In the summer of 1999, the concept of downloading and album leaks were things that didn’t play into my everyday thinking. Along with Dennis and Miles, my two best friends at the time, we would head over to our favorite music store everyday to hang out and listen to music. One day we popped in and an employee, who was a really awesome dude actually, was blaring this album. It wasn’t slated to be released for like two months, but somehow he had the album. Apparently it had “ leaked,” and knowing we were all giant Deftones fans, had made copies for us to take home.
For the following months this was our go to album. Driving around, being young kids with the world before us, the album seemed to changed our lives. I can’t speak for my two friends, but this album had a monumental impact on my life. It changed the way I thought about music, and exposed me to a different set of sounds than I had primarily been listening to at the time ( Korn, Limp Bizkit…)
The Deftones had already been a band I loved, but this album was the one that stuck with me the most at the time. From the opening track “ Feiticeira,” you can sense that these guys were trying to make an album to branch out of the already tiresome genre of Nu Metal.
By this point, bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were big time names, and others like Orgy, P.O.D., and Papa Roach were heading up the ladder. The sound wasn’t difficult to master. Throw in teenager angst, crunchy, or “hard” beats and you basically have an album. It’s clear, even now, why most of those bands are long gone, and why the Deftones are still getting bigger with each release.
Since turning the corner with this album, they’ve consistently made amazing albums that merge all kinds of genres. Yet before WP, the band seemed to have perfected the brand of heaviness they would later become known for. WP, again, is where the template opened up to allow more. It’s still extremely aggressive at times, but also shows a certain beauty and delicateness to it. Songs like “ Digital Bath'' are just beautiful, while still having a heavier overall tone to them.
“Bath” is also one of the first times you heard Chino Moreno aim for types of range out of his vocal cords. While not a traditional voice, it’s still one of the most recognizable in music, to me at least.
Track three, “Elite” has more of the Deftones fans of the first two albums would be familiar with. It’s very heavy, and the guitars of Stephen Carpenter, and the drumming of Abe Cunningham are ultimately what makes this a stand out track. I’ve always wondered why this song isn’t played more live, but I guess that’s how it goes sometimes. It just seems like a perfect song for the live setting. Anyway, even with this track you can tell that the band is really trying to branch out and make a truly unique album.
“RX Queen,” written about Moreno’s at the time wife, opens with creepy, low lying bass lines courtesy of Chi Cheng, and it’s those wandering bass-lines that help give the song focus, as well as guide it further into a more industrial, beat driven area. The record also showcases the sampler, or DJ in the band, Frank Delgado, for the first time. He toured with the band on the Around the Fur tour, but White Pony was his first proper recording with the band.
You could say in many ways this is Delgado’s album. The lush layering, interesting mix of background sounds, as well as just a darker undertone makes this record stand out. Frank Delgado may have not made the Deftones what they currently are, but without his involvement it’s hard to say what the following albums would have ended up sounding like.
“Street Carp” is next, but honestly I think it might be the weakest of the tracks on the album. It’s still good, and the placement on the record is brilliant, but maybe that’s what makes it so difficult. Coming after “Rx Queen” and before the massively underrated “ Teenager” it’s dose of heaviness but just feels overshadowed by the surrounding songs. “ Teenager” arrives next, and it’s likely one of the calmest, trippiest, most beautiful songs the band has in their catalog.
I always picture this song as a sort of time capsule of what kind of love was once present in your life, and also a journey of self exploration. I nearly always imagine this song being in the film “ Blade Runner.” Rachel, played by Sean Young, staring out on the post utopian world, raining running down the windows. It’s a perfect example of a science fiction love song, and for me, it’s one of the major revelations of the band's career.
“Knife Prty” then expands with density , and one of the best things about this is the lyrics. Moreno has the skill in writing that a lot of other vocalists simply don’t. He can write about real, passionate things, while also venturing into completely unknown territory. The female vocals at the end are a dream come true. Most bands wouldn’t dare to venture this way when they already have a built in fan base, but they really really should. After the female vocals spill out of control, the mythological undertones of the song erupt in a beautiful, organized mess of sounds.
“Korea, ” which was included in most of the bands “OzFest” sets from a year before, is easily the heaviest, most angry song on the album. That’s not to say it’s a bad song. On the contrary, it’s a really fucking good song. This is the Deftones how they sounded on the first two albums, with a little glimmer into where the band is headed next. The samples and turntable work by Delgado also give the song an interesting contrast to Moreno’s screaming, crazy vocals, sweeping in and out of the intensely heavy guitar and drum work.
The last three tracks are all amazing and important. They perfectly wrap up a brilliant, landmark album and remind you why this is one of the best modern rock albums of the last twenty years. “ Passenger,” featuring that guy from A Perfect Circle, follows “ Korea.” If you read my list of my favorite Deftones songs, you remember this higher up in the list . If you love the band, likely you think the same way.
After nearly fifteen years and probably a thousand listens to not only the album, but the song, it still stands out as one of my all time favorites . It’s just a level of mastery that’s rarely seen. Also, Maynard very rarely contributes to the work of other bands, so it’s still quite a feat that they got him to take part in it. The song is just colossal on all fronts. It’s Still one of the songs I can play all the way through then go back and listen to it all over again.
Following that isn’t easy, but they clearly knew what they were doing with the sequencing of the album. “ Change,” the first single and likely one of the few songs general music lovers will recognize, follows “ Passenger.” I still remember seeing this video for the first time. The whole house party vibe, and the band playing as the house slowly burns, still stands out in my head. The song itself is perfect, and it’s a clear choice for the song that introduced the world to what to expect from this album. Now, putting the song so late in the album is tricky, especially when it’s the first single. Most bands just simply don’t do that, but I guess that’s the risk you have to take. For me, the momentum of the last four songs on this album is what makes it so brilliant. The strength behind every song is clear, but those last songs are the cherry on top.
The proper album comes to an end in a beautiful, emotional ride called “ Pink Maggit” Two special editions would later come out, one with a different opening track ( “ Back to School” ) and a song that follows this one ( “ Boy’s Republic” ) but for the purpose of this article we won’t be discussing them ( Check them out though if you haven’t, they’re equally awesome). Anyway, this song quietly builds for the first two minutes, then breaks into the signature Deftones sound, while at the same time releasing all the tension that has built up over the previous ten songs. Once again the lyrics are one’s that suggest growth and hardship, but it’s this ending that ties up the amazingness of the album. Once again, it show’s what the band has learned, as well as gives you a glimpse to what roads the band might be venturing down with subsequent releases. The remaining seconds float by with a dissonant array for layers, textures, and feedback, but it serves its purpose wholeheartedly. Even with the album drawing to a close I can understand why it’s only gotten better over time. Rest in Peace, Chi Cheng.
“We’d like to thank you all for wearing masks and caring about each other- We’ve been out of work for two years now and are so happy to be able to be doing this again.”
Those words, spoken softly and earnestly by Japanese Breakfast creator Michelle Zauner, half through the set Friday night at Denver’s Ogden theater, drove home a point many have been learning, which is to say we’ve all been adjusting. She mentions the new reality during this period of our loves, but still, it’s refreshing to be able to start experiencing music on a love setting again.
I mention this because despite all the new and ever changing dynamics in our world, many like myself still need music present in their lives. The last year of not seeing performers perform has hurt many of us, but no more than the performers whose lives depend on their touring success.
