Monday, April 30, 2012

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral
Released - 1994

Story by Larry Ragone, singer/guitarist for Psychic Teens.

Editor's note: Since this is an album on a major label, there is no download link available.

It was the Summer of 1994 when I, like many others, discovered Nine Inch Nails and The Downward Spiral.  After a sloppy, physical, and mud-covered set at Woodstock ’94, and a much publicized battle with Tipper Gore and the P.M.R.C. (remember them?).  NIN had become a much buzzed about popular music act by the time I was able to acquire the compact disc from BMG Music Club.

At twelve years old, I knew soon after tearing the shrinkwrap and removing the much-dreaded Parental Advisory sticker that I had my hands on something special.  Unlike any other disc I owned (I had maybe a dozen) there seemed to be a very distinct visual aspect to the packaging and layout.  A slimline CD case with little or no copy housed the disc – which itself – was a downward spiral.  HALO EIGHT was featured twice in the layout thus planting the seeds of a future record collector, begging me to collect every HALO from then on out. 

Upon further inspection of the oversized booklet inside the slipcase, I knew that I had something that would likely be considered pretty fucked up.  Jagged sentence fragments in lowercase blue type adorned white pages.  The letter “i” prominent throughout led me to believe that this was a personal record with a single narrator: a trait of early Nine Inch Nails that I still admire to this day.

Upon the first spin of the disc, I was immediately bludgeoned with confrontational vocal delivery, wall -of-noise guitars and keyboards, and pulsating, unrelenting percussion.  There was no doubt to me that I was in some serious heavy metal territory – my genre of choice. However, this seemed more metal than Metallica, Slayer, or Iron Maiden.  Perhaps it was the ever-changing dynamics of The Downward Spiral and the absolute depravity of Reznor’s voice which, when drilled into the psyche of a teenager, would be cause of unrest and chaotic emotions off the bat.  “Mr. Self Destruct” rips and tears while “Piggy” conveys a confident swagger.  Trent Reznor has total control of your every sense.

This music was indescribable to me.  Twelve years old – I recognized the huge distorted guitars, the tightly programmed drums, and the other-worldly ambiance that permeates throughout, especially on the disc’s 2nd half.  Now looking back, I am able to identify the influence of artists I have discovered and have grown to appreciate within The Downward Spiral. The record weaves together a tapestry of sound much like This Mortal Coil’s Filigree & Shadow and It’ll End in Tears by expressing deep emotional longing while using different voices and arrangements.  “Reptile” levels with Swans-esque dirge while “Heresy” brings to mind a pop sensibility and arrangement that could have been provided Simple Minds in their heyday.  “Closer” - the album’s most polarizing (and popular) track - could very well be what Joy Division would have sounded like in 1994.

The Downward Spiral was a gamechanger, bringing musicianship and art to the next conceptual level for me.  Green Day and Metallica were bands.  Trent Reznor was an artist. And at the top of his game – he was not to be fucked with.  The Downward Spiral remains a piece of living art.  Going back on occasion and holding the package and listening to the CD from front to back gives me the same feelings I felt the first time I heard it.  It reminds me that music can be more than just going into a basement with your friends and ripping riffs all day. Music can also purge emotions and allow for a better understanding of how using different sounds and utilizing studio space can create a cathartic experience.  From “Mr. Self Destruct” to “Hurt”, Trent Reznor takes you on a visceral journey to hell and back and then back to hell.  This powerful work of art remains inspirational to me and the other members of my band by reminding us that unfiltered anger and sheer emotion is as important to creativity as just musical prowess and songwriting ability.  The Downward Spiral possesses all of the above qualities and is a benchmark album made without conforming to anyone else’s rules.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quiet Arcs stream the new album I've Been Feeling Kind Of Temporary

For those in the greater Philadelphia area, Rita's Water Ice is an almost universally loved food, perhaps on its way to becoming its own distinct food group. One of the greatest things about Rita's, of course, is that you are permitted to sample a small portion of every flavor before ordering a full container of it.

