MOSS AND JOE’S BIG REGGAE ADVENTURE: THE PARAGONS – On the Beach (1967)

Review by: Joseph Middleton-Welling and Jonathan Moss


First some background. Despite the fact that the name of this column is ‘Moss and Joe’s Big Reggae Adventure’ the Paragons are not technically a reggae band – except in a loose sense. The bands formation actually predates the beginnings of reggae by about several years. So what genre is this music? This is rocksteady. What is rocksteady? Well basically Rocksteady is what happens when you take Ska- slow it right down and add heartbreak. Lots and lots of heartbreak. These guys sound like they’ve women have left them more times than your average bluesmen and they’d be much more at home crying into their Red Stripe than smoking a joint. We’ve all been there. Rocksteady as a genre only lasted about two years before it evolved into reggae itself.

To put it bluntly this album is quite ‘lo-fi.’ Not that it sounds horrible or anything, but compared with Aswad last time, the music on this platter is much more sparse, with less horns and layering than most reggae I’ve heard before. It’s basically just guitar, bass and drums throughout most of the songs, with horns and other instruments occasionally popping up in a supporting role. Straight out of the gate you’re going to notice that this music is vocally dominated, there’s often a lot of harmonies and counter melodies going on and these call to mind a lot of early RnB singing, think doo-wop and early Beach Boys. The singing on this album sounds like a bunch of talented guys standing around one mic in a studio and singing their hearts out. Not exactly soulful because that’s not quite the right word in this context- think heartfelt and you’re probably closer to the mark. The bass on this album is quite quiet but whoever is playing is doing some really nice melodies- I just wish it was louder.

Here is where we run into a slight problem. You may have noticed that I’ve not mentioned any individual tracks yet. There is a reason for this. THE ALBUM IS VERY SAMEY. It’s all songs about love in some way but it’s all delivered by similar arrangements and at similar tempos. This means the record can get quite monotonous, especially if you let it blend into the background. But, if you listen closely, little elements start to float up out of the rocksteady soup to keep you interested. The key to this record is the atmosphere, the almost lo-fi production combines with the heartfelt but rough singing and makes a warm and inviting feeling, even when most of the songs are about difficult emotions- like losing someone you love. The record manages to project the illusion of a kind of homespun charm, like a bunch of friends jamming on the beach and this makes for a warm listening experience if you’re prepared to listen closely and absorb it. Of course the band playing the songs on this LP is actually a bunch of tight as fuck session men, but the important part is that they don’t let that aspect become too prominent that it stops you from feeling welcome in the music.

Plus this record has the original version of ‘The Tide is High’ on it! This version is obviously much more rough and ready than Blondie’s cover but what it loses in gloss it makes up for in that fantastic sense of innocence that 50s and 60s pop has in spades. In terms of other standouts the title track is an amazing encapsulation of all of the good elements of this record, the vocals arrangement is simple but emotionally resonant when combined with the lyrics and the arrangement is really effective at supporting the vocals in an economical way. I’d encourage you to listen to this track at least once. Everything else is nearly as good, but the record works much better as a collective experience than a group of singles, at least if you want it’s full magic to work.

I would recommend this record in two contexts. This is a great party album, it’s got a lot of relaxed reggae grooves and the singing is emotional but natural. And if you do give this album a close listen and but if you’re in the right mood for blissed out heartbreak this record will embrace you like a bunch of old friends sitting on the beach and drinking beer. I probably find it sadder than is intentional but hey ho…

Next ‘week’ it’s Beenie man!

YES – Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Assigned by: Irfan Hidayatullah

 

This is without a doubt one of the best albums Yes have ever done. Easily top five, perhaps top three. Definitely in the pantheon of top prog albums in general. God, its such a fucking good album. Why? The whole package man, its got almost everything that makes Yes good (it is missing one rather crucial element, which should be obvious to Yes fans). Jon Anderson’s esoteric religious lyrics, his bizarrely high pitched but melodically pleasing and strangely friendly vocals, Chris Squire’s thick, busy and catchy bass lines, Steve Howe’s acidic, hooky guitar playing, Rick Wakeman’s ear grabbing, rich keyboard textures and symphonic playing (though at points he does seem to cross into cheesy sci-fi territory, but that gives the album a goofy charm rather than diminishing it in any serious way), and last but certainly not least, co-producer Eddie Offord, who manages to get a nice, clear separation between the instruments. Oh, and Alan White’s competent drumming.