In that regard, Zauner’s statement rang true. Since shows opened back up a few months ago, I’ve been able to see a few great performances and with each of those you could tell the artists were thrilled to be back performing. This tour, which runs through next month has seen Japanese Breakfast display the recently released “Jubilee” record in a tantalizing, slow and gradual manner. It’s a manner that really helps the songs breathe in a different way than they do records. Honestly, I wasn’t in love with “Jubilee” but listening to it again at the show gave to me a different type of enjoyment than I did initially, which is always great.
Opening the evening was relative newcomer Luna Li, who along with her band pushed through an eclectic and widely ranging set that seemed to go over well with the ever growing crowd at the Ogden. I’d never heard of Li before, but she’s definitely an artist to watch out for, as her classically trained background, and her featuring a violin and other elegant instruments were a welcome change t the somewhat sameness of female
Led indie rock.
Still, JB was the main attraction for the vast majority of attendants. Coming out under a hazy dark cloud of fog, Zauner and company eased into the surreal tranquility of “Paprika,” before then rocking out the crowd with a lively version of “Be Sweet,” which everyone was dancing and singing along to.
Further through the set, Zauner took time to speak to the crowd, while making her way to a lovely version of Parton's `Here You Come again,” which I loved, but it seemed like the crowd wasn’t really feeling it. Looking out at the audience almost no one was dancing or singing along, but it is what it is. But seriously, how do people live unaware of Parton's awesomeness?
Either way, the show had a remarkably fresh feeling of excitement, and when watching the crowd and band, you could feel everyone’s gratitude. So while we’re all happy to just be out in the world again, it was even better to get to see JB reliever a new fresh sounding set, while still sprinkling in older but still beloved tracks like “Boyish” and “Road Head.”
NEVER TRUST A MILLIONAIRE, QUOTING THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT ( OR HOW THE SUBURBS BY ARCADE FIRE CAPTURED INNOCENCE & THE TERROR OR REALITY)
Since early on in their career, the Arcade Fire have been a band worth watching, more or less. With their first three albums they became stars, and though they’ve suffered slightly from some not perfect records, the “Suburbs” still stands as an indie triumph in the shadow of glitzy pop and rap. Today, we’re going to discuss my personal favorite, the critically acclaimed third album “ The Suburbs.” Enjoy
From the announcement of the album’s name and the slow leak of songs that were presented, you could tell this was going to be another lesson in how to craft an album that bridges the gap between indie rock and epic arena rock. Arcade Fire is so good at shaping an album into what they want to create at this point that It should be a crime, and many of their records are full of emotional turmoil, and the importance of coming of age. “The Suburbs” is no different. The first song, which also happens to be the title track, opens us up to a very realistic world. It’s a slow kind of Sunday song. The band has mentioned this album was inspired and imagined on a trip that Win and wife Regine took all over the country, just driving around. You can feel that on the full length of the record. It's the sort of free spirited album every generation coming into the world should have.
The music is steady, and Win Butler’s use of piano is the perfect undertone for the start of this album.Listening to the opening track you can tell it’s very much a road record. The winding opening of “The Suburbs” sets the stage for a driving record that is at times both peaceful and beautiful, as well as dark and sinister. From there we’re treated to the hurried, shimmering darkness of “Ready to Start.” I’ve always thought of the first song as a little teaser and an intro to the rest of the album, and the buildup and feel of the second song doesn’t do much to discourage that idea in my head.
The great thing about this band is their ability to make songs that are at once pushing their sound in a new direction and reminding you of where they were previously. “Ready to Start” is easily recognizable as an Arcade Fire song. At times in the music the listener gets the vibe present throughout their Sophomore release “Neon Bible.” The whole song is quintessential AF. Furthermore, “Ready to Start” the second song in a perfect row of 5 great songs. Don’t get me wrong; the album is remarkable, but the first 5 songs are so impressively strong that it really builds the momentum and helps the rest of the album evolve and open eyes.
By “Modern Man” and “Rococo” you start to see the themes of the album building into one cohesive vision. I’ve mentioned this before, but the album to me is about the death of innocence. The struggles of this “Modern Man” are easy to relate to because we are all these people. You’re taught as a youngster growing up that everyone is special in their own way, but when we grow up we quickly realize that we’re not all special, and some of us are doomed for mediocrity. The band themselves are able to make music that is so thoughtful and powerful that you really at times forget that they weren’t always so prolific in the quality of output.
One of my favorite songs on the album is the feverish, and crazed “Empty Room.” From the violent violin opening to the immediate pace, this song is a rocker in a very unrocking way. Regine, finally allowing us to hear her voice on this recording, is frantically singing about the perils of growing up and the safety many of us have felt inside the four walls that make up our room. This is a clear example of the band making a lot of focused noise. At times you might think they’re losing control of the music, but not only is the music coming out of them so fast, they are mastering it and are growing in leaps and bounds as the thick, dense sounds exit their bodies. From then we’re immediately thrust into the Springsteen-esque “City of No Children.” The lyrics here are as good at telling a story as any other song on the album, and it’s a perfect entrance to the middle of the record, which is full of weight and meat.
This album came out three years after the previous record “Neon Bible.” Now, while the band did tour quite a bit for Bible, the growing success they were finding was instrumental in the band wanting to take some time away and grow as artists. You can absolutely tell the amount of structure and overall power that this band had gained during the down time between albums. Songs like “ Half Light 1 & 2” are place holders for the momentum, and they manage to marry the concepts on this album.
On one hand you have the knowledge of knowing that your once youthful passion may have been misplaced because you didn’t know what the world actually had to offer, but on the other hand, at least you got to experience it. You’re likely a better person. Sometimes it’s a good thing to put your faith in things you aren’t sure about.
In these types of writings, I’ve tried hard to give a detailed but less song oriented structure to the pieces, but when the album is this amazing, it’s hard not to discuss everything you’re hearing. That’s the power of this album. You can’t help but feel like you’re part of something when Win Butler is echoing his pain about things “Have changed so much since I was a little child” in the finale of “Half Light II(Celebration). Trust me, this isn’t a wonderfully happy record, but the power and weight behind the words are unifying and powerful in a very cathartic way.
The album then switches gears a bit and brings us to the one two sequence of “Suburban War” and the thick, heavy sounds of “Month of May.” “War” whirls down a slow, pretty path and again the pain is palpable in Butler's voice as well as the instruments of the other band members. One of my favorite parts of the entire album is the shifting of gears that occurs at the end of this track. I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s just a flood of sound and the vocals are as haunting and ethereal as you’ve ever heard in an Arcade Fire album.
From then we’re abruptly thrust into the “Month Of May.” This has to be one of the best and more overtly aggressive songs in the band's whole catalog. When I first heard it I couldn’t believe it was the same band. It’s easily the closest this band has ever gotten to punk rock. The drums and guitar are so forceful and strong that you almost lose track of the general concept behind the song. But in the end it’s ok, because the song perfectly kicks ass and takes names in the way this band hadn’t done previously.
