How Do We Fix Bigots?

The wars for the rights of women, people of color, LBGQT persons and many others that raged throughout the twentieth century were won in the same sense that the Iraq war was won. That is, nobody directly affected by these conflicts, on either side, really considers them over. Every so often there will be another bomb in a marketplace, a suicide attack on a checkpoint: abortion laws in Oklahoma, bathroom laws in North Dakota, Gamergate, Sad Puppies. Like Iraq, we have mostly toppled the legal basis that kept a oppressive regime in power only to see it replaced by chaos and the rise of what could potentially be something worse: Fascist anti-immigrant gangs in the U.K, the Golden Dawn in Greece, Trump in the U.S., the ‘alt-right’ online.

The struggles for social justice in the twentieth century did one thing particularly well: they made bigotry, at least in it’s overt burning-cross-on-the-lawn form, the de-facto mark of evil in our culture. Voldemort was a racist, the Empire and First Order are clearly modeled on Nazis, so were the Daleks, COBRA, HYDRA and too many more to count. We cheered for Django watching a slaver die and Rey powering up a lightsaber. We’ve been so effective at equating hatred and evil that the KKK is trying to rebrand itself as an organization that, shucks, just loves white people so, so much. So effective that the alt-right throws around ‘fascist’ as an insult as much as they do ‘SJW’ or ‘cuck’ (well, not cuck- those guys have some issues to work through.) People who don’t want anyone but straight white men to be able to have the right to artistic expression or representation are recasting themselves as champions of free speech.

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The Nu Metal Years Part Two: The Guantanamo Diaries

Bands didn’t exactly make it out to rural Dorset much. Until a local dry ski slope started putting on all-ages punk shows, the only band I could see play live was The Wurzels. Then Follow The Leader came out – I was big into KoRn already, but this, it had cover art by Todd McFarlane and Fred Durst was on it (I was young, okay?). It was more polished than Life Is Peachy and the hooks dug in deeper. I managed to persuade my dad to drive me and three friends to London to see KoRn play Wembley Arena, and this was a big deal. I knew what concerts were in abstract, but a production of this magnitude, played in front of 12,500 people who were mostly like me, was a huge thing for me. And there were girls – goth chicks, punks my age with dreadlocks, not the rosy-cheeked farmer’s daughters and tightly-wound girls from the estate that I had known back home. I mean, obviously I didn’t talk to them, but I at least knew that they existed. We were far to the back and right, watching everything at an awkward angle, but the seething mass in the mosh pit was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

So the first band I ever saw live turned out to be P.O.D, KoRn’s support act, a Christian nu-metal band known mostly for that once-ubiquitous ‘Alive’ song but still plugging away four albums later. And that’s something I can never live down.

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The Nu-Metal Years Part One: Are You Ready?

The easy thing to do here would be to try to redeem Nu-Metal.

To try and convince myself and then you, dear reader, that, I don’t know, System of a Down’s albumToxicity sounds as good now that I’m thirty as it did when I was sixteen, when I’ve heard everything from Isis to Sunn 0))), Revenge and The Body since. Maybe to situate it within the long history of heavy music, finding in Mudvayne’s second album, The End of All Things to Come, the DNA of Metallica, Death, Black Sabbath, Alice fucking Cooper, Richard fucking goddam Wagner. Perhaps I’m going to tell you to ignore KoRn and Linking Park – the real genius of Nu Metal is in Nothingface, Chevelle, Dope, Guano Apes.

But look, Nu Metal really was a garbage fire. There are a handful of Deftones songs that are quite enjoyable and that really is it. Song for song, it loses out to drug-fucked Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Yearshair rock, which, if nothing else, can be enjoyed ironically. Try playing Motley Crüe’s ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ and Limp Bizkit’s ‘Nookie’ back to back in public and note the reaction.

However, there is a generation, and I’m a part of it, that found heavy music through Nu Metal and circled back to find the records we missed at the time: Acid Bath’s When The Kite String Pops or Sabbat’s Fetishism. The first band I saw live? KoRn. In fact, not even KoRn, but their support band P.O.D. Various bands may have been your way in: Marilyn Manson during a tween-goth phase, Slipknot if you were late to the party, Hed P.E if… well, nobody liked Hed P.E, but my point stands: in the late nineties and early two-thousands, if you were mostly white and male, if sports and girls weren’t an option for your ectomorphic frame, but you still had too much testosterone for Tori Amos, then you were probably into Nu Metal.

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Kraftwerk Ralf Hutter

Return of the Robots: Electro-pop pioneers Kraftwerk back on der Autobahn

CALGARY — His band may be as influential, if not more influential than the Beatles, but Ralf Hütter is characteristically modest about his ambitions for Kraftwerk. Along with Florian Schneider, Hütter formed the German electronic act and despite its staggering significance he says, “We just wanted to hear our music.”

Read More at Beatroute.ca

fail

On the laptop, an isometric view of a one-bedroom flat. Two figures, human in all the ways that mattered, moved between the three rooms, regarding the objects placed for them and exuding thought bubbles.

I got that when it came out,” I said. “It seemed interesting at first, but I never really got in to it though. Is that us?”

