Black Sabbath: prophets

It is impossible to understate the prescience of Black Sabbath:

War Pigs: not only the greatest anti-war song of all time, but also a lacerating indictment of the immorality and cowardice of political leadership, and of the exploitation of common people.

Cornucopia: hints at themes explored by Guy Debord. Fundamentally concerned with the human condition in advanced Capitalist western society, and the profound alienation of the individual.

Wicked World: the title speaks a bit for itself; precedes and sketches out themes expanded in War Pigs. Trenchant critique of the hypocrisies of late-Capitalist western society. Describes the healthcare crisis, and portrays the breakdown of the family under income inequality and lack of opportunity. Never so relevant as today.

Iron Man: foretells a post-apocalyptic future, with a dash of sci-fi imagination.

Paranoid: stark portrait of mental illness and the hopelessness experienced by some of the millions of people who suffer from it. Speaks of alienation. Makes perfect sense in an era of rampant opioid abuse.

Supernaut: an ecstatic outlier, imagining a kind of übermensch, and freedom from bourgeois constraint. Bohemian, perhaps. An underrated song in the pantheon. One of my favorites.

Sweet Leaf: accurately predicts the social acceptance and legalization of weed.

Snowblind: another paean to drugs. Fundamentally about escape, the will to transcendence, and the individual’s quest for freedom from judgement. Underlying connections to Supernaut.

Fairies wear Boots: more drugs. The final verse is one of the best twists in any pop song. You think you’re in the land of Led Zeppelin, and hobbits and elves and vikings and shit, and lo, no! The whole thing’s a hallucination. The doctor’s basically saying stop taking drugs or you’ll die. Probably an actual transcription of a conversation between Ozzy and a doctor.

Children of the Grave: huge, HUGE portent. Harrowingly, urgently relevant. Foretells with terrible solemnity the climate crisis and the foreclosure of life for our children, and their children…if they get that far.

Geezer Butler is a genius.


I’ve suddenly become weirdly interested in Monteverdi.

Baroque music isn’t my go-to, and late Renaissance generally falls towards the end of my interest in ‘early music,’ but perhaps it’s the inherent bridging of the two that presents itself in L’Orfeo that gets me.

I have finally purchased a copy of this early masterpiece, and am looking forward to spending time with it.

Morton Feldman: piano music

Pre-orders of Another Timbre’s new 5 CD set of almost all of Feldman’s piano music shipped today. I’m so excited!

I’m listening to Philip Thomas’ performance of “Triadic Memories” right now. It is wonderful.

If you ordered already, access to an uninterrupted .flac of the 90 minute piece is provided. Hence, this preview.

Buy it today, directly from Another Timbre.

Powerviolence, cuteness, hardcore

So when I speak of punk here, I mean a particular type of hopelessness, one that is an affective response to a bleak reality: running oneself into the ground or otherwise spasmodically squirming under the pressure; being loud as hell and being certain that it ultimately amounts to little noise. What I’m getting at here is hardcore as it relates to a sadomasochistic use of the term, an autoerotic impulse to step on yourself, to get in your own way, to treat yourself like trash. It’s in Henry Rollins’ and Darby Crash’s self-loathing. It was there in Iggy Pop’s and Alan Vega’s proto-punk self-immolation. It was there from the start but lost as delusions of success (and sometimes, frankly, delusions of political agency) developed. What I’m talking about is hardcore as a tool for the enunciation of panic and disillusionment. It couldn’t last long. It didn’t. But in the cracks of its short run (Reagan’s first term, 1981-1984) were a handful of records that exemplified the genre’s potential and preempted darker styles to come.

This essay by Ben Levinson offers a remarkably fresh and perceptive take on some of the more theoretical implications of a particular time, centered in the 1980s, in the evolution of punk, hardcore, thrash, metal, and other related forms of expression.

It also happens to connect quite deeply with my own experience as a teenager in the early 80s. I saw many of these bands many times. I shared stages with some of them, with bands I was in. I was friends with them. I contributed photographs to zines and album covers; wrote reviews, designed flyers, recorded demos…I was fully committed. While bands like Siege and Infest appeared at a time when I’d already mostly drifted away from hardcore, the culture surrounding their antecedents was everything to me; the stuff that buoyed me through high school. In September, 1985, I moved to San Francisco to go to college (in the back of a touring van of a band no less; I slept in there for a few days). Then the world broke open in a hundred other new ways, much as the first time I heard Black Flag, in junior high, was its owns supernova, before that. There was no looking back.

As if it’s not obvious to the people who really know me, the values and conceptual filters and assumptions on which a lot of my thinking is based today were developed and adopted in this time, and it’s gratifying to discover a younger generation reading this rather hermetic culture so perceptively.


Relating to the previous subject:

I am often suspicious of songs which too readily seek out the tonic, but there are certain exceptions I make.

Sleep point to the apotheosis of the tonic. Indeed, “Dopesmoker” is a vast, glorious paean to the hallowed joy of the tonic.

It’s a one hour journey everyone should take every now and then, as a tonic, as it were.