One of the best little tricks of the album is its reuse of lyrics. “Month of May” and “ Wasted Hours” are the best examples. “First they built the roads then they built the town” are both used and also used in different ways. “Wasted Hours” has all the gorgeous tones of classic Arcade Fire. It might be the most open song on the album. When vocalist Butler wants to lay it on in an emotional way, he knows exactly what to do. This album has stayed so strong in my head because of this ability. It’s the perfect album for the moments when I think about my developmental years. Kids would drive around for hours, hoping confidently for a bright future. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes you wake up years later and it’s awash in a mist of troubles and failures. That for me is the concept behind the “Suburbs.”
“We Used to Wait” is a solid start to the last chapter of this album. The piano is great here, and although the tempo doesn’t really pick up until the conclusion, it’s a very good song that goes hand in hand with the tracks that both follow it and came before it. From here we venture back to the suburbs for the modern-day of the Sprawls. “Sprawls I(Flatland)” is a hauntingly painful song. It stinks of the failures we’ve discussed earlier. The pain behind Butler's voice here is the most clear they are the whole album. This leads us into what is quite possibly the strongest song the band has ever written.
“Sprawls II(Mountains Beyond Mountains)”has a very retro 80’s vibe to it, and you can clearly hear the makings of styles that would become the basis for the next album. It’s a down beat but danceable. Like the rest of the album, it contains moments of freedom and feeling invincible. Also contained are clear-cut downers about the realities of life outside of the “Suburbs.” Regine’s voice soars on the track, and it’s clear to see why it was such a joining song for the band. They’re all at their best here, and Regine especially hits it out of the park with her unique but beautiful singing.
The album closer is a slow reminder of where we began. “The Suburbs(Continued)” is a slow but appropriate down wind sound that wraps up the album. As a person who loves adventures and overwhelmingly positive experiences, the lyrics “If I could have it back, all the time that we Wasted, I’d only waste it again” speaks to the free spirit inside many of us that loves for the responsibilities and rewards that come with adulthood, but also yearns for the time when this were beautiful and everything worked out. For us, that was in “The Suburbs.”
For my money there’s no band closer to the profound Talking Heads than the James Murphy led LCD Soundsystem. Breaking onto the scene in 2005, the climate was ripe for change. With the help of Nancy Whang and the incomparable Pat Mahoney, among others, LCD was able to grow into something that had been just a solitary man making music, with no intent on touring. Since reuniting in 2016, the gang is back proving to many uninitiated how fun, important, and danceable they are. Here’s the top ten list for your reading pleasure. Check out @thedeathofthemixtape on instagram and facebook for more, as well as the top ten leading this article.
10 HOW DO YOU SLEEP: AMERICAN DREAM
The opening is very electronically mastered, with the drum beat pulsating like a woman seductively dancing in a dive bar, with not a care in the world. It’s tribal in its delivery, but Murphy’s voice creeping through the darkness fit right in in the esoteric nature of the song. The strings in the background also help to make it noticeably more dark and sinister than the majority of the other tracks on the album. Over the course of the nine minute plus track, the elements all blend together and grow in fervor. If ever there was an LCD song that fit hand in hand with a late night bonfire in the wilderness, with only the red hot light to help your view, it’s this one. In short, they still have the ability to awe the listener, and motivate them to keep going.
9 I CAN CHANGE: THIS IS HAPPENING
One of the most uplifting songs on the countdown also happens to fall near the bottom, which is still better than 95% of other music around today. The way Murphy’s voice croons through disco balls, and in that moment you’re in a little club brightened by electronic pulses and shimmers in the dark air. It’s one of the easiest songs to move to on this album, and makes it a little more sentimental. The lyrics also take a brilliant but dark path towards the end, which depicts yet again the romantic tendencies in this band. Really pretty, but also really honest when it needs to be.
8 GET INNOCUOUS: SOUND OF SILVER
The first time this enters your ears, you realize everything is right with the world and this band will almost certainly deliver on another masterstroke of an album. Again with the upward build, number eight on the Top Ten LCD Soundsystem songs, has the added advantage of a boom of a voice at the top of the elevation. It always reminded me of a man serenading you at the climax of an escalator, except with weird visuals all over the place. Seeing this live was simply wonderful, and the intensity of the energy of that crowd made it all the more of a moment to be at peace with everything.
7 MOVEMENT: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
The first time this enters your ears, you realize everything is right with the world and this band will almost certainly deliver on another masterstroke of an album. Again with the upward build, number five on the Top Ten LCD Soundsystem songs, has the added advantage of a boom of a voice at the top of the elevation. It always reminded me of a man serenading you at the climax of an escalator, except with weird visuals all over the place. Seeing this live not two weeks ago was simply wonderful, and the intensity of the energy of that crowd made it all the more of a moment to be at peace with everything.
6 CALL THE POLICE: AMERICAN DREAM
This track has everything a fan of the band would, and has come to love. It’s lyrically strong, and the music seems destined to be used in a film where people are endlessly trying to find their place in the world. It’s also seems like a fuck you to all the people who have second-guessed the band throughout their career. It’s triumphant in a way that only LCD Soundsystem seems capable of, when it comes to this type of eye opening honesty.
5 HOME: THIS IS HAPPENING
Last songs on records aren’t as easy as you might think. The great last song either crescendos up to glorious highs, or descends to somber lows that quietly take over a space (“New York I Love You…”). Of those two, ‘Home’ is the first type mentioned (We’ll get to the other kind in a bit..). Again the use of building is used to gorgeous effect, the song coming at you like a circus themed dance club in the middle of Autumn. It eases into things, slowly adding to the rhythm and beat overall. LCD is essentially at this point an electronic, dance oriented version of Tool. Long, big songs, consistently adding or changing aspects as well as expectations. They also happen to be brilliant.
4 NEW YORK I LOVE YOU, BUT YOU'RE BRINGING ME DOWN: SOUND OF SILVER
And here’s the depressing last song. Truth be told, I felt brought down by my former city of choice, New Orleans, more than once. Maybe that’s the curse of living in the same place you were born. In the number four selection, Murphy sits mostly solo and taps away on the piano a tale of love, but also of honesty, and anger in how the city makes you forget everything good, and envelopes itself around you, unable to get those choices back. Murphy doesn’t often try to hit high notes when he’s as naked as he is now, but for this track it works better, way better than expected, and with that the last track of Sound of Silver wraps up and we proceed to number two...
3 DAFT PUNK IS PLAYING MY HOUSE: LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
In your face from moment one, ‘Daft Punk is Playing at my House,’ manages to be everything you need to know from LCD and Daft Punk. It manages to sound like both bands without much effort or hackery. It has that DP beat to it, and even though it’s not electronically oriented to a high degree, it feels like something the Robots would produce, or at least play at random moments. I also have to say I can’t think of any band saluting someone else on a track so obviously. Wouldn’t you be nervous if you knew your favorite didn’t like the song you made to profess your love?
2 DANCE YRSELF CLEAN: THIS IS HAPPENING
Like I said earlier, slow building tracks are sort of a thing for Murphy, Whang and Mahoney, along with all the other eclectic members of the band. For nearly two minutes the song gradually tops itself, although never in an over the top fashion. By the time the drums ramp in and the belting vocals start peaking out, the song is transformed to a dance club masterpiece. It’s not only the second best song from the band, it starts off this incredible album with a slow burning bang that proceeds to set the pace for a wonderful evening listening to jams from NYC, the only place that could invent that sound.