And in the spirit of taste-testing, Quiet Arcs are currently streaming their newest album I've Been Feeling Kind Of Temporary for a limited time on their bandcamp page. In the very near future they will be self releasing a limited quantity of this recording on vinyl for you to enjoy on your home stereo.  You can stream the full album for free here now.

If you like what you hear and if you'd like to have a copy of your own, please stay tuned for more details about the vinyl release.

Track List:
01.  Constant Sutures
02.  Diving Bell Curve
03.  Palmer To Townsend

Days Of Rage In South Beirut

The following story was written by international man of mystery, Julio Pardo.  Days of Rage In South Beirut recounts his recent trip to Beirut, the military presence, a close call with Hezbollah secret agents and a few flight attendants.  Julio does a blog called Girls Got Limits where you can find more stories and photos of his life's journey.

Days of Rage In South Beirut by Julio Pardo.

When I was in Damascus, I heard that Hezbollah got to bring down the government of Lebanon so they will stop the investigations of Rafik Hariri’s death.  Beirut was already on my to do list and to be honest, I never thought it will be a big deal.  This is not the first time Lebanon was run with out a government and I didn’t think people would go nuts and rage around.

Well, I was wrong.  I got there a day and a half before the riots, Days Of Rage as they like to call them, and everything looked like a dream land.  Shit was mad expensive, rich ladies walking around in skirts, hot weather and I was kinda feeling the glamorous vibe of Beirut.

I was tired so I decided to chill for the night.  The next morning, I decided to walk to Hamra, the 5th Ave of Beirut, make it to the port and see the pigeon rocks, then take this cable car that takes all the way up on the mountain so you can have a sick view of Beirut.  It's around 10 am, I already had my breakfast and I’m trying to make it to Hamra.  There are a few more armed man than usual, but “hey this is Lebanon” is what I tell myself.  Then, while I’m walking between what appears to be some government buildings five military men walk toward me and hold the hand I had on my camera up to my chest and say “where are you going?”.  I’m like “well Hamra, am I on the wrong path?”, he looks down at me (the guy can play in the NBA no problem) and says “no, go straight and no pictures, hand out of the camera”.  I walk out of their way and didn’t really understand if I can't take pictures at all or if it was just the block.  Since they are the ones with the ak-47’s, I decided to not take any pictures until I reached a more populated area.  I eventually found Hamra, got to visit the caves and the pigeon rocks and did the mountain thing.

The day was quite dope and I made it back to the hostel around 7ish.  I took a shower and got to nap for a bit.  Around 10, I walk to the chill area to check my email.  I ran into four hot eastern flight attendants and a Jordanian pilot.  They were drinking Vodka and one thing lead to another, so I showed them my “I <3 kurwy” tattoo (I love bitches in Polish).  Somehow it worked and we all went out to feel the so called “Beirut night life”.  The adventure turned out to be a total fail.  The streets were taken by the military and every single pub, club and bar were closed.  We drove for over two hours till we finally found an Irish pub 20 minutes outside of Beirut.  We were the only people there other than an old man with a hooker in her 50’s.  The night ended up alright and we got back to the hostel around 4am.

I slept for a bit and since everybody told me about the riots, I cancelled my trip to the ruins and decided to go South Beirut to see the protest.  Shit was hell on earth, but everyone was quite friendly with foreigners.  There were tons of people taking pictures, but at some point these two men in black coats grab me and ask me to walk with them.  They show me their guns and I’m like “ok, sure you win”.  They take me to a corner and sat me down on a bench.  They asked me why I was taking pictures and what was I doing in Beirut.  At that point, I realized they were not police or military, but Hezbollah secret agents.  I played as smooth as I could, I showed them my passport and all my stamps.  I told them I travel and take pictures, nothing more, no newspapers, no nothing.  One of them got down to look me in the eyes and goes “listen, if you are Mossad you better tell me now, before its too late”.  I’m like “no man, I’m Spanish, I like football, sleeping and eating, that’s about it”.  They say they need to take my film which included the rolls from yesterday, the one of the protest and even the one that was not even used.  I tried to convince them to give them back so I could have them developed tomorrow and bring them somewhere and they can keep my passport until I show them the pictures.  They said if I want them, I have to go with them for questioning.  I have heard about those “Hezbollah questionings” and how you could be detained for up to two weeks with no civil rights.  I gave them the film and walked out of there.  It took me forever to get back to the hostel because there were tires on fire on every street.

