and The Fragile. It was much needed to fill the void of material. Retrospective to 1989, here we see another musical act before its time, creating a mix of rock and metal elements with electronic and dance. But wait! you say, what about industrial rock? A look back to such acts as Front 242, Ministry,  Throbbing Gristle, Nitzer Ebb, Laibach, and Skinny Puppy, to name very few. Still, Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails assisted in jarring open the door of this unique mix of electronic and metal to a larger public in an era that was geared towards darkness and Armageddon. This aural plea from the soul of this madman pleased the environment as it trudged toward the new millinium, and it began with “Head Like a Hole,” a song all at once rebellious and angry as musical and catchy. I always tend to look at they lyrics of things and could only imagine what or who he sang about. Was it just the concept of money and those either ensnared in its greed or its influence of power? Either way, the song was a protest by its own right. “Terrible Lie” is another song noteworthy for its timelessness, and the song I admired for its depth and texture, its tangible angst, an element not easy to wield. The song aims of betrayal and self-doubt, lack of control and lack of forgiveness. Its mechanical open a wretched alarm to the listener, brandished throughout. The gothic gray and gossamer white synths that wine in the back, the chatter of electronic buzz and banter, Trent’s distinct vocal pate shredding and moaning against they raucous but acute music. Another hit to come off the album, a single also hip and recognizable, “Down It.” This song began to show how versatile the band could be, not secluding its anger to the dark of night, but also in the light of day, chipper to a point, still with no recourse but to trick the listener. A classic industrial track, it became one of their most popular songs early on. The album carries on this way presenting something I find somewhat more ‘marketable,’ or user friendly for what it was. The language of the album, minimal inferences socio-analytic commentary as one bears in “Head Like a Hole,” as much the expression aggressive diatribe offers and sex. Many songs are riddled with innuendo and requiem, explorative to orgasmic ends, some laden with shame and others curiosity. It was enough to keep this gay boy wondering and smitten by the thought of Trent Reznor.  Another personal fave, on the album is “Sin,” a track tucked sonically away at the back end of the album, and a song I feel laid a path to where their next musical exploits would go. A nice hallmark of some tracks on this album, also I think laudable, are the many tracks accessible to a dancefloor: “That’s What I Get,” “Down In It,” “Kinda I Want To,” “The Only Time,” a caviatte seen scarcely as the bands catalogue expands. The conclusion, the post-industrial, retro electronic jam, “Ringfinger” completes Pretty Hate Machine on a high note, listeners eager for what’s to come, and for those just learning of Nine Inch Nails, an oasis of sustenance and dynamic origin. Twenty years on this classic still timeless as I put it on repeat.

Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
1989, Interscope Records

Tracklist:

  1. Head Like A Hole
  2. Terrible Lie
  3. Down In It
  4. Sanctified
  5. Something I Can Never Have
  6. Kinda I Want To
  7. Sin
  8. That’s What I Get
  9. The Only Time
  10. Ringfinger

 

This review of Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

Resonance: No Need to Argue by The Cranberries

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A question of propriety regarding its remembrance, I thought about a retrospective type review. To revisit pivotal inspirations from my youth, nothing was more appropriate than the album, No Need to Argue by the Cranberries. It was one of the first five albums I owned independently as a youth. It was one of those special albums whose relationship no one else understood. The album begins, the first three tracks, a mature and familiar continuation of the album’s predecessor, Everybody Else is Doing it so Why Can’t We? Dreamy music ushered by sweeping guitars and the angelic crooning of the despondent and affirmed, fans of The Cranberries could rest assured the alternative rock act maintained a signature style albeit for consistency’s sake. “Ode to My Family,” a heartfelt track soft with acoustics, hypnotic synths and O’Riordan’s heart-pitch vocals, followed by the upbeat if not lyrically sorrowful “Be With You” and capped off by the nostalgia tinged, acoustic reverie “Twenty-One,” reprises the pensive yet verdant fields of the bands freshman creation before rising its fan base with the austere strumming of the guitar that opens the smash single “Zombie,” the track not only made the Cranberries household in the United States, it added a new dimension to the nature and artistry the band presented. It is a feral gift, a sonic missile the band uses conservatively, more reliant on the melodic crisp ambiance of natural sounds versus distorted. “Zombie” was as effective a rock song, as a metal song, a power pop song, and a female powerhouse Rockstar anthem all in one. It was heavy, it was catchy, it was raw. It was sexy. I recall being captured by its force and aggression, its nigh grunge aesthetic, its awareness of the world around it. I was captured by its art. And as the song closed in a sting of sharp resonance, we return to the ease of pianos and violins as the song “Empty” takes us away, pulling us deep on its strings and weeping vocals, a deep resonance showering from O’Riordan’s soul. The album continues on this way, a complex mix of dreamy guitars and wispy percussion. Dolores O’Riordan  moves from song a gossamer of emotional nostalgia. There is a definite sadness to her lyrics:

“Cause if I die tonight,
would you hold my hand?
Oh, would you understand?