1 ALL MY FRIENDS: SOUND OF SILVER
Very rarely in life, you find a top 10 all time song. “All My Friends,” the number one LCD Soundsystem song, gets all the way to my top five favorite all time songs. There’s something so carefree, resilient, and thought provoking that makes it all work so well. The build and gradual nature of the song do miracles. They instinctively come together in a cordial weave of spontaneity, the way yawn eventually makes something warm and welcoming. I’ve listened to this song more times than I could ever count, but it never gets old, not even for a second. It’s a gift to us all, and I'm thrilled to have it in my life. The ability of the song to work in real time emotion, amid the frustrations of things said wrongly and reprehensible actions we all commit during our lower moments, makes this song as much about being rich in spirit as it is about learning not to spend too much thinking about the huge picture of your life. Enjoy the moments,and embrace the moment where you get to see all of your friends tonight.
Writing an article about a band this gigantic and epic can be difficult, but I’m going to try my best here. If you’ve ever seen this band live, as I have been lucky enough to do about five times now, you are familiar with the opening notes of the long-held intro music, “The Ecstasy of Gold.” It’s a western themed song from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, and believe it or not, it’s the perfect song to watch the band enter the stage.
Metallica is a one of a kind band. They brought heavy metal to households everywhere, became a huge name, not only in metal circles, but general music circles. They’re big enough that they headlined “Ozzfest,” and played after Ozzy Osbourne. As a band, they’ve made incredible music that gave metal kids an easy introduction to this world full of anger and frustration.
Certainly, not every album is a winner, but this band has done for modern metal what Michael Jackson did for pop music. Better known, and more popular than Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Slayer, Pantera, and all the other bands in the genre, they managed to attain quite an impressive career. They still tour often, and it’s always good. They’ve been around for so long, even my mother can probably name a song. If you haven’t ever checked out their discography, do yourself a favor. I consider the first four albums to be the best four metal albums ever written by one band back to back. The songs I’ve picked today are my ten favorites. Mostly older stuff, but all things any Metallica fan has heard before, and likely knows the words to. Simply put, you can’t screw around with “Metal up your ass.”Enjoy the list!
10 HERO OF THE DAY: LOAD
Perhaps the most surprising song on this list, which isn’t to say it's a bad song, albeit one that people don't often think of. “Hero” isn't the in your fac thrash of the bands early works, but as a thought provoking hard rock song filled with unstable emotion, it fits perfectly in this bunch. Hetfield’s voice and singing is genuine and crooner worthy. The song does build up during the second chorus and bridge, and while that small segment is powerful, the song maintains the opening rhyme. It's almost as if they injected the more intense section as a way of reminding everyone they still had the raw power.
9 BLACKENED: AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
So many of the songs work as openers for concerts, but this one is probably my favorite. The guitar work by Hammett is second to none, and the drumming that barges in the room and dominates the sound can only be interpreted as the arrival of doom. It’s an evil song, man. The breakdown after the first verse is still one of the briefest, yet most heavy things I’ve ever heard. It’s almost as if they wanted to prove they could have a mini-kill fest in between the verses and the chorus. This is probably my favorite of all of their albums, and as a kid who was bullied and dealt with tons of bullshit, it makes sense. Having these songs seep into your soul is good for overall confidence. Their songs are about triumph, never giving up, and taking what you think you deserve, even in the face of adversity
8 CREEPING DEATH: RIDE THE LIGHTNING
The guitars are simply polarizing at the start. I was fortunate enough to witness this song as the opener to their Bonnaroo 2009 set, and it shook the festival into a frenzy that my non-metal loving ex-wife was happy to leave immediately upon commencing. So many of their songs are epic, and this is certainly, but it’s prophetic also. The warning Hetfield is screaming out isn’t taken seriously, and from then on, “Creeping Death” is approaching. What works so well in this song isn’t only the context, but how well-layered the message is in accord with the killer guitar parts by Hammett. The oh so metal chant at the end of “Die by my hand” is also about as brutal as you can get
7 SEEK AND DESTROY: KILL EM ALL
Time for one from all the way back. While not quite as grandiose and magical as some of their albums that came after this one, you can tell they were never your typical metal band. They had equal parts metal, thrash, and anger to make people notice them. Seek & Destroy has since become a staple at their shows, and I’ve never been to a concert where it wasn’t played. Most of the time it's set closer, which is always great. You have to leave the crowd wanting more, and remind them how long you’ve been around kicking ass and taking names.
6 FADE TO BLACK: RIDE THE LIGHTNING
I always remember the amazing Behind the Music episode about the band, and when James is talking about playing the guitar part at the stadium show and catching on fire. Some images you just can’t get out of your imagination. In regards to the song though, it really does start out quite beautifully, and this is one of the best early examples that they could slow it down and be emotional and didn’t have to only rely on sheer power and force. Many may think of Lars Ulrich as an asshole, but this is a key track where the drumming perfectly contributes to every beat the other members are giving. It really is a depressing song. I can relate to the feelings of losing all sanity, hope, and slipping away. Slightly over half way through the song has a little change of heart, and they head into heavier territories, while still keeping the smooth effortless groove going. Not all bands could do that, but they do it with ease
5 THE UNFORGIVEN: BLACK ALBUM
This song has always been one of my favorite all time songs by this band, and as you can see, it’s my number two. By this album the band has turned a corner, and what they have emerged with is a still heavy sound, but it’s much more polished in certain areas. This doesn’t hurt the band though. This is easily the highest selling album, and it’s still one of the biggest selling albums of any rock album made in the 1990’s. “Unforgiven” though, is the masterpiece of this “Black” album. The lyrics, and the depth of their experimentation, on this song especially make it a classic in a long list of classics. It’s certainly not the heaviest Metallica song, but it’s heavy in an emotional way that many of their other songs simply can’t compete with.
4 FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS: RIDE THE LIGHTNING
I assume they got the idea for the bells from AC/DC, but to me, when I hear bells starting a song, I ALWAYS hope it’s this one. One of the great things about this band is their ability to tell a powerful story through words and sounds. This is one of the best examples of that. I always think about a war-torn country, and scared people from all walks of life, of all religious beliefs, and of all colors, struggling to come to grips with the fact that death is likely close. It’s sobering to say the least, and the song speaks from the point of view of someone, who at least to me, wasn’t given any choice but to be there sacrificing his life. When James Hetfield bellows “Take a look to the sky just before you die, it’s the last time you will,” it’s incredibly sad and poignant. The overall message I take from this that we all have to die, but before you die, make sure you experience life and truly live. Then death is easier to accept.
3 BATTERY: MASTER OF PUPPETS
Another one with a great beginning, but this song goes above and beyond most standard album openers. Maybe it’s because of the opening, but it’s always struck me as extremely cinematic. The lone horsemen heading into town, and quickly realizing he’s gonna have to throw down with some unsavory folks. The vocals kick in right as he’s hiding behind a shop thinking his way out of another mess. The chants of “Battery” happen right as a courthouse full of villains blows up. If you look in the dictionary under songs that kick major ass while pummeling you into submission, “Battery” will almost certainly be the definition. Lastly, any song that has the lyric “Mashing non-believers” is a song I can get behind.” This song is force, and only force.
