bITS 'N CHUNKS
Labels and the general culture of us vs poseurs taught me not to trust anyone that gives themselves an actual category. I know, that's stupid but it was a big thing back in The Day™.
Why? Because labels put you in a box and meant you were a puppet. If you voluntarily called yourself glam metal then we already knew what you were all about and there was no room for anything else. That's why to this day a lot of older goths still hiss at the "goth" label, because of what it is and what it has become. When you get tired of explaining things to people, it's easier to distance yourself.
The only people that I know of that lean head first into categorization is metal heads and punks and even that is not always a given. You can find generic headbangers anyway and most of them will definitely let you know, but there's a lot of us that hate subcategories for example. Punks are…well, punks. A lot of us don't care either.
Now, depending on how old you are you probably had to re-read that last part. Did you just refer to "us" as both punks and metalheads? Yes, there was a time when those two categories mixed like cesium and water. Labels suddenly matter a lot when you need to know what club to go to so you don't get your ass kicked.
That being said, with that kind of history it's weird to think at some point punks and metalheads would meet, agree, shake hands, and not murder each other. But it happens all the time. Goths and rockabilly stray cats met up for gothabilly or psychobilly and that's kind of weird. Apparently the meeting of minds of metal and hardcore punk was crossover.
Live video of "The Mob Goes Wild" courtesy of YouTube user HiDef ROCK, all I have for you are blurry pictures. On to the belated review.
Well then. I went to a concert and felt old.
A moment of forethought went into my purchasing tickets for this show. Clutch? Fine, saw them on the last Psychic Warfare run around through these parts. Back then, they brought Corrosion of Conformity in tow. This time was The Obsessed -- the pinnacle of old school doom metal -- and Devin Townsend, the peak of progressive operatic something-something metal that doesn't take itself terribly serious. Surely you've heard Ziltoid by now.
A moment of forethought, then things became strange. The Obsessed and Clutch seem like a similar fit to each other. Even if The Obsessed is the bigger band for me I definitely understand why Clutch is headlining. I'm glad they brought them along. But Devin stuck out to me -- what in the world was uppity prog rock doing at a stoner metal concert for us bottomfeeders? Devin has two speeds: melodic heavy and heavy fast. That seemed incongruent to the ceremony that we were about to witness. Then I thought, I could definitely see Clutch touring with Devin as both have a quirky sense of humor and penchant for sci-fi, but that leaves out dead ass serious The Obsessed. What…? Where…? When and how?
I don’t put together tour packages, I just buy the tickets. And so I sat on them for a clean month. I took my first vacation day in years, and I was off to the rare, coveted Saturday show at Marathon Music Works.
Ah, Marathon. My second home. I've hit this venue officially more than any of my other frequent haunts in the city. I'm trying to get back to the Exit/In one of these days and I'm starting to feel a little out of touch with The End. I save the big money for the War Memorial Auditorium and the Municipal. I'll never get into the Ascend Amphitheater. But Marathon is just right. There's almost always a little something there for me, it's accessible enough in terms of pricing, and it's close enough for a $10 Lyft ride from my house. So there.
A word on accessibility before I go on, though: please be considerate of people with physical disabilities and don't close off pathways for them just so you can scurry up to your favorite band like ten feet away. Don't be that asshole. Thanks.
So I get to the show and I realize no one asked for my ID. Do I, the oldest twentysomething, finally look my age? No, it's an all-ages show! This is fantastic and a curse at the same time. On one hand, most of my scenes are dying and could use some fresh blood. If a ten year old is interested enough in The Obsessed to headbang and drone alone, I am all for it. I will buy you as many sodas as you want. But as the night went on and a few drunken participants got in their feelings, as Devin randomly and deliberately caressed his own nipples on stage and shot mucous, I thought to myself, "how on Earth do you explain this in your back to school essay?"
I'm no one's moral guardian. All told, the weirdness aside, I hope those kids have fun and come back. We need more all-ages events to be honest. Can't yell at the kids for listening to Justin Bieber or whoever is relevant now if you don't give them an alternative. After all, I've been listening to this music since I was their age, too.
The Obsessed was loud and menacing. I was so happy to be at the front to watch Scott do his thing and bellow hatred at me. There was so much smoke and red light I was pretty sure I was being ferried right into Hell. They played a short set, but long enough to make an impact and Devin and Clutch singer Neil Fallon were cool enough to stress supporting them with merch sales. Merch sales are important for touring bands, folks. Sometimes you just have to buy a hat so someone else can eat that night.