Of course, this album does have a reputation for pretension, and at eighty minutes with four songs, I can’t really argue with that. However, I will argue that there’s nothing entirely wrong with being pretentious. Obviously it can result in a lot of pretty crappy music, but so can music that’s lacking in pretension, like most modern indie bands. So I guess I would call this album an example of successful pretentious music.

Besides, the album manages not to be monotonous through a variety of ways. For one, the four songs all have a different mood from each other, and within those songs there are different moods, and different sections, like an experimental novel written by multiple people, but with a similar vision. It helps, that as Mark Prindle pointed out, the album is not particularly bombastic. All the songs are pretty, and they generally sound too mystical and withdrawn to get extroverted, as bombastic music requires. I swear, if he’d been born later, Jon Anderson would have been a great neofolk artist. And Rick Wakeman would be a synthpop legend!

The way the instruments intertwine is amazing as well, it shows something of a lack of ego in the band, because although the instruments all get their own moments and in general sound fantastic, they work together beautifully at all times, never fighting for supremacy. In this regard they are like a good team of improvisatory comedians (this comparison will definitely be used sardonically).

On to the songs now! It starts off with “The Revealing Science of God”, which is definitely my favourite song on the album. It starts off with these mysterious ambient sounds, then starts to build in intensity, as Jon chants his lyrics, before the bass joins in and launches into a fantastic melody along with a majestic mellotron line from Wakeman. The song just has such a sense of joy to it, it sounds like celebration music for some esoteric religious party. Steve’s guitar playing is clean and melodic, almost byrdsy, but with a jazzy edge. It’s amazing how much the band can get out the beginning, just Jon’s angelic “what happened to wonders we once knew so well” bit, the bouncy guitar, catchy as fuck guitar and heavenly synth. This launches on to a tenser, more hard rocking bit, with aggressive but tuneful guitar playing and an uncertain vocal melody from Jon. And then! A very pretty synth bit, the song can’t stay tense, its just too jolly! It does become more chilled out though, kind of back to the proto-ambient vibe. For a prog epic its not that similar to something like Supper’s Ready, its more like “Close to the Edge”, it has different sections, but it always returns to the same themes. Of course, each times with variations, like a different riff or a frantic piano bit. Layer it more and keep it interesting and multifaceted while following the same melody, which is good, because what a fucking melody it is. Steve gets a very weird guitar solo as well, it becomes more pretty and conventional, but at the beginning it sounds almost like something that could be used in an artsier new wave song as a goofy sound effect. This leads to the “young christians see it” bit, which has an epic and of course, religious vibe, with some mellow synth playing. The song ends on a bouncy, joyous note, with spastic keyboard and bass, before getting more mellow, with dramatic singing from Jon, before returning triumphantly to the central melody.

The next song, “The Remembering”, opens with pretty swirly keyboards. The atmosphere of the song is mellow and lush, this is aided by Steve Howe’s hypnotic guitar line. This gives the song a sleepy energy, like animals napping in a humid jungle. This is followed by an ominous keyboard line and a more energetic bit. The guitar line is poppy and the bass is smooth. Then there is what I regard as the best bit in the song, because during it the percussion is actually punchy! Alan White temporarily stops being shite. Of course, the chiming acoustic guitar helps as well. It reminds me of The Wicker Man, only if it hadn’t been a horror film. The song ends on a cool celestial section, with beautiful guitar and choir like mellotron. The song can get repetitive within its structure but, along no Revealing Science, it is still a very strong song, though not quite a classic.