2 MASTER OF PUPPETS: MASTER OF PUPPETS
Never have I seen a better usage of a song in a film than this in “Old School.” The song is super serious, but in the film it’s perfectly used for comedy. You just don’t see it coming, which is what makes the “kidnapping” sequence so hilarious. The overall song though, is more than a little fucked up, and it’s commanding you to tread lightly, and make sure not to piss off whoever your boss in life is. You don’t want them playing with your life. They hold the strings, and they call the shots. Beyond all of that though, the middle section of the song is a lovely, well-played slower part. It’s a sandwich made of black bread, with a little bit of sunlight in the middle, and then guess what? You’re back in prison suffering at the hands of your master, and hoping for a reprieve that you’re not ever going to get.
1 ONE: AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
For me, this is the one that started it all. I owe my love for this band initially almost exclusively to the moment I discovered this song. The story of a veteran who is left in terrible shape, is a shocking, but sad reminder of the ravages of war, and how many people come home in worse shape than they left. I’m not sure if any of the members in this band were ever in the armed forces, but the song perfectly describes what I imagine the suffering of war to be like after the ashes have settled. The verses are shocking, and extremely dark. Our narrator is in almost literal hell. He can’t see, can’t walk, has less limbs than he left for war with, and all he wants is to be left to die. He’s a shell of himself, and the music brings everything into the sad, but often true light. The breakdown at the end is as technical as it is brutal, and for a band who have made a career out of morbid tales, this is the epicenter and capital of bone crushing force and sadness. If you read my top ten songs of the 80’s last week, you’ll remember this song being on there. It’s the best metal song of the decade, it’s most likely in the top 3 best metal songs of all time, and it’s my choice for the best all-time Metallica song. I hoped you’ve enjoyed the list. Thanks for reading!
Today we discuss Dan Deacon and his top ten songs. Over the course of five full length releases, he’s excelled at making music that is thoughtful, radiant, and a stark contrast to overwhelmingly simplistic ideas of other electronic musicians. He’s Daft Punk level good, except currently you wouldn’t know that unless you actively sought it out. Anyway, I present to you the Top Ten Best Dan Deacon songs. Enjoy!
10 TRUE THRUSH: AMERICA
With number seven and “True Thrush” from the dazzling and inventive “America,” Dan Deacon brings in a sort of communal element with music that swirls in a sound full of energy and vigor. The vocals are on the sweet sounding side, but the message is dark and honest, like the world it’s portraying. The slight echo effect on the chorus is a great idea as part of the mix. It really makes it feel you’re part of it, especially when you’re in a car driving into the adventure of the next. In the end, it's the dancey combo of the vocals swaying against the pulsating beats thats make the track so signature.
9 WHAM CITY: SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS
This track, off his first official release, is an epic journey full of blasting electro beats, tales of mots, bridges, and wonderful images. It’s a slow build up of knobs and experimental beats, but it’s all in preparation for the dance party that takes over at around the three minute mark. The lyrics are great and mythological, but if you are familiar with Dan you know it’s all in service to the overall foundation of the song. I’ve seen this song performed a few times, and it’s amazing how much dancing you can get through in twelve fun filled minutes. For me, there’s little else in his discography that reaches this soaring and awesome song.
8 WEEPING BIRCH: MYSTIC FAMILIAR
It's my opinion that this song wouldn;t have been possible even ten years ago. Deacon has grown so much so quickly it's inspiring. This piece has a serene, yet vibrant tone to it. This toine helps build images of nature existing without the need or want of the outside world. With no vocals around, the synths and either instrument paint an almost musical waterfall of sounds, like gushing rapids over rocks. It’s inspiring and brave in a way most music in 2019 was. At a lieel over four minutes, it gets everything done in such a succinct, exacting way that the rush of emotion at its climax makes for a moment of oure surrender and pleasure.
7 SHEATHED WINGS: GLISS RIFFER
When this song was played on this record's tour, the response from the crowd was that of mesmerizing movement, as Deacon;s backup glowed in an array of deeply bright colors, the crowd whirling with hips popping and heads lost in dance. The mythological aspects of the lyrics blend nicely with the fast paced beat. For some reason its almost a reminder of me to a hyper clothes dryer, swirling in dark color of variety.
6 LOTS: AMERICA
Another one that has a tiny bit of intro but descends into a dance fueled meltdown that is impossible to resist. It’s one of the stand out tracks from “America,” and it’s not hard to see why. Quite simply, there are entire bands that could learn from Dan Deacon on how to make exciting music. He gives it his all consistently, and it really shows. One of my favorite parts of this track are the little chants prevalent in the background of the song. It’s almost joyous and holy in the way it’s presented, and while I think organized religion is a detriment to society, if it’s all about the experience and the dancing, I’d likely join Dan’s religion, if he had one. Although I guess in a musical way he already does.
5 THE CRYSTAL CAT: SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS
One of his earliest hits, if you'd call it that, finds us at number six on the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs. “The Crystal Cat,” is a highly explosive, frenzied song that barely slows down, even initially. It’s frenetic in ways many artists couldn't even compare with. The uptempo track is a staple at his live shows, and transforms even the tamest of audiences into a full fledge dance machine numbering in the hundreds. It’s also one of his most verbose tracks, but the lyrics only add to the fun, and as you can imagine,they inspire fantastic chants at live shows. An early sign of greatness.
4 WHEN I WAS DONE DYING: GLISS RIFFER
A newer track, sure, but one the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs, “When I was Dying,” stands out as a sign of both where he came from as a musician, but also how he;s grown over the years. The lyrics are eye opening to say the least, but the message is one that remains hopeful, at least to me. The composition of the music is also brilliantly balanced and layered, which gives added weight to the central theme of the song, which to me is the greatness of living a life for all it’s worth, and never being guided by anger or hostility. Musically it’s not the most in your face upbeat track he has in his arsenal, but you don't have to always go that route to make an impact.
3 SNOOKERED. BROMST
Maybe the track that broke him in a bigger way? I’m not so sure of that, but plenty of people have been moved by this gradually great track. I’m easily one of them. It always reminded me of “With or Without You” by U2 in the way it’s able to slowly build layer on layer until it’s so involved and thoughtful you just can’t even imagine something better. The bells, and slow beats that open the song eventually give way to a solemn, but glorious reflection of what life is, struggles and achievements alike. For me this was the moment where Deacon become not only someone who deserves a bigger audience, but also one of the most emotionally talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
2 FEEL THE LIGHTNING: GLISS RIFFER
Everyone keeps saying this is a return to form. In some ways it most certainly is, but in other ways it’s a natural progression. The opening beat quickly gives way to a more elaborate, and densely structured sound, but it’s all in service to the music. Dan also has a way of layering his vocals to both sound like someone from a Crystal Castles track, but also himself. These sections weave in and out, but it always works great. The video is also really fun and imaginative, and finds the basis for it in the theory that our household objects come to life, a la Toy Story. It’s a solid track, and it lands at Number two of the Top Ten Dan Deacon songs.
1 BUILD VOICE: BROMST
This insanely brilliant, eye opening song slowly grows over cold, distant beats, like an astronaut looking for life on alien worlds. “Build Voice,” our number one Dan Deacon song, finds the strength build and build as Dan’s voice and normal mythical lyrics reach places few others are capable of. It’s lyrically not a super long track, but what is said is masterfully done and perfectly sets the stage for the explosion of power that finds the listener shortly after the three minute mark. Even the piano keys towards the end before the last little upbeat section work in a way you might not expect them to. The only bad thing is the fact that it’s maybe only been played two times at most in its existence. Hopefully someday that will change and the world will get to experience this truly marvelous track in a live setting.