If Clutch is the more mainstream band here then Devin is the most pop. Yeah, I said it. DTP combines pop sensibilities with fine progressive craft, a touch of actual Industrial metal as Lord Al Jourgensen intended it, and just being entertaining as all get out. It ended up being a cathartic, bright experience and heavy on the more bombastic tracks from Addicted, Epicloud, and new album Transcendence.
Ah, Marathon was packed but so cold at this point thanks to the weather and being in a warehouse. Even bundled up I couldn't shake the mix of exhilarated goosepimples and "fuck I'm cold" chills. I rub my aching neck with my ice block hands; feels good, but helped one thing and not the other. I was now less sore and cold. I look around at the little headbangers and the people older than me running off adrenaline and I feel ancient. I shifted and shuffled around the audience a bit until I was at the very end of the audience for Clutch. A trick at the Marathon for fellow shorties is to stand at the very edge and angle yourself; you can see the whole stage unobstructed now. Even if they can't hear you, the sentiment of "excuse me" and "I'm sorry" still carry a long way when maneuvering around.
"We Need Some Money" by Chuck Brown signals the main event. Clutch finally takes the stage bathed in more red light and smoke, but they're far from the menacing doom that The Obsessed brought. Clutch is like a fine medium between DTP and The Obsessed: serious but a serious good time, somewhat foreboding but more tongue-in-cheek. They can do a little progressive jam. I'd dare put them closer to Voivod if they weren't such a boot-scooting, blues-y good time. Oh yes, I danced. I paid for it but damnit I danced. This set list wasn't as Psychic Warfare-heavy this time around but it's also the second (or maybe even third) leg of the tour, the album's been out since 2015 so hopefully you've caught it by now. If you haven't, well, enjoy this Clutch retrospective.
I snuck out of the show near the end of Clutch's set. I glimpsed a few drunken exclamations. But you know what, in the end it's alright. I had a good time and that's what it means to go out. I pulled my ear plugs out and soaked in the night air and the night cold, shivering with equal parts excitement and the effects of the below-20 weather outside. I'm so glad I got to see two bands off my bucket list and Clutch for a second time. My concert season is over for the year, but January and February are already looking up. Here's to another year of youth and the scene which refuses to die.
So speaking of figuring out your aesthetic, physical appearance is very important too!
The gag is, your physical appearance almost never has to match up with your output. I mean yeah, it's great when your aesthetic is cohesive and you look the part of a NASA scientist, but that brings in a lot of earthly questions like "what is it truly to look like something?"
Honestly, if you look too close to something I'm going to assume you're a poseur. You don't want that, right?
For my next few music posts, I'm taking a break from talking about combining music and writing and moving into small niche genres, why I'm attracted to them, albums I like in those genres, and just generally the notion of internal aesthetic versus outside appearance.
The biggest culprit of this dichotomy is goth. What is goth? Post-punk. What is post-punk? The thing that came after punk. Okay, there's a lot of things that came after punk. For every genre there is a post or anti genre. Hardcore? Post-hardcore. Grunge? Post-grunge. Goth distinguishes itself by having other facets beyond just "post punk". And for the last time, goth is more than just looking spooky. You can look like John Q Public and still be goth, it's just unlikely but not terribly uncommon.
That being said. I don’t want to share my favorite goth music albums because that's for another time, or even my feelings on what is and is not goth because I don't care and neither do you. But what I do want to share is something I thought of with Angela Benedict's video on finding your goth sound. The point she brings up is as human beings, we tend to listen to what's familiar and what we liked the most in our formative years (paraphrasing). The example she gives is industrial. I too grew up drenched in industrial sweat and lashed by punishing EBM blackstrobe but you know where I really came from?
FOLK. MUSIC. I am the biggest Bob Dylan stan you know and you can't fight me and win. The music that I am drawn most to outside of folk is everything that sounds like folk. Growing up in a black household, I also like bass. Like, a lot of bass.
So I kicked back and thought, if I had an absolute aesthetic masterpiece of a greatest hits album, what comprises me? I came up with a handful:
Sisters of Mercy - First Last & Always
The Mission - God's Own Medicine
Depeche Mode - Violator
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Tinderbox
This is specifically in terms of goth because if I had to include everything the list would be quite long. But see what I mean? All very intensely personal albums, a little weird, a little confrontational, a little dark, high up in bass and completely unbothered. The Dylan album notwithstanding. That's not even my favorite Dylan album by the way.