Admittedly, “The Ancient” is pretty bad. The song has its moments, like a pretty folk pop bit near the end, which could almost pass as its own song, and some interesting noises. But outside of this it has some of the ugliest guitar playing Steve Howe has done on record, just a kind of squealing atonal mess. The percussion doesn’t work either, it is overly busy. It’s just a very formless, confused song. It’s like they tried to go from prog to outright avant-garde. Leave that to Crimson, guys. The noises, for me make me conceptualise it as a kind of proto-Gates of Delirium, even if they don’t actually sound much alike. Ultimately it just sounds like video game music for some forgettable 90s game.

Luckily the song ends with an absolute classic, and the second best song on the album. This is of course “Ritual”. The best bit of the song is the “nous somme du soleil” chant. This occurs twice, relatively early in the song, featuring the beautiful chant of that title from Jon, under carefree, sweeping guitar and catchy bass. It creates this religious atmosphere, but one of joy, like a charismatic Church, but not at all! It’s reprised again at the end, but this time it’s more mellow, with otherworldly tinkling piano. These sections are for me definitely the highlight of the song, they convey something I cannot put to words, a spectral beauty. Something life affirming. However, if the rest of the song was junk, it would still be filler, so luckily the rest of the song is pretty great. Throughout it features various pretty vocal performances from Jon, pretty guitar leads and riffs (including at one point a nice punchy riff) from Steve and Squire’s catchy bass playing. There is also a good hard rocking bit, though it still retains the fundamental optimism of the tune. The song is a beautiful epic mantra, just not as quite as realised as revealing science.

Jesus, look how long this review is. Now I understand why critics hated prog so much, it is hard to review succinctly, unlike a punk song where you can just say “catchy aggressive guitar riff and sneering vocals”. Well, that doesn’t change that this album is great, even if one of the songs blows and it does suffer from padding. The classics make up for it!

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIT: RUSH – Signals (1982)

Review by: Charly Saenz and Jonathan Moss

 

Rush have a reputation as a mediocre second generation prog rock band. Their reputation is similar to first gen prog band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, a lot of instrumental talent, but most of it wasted. While I would argue slightly with this appraisal of ELP, it’s more or less completely accurate for Rush (or should that be Lifeson, Lee & Peart?). However, for a brief moment, Rush were one of the greatest bands in the world. This kind of started with Permanent Waves, but that was still too proggy and fillerish. Things got considerably better with Moving Pictures, which is a minor classic, featuring, lets get this strait, some gorgeous synth tones. However, it was only with their ninth studio album Signals that they managed completely to remove any prog influence and embrace beautiful art rockish new wave. You can hear this immediately in the guitar solos, which far from sounding generically heavy metal, are restrained and tasteful, and anyone who tells you otherwise is strait up deluded.

I know this is an incredibly uncool thing to say about Rush, but this is such a cool sounding album! Our friend Franco Micale has always argued to me that Rush had a slightly alt-rockish sound, and he’s completely correct, especially on this album, with its catchy melodies and arpeggiated guitar riffs. The synth tones are absolutely blissful as well, they have an almost retro vibe to them, like 60s organs. But at the same time they also have a kind of futuristic vibe, retro-futurism if you will. Geddy’s bass playing is great as well, fluid and melodic throughout, you can call him a frustrated lead guitarist if you want, but that whole idea is bullshit, and insulting to bass players. His vocals are certainly an acquired taste, he definitely sounds sincere throughout the album and manages to get the messages of Neil’s lyrics across with passion. Speaking of Neil, while he is definitely overrated as a drummer, his work on Signals is graceful and accomplished.

There’s a bold statement to start the album, a fierce proud synthesizer pattern that becomes a small symphony when Peart starts weaving the rhythm around with the usual perfect bassline by Geddy, and his controlled voice is the human beauty in the technically charged surroundings. “Subdivisions” is a rebellious chant detailing cold society oppression, The Machine.

“Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer
Or the misfit so alone” “

“The Analog Kid” starts off as a more direct rocker with the superb riff by Lifeson, but it’s the otherworldly interaction among the three players here, and those tasty keyboards that send this song directly to heaven. No, this is not Prog Rock. This is plain old Rock with a new sound. It’s definitely the most beautiful song on the album, the way Geddy sings “you move me you move me”, well, it moves me 😛

And, as resident Rushologist Jonathan Hopkins says: “One time, I got really high and listened to the Analog Kid like 20 times in a row because I didn’t realize I wasn’t changing songs. It’s a great song.”

“Chemistry” reminds us how Rush were few of the mainstream acts of their time (Police also comes to mind) to incorporate reggae vibes successfully into their sound. So does “Digital Man” and the fantastic, catchy break:

“He’d love to spend the night in zion
He’s been a long while in babylon
He’d like a lover’s wings to fly on
To a tropic isle of avalon”

The song contains a wonderfully melodic and playful bassline, and the reggaeish guitar playing gives it an almost urban vibe. The song is downright groovy. The song also has a great chorus, feauturing some juttering, funky synth playing. Oh, and that guitar solo!

“The Weapon” might easily be one of those overlooked gems in the album. The opening synth melody is somewhat Devoish (New Traditionalists Devo), just real sort of warm and deep, with a kind of looping, computerish quality. Sci-fi, if you want us to make it sound lame. I guess, to make it sound cool to the kids, we’ll call it proto-synthwave as well. The drone guitar weaves a luxury melody, and by the minute 4, it becomes bigger than life; the keyboards hardly appear as a symbol of modernity. The mid way point of the song, with its soaring guitar, sounds almost ambient. It’s got that dark urban city vibe. The finale with the fading guitar is Beatle-level fantasy.

“New World Man” was the single of the album, made at the last minute to complete its tracklist. It’s a strait rocker and it appealed to the masses. It opens with a fun goofy sounding synths, followed by some melodic, R.E.Mish guitar work. The chorus is super catchy as well, even if it does stray slightly into proggish pomposity. Still, when Geddy belts out “HE’S A NEW WORLD MAN” I just want to sing along.

The most delicate piece in the album, is without a doubt, “Losing It”. The electric violin played by Ben Mink is the best introduction to some refined lyrics using the adequate dancer’s metaphor to discuss time passing and crushed illusions:

“Some are born to move the world —
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be”

The synth pattern that opens the song and stays throughout is gentle and lullabyish, and the guitar tone has a mournful melancholic quality. The song does have a slightly arena-rockish sound during parts, but its fine, the cunts pull it off. It still doesn’t fail to detract from the gentle quality of the song.

“Countdown” is a fine way to end the album, even if the clips from an actual countdown are cheesy as fuck. It features an ominous synth and guitar line working well together to make the song seem creepy. I guess this is to convey hour nerve racking a NASA launch would be, which, duh. Geddy’s vocal melody manages to imbue the song with some sense of calm though, he just sounds so assertive and confident. There’s a fun, squiggly little keyboard line later on, and the chorus is tense and memorable.

Signals might be considered a maligned album by many, but it meant a lot to many people, it stands right in the middle of Rush’s career between their progressive beginnings, right after their breakthrough album and their newer stuff, who arguably abuses the 80s production a little bit. It’s full of hooks, touching and meaningful lyrics.

But here, we’re still at the perfect top. Exquisite keyboards, how to sound futuristic without being a cold bitch, and feeling without leaving the rock pulse.

Fuck you, Michael Strait. With Love, of course.

MOSSING ABOUT: COMUS – First Utterance (1971)

Review by: Jonathan Moss

 

 

My dumb brother’s standard complaint about folk music is that its boring, but for me this marvellous album by Comus proves otherwise. It hasn’t been called “satanic goat music” for nothing after all. Simply put, this album features some really well-played, mysterious guitar playing and haunting, eerie vocals. But it also has an unhinged, freakish quality which stops it from sounding like Led Zeppelin’s folk shit or something. There’s something delightfully individual about this album, its sprawling and occult, and feels genuine in a way that Led Zeppelin don’t. I can’t imagine the people who made this being quite normal.