I remember in tenth grade or so, when Mtv showed the best moments of the recently held Tibetan Freedom Concert, Adam Yauch, Adam Horowitz and Mike D, otherwise known as the Beastie Boys, performing their set in a set of Doctors lab coats. For some reason I loved it, and instantly I wanted one, even though I, as a 17 year old kid with no interest in science, and had no need or actual desire to own one. They were only cool because rock stars were wearing them.
Now, in the world of music and fandom, it's not uncommon for fashion to pass between stars and their fans. Plaid sold well during grunge, white kids at my school wore Malcolm X shirts because Tupac did things like that. It just happens one way or another. Anyway, to have worn Beastie Boys shirts would have been better, but in that moment the lab coat spoke to my very weird teenage aesthetic. I was all over the place. My point with this is the band felt like something positive, new and inventive, which is why I gravitated so hard to their music.
From the onset the band was stylish and culturally relevant, with anthems like “Fight for Your Right,” propelling the fixation of young men to take the world and make it what they wanted at the time. They had huge initial success, but the act got old. If you’ve watched last year's “Beastie Boys Story” like I have, all this is discussed in depth, but the early days of the band's enormous success left something to be desired once they figured out they didn’t want to just be characters pretending to be wild uninhibited still growing young men. From that point they struggled with staying relevant, but as the nineties crept closer, so did a trio more focused on musical experimentation and figuring out what really moved them towards being better people.
This happened a lot I think during that time, where the open world idea of music being positive and transformative took shape. Hip hop, still young at age, hadn’t quite made it to the level of eye openness that it has to some extent today. Gone were the days of bashing women in lyrics, or just generally being misogynistic, or gone at least when it came to the Beasties. We’re talking about the past, but even know, the band is the single biggest argument for white people can’t rap ( even though their rhyme schemes and word choices are hella strange) to ever break though as a legitimate Hip Hop juggernaut, but they have some of the best hooks, lyrics, and beats in the genre. People tend to notice that.
Eye opening moments in the BB story also acknowledged the road being traveled by how different the two remaining members are compared to the early days of the 90’s. Growing up and changing sometimes means being held accountable for your opinions and the growth or resistance to growth that could come from holding the mirror up to yourself.
It bleeds through in their music in the best way possible, with engaging and cerebral moments coming on all three of their 90’s masterpieces, starting with “Check Your Head,” followed by “Ill Communication” and ending with the genre defying “Hello Nasty.”
Throughout the way you get classics like “Sabotage” and “So What’cha Want,” which further cement their creativity in the alternative music world of the 90’s. For me, the Beastie Boys don’t get any heavier or in your face than they do on “What’cha”. It’s so in your face it’s ridiculous, and the guitar sample in the beats shows you exactly what type of jam this is gonna be. The video is also really cool, and goes very well with the song. Sadly, I wish Biz Markie would have had a bigger presence here, besides the “You can’t front on that” segment, but we can overlook that. The song kills it, and it’s heavy in many ways that you simply don’t hear in most hip hop songs.
But then “Sabotage” is just another whole type of vibe. With the lyrics written as a very direct tongue in cheek moment of frustration for Ad-Rock, the track is now a classic. I mean really, how can you talk about this song without mentioning the video? This is easily their biggest hit, and it’s their most rocking song. It’s so refreshing to hear a band that’s known for primarily doing one thing to hit you with something completely opposite, but they succeed valiantly. Now, that’s not to say it totally abandons hip hop, but it just brings in everything. The video, with the boys dressed as absurd cops, works in a way that very few videos do. Almost none of the band's videos has anything to do with the song, but when they’re that entertaining and funny, you don’t really give a shit.
Along the journey , the band redefined what hip hop could be, growing in themselves more than most do while in the spotlight of yes men and adoring fans. I was in awe of their cool, easy goi swagger, but by the time “Hello Nasty” debuted, in the summer of 98, music was very different, and the differences were not far more obvious. In that time, Nu metal had started to be more and more dominant, while hip hop was still struggling with the weights of its own effect on culture. The beasties now in 1998 represented a different way of approaching art, through kinder, more mature ways. I mean think about it, in 98 the despair of Korn, Manson and the other rockers was well known, while the rap world was at the height of its sexism and misogyny, only concerned about the bling and little else. MCA, Ad-rock and Mike D had already moved past that, and they were making the best hip hop of their careers, not to mention of the late 90’s.
It's hard to say what could have been had Yauch not passed, but that thought process gets you nowhere fast. I find it's better to remember the music by singing to it, dancing to it, and bringing it up when talking about bands that will never die. That's how music stays relevant. It's still all word of mouth, but in a multitude of different ways
During the early aughts, a groundswell of garage based, mostly indie rock came bubbling up after the death of new metal. Bands like the Hives, White Stripes, and maybe most notably, the Strokes helped to usher in a new age of rock n roll. Hailing from NYC, the capital of American attitude, the five piece consisting of Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nick Valensi, Nikolai Fraiture, and Fabrizio Moretti on drums released an album that was defined by its devil may care logic in quick, punctuated music that touched on issue of being reasonable, lost in thought, and more notably, fun times spent laughing about the memories, good and bad. I haven’t done one of these “Albums of My Life” in awhile so I thought it would be great to discuss one of the overall best albums of the last 20 years, without a doubt. Here are my thoughts on the Seminal album by the Strokes, “Is This It?” I hope you enjoy it.
At 35 minutes, this album is quite short, but what it lacks in duration is quickly forgotten because nearly every song is a classic anthem and perfectly exemplifies everything that was amazing about the early indie movement. The opening title track starts with a mild electronic beat before becoming a very evenly paced instrumentation section. It’s only made better by the slow murmurings of singer Casablancas. Much has been made of the bands seemingly lax relationship with how normal bands do things, but from the start they made that known, and have basically stuck to their guns in the following two decades.
Musically, the opening is a nice teaser for a more immediate next track “Modern Age.” It’s easily one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded, the guitar part is contagious, and the song takes off like a coaster on Coney Island. It’s one of the more fun energetic tracks on the album, and overall is a masterpiece. It’s powerful, defensive and ready for attack. I think that’s what I like about it most.
Many of the songs on this album stay with you for way longer than they maybe should. Much of what was released during those years of the garage rock revival has been forgotten, like any fading genre, but this record always seems to get classier with age. As the album progress, we get a solid round or so of songs that would end up helping the band become such a well known act. “Someday” is filled with this sense of longing and regret, which I think is still relevant of the times. The lyrical content is used from points of frustration and apathy, but also of redemption and finding the strength to be the best person you can.