Around 3pm, I’m back, changed cameras and film and decided to walk to the National Museum.  I already checked online to make sure they were open.  It's was about a 20 minute walk, so it felt like a doable plan.  When I’m about three blocks away from the square I saw that it was surrounded by military and they stop me.  I’m like “really? Again?”, the man goes “go to hotel now, this dangerous.”  I’m like “look I just wanna go the museum which is right behind you.”  He tells me "it’s closed, go back home".  I know he is bullshiting me, so I try to go around it.  Five minutes later, a military truck stops in front of me and to my surprise it is the same man again and he says “hotel now!”.  I’m like “my hotel is that way man.”  He ask me the name of my hotel and I’m like “touché asshole”, you win I’m out.  Everything was closed and at night the same thing.  Luckily I was leaving next day to Amman and decided to be positive about the adventure.  I’m alive and well and this just means I’ll have to come back to Beirut again which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ten Yard Fight "The Only Way" Documentary

Since there is no story to update the blog with, I figured the Ten Yard Fight "The Only Way" documentary might make up for it.  I only got to see Ten Yard Fight play the songs off of their last album The Only Way one time and it was at the last In My Eyes show about a year after the last Ten Yard Fight show.  They were scheduled to play a show in New Jersey I was heading to when I found out that they were not going to be playing because they broke up.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Occult 45 - Grind Funk Railroad Demo

Occult 45 are a three-piece grindcore band from Philadelphia, PA.  In true grindcore/power violence fashion most of the songs barely break the minute mark if that.  The first two songs on the Grind Funk Railroad Demo are "Intro/The Farmers Daughter" and it seems like the Intro is the longest song on the demo.  That fact should neither disappoint nor discourage the listener because once the droning of "Intro" transitions into "The Farmers Daughter" you are getting non-stop blast beats from this point out.  The nasty guitar tone matches the brutal speed and jarring tempo changes from song to song.  The samples Occult 45 use on this demo for the songs "The Farmers Daughter" and "Passion For Ignorance" are perfectly placed.  "Tehran Desert Vampire" is the least grindy sounding song and has more of a Negative Approach meets Discharge with double bass kind of feel to it.

Location:  Philadelphia, PA
Genre:  Grindcore/Power Violence
For Fans Of:  Napam Death, Brutal Truth, Rotten Sound, Nasum, Pig Destroyer
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01.  Intro/The Farmers Daughter
02.  Body Melt
03.  Passion for Ignorance
04.  Tehran Desert Vampire

Real Cops - Demo 2012

Real Cops are a social/political hardcore punk hailing from New Jersey.  They kind of remind me of a weird mix of Jerry's Kids and The Circle Jerks.  All four songs on this demo tape have a specific topic or opinion conveyed in the lyrics ranging from global warming/overpopulation to America being on the verge of a constant police state.  I also want to point out the great cover art for this demo.  The images on the cover (a riot squad, a happy American family and a grave yard) could not be more different while still being completely intertwined in this imaginary American dream most people still cling to.

Location:  New Jersey
Genre:  Hardcore/Punk
For Fans Of:  Jerry's Kids, Circle Jerks and Tear It Up
Year Released:  2012

Track List:
01.  The Future Is Written
02.  It's Only A Matter Of Time
03.  Etched In Stone
04.  Death Squads