“And if I lived in spite,
would you still be here,
No? Would you disappear?”

~~  “Everything I Said”

Perhaps there is something to it. Why in this period were popular, and even underground artists and musicians so responsive to the deep? As the music of tracks like “Dissapointment” and “Ridiculous Thoughts” are indeed inspirations reminiscent of elmements utilizied by the Cure and the dark and driven tracks talented by acts like Echo and the Bunny Men or Morrissey, and the ancestral twang of the Cocteau Twins.  O’Riordan’s voice an entity all it’s own, she tells a story via the emotion she imparts aurally rising from siren calls to demure retrospective. Coupled with the music, they create a dimension of realness, something you can hold to. As a fan from my youth, of course I was saddened at her loss. Stunned to know at 46, with such shining prospect, Dolores O’Riodin would depart. To date, I had believed she removed herself as had been reported she attempted before. Instead, she parted much the same way another renowned singer did, accidentally in the bathtub of her hotel room. Not to diminish the talents or the memory of Dolores O’Riordan, passing in the same manner as music icon Whitney Houston, leaves footnotes to a story yet to be told, but perhaps to be told soon.

As one of the largest things to come out Ireland, creatively speaking anyway, the nature of this band is important to a global story unfolding slowly. One whose roots extend deep into art and culture. It is the shadow of a ghost seen by these troubled artists and their auric record. The heaviness and emotion represented by the four members of a now iconic 1990s rock act, stand present to represent the forgotten talents, and the reverence to the artistry music still wielded to this point in the industry. But specters aside, the mastery of song and presence presented in No Need to Argue by the Cranberries is worthy of another listen, and of appreciation for talents shared and talents sacrificed.

The Cranberries – No Need To Argue 
1994, Island Records

Tracklist: 

  1. Ode To My Family
  2. I can’t Be With You
  3. Twenty-One
  4. Zombie
  5. Empty
  6. Everything I Said
  7. The Ic9icle melts
  8. Disappointment
  9. Ridivouous Thoughts
  10. Dreaming My Dreams
  11. Yeat’s Grae
  12. Doffodil Lament
  13. No need to Argue

This review of No Need to Argue by the Cranberries is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

 

Art As Much As Comedy – A Review of Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle

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Dave Chappelle’s “Sticks and Stones” on Netflix.

When it comes to Hollywood people like Dave Chappelle, I learned about him just like many teens were introduced to him in the mid 90’s, by way of a jeering comedy all about the one taboo that mattered at that time: weed. Half-Baked, an instant cult-classic about cannabis culture lambasted joke after recklessly high joke. It’s all the guys seemed to care or talk about at school, so naturally it would become part of my library of reach when referring to Chappelle’s work. Fast forward nigh on twenty years, and the showman’s landscape has changed. Of course there is the “Cancel Culture,” which is relevant to many stars,  but there is so much more. The #metoo culture, the racist culture,  the PC police, and the phantoms of white supremacy, global warming, conspiring Russians, and Nazi Hitler. Regardless of all these sexy, racy (no pun intended) topics, there is no way an audience member does not feel even slightly awkward and uneasy as Chappelle traipses through the topic of pedophilia and Epstein. In fact the opening salvo just vomits Epstein all over the audience, forcing them to refamiliarize themselves with that faint memory of a name spoken once or twice on the cable news networks. And what now? This name is falling out of Dave’s mouth? What comedian starts a show talking about a serial child rapist that “committed suicide” while gleefully hopeful for a sentencing deal when finally faced with real justice. It makes no sense. Either way, Chappelle does not side with or incite anything by talking about Epstein. The punch line, a thought-full and particular narrative, rounds out to the stoic topic of convo in a quip so sardonic it had me loudly laughing!