Following that we get the massive hit “Last Nite,” the song that was the first big break the band got on radio and (even then) music videos on MTV. I think the song is good but not the best in their arsenal. Having said that, it’s hard to be as great as you can be when the next track “Hard to Explain” blows everything out of the water. It’s a fast paced but beautiful song of remembrance. I have a friend who was going through a difficult time, with a lady, and he described to me the freedom of flying down the interstate on New Year’s Eve, blasting this song and being freed of all the burdens of the last year and the Strokes played it, seemingly just for him in that moment. It’s stuff like that that always stays with me. It’s the power of music, and while this album has many high points, “Hard to Explain” is not only the best track on the album, but more than likely the band’s best overall song. I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading
For years i thought TV on the Radio was going to be the next huge alternative rock band, like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and the others. That didn’t happen, and in recent years the band is virtually nowhere to be found. They've gotten plenty of critical acclaim, but never quite got to the place that earlier albums seem destined for. Each album has seen the band grow in not only the musical sense, but also grow from difficult experiences, death, depression, and use all of that to become one of the most interesting, thought provoking bands I've ever heard. In preparation for the band's upcoming album, today we're talking about the top ten songs from the explosive TV on the Radio.
10 DIRTYWHIRL: RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
The slow chatter of a tambourine starts us off, while vocalist Tunde Adebimpe gradually opens up to expose us to his sultry and prominent voice. I like the song because among all of the awesome songs on Cookie Mountain, it's one of the better examples of a mid tempo jam. It also reminds me of a glorious autumn day while you sit outside and enjoy the weather. The background vocals are also well used. You might think that mousey sounding vocals might be a little bit much, but for some reason here it works.
9 LOVE DOG: DEAR SCIENCE
Such a lovely song. When this album first came out, this was easily the most played track for me. I love the slow, hazy opening. For some reason, so much of this band reminds me of a lazy sunday. When listening to it, you can't help but imagine a sweet puppy dog crying out for nurturing and love. I'm sure that that's not what the actual song is about, but as a father to badass animals, my mind is often on my babies. Getting back to the song though, it very well might be a song about the complexities of human relationships, and the story here is about a relationship winding down. TV on the Radio, as a band tend to be a little metaphorical in the themes of their songs, and the symbolism they often use brings the listener to a sort of vague understanding of what the song is trying to convey. This isn't a bad thing at all. Oftentimes, you don't need exact meanings in songs to feel empowered by them. You just need the music and tone of the piece.
8 DLZ: DEAR SCIENCE
Everything about this song is made for a late night chill dance party. The beats open up, and before you know it bodies are swaying together in gorgeous unison. I also love the opening line of “Congratulations on the mess you made of things.” The band was heavily anti- Bush during his presidency, and knowing that, it's very easy to see this song as a critique and criticism of not just his administration, but also of the whole political system. The song continues to have a great flow to it, and at times it feels like the musicians are trying to keep up with the urgent pace of the vocals. Dave Sitek on drums also gives more weight and tension to the situation. One of the better songs on this album, “DLZ” really helps to tie the themes and emotion into a nice arrangement before the conclusion of the album finds us.
7 CAREFUL YOU: SEEDS
When you listen to a song produced by band member Dave Sitek, you should always expect some fragmentation and abstract form of mixing. “Seeds” is no exception. Musically and rhythmically the track is dance house subtle, with Tunde’s voice keeping a measured course of vocal as the bass erupts over your speakers. I still don’t know what the French phrases are, but the regret surrounding it is clear. The lyrics speak to the frustration and complexity of caring about others, and the bridges that can be made or unmade by our reckless, carelessness when it comes to other humans and how we perforce them and vice versa.
6 KILLER CRANE: NINE TYPES OF LIGHT
Here we start getting to some real emotion. This song, or at least the opening, always makes me think of the last scene in Jurassic Park where Sam Neil is watching the pelicans soar through the air. The track itself, though, is very clean and beautiful. It's one of the best songs on the highly overlooked “Nine Types of Light” record. Among positive songs, this one is at the very top. It's full of hopefulness, and the themes speak of understanding, patience, and the ability to move away from the sad events that deter our lives. It also should be mentioned this was the last album recorded with Gerard Smith, who unfortunately passed away from lung cancer. Details about how long he was sick prior to passing are vague, but it's easy to hear the somber tone of their life in the tracks on the album. However, the song remains remarkably poignant, and the visuals painted in the lyrics are some of the best of the band's entire career. R.I.P. Gerard Smith.
5 STARING AT THE SUN: DESPERATE YOUTHS,
Likely the first song many heard by this band, and after more than a decade of having this song around, it's still a really great track. The simmering intensity never rises like you thinking would, but that’s part of the excitement at not getting what you’re expecting. Upon first listen, you might think that the song will eventually pick up, but it doesn't. The lyrics are pretty tight too, and it's here where you get a brief taste of what this band is capable of. One of my favorite parts of this group is the use of metaphors and symbolism in lyrics. “Know the trees because the dirt is temporary” has and continues to be one of my favorite lines in any of the band's work.
4. PROVINCE: RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
Finally, we find ourselves at the David Bowie featured “Province.” For a long time I had no idea it was even Bowie. His voice has a way of being present and the listener not being aware that it's him. In this instance, his contribution really helps. If not for my wife, there's no way to know how long I would have been ignorant to this presence here. Having said that, even without him the song works. So Many of their songs are midtempo, but this one is purely triumphant and overjoyed. Maybe not in the traditional sense, but for me it's a song for celebrating life and victory. Preferably on a mountain at the top of the world. The background claps are a great but subtle touch as well. The band has so many layers and different things going on, that it's hard to not get swept up into sincerity and beauty.
3 FAMILY TREE: DEAR SCIENCE
After countless listens, this song feels less like deep love or more like deep thought or regret as the time flies by. It’s musical effect is still and poignant, and although you get the sense of love in the heart of the track, the shadows of the song are aware of the imminent danger of unknown passions and attitudes. It’s like a beautiful breakup that no one wanted but one that everyone knows is for the best. That type of thought is hidden in the messaging, and even as the track ends and we’re hopeful for celebrations, you never know what the future will hold, so protection of our loved ones, and of our “family trees” are essential to a full joyous journey through this thing we call life.
2 YOUNG LIARS: TV ON THE RADIO EP
This song has a weird, ominous vibe to it, but it still sounds exactly like the band we’ve come to expect. It's interesting that the track wasn't ever used on a full length album, because it's good enough, if not better than many of the still cool tracks on the full lengths. Another downbeat song that doesn't even reach an apex, “Young Liars” is song that doesn't make a lot of sense lyrically, but it's a cool ass track regardless. The interesting thing about this and though, is that they aren't really the same on albums as they are live. Live it's very emotional and bounce, and at all the shows I've seen them perform you're drawn to the upbeat dancing happening. They somehow find a way to make a relaxed downtempo album song into an upbeat, energetic live song, and while i'm not sure how they pull it off so flawlessly, I'm not complaining.
1 WOLF LIKE ME: RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
Probably one of the best uses of a song I've ever seen in a tv show was during the firehouse drama “Rescue Me” where the episode closed with Dennis Leary's character sprinting down the street with this song noisily breaking barriers behind him. Beyond the usage in the show, it's an incredible song, and as you can see, my favorite by the band. For a band who does slower, more textured songs, this song is urgent, angry, and even more textured than the vast majority of their other works. It's a song full of dancing motives, and the lyrics are some of the most concise to date. It's not as subtle and metaphorical as other tracks, but here it really works. The song at once seems to be very much about transforming into a beast, and in a sense it is. The beast is probably not a werewolf though. I think the beast in the question is humanity's need to feed on the less capable, and how it's shaping our world to be a ruthless ugly place. Hopefully it's not too late, we can stop ourselves from “Howling Forever.”