The album starts off just fucking amazingly with “Diana”. What a great way to introduce Comus! It’s bizarre and freakish to the point of almost being comical, like some weird circus song. The bass is loud and goofy, the guitar playing sounds like a whimsical sitar, there’s a chugging violin (or similar instrument) and Roger Wootton sings in a ridiculous but endearing falsetto. It’s like if The Residents played folk music, almost. The song does have moments of tenderness though, there’s some pretty female vocals and the violin playing during the chorus is beautiful. The violin rules on this song actually, it gets a very dramatic solo halfway through. So yes, this is a short, catchy opener which surrealistically shows off the albums charms. The album gets into its more mysterious side with the second song, a twelve minute creeper called “The Herald”. The guitar playing on it sounds like it could be played by the melancholic ghost of a young man who killed himself, and the female vocals his mourning lover. The accompanying woodwind works fantastically as well, even if it does sound a bit like a theremin. The chorus is actually really catchy and gorgeous though, with the rising vocals during it suggesting hope and reconciliation, somewhat reminding me of Wind in the Willows. Outside of that though the song conjures the vibe off a misty forest surrounded by mountains and abandoned villages. At twelve minutes the song shows why the album has the prog tag, but to be honest its more krautrocky, just in terms of the hypnotic quality. The mesmerising guitar playing and hypnotic vibe help the song to maintain its stamina, like a naked female runner.

Drip Drip” is the second epic, but it comes in at slightly shorter, clocking at eleven minutes rather than twelve. Thanks for the breather, guys. “Drip Drip” has a much more Indian vibe than “The Herald”, with the acoustic guitars once again sounding like sitars. The guitars are different as well on this one, being more riffy and chord based than the spiderlike picked ones on “The Herald”. With Roger taking the vocals again this is a much more menacing song, the violin sounding like it thinks it could do better than the score for Psycho. The chorus of the song is really bewitching though, with Roger’s falsetto sounding more angelic than creepy and the violin like an angel who suddenly deemed the works of Hitchcock base and immoral. The freakish, playful sound helps to give the song a manic intensity, along with the urgent “la la la la” female vocals. Now that I think about it, the song could totally be converted to a Rolling Stonesesque hard rocker, thats how driving it is! Or at least one of Gabriel era Genesis’ rockier numbers. If “The Herald” is the abandoned village, “Drip Drop” is wonderer’s finding the village and celebrating with a pagan dance, yet not managing to keep their nerve when they consider the creepy, dead atmosphere of the village. Less abstractly, around the six minute mark the tune kicks in with a great, funky, ominous bassline. Hows that for diversity!?

I don’t want this review to be too long so I’m just going to crudely lump the last four songs together in this paragraph, and describe them in more brevity than the last two. “Song for Comus” is a melodic, groovy number with some piercing woodwind, agitated acoustic riffing (it sounds like he’s just playing two notes together over and over again) and passionate vocals. The song soon builds up in passion, like when you’re microwaving popcorn and you can tell its almost done because of how rapid the popping becomes. “The Bite” has some electric guitar playing! The acoustic guitar riff and flute in this song is manic as fuck, it sounds like an escaped mental patient running as fast as they can from the asylum that housed them, and with the same amount of joy! The violin playing suggests a whole level of drama, as do the piercing female vocals during the chorus, jaunty but anxious flute, chugging violin and stern tone of Roger. “Bitten” is an eerier song, it has scraping violin like the playing on King Crimson’s song “Providence”, a chunky, menacing bassline and eerie, ghost story guitar playing. And that’s it! Cool spooky instrumental. Lonely, melancholic guitar playing opens “The Prisoner”, and more pseudo-theremin. After this a more gentle guitar line starts, along with an almost Nick Drakeish lead one. Roger delivers a touching, subtle vocal performance, accompanied by Bobbie’s sweet female vocals. The song has a really warm vibe to it, with the violin playing sounding like it could accompany a film about some ambitious go-getter. “And they gave me shock treatment!” is a super catchy singalong part of the song, leading on to more dramatic male-female dialogue. “The Prisoner” has a lot of energy and momentum to it. Something I forgot to mention earlier but will now is that the album at times has an almost gypsy like vibe, which is prominent during the end of “The Prisoner”, which is a frenzied dance with screamed gibberish vocals!

