bITS 'N CHUNKS
I am very excited about Alice in Chains's new album Rainier Fog, their first in over 5 (!) years released last month. But before we get to that, walk with me a second here.
As writers and maybe creatives in general, we are bad at externalizing things and great at internalizing. We have all felt the weight of frustration that we are not making a living doing the Thing That We Do full time; meanwhile we project the image that it's okay. It's fine. You work your way up the ladder. We give each other pep talks and advice while internalizing the comments of others not within the industry.
The thing is, though, we are bad at normalizing that very thing. I'm willing to bet a lot of us have day jobs that have nothing to do with creative endeavors; and if you're one of the lucky ones that was able to parlay your passion into a career. That's great. Both sides of this are fine but we need to normalize one of these things.
I'll start. Hi, I'm not the mythical hellbeast I wish I was. I'm actually currently working in the financial sector while I'm still staying afloat with freelance writing. That's fine but sometimes I admit it's not. It's very hard knowing that the thing I want to do most doesn't always pay consistently, whereas my day job is just a day job. And as my city goes through the growing pains with costs of living outpacing wage increase and bills keep stacking up higher, it gets really hard to fathom going back to a time where I could work on fiction undisturbed and swing high profile rejections like, "that's okay, I'll get em next time". In fact, no. It's really discouraging, fam.
The job affords me benefits and the ability to take care of myself, my family, and a herd of cats. Writing brings me joy. I have the ability to increase my profile when things are going well and I'm steady. But I can't act like things don't get a little funky sometimes. I can't act like I don't wish it was more. I can't act like sometimes I just don't have the strength to keep trying and I wonder what it would be look like if I didn't.
I'm not always steady. As a human being, I'm not immune to taking serious Ls from life as I've alluded to previously. Those Ls have slowed down my contributions to my own site and the others I write for. That's all okay, except when it's not. The truth is, as much as I'd like to have a complete breakdown and get past the Anger stage of grief over my turbulent situation this year (and believe you me whether I want them to happen or not, those meltdowns came), my bills don't stop because I'm depressed. My obligations do not slow down because shit is tough. Those things are... not okay but to put it best it kind of is what it is right now.
That's the part I'm trying to get to. Normalizing real ass experiences that color our world. Things aren't fair and they suck and then sometimes they suck a lot. A lot of the success stories you see are just that... success. And stories. Theirs, not ours all the time.
Alice in Chains was the biggest band in the world to me when I was little, right up there in my metal pantheon with Megadeth, Metallica (I know), Judas Priest, etc etc... and Pearl Jam! Even into teenagerdom I couldn't imagine them struggling, even after Layne tragically died I didn't really comprehend what all went into keeping an artistic dream alive. There's a lot to be said about de-mystifying things. Some people need the drama and allure, and some people need to hear the truth but maybe slant. It was okay that I was living a mild delusion about one of my favorite bands and I had no concept of how tough the music business is because, well, I wasn't in the biz nor was I trying to be.
Jerry Cantrell's solo album Degradation Trip came out in June 2002 and in my young life I had seldom been readier for an album release. One of my favorite singers had died, the band was over, Boggy Depot was pretty dope but I was interested to see what Jerry was going to do on his own, so to speak. Back in those days (and still now) I read a lot of music journalism and I love artistic insight interviews. What do these songs mean? What are the lyrics? Where and why did you write them?
You know how things, sometimes, get lodged in your brain and you think about them for days or years? To this day, I still think of an interview from around that time that I glimpsed, off hand. It wasn't in a big magazine. I actually had to hunt it down with the help of Wikipedia and the Way Back Machine because I know I saw the damn thing. Jerry is a pretty open guy and this humble but brutal interview with NY Daily News contains several takeaways about how difficult making this album was, emotionally and financially. Nestled almost like an accident amongst the information in the short article -- so scant I had to Ctrl+F the damn thing -- is this line:
In fact, it cut off his funding while the album was being recorded and Cantrell mortgaged his house to keep it going.
I thought: wait a second. That can't be true. Mortgaged his fucking house? At that age, I couldn't really grapple with the severity of that statement but I felt it. So that's what it takes? From then on, I really started reading behind the scenes interviews with my favorite authors and musicians. I mean, really started paying attention. I listened. Rather than the de-mystification breaking any illusions of an easy life I had, I actually respected and appreciated the honesty. I started turning away from anything fake and superficial and that represented my break from a few ideals.
So here we are, all these years later and I'm asking myself to do the same. Can I still respect myself and preserver through perceived failures? I listen to Rainier Fog and I hear the weariness. It's a kind of weary that only gets more intense with age, tempered by hope and optimism but always with skepticism and self-deprecation hiding behind it with a garrote. There's a bit of passive anger as well as we scream in shock and shake our fists at world events that keep blossoming to horror.
There's a lot of things we don't understand until we hit a certain high, a certain bottom, or a certain age. Pre-teen me didn't understand the concept of home ownership let alone borrowing money off the house (way, way pre-recession) to fund a studio album that may not even show returns. Who could care that much? I do. Someone does. It's in you and you care. But we've got to stop beating ourselves up and consistently not do it.