All oddly folksy.
(But never neo-folk.)
Different but all preying and building upon roughly the same thing. Telling stories about moments in time. Not really concept albums but I am very much into those as well. Crafting a good set of songs. Statement albums.
A statement piece is what I aspire to be.
Recently, I received a copy of Welcome Home, an anthology of short stories centered around adoption. I'm not adopted myself but I have plenty of people in my life who are, are adoptive parents themselves, or at least interested in the process. Also, I'm not someone that reads young adult fiction on a regular basis…but here I am. Although it's not my forte, representation and visibility are important to me and it's especially important that young people are able to see themselves reflected in the literature they read.
That being said, cracking this open I still wasn't sure what to expect. What does an adoption story look like, really? I combed my recent memory and realized I don't really know. The last positive depiction of adoption I saw was on Doc McStuffins, which was great because it involved a black family to boot. But an anthology of stories? I recognized a lot of the names and I was very happy to see a great variety of authors writing from a multitude of experiences. These stories have a wide spectrum of representation across an impressive variety of genres from gen lit to dystopian cyberpunk.
To say I was surprised might come a little condescending, but I was. And pleasantly so! What we have here is a solid collection of stories that really expanded my thoughts and made me realize I was all wrong. Anthologies can be hit or miss and highly subject to taste of course, but I'm very happy to say this collection is all killer and almost filler. I really do think there's a little something for everyone in here. The stories are sensitive and obviously written from personal experiences. I laughed, I cried, I got caught in my feelings, just the gamut of emotions. I also appreciated that the stories tackled the emotional aspects of adoption as well, but also cultural issues that span countries, language barriers, sometimes planets. The stories reaches across multiple aisles including race and sexuality to make what I would consider a very inclusive collection. And as I've harped on, inclusiveness is nothing if it's not inclusive of bleeping everyone.
Reading this anthology made me realize the dearth of positive & accurate depictions of adoption there are out there. Movies are especially bad. Adoption is often seen as a last, desperate resort or a step above the changeling fantasy. Don't even get me started on horror and sci-fi movies. Those stories are obviously far from the truth of what adoption is, but they just don't help the perception. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding the topic. It's getting better sometimes, but reading these stories and the book announcement from editor Eric Smith made me realize there is still so much work to be done. These stories, to me, truly do that work to create understanding, to normalize and center the experience. A couple of my personal recommendations out of here are "A Kingdom Bright and Burning" by Dave Connis, a cathartic story about a young boy trying to work through trauma and learning to communicate with his adoptive family; "Webbed" by Julie Eshbaugh was another great highlight and kind of flipped my expectation of the changeling family, and included discussion of physical deformities to boot; and William Ritter's "Deeply" is...something that has to be seen to be believed.
(Sidenote: as a native Tennessean, how hyped was I to see a lot of my home state people repped here! Yeehaw.)
Anyway, if I've recommended Welcome Home to you already I will recommend it again and again because I can't say enough good things about it; please put it in the hands of an adult or a child that needs it, request it at a library, and if you need it yourself please check it out from wherever good books are sold.
Do you think a lot about finding your aesthetic? Or what that even means?
I was finally able to see Bladerunner 2049 (which is excellent) and one of the things that struck me, visually, is how it captured the Philip K. Dick aesthetic maybe even better than the original. Of course, there have been technological advantages since then to help out with that. The liberal usage of CGI enhances the artificiality of this dystopian cyberpunk world. Bladerunner did its best and is still very good, but it's a very urban story and kind of hampered by the mysteries in the plot (also known as inconsistencies, also known as "is Harrison Ford a damn replicant or not").
The sequel leaned in a lot more to the cyberpunk aesthetics than the noir, although that was well enforced as well. Forgive me the reference, but it was very Chinatown. That being said, tonally both Bladerunner and the sequel and subsequent shorts in the 'verse are and have always been way off. They tell a much more romantic story than "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" That's cool because I don't expect my movie adaptations of books to get every last nook and cranny right and I'm glad even when they shoot for 70%. If Bladerunner the movie is Chinatown, then "Do Androids..." is No Country for Old Men. Anyway. As usual, I'm struggling to get to the point.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...