So, to conclude, this is a very special, unique album, with a collection of truly epic guitar work, violin playing, woodwind and other assorted instruments, with two unique vocalists to top it all off. Please listen to it as soon as possible! So you too can experience the pleasure of seeing satanic goats without having to take acid or watch a cheesy eighties horror film.

THE PASTELS – Up for a Bit with the Pastels (1987)

Review by: Nina A
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

 
The formula of gorgeous jangly music + random dissatisfied lyrics sung in a mostly unfeeling voice has been mined to death by the Smiths, of course (only at least Morrissey knows modulation and expressiveness), and if you add a bit of baroque pop extravaganza in the general spirit of “Golden Brown”, you get the opener “Ride”. In other words, something right at home in the 80s. In fact, the next track deviates only a bit by being a blues shuffle in jangly pop disguise. And then there are more songs. And they are all nice and inoffensive, perfect for college kids, I imagine, lyrically too, probably, but I wouldn’t know that because really the lyrical content fits the melancholic 80s kids aesthetic best when it is perceived as the generic teenage mumbling it is.
 
You see, if you’re over the age of 20, I doubt that you’d play any of these songs over and over and say, man, this song has so much meaning!!!! No, I imagine “old guns” only using this album as a mood music or the soundtrack to reminiscing of better times — the time when you’re under 20 and a record like this could blow your mind. And with 10 songs clocking at more or less 3 minutes each, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either, so in what I’d say in conclusion is Up For A Bit With the Pastels, “I am alright with you”.

MOSS AND JOE’S BIG REGGAE ADVENTURE: ASWAD – New Chapter (1981)

Review by: Joseph Middleton-Welling and Jonathan Moss

 

I don’t know what I expected really from Aswad, I’d heard their fairly terrible late 80’s material but not any of their earlier stuff. I looked at a compilation of theirs recently in FOPP. According to this compilation they’re Britain’s “favourite Reggae band” (not true, that’s obviously The Police). There were no songs from this album included, so that gives it mad hipster cred. This is their third album and it’s damn good. It’s also quite commercial, and it’s not difficult to see how the stuff on this album could have been part of a larger trend towards selling out. But hey this album is still great. 
 

This album is pretty diverse and hooky to be honest. There are nice vocal harmonies throughout and a lot of horns that provide the hooks when there’s an instrumental break. I’m a big fan of horns and they’re splattered all over these songs. There’s also some nice almost bluesy guitar playing at points that dribbles into your ears in a pleasant way. The bass is also really prominent especially on some of the more dubby tracks. This is of course a good thing

There’s also some goofy synth sounds on this album which are of course horribly dated but they are fun. I think that’s a my general perception of this album is just that-fun. Even on some of the more serious tracks like “Natural Progression”, there’s a really odd synth powering away under the rhythm like a demented slide whistle. It can’t fail to raise a smile really. The same with some really low pitched mumbling at the start of ‘I will keep on loving you’ it’s like Reuben and the Jets level schlock but that probably wasn’t intended.

In terms of songs the opener “African Children” is pretty good. The lyrics sounded political but I was too busy paying attention to the neat drum sound and laidback, almost eerie sound of the song. It’s got those funny dated synth sounds, but they add so much character to the album. Also they make me think of video games so perhaps if you like video games but want a new hobby you can sublimate your love of video games into this album. The other absolute bangers on this album are “Natural Progression”, “Tuff we Tuff” and “Love Fire”, which closes the album with the sort of bass line that sounds like an enormous brontosaurus lumbering through some antediluvian swamp.

Also a couple of the ballads on this album are horribly cheesy but I can imagine after a few bottles of claret they’ll probably do the job. “I Will Keep on Loving You” is probably on the right side of the fence in terms of cheese factor, ‘Didn’t Know at the Time’ falls on the wrong side at least for me. I’ve heard too many sappy reggae ballads already. Bleugh.  