In case you weren’t aware, last year was not the year anyone wanted, or planned for. It didn’t matter in the end that we all had plans, lives, and things we sought to accomplish. Regardless, billions of people found themselves stuck at home, with little more to do than an average day for the bums of the world. I bring this up, because during this quarantine time, as my wife and I called it from time to time, we found ourselves enveloping ourselves in a multitude of entertainment options, indulging in everything from new video games like Ori and Doom Eternal, hobbies like knitting, listening to records, and of course, reading.
Since I first started noticing books in my formative teenage years, I naturally gravitated towards Maine landmark Stephen King, whose “It,” I first read at the totally appropriate age of 13, leaving me with tons of nightmares I never mentioned to anyone. Had I done so I risked not being able to read more of this King Fella, or so my young mind thought at the time. Either way, since those years I've read over twenty of his novels, but we’re veering off point here, so I'll leave it at that.
All this comes back to me sitting at my new apartment, unsure of the state of the world. I found myself wanting to read King's masterpiece “The Stand,” which probably wasn’t the best option, given the circumstances, but I was already stuck in the house, so I dove in. Reading The Stand during this particular situation ultimately served as a more than welcome, ultra hyped up scenario, very much unlike the real life lethargy that was sweeping the world. I finished it in 6 days.
When you begin the book, the situation is dire, with millions at least having died from what's referred to as Captain Trips in the novel. It's more lethal than the Covid-19 strain, by far, but the anxiety of the uncertain remains very similar to the world stage in 2020. Work stopped, seeing friends stopped, you got calls here and there, but everyone was stagnant. Many in the Stand face similar situations in the opening pages of the book, which at 1200 ages is a behemoth to undertake. Granted, there wasn’t mass death and erracti violence and supernatural forces like what's described in the novel, but it was a very eerie, still time.
When we first meet the major characters of “The Stand,” you naturally gravitate towards Stu Redman, who’s down the line approach to life offers a mirror into the type of person who needs to work with everyone in order to survive. Now the book isn’t about Stu only, but through the course of this long journey, it's Stu who becomes one of the focal points of the book, trying to as swiftly and efficiently bring back some semblance of normal, or maybe a new normal, like what we’re going through now.
Now, in the real world, sides were already being drawn, chiefly among people who were pro masks and anti masks, with plenty of people choosing to ignore the evidence of their ears and eyes, much like another dystopian masterpiece, “1984.” That doesn’t really happen in the book, with everyone being very aware of the virus, but you can definitely see the differences among the two main groups in the book. Some were led by the elderly Mother Abigail, while the more unhinged types ultimately end up in Vegas, being casually manipulated by a figure known as Flagg, as well as many other things, in other worlds than this.
The book ends up taking on a life of its own, with both sides gradually trying to cement their own types of worlds. One side, the Colorado group, is seen purposely rebuilding their area in a way that's beneficial for all the residents, while the other side is more concerned with derailing the “opposing team's” goals through denial, violence, and plenty of fear mongering. Thank god this never happened in real life…
At first, at least for me, I viewed the dynamics between the groups as being the fight for good against evil, which it is in some context, but pigeonholing the characters like that creates an issue as your journey expands and continues through all the chaos. The crux, or the fact that the “bad” people aren’t inherently bad starts to wear on the reader as the muck and mire are showcased. Folks like Flagg, the main antagonist, are out for blood. Others like Trashcan Man, Nadine and Lloyd are all victims of their own circumstance. Every choice, event and action has led them there, whether they seeked it out or not.
As I briefly touched on, two of the most polarizing characters featured in terms of grey character morality, when I think about it, are Nadine Cross and Donald Elbert, also known as the Trashcan Man. The way King writes his characters, especially his so-called villains, shows the brilliance of the writer. When I met Cross in the book, I viewed her as a desperate figure looking for sanctuary and people needing help, while over time she morphs into a figure that you manage to despise while still feeling pretty crappy for her. Sure, her actions throughout might suggest a person angling for the benefit of evil, but she’s utterly confused as well. As Nadine’s journey to Vegas is documented, it becomes clear she's not the ring leader pulling the strings. Rather, she’s just a very important, albeit unstable piece of property of the ‘The Dark Man,” I at the very least felt bad for her, and as you experience her cruel, violent journey to Vegas, the feelings just get worse. She’s not a wonderful person, she’s just too weak to stand up for herself, until she finds her strength and meets her wanted end.
One of the many things I found myself struggling with was how I felt about some of the people In Flagg’s army. We meet Trash and it’s obvious he’s been pushed around his whole life. As a person who stutters and was bullied and consistently teased, it felt to me like very real trauma he was trying to work through. Perhaps it was the same with Nadine Cross. I’m not convinced that these people were always truly evil. Cross especially you can feel her excitement but also apprehension in what will eventually happen with Flagg. What ended up being awesome and ultimately justified was the way the characters themselves are changed as the story unfolds. The feeling of desperation through the book was also staggering to me.Even as I was stuck in the house dealing with numerous health concerns, “the Stand” still called to me, especially as we delved into the deep hearts of the multitude of characters presented here.
Really though, the character development is off the charts too. Trash, Lloyd, Glenn, and especially Nick Andros were all great characters on other sides of the pendulum. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as bad for a villain as I did Trash when he meets the Kid, which was fucking crazy in and of itself. I was on edge the whole time. You want him to kill the Kid so badly, but at least for me I kept trying to figure out a way for him to be safe, even though his being safe implies that the world is gonna burn.
Yet, the real world situation kept jumping out at me as I forced my stubborn path through this behemoth of a book. Going outside you were distant to strangers, scared of the invisible danger filling up our world, which brings us to the difficulty of finding something in a situation where everyone is afraid of everyone else.
This thought brings me to the segments of the book in the Boulder Safe Zone. Watching Stu, Frannie and the others try to get the world back off the ground was difficult, and you want it to work so badly, but you never know exactly what is gonna work and what won’t. The real life pressures helped bridge the gap for me in terms of what each camp was doing and how the stakes changed as the Stand evolved.
But even in the apocalypse, there are still romantic entanglements, moves and countermoves as parties navigated who to watch the world burn with. These moments in the book mirror what we were going through in a much more aggressive way, but that’s not to say that people didn’t get lonely during our covid lockdowns. I, as mentioned earlier, was inseparable from my wife for months, who was struggling with the pandemic and also Cancer. We were together, and fighting a very real battle, but many others had to go through it alone, with no loved ones or significant others to help them. In that way, we were appreciative of the bond shared during our months in the house.
I will admit though I was initially confused during some of the first half. I’ve seen the old Miniseries a few times and never even knew Rita was an entire separate character in the book. That ended up being way more interesting to me, if only because you get to see Larry really struggling with new reality. He’s a deeply conflicted character and not initially the all around great guy he becomes throughout the book.
In short, this was probably the 18 or King book I’ve read, and it quickly became not only my favorite King book, but one of the best I’ve ever read in my life. Absolutely beautiful and catastrophic in equal parts. It’s incredible and makes me love King the Man even more. I’ve read that great writers read constantly and get new ideas and this has been the same for me. I’ve been writing more and more of my own novel, picking little things up as I go. It’s both a privilege and a teaching lesson to read his books and figure out how to be a better writer. I can’t wait to see how this changes my approach years down the line. Thanks for reading everyone. I hope you enjoyed this!
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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