Anyway, pedophilia, top of mind. He talks about Michael Jackson, Epstein, R. Kelly. Some of these jokes are quite controversial, and, yet, somehow it seems that there could be nothing more so controversial than talking about the “alphabet people.” The LGBTQ…. I’ve oft heard that there is some sort of Gay Mafia, you know that some one like Kevin Spacey may have been associated with. But, in the end, there seems to be a mafia for everyone. So whatever or whomever these individuals supposedly are, one has to wonder why the myth prevails. So much so Dave must retaliate. Some of the jokes he told about the dynamics and personalities of the “alphabet people” were nigh spot on from my personal experience, but the ones that didn’t land, I could understand where he’d get the idea. As a member of the “Alphabet People,” I didn’t find anything offensive or hurtful in his show. Perhaps the most controversial, though, was the way he laid into the “T”s, as we know: transexuals. Nevertheless, the most important thing that stands out about this comedy act, to me, is the way Chappelle takes his listless audience from topic-to-controversial-topic, in the most lewd, politically incorrect, rampage, ushering them from genuine laughter, to edge the of discomfort, through thought-provoking and fleeting enlightenment, to fits of applause.

I appreciate that Chappelle is able to take on such major topics in a way not many comedians can or do (a la George Carlin or Bill Hicks). Dave is, obviously, no stranger to controversary, and has stayed away from Hollywood for many years, most recently from what I understand, the second time he’d been away in as many years. Still, I can’t help but feel that Chappelle doesn’t just get in trouble with minority groups and descent people, he probably gets in trouble with producers, politicians and the likes. He ambles in and out of topics like racism, abortion, and even Trump all while jarring the subconscious. Speaking of haranguing the people in power,  in one of the epilogues to the show, where Dave lets audience members ask questions, he goes into this story about how Chris Tucker visited with him and brought his ‘friends’ over, namely: Kamala Harris, the then governor of California, and some important news anchor.  Barrack Obama was a focal character of this yarn, and again appeared later in the show to round out the punchlines. Albeit many of these individuals are now mixed up in some stuff in Washington, the Epstein case being among one of the primary leads. But even addressing a topic like gun control can go either way at the dinner table, and ultimately, leave a bad taste in ones mouth. And let’s face it, as funny as his solution to gun control is, it’s still controversial to the virtuously sensitive. Anyway, this is masterful art. I think one of the most brilliant comedic pieces ever written that addresses present societal conditions in a remarkable commentary the audience can’t believe it agrees.

 

Sticks and Stones by Dave Chappelle, an Netflix Comedy Event, is available for viewing now.

“Comedy As Much As Art: A Review of ‘Sticks and Stones’ by Dave Chappelle,” is written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved. 

 

 

The Art of Remembrance

Every now and then he comes to visit. What affinity towards, I do not understand. We understand each other. But there is much more in his solace-locked art and candor than I could ever dare to express. I never knew the man. It is safe to say I could have. Had I awakened to his craft, had I sensed him sooner, I could have. In this world of single degree separation, I may have known the man. I may have experienced his art live. But I never did. One September evening, I did meet his successor, an artist of his own vision and scope, Valor Kand.

And now the initiated know.

I actually interviewed Valor (unpublished and possibly difficult to obtain now, oh dearest technology) and manned the merch table when he brought Christian Death through Texas sometime ago. That in itself was an experience to have, and just in time for birthday season. I also had the opportunity to speak with Zara Kand, Valor’s daughter. Zara is a magnificent artist in her own right, not falling far from the family tree. Long time friends of mine, too, have toured their music with some of Rozz’ brood and relations, right down to the matriarchs themselves, Eva O. and Gitane DeMone. All this name dropping, you may say. But my point: we’re always one or two degrees from separation. It could just be small world syndrome. Or the specialized sub-culture all these beautiful people inhabit. Still, in the absence of his being, and beyond his musical creations, I sought to engage the late Rozz Williams in poetry.

Rozz Williams, born Roger Painter, was known greatly as an underground icon for the American goth and deathrock scene. He was iconographic, as many photos of him may prove. He was influenced by great artists, Bowie and Roxy Music not withstanding. But for most, the fascination of Rozz Williams ends with the seminal album Only Theater of Pain by Christian Death, a band he founded in the early 1980s. A listen to the follow-up, Catastrophe Ballet, gave fans a much deeper, and melancholic sound that took the frenetic energy and dark, punk sentiments of Only Theater of Pain and subdued them into rock and roll art that was layered and thought provoking. The combination of music and lyric let listeners know a much more substantial work was at play here. It was as if the heart of the Parisian, surrealist artist had jumped into the body of this youthful expressionist, and channeled their darkest moments through his work. Considering some of his literary influences, Jean Genet and Baudelaire included, I wanted Rozz’ poetry.