If all the records on this list are as fun as this one, we’ll be in for a good time. 

Moss and Joe’s Big Reggae Adventure

Introduction

Word up chums, in me and Joe’s column here we’re going to be reviewing the 50 top reggae album’s as selected by Mojo Magazine (http://www.mojo4music.com/15098/50-greatest-reggae-albums/), because it was the first one to show up on Google.

The reason we are doing this is because we are both two white men who are not overly familiar with reggae, so we can show our ignorance and provide entertainment and eventually, enlightenment.

On with the reviews, and apologies in advance!

JOHN DUNCAN – Pleasure Escape (1985)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Album assigned by: Tristan Peterson


It was a cold day and Billy set off to his work at the graveyard. He had been working there for several years now, and, contrary to what pop-psychology would tell you, it had had no ill effect on him. He still was of a generally cheery inclination, had a small group of close friends and a larger group of trustworthy associates. He was happy with his job, the graveyard had a stereotypically gothic beauty and it gave him time to think. The cold weather on this particular day was annoying him somewhat, and obviously like any job it was still for the most part tedious, he wasn’t feeling particularly negative. This, of course, was about to change. 

He stumbled across a man, how shall we put it, having relations with a corpse. 

“What the hell are you doing?”, screamed Billy, who was vaguely aware of such goings on but generally preferred not to think about them, let alone be confronted by them. 

“Goddamnit! I was almost finished” shouted the necrophiliac. 

“Oh well” he said, removing himself and getting dressed, “I suppose I can always do this another time” 

“Hey man, I’m a libertarian” replied Billy, “I don’t care what you do, just do it in another graveyard” 

“Fair enough” replied the necrophiliac “I guess I do owe you an explanation. My name is John Duncan and I’m a field recorder and experimental artist. I was defiling this corpse sexually to make a comment on nihilism in modern society, probably”

“Ah”, thought Billy. So he was one of those crazy avant-gardists. Billy had heard about these fellows, doing obscene and immoral activities to prove a point about the decadence of society, maybe. Poor John Duncan probably didn’t even enjoy screwing that corpse, he was doing it out of some higher calling, in his own way he was a God. Of course, Billy wasn’t sure why John couldn’t have made his point in writing, as people like Schopenhauer, Comte de Lautreamont, Thomas Ligotti, and of course, Marquis De Sade had.

Well, Billy didn’t actually think that, he didn’t know who any of those people were. He did however contemplate calling the police, but decided to be true to his word and let John Duncan go, where he would record a film soundtrack, or something.

EL-P – Cancer 4 Cure (2012)

Review by: Franco Micale
Album assigned by: Jonathan Moss

I’m going to be honest, I’m not one who is really qualified to review rap music. For one thing, I have been so busy lately that I have not been able to find a satisfying amount of time to really digest, listen to and examine this album from multiple angles. On top of that, hip hop is such a lyrically focused genre of music, and while I can be good at analyzing and dissecting apart literature, poetry, and lyrics, it tends to take me a lot of work, and I’ve just finished my summer quarter of school and I really don’t want to force myself to write an essay detailing the philosophical and sociological messages of “Cancer 4 Cure”. So, pardon me if I am not reviewing and judging this album “properly”. 

I will talk about what I know, and this album sounds amazing. The whole thing, when I visualize it, is like some giant, cinematic, sci-fi action movie, except the movie is about some dystopian society filled with drones, security cameras, and watchguard robots. E-lp’s lyrics seem to deal with detachment and disassociation from the world…finding dissatisfaction from relationships, cheap thrills, technology, fame, the government… just listening to him rap stirs my soul in various way. I can feel the ANGER, the RAGE, the PASSION in what he’s doing, both in his words and his delivery. I don’t know if I can really nail down any specific moments that catch my attention, but to me I consider this album to be solidified proof that anyone who says that rap music is a “stupid” genre of art either:

Have barely heard any rap music, or
Are over the age of 40 and can no longer find appreciation in trendy new types of music

Anyways, moving on, let’s discuss the SOUND and STYLE of this album.This album is a mixture of synthesized sounds, mechanized drum beats, and variety of samples and big, attention grabbing effects, which all seem to create what is the auditory equivalent to a high budget sci-fi movie. This flashy production contrasts and compliments E-lp’s frustration and desperation in a consumeristic and technology driven world,and on a surface level, everything just dazzles me.