The album? I love it. Not quite as hooky Black Gives Way to Blue and not as loud as The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, but it sure is a record for when you're going through some serious shit or walk your way out of it. And I wish you well.
I detailed my first Fotocrime concert a while ago if you'd like to check that out; and I hope to go to another soon... meanwhile, as I wait patiently in my little lace gloves and my aviator shades, Fotocrime released their debut album! Check it out on Bandcamp above. On the heels of their Always Night EP featuring excellent tracks such as "Always Hell" and my favorite "Duplicate Days", looking at the cover of Principle of Pain I could sense this was going to move away from the punky moodiness of Always Night and into proper post-punk territory...
Indeed, this album is a lot darker, a bit clean, and pretty damn coldwave anchored by R's strikingly vulnerable baritone vocals sliced with Shelly Anderson's drowned siren call.
I could tell you what it sounds like if you need that -- a little mid-period Sisters of Mercy, a little Pink Turns Blue, a little Clan of Xymox. It bridges the gap between Coliseum's Anxiety's Kiss and the ridiculously danceable "Trance of Love" in a way that makes sense, which is a little frightening. But, I let myself enjoy this over a period of weekends because I was so hype for this album that I backed it on PledgeMusic. Not to brag, but I stand outside my mailbox awaiting my vinyl. Someday...
Anyway, adjectives like moody and dark get thrown about way too much in goth and post-punk because I suppose that's the point, but when I tell you the drums and bass featured here will crush your spirit and your heartache I want you to listen to "Love In a Dark Time" and believe me. I've seldom heard work so open and vulnerable to loss, longing, and pain. The guitars slink, both seductive and already burned. The gravel and clean vocals flit between hesitancy and resignation. It works. It's very evocative of the genre and maybe leans on it too much, but it works.
In the future, I'd like to see a little more of the duet action and a bit more variety in vocal melody. Unfortunately, the same or similar vocal phrasing will make songs sound a bit, well, samey. But I'm confident because I know R is capable of a lot, so hopefully we get to see him flex soon. I'm confident about the whole project and I'm glad, in this sea of synth and darkwave, to see my mode of guitar-based goth slowly dragging its way back up to the surface. Other standout tracks for me include the dark, cobweb-riddled club ready "Gods in the Dark", the rueful reminiscence of "Don't Pity the Young", and the sweet antipatriachy sounds of "Nadia (Last Year's Men)". Lift us up, break us down, and let's do it all again soon!
Since we deal in a lot of nostalgia here, I must say that I have loved AMVs since childhood.
Growing up, it was a real treat to even get to see a really well-made AMV or anime music video. You knew a lot of time and effort had gone into making them high quality and often I had to wait for my risky download to finish to watch a 3 minute clip.
Some of them even got broadcast on TV, which was so cool. Due to a lot of legal reasons, much like fanfiction, AMVs were and still are quite underground. Curiously, they don't get spread quite as much as fanfiction which makes me wonder if they're losing popularity? Or maybe it's just not worth it to anger the copyright gods for a really cool set of clips.
My old Youtube playlist of liked videos feels like a time capsule. There's so many AMVs from like ten years ago and most of them pre-date YouTube. Especially the AMV Hell compilations.
And like my love of songfics, I love AMVs so much because they thematically link an anime (or western cartoon if you're so inclined) to a song to capture a moment in the show, a feeling, to make something funny, or give fight scenes a really boss soundtrack.
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.
I discovered Woven In thanks to some publicity on Fuck Yeah Black Goths. Just to prove the scene is not dead (undead, undead) I try to stay on the lookout for new dark music. I didn't really know what to think when I saw the initial incarnation of the band marked as dark surf. Like…was that some kind of ironic category that I'm too old to get?
This was only the second time I'd seen that tag and I thought maybe it's a thing people were trying to get started on the 'net. Lo and behold, beach goth/dark surf/surf goth is a real thing...kind of? I've heard surf punk but to be honest that's not really my thing. I can see this happening more organically, though. It makes a lot of sense, surf music & goth have a lot in common, namely the high guitars and thumping bass lines. In surfer music, they sound like feet pounding on wood piers to jump into the water. In goth, they sound like anxious doom. Totally the same.
I gave Woven In a few listens and I really liked their warm, ominous, melancholic version of ennui. To me they successfully made the easy-breezy sunny sounds associated with California into something painfully tense, a little distrustful, and startling. I tried to keep up with their career over the years. On their Facebook page, they announced a change in direction to something veering a little closer to goth and here we have Bossa Blanca. Please listen.
As I listened, I thought to myself this is a mature effort from an artist that is very confident and ready to go get some new legs. It's getting there, it feels transitional. It's definitely heavier on the goth overtones but it still has that beach kick. Despite moving on, Woven In's sound is so unique and such a firm blend of elements that it's pretty much emulsified. It reminds me of when auteur directors get out of their usual genre or every time Stephen King writes a non-scary book: you're still expecting some of their old ticks to crop back in, maybe because they can't help themselves.
But if this is where the group is going I'd really like to follow their dark journey along, whether it's on a dark moonlight beach or back on land.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...