Sound
Are the Mekons a Meal?

Are the Mekons a Meal?

The other night I saw Skull Orchard, the latest side band of the Mekons’ Jon Langford, in Brooklyn. I was hungry for some good music, and the show was filling—but not the same way even the best reunions, such as Flag’s recent set, or the Avengers show a few years back, have been. More»

Nostalgic for Nirvana

Nostalgic for Nirvana

Over the past month, pieces marking the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s suicide have built to a crescendo. For those who remember the initial coverage of his death, when his face stared out from publication after publication, the commemoration inspired a disturbing sense of déjà vu. We were being asked to relive something that wasn’t pleasant to begin with, but also, inevitably, to compare that period with our own. More»

Retro-Futurism Soundtrack

Retro-Futurism Soundtrack

The spiraling space-funk at the heart of Gardens & Villa’s Dunes could only be called “Echosassy.” The album’s fifth track is the mesmerizing template for Gardens & Villa’s sound, a synth-rock that knows its history, with more than a subtle allegiance to the sci-fi notion of retro-futurism. More»

Backward into the Future

Backward into the Future

Some songwriters are city planners, always seeking out new spaces for their muse. Some are interior designers, redecorating the same rooms on record after record. And some, like the Dum Dum Girls’ Dee Dee prefer to sit and stare at the same four walls, discerning what was there all along. Her band’s new album Too True is no departure. But that’s precisely what makes it good. More»

Kiev Calling

Kiev Calling

Blame it on Pussy Riot. Thus far, the music has been a disappointment. The Ukraine, after all, is in decline. With no affluence to speak of, compared to Putin’s oil-rich Russia, culture, of the export variety, is nowhere to be found. You’d have to speak Ukrainian, (or Russian) to detect any national soundtrack, revolutionary, or otherwise, worth listening to. More»

Metal Beyond Metal

Metal Beyond Metal

What would it look like if metal culture abandoned music? How necessary in fact is music to metal? This might seem absurd, but there are precedents of a sort. Both goth and punk are only partially dependent on music. Music is one element of goth culture, alongside fashion, literature, visual arts and film. More»

Israeli Hardcore Sampler

Israeli Hardcore Sampler

In the forty years since its inception, punk has almost always been synonymous with radical politics. The very nature of counterculture, of which punk is a mainstay, is to fight against whoever is in power. Even right-wing bands operate within this ethos. On the far end of that, white power music is very much situated in what its practitioners see as a comparative struggle, even if the songs are lyrically backwards. More»

Breaking Metal's Boundaries

Breaking Metal’s Boundaries

Crisis-period metal is metal at its most innovative. Artists are taking the genre in many different directions, some of which, as in post-metal, are challenging the very nature of what metal is and could be. But what I’m imagining is something more thoroughgoing and systematic. Innovation on its own is not enough to keep metal alive. More»

Slow Metal

Slow Metal

One way of tackling the metal crisis is to reintroduce scarcity. To some extent this is already happening. The stubborn persistence of vinyl and cassettes in metal derives from a desire to maintain scarcity. The reduction al absurdo of this tendency is releasing music in near-obsolete formats such as floppy diskettes. However, on its own, this strategy is too limited though, as not only are many such releases simultaneously released digitally. More»

My Year in Consumption

My Year in Consumption

I was spoiled. For fifteen years, there wasn’t a day when a new book or CD didn’t arrive in the mail. Sent for review, at the magazines I edited, it was a very different era. Publishers could far more easily dispense with physical copy, for PR purposes, than they can today. I owe half of my library to this largesse. More»

The Metal Future

The Metal Future

If metal has become incoherent, there’s little sign that it is dying. Yet there are two dangers that are beginning to loom large over it. The first is that metal gradually dissipates. The music moves in a thousand different directions, by a thousand different artists. Any sense of it as an overarching idiom, a cultural identity, and a social space is lost. More»

Music at a Standstill

Music at a Standstill

Today we’re witnessing the fulfillment of the postmodern condition that figures such as Baudrillard and Lyotard first proclaimed – prematurely – in the 1980s. Abundance, and the simultaneous availability of every kind of cultural commodity threatens to ‘flatten’ out the world, creating a kind of continuous present, beyond progress, beyond history. More»