Overall, I could go into more detail, but eh. I just don’t feel like it. I’ll let you listen to it, and decide for yourself the quality of this album.

So overall, even though I don’t feel extreme love towards it, it’s a perfectly great and solid album with not a real bad moment. For people who are interested in rap music, but aren’t really sure where to start, this might not be a bad beginning point.


Did I enjoy this album? A: Yes

Should you listen to this album? A: If you like rap music, yes you should.

Is it essential that you listen to this album? A: I don’t know how innovative or revolutionary or how different this is from other rap music, so I don’t know if I can answer this. But yes, it feels important enough.

If you like this album, what should you listen to? A: I haven’t heard them, but Run The Jewels is the main project that E-lp is a part of, so I’d check that out.

FAVORITE TRACK? A: Album was very consistent, can’t quite pick out one.

LEAST FAVORITE TRACK? A: N/A

ISIS – Panopticon (2004)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Album assigned by: Syd Spence

Apparently this is a concept album based on Jeremy Bentham’s idea of how a prison should be designed, as some sort of reflection on modern society and how its totally fucked bro, etc. I don’t care about any of that though, but man this is a neat album!

So I guess Godflesh is the obvious comparison, but how can you not make it? This album sounds quite obviously inspired by Godflesh. Pounding industrial metal with growley vocals. They definitely aren’t ripping off Godflesh though, if they were I would write a review of Streetcleaner in protest. No, this takes the sound Godflesh started in new and exciting directions! I don’t know why, because the record isn’t that synth laden, but it reminds me somewhat of Aphex Twin. Maybe it’s just the vibe, kind of depressing, but in a spacey way, and quite British as well, so bleak, like all those buildings we have, both rural and industrial. So, this is some sort of metal album, but it features long passages of clean, kind of chiming, proggish guitar playing, almost a sort of negative psychedelia. This, when juxtaposed with the harsh, grinding passages, makes for a thrilling combination. Of course, it helps that this isn’t spastic, the album maintains a tense, sombre mood throughout, with the clean passages helping give it a melancholic vibe and the noisy ones expressing anger and stopping it from becoming boring, like a porcupine tree album. It also helps to give the album a certain depth, though without seeming pretentious, which is surprising considering the concept.

Who wants an album where you have to read Foucault to get the lyrics? I know I do.

It’s somewhat hard to go into individual songs, the album working so well together as a cohesive whole, but I don’t want this review to be short so enjoy this shitty filler paragraph. Well, the opening song “So Did We” is serves its function very well, it made me realise the album was going to be worth listening to straight away, and well worth writing about (which is why I’m so late with this review). It establishes the dynamics of the album quickly and has some great riffs. Which reminds me, this album is seriously catchy, most of the songs have at least one riff worth paying attention to. And the riffs to the quiet sections, those are as beautiful as a man who doesn’t open a tinder conversation with a photo of his dick. The last song is cool as well, featuring a slightly grungier, more monolithic sound, and some cool effects, creating a dirge like effect. It also has some truly elegiac guitar passages.

Anyway, time for some criticism, and I guess I have the same criticism I had of that Ann Peebles album, which is that this can be somewhat monotonous. I get that this is a concept album, so it wants to maintain a similar mood, and it definitely doesn’t harm the album that much, but I do wish they had included some variety, I just can’t think of what else they could have done. Maybe a song that crosses from melancholia to outright despair, or a really angry industrial metal song, but then the album might lose some of its individuality, so what the fuck do I know?

Either way, this album is fabulous and will enter my rotation.