Yep. Carrie and Nathan in miniature. I don’t think that we’re exactly right-”

I’m nowhere near that thin, for example.”

Well they’re kind of idealised.”

Mine was. It had perfect posture and wore a button-up shirt. It moved from the kitchen-diner to the bathroom like doing so meant something, anything at all, like it wasn’t on some repeating cycle with a touch of randomisation to keep things interesting until new stimuli appeared. Carrie’s homunculus skittered nervously, upturning cups, taking them to the fold-out table then returning them to the drawer. It wondered aloud about the lack of food in the fridge and asked plaintively to be entertained. Carrie made it have the idea to go to the shops and get a magazine to read.

 

Available in Lighthouse Magazine issue 8, available here

Strange Wilds - Subjective Concepts

Strange Wilds – Subjective Concepts

A seven-letter Sanskrit word beginning with the letter ‘N’ is going to haunt Sub Pop for a long time, colouring listeners’ perceptions of otherwise fine bands like Strange Wilds. A trio from Olympia, Washington, Strange Wilds play dark, faintly menacing and yet still hook-laden post-hardcore, fulfilling their label-mates and predecessor’s (who shall not be named) promise to combine “Black Sabbath with The Knack.”

There are other elements in the mix: Refused’s mix of muscular riffs that drop into verses where the emphasis is squarely on the political message of the vocals, Cloud Nothing’s affected snotty vocals, Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu’s restless time-shifting. At its heart though, Subjective Concepts is out to do the same trick as a certain other Washingtonian three-piece: take genres that the mainstream can’t stomach and sweeten them until they’re pop. That’s a worthy goal; it’s why many of us got into alternative music in the first place. Strange Wilds are closer to punk than they are to punk that can be mistaken for pop, and it’s good to see anyone tackle the Pacific Northwest’s thorny, storied musical heritage, even if there was more to it than the one big name. As it stands they’re not a band to get excited about just yet, but the potential is there. Keep an eye on them.

 

Read more at Beatroute

Iron Kingdom – Ride for Glory

Ah, the sounds of clashing blades and pounding hooves at the start of a traditional metal song. Young but startlingly accomplished Canadians Iron Kingdom choose to launch the sixth song on their third album with this genre staple, as sure a sign as singer Chris Osterman’s falsetto that these kids are for real.

Their days as Canada’s Got Talent contestants are behind them, and all true metal fans have sworn upon the replica swords they keep atop David Eddings [or Robert E. Howard or George R. R. Martin or J.R.R Tolkien] filled bookcases that they will speak of it no more. Iron Kingdom also evidence higher production values all round, even on their album cover (the artwork for their 2013 album Curse of the Voodoo Queen was frankly embarrassing for a few reasons). “Ride for Glory” features stories of ancient warriors both European (“Lief Erickson,” “A Call to Arms”) and from further afield (Vietnamese folk-hero Lady Trieu or Japan’s Samurai.)

 

Read more at Beatroute

health - death magic

HEALTH – DEATH MAGIC

DEATH MAGIC by all-caps all-the-time avant-gardists HEALTH begins with the kind of electronic bass sounds that appear in film trailers to show us that a hundred million dollar movie about robots punching each other is very serious business. The remainder of the album is what would happen if new-wave synth-pop was played with the aesthetics of metal: maximum volume, no limit on distortion, drum work more intricate than a Gaudi cathedral.

There are moments on DEATH MAGIC that sound like Duran Duran and moments that sound like Lightning Bolt, coupled with hard trance and atonal noise, sometimes within the same song. Compared to earlier releases they’ve turned down the guitars and turned up the electronica, so that some songs (like mid-album Pet Shop Boys-gone shoegaze track “Dark Enough”) could potentially be played somewhere very fancy, with a lot of chrome, at least for a while. “Life” is positively accessible, anthemic in a very “Pumped Up Kicks” way (you know, the ubiquitous Foster the People song). Compared to the album’s more abrasive moments this chill-out room whimsy feels like a misstep. They’re redeemed by tracks like the nihilistic dancefloor album and lead single “New Coke” (sample lyric: ‘let the guns go off/let the bombs explode/let the lights go dark/life is good.’)

 

Read more at Beatroute

deaf wish - pain

Deaf Wish – Pain

Listening to Pain will make you appreciate how much a front-person anchors a band. Each member of Deaf Wish gets a turn behind the microphone, resulting in an album that sounds at times more like a compilation than a cohesive statement. As compilations go though, this is up there with the first mix-tape your ex gave you.

The band’s sound lies squarely in the nastier side of punk: from The Stooges through to Sonic Youth (the tracks “Sex Witch” and “On” are pure Kim and Thurston respectively), The Birthday Party and The Fall. It’s all very ‘Grown Up:’ no cheap hooks, no easy grab at the listener’s attention. Yes, it’s accomplished and mature, but it can come off as po-faced and self-serious, even a little staid. Everything here works and nothing stands out as an obvious misstep, but without the ugliness and weirdness of the bands that inspired it, Deaf Wish ultimately ends up sounding safe.

 

Read more at Beatroute