 

But for most, the fascination of Rozz Williams ends with the seminal album Only Theater of Pain by Christian Death, a band he founded in the early 1980s.

 

Readers of this blog may recall the four poems I shared at the beginning of National Poetry Month. They were tributes to Rozz and spotlights on his work, in memoriam. Rozz became physically removed from this realm on April 1, 1998, in his apartment in West Hollywood. I found him a few years later. And years since, I have discovered the various facets of his art. The man, though life short lived, was productive, a prolific artist; and a theme with most in his circle, Rozz was an artist of all trades: visually, aurally, literarily. To date only one book I am aware of exists that collects the poetry of Rozz Williams, and that is And What About the Bells? or “Le Theatre des Douleurs,” because it’s in French (I don’t own a copy, personally. It’s a trite expensive at import). It was published by Camion Blanc in 2010. The book is a biography and poetry collection. Supposedly, an English version was rumored to be in the works, but that may have been just a rumor. I can say for certain that it is a shame there is not an English version, or an American release, at that. He was, after all, an original American artist.

The Art of Rozz Williams: From Christian Death to Death, was released by Nico B. and is a collection of Rozz’ artwork. The book contains some verse, though they are presented as original copies, rough drafts, and visual art (this I do own, first edition; the second edition is hard cover and I want a copy of that). It was inspiring to see the hand-written texts, the sprawled out messages seeped from pen to page. The engaging work produced by procuring and interweaving the art of others (collage). But, again, this is a collection of his visual art, with some discography, photos and text, but by no means substantial for a deep, lengthy read of his verse. So, what then? All we have is a hard-to-get, foreign publication, and an artbook, the two providing a mere tease. There was some reprieve in Rozz Williams’ sound recordings. He had many projects, and spoken word was definitely an artform he dabbled in. He released two formal spoken word studio albums, Every King a Bastard Son and The Whorse’s Mouth (the latter being a personal fave). Visions of Bowie and Morrison and Burroughs and Ginsberg abound. Countless more, I’m sure, but my scope is limited. It is always refreshing to me to experience poetry in a different way. Spoken, is definitely one I enjoy. Spoken set to sound track is even better. Audio adds another depth to the work. It may strip the listener of free-roam interpretation by providing a focused tone or tempo, but enriches the piece nonetheless.

 

…readers may ask (and some have), about the content of the work. It’s heavy stuff. But, only a shard of the crystalline spectrum that is the art of Rozz Williams. In the case of The Whorse’s Mouth, the spoken word album dealt with heroine addiction.

 

The pieces I shared come from the album The Whorse’s Mouth, and, I believe, are some of his strongest literary works. The sophomore spoken word album was less experimental and the poetry was elevated, crafted. The writing while aligning with the music and soundcraft, does not feel like a reaction to it, or secondary, as I felt it did in Every King a Bastard Son.

As I will reblog the four poems, readers may ask (and some have), about the content of the work. It’s heavy stuff. But, only a shard of the crystalline spectrum that is the art of Rozz Williams. In the case of The Whorse’s Mouth, the spoken word album dealt with heroine addiction. He frequently looked inward at personal demons and experiences as substance for his creations, but also, as artists do, he gave an outward view, and provided perspective and commentary in regards to social issues, the metaphysical, and in a couple instances, became semi-political. These ideas swam in the deeper end of the soul, and truly there may have been some torment there. But, again, I never met the man. And in lieu of sharing the information provided by others regarding his personal and emotional state, I’d rather not say anything. While it is understandable the type of energy and emotion that his work taps into is not the most desirable feeling to linger on (as one dear friend once said to me, “But why would you want to feel that way all the time?”), it is a part of the human experience not many address, and not many are equipped to express. To take a look at his body of work, one would consider this man to be a brave artist, with bold expression, and ahead of his time.

I will disclose that I edited the four poems (structure only [and some grammar]), but not the content. I, unfortunately, do not currently own a copy of from The Whorse’s Mouth (don’t get me wrong, at one point I owned two copies), but this gem has become increasingly hard to find. Most of his work is becoming rare. Still, these were procured from the inter-webs. And if memory serves, the poems were included in the insert of the album. So these may be reputable, yet, but that’s the editor in me coming out. Enjoy the poems, start a discussion, look him up. Rozz Williams was an American, gothic icon, a pillar of the underground, and a forefather of shock and abstract rock. Still, he may yet provide something you’ve been missing or looked over, like that small, dark corner waiting to see the light.

 

“The Art of Remembrance” is an essay written by Michael Aaron Casares. All rights reserved.