Sunday, January 28, 2007

Psychedelic Rock

Psychedelic rock seems to be a genre that carries very heavy connotations. The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Pink Floyd all immediately pop into the forefront of the mind. These bands, though considered by most to define the principle elements of "psychedelic rock," also give it a bad reputation, in my opinion. Psychedelic rock was about more than simply extended guitar solos and distorted vocals with multiple layers of reverb and echo. In some cases, like that of the 13th Floor Elevators, it was about fusing the trippy pop sounds generally associated with the Beatles with raw and upbeat garage rock. In the case of bands such as The Red Krayola or The United States of America, it was all about introducing into rock music heavy doses of the avant-garde. Needless to say, my favorite psychedelic rock albums are those that are all about experimenting. So, instead of giving you the essentials, I'll recommend some albums, because whereas Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" might be an "essential" psychedelic rock album, it doesn't really do much for me, so instead, here are some of my favorites:

The United States of America - S/T
Giles, Giles & Fripp - The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp
13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
The Red Krayola - God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It
Skip Spence - Oar
Love - Forever Changes
Flower Travellin' Band - Satori

The United States of America - S/T

Not to be confused with that post-grunge band, the United States of America were an avant-garde psychadelic band in the late 60's who appear, to me, to be the clearest precursors to Faust and Can in the entire psychadelic camp, who were using crazy electronics to such an insane extent before anyone else was, and who still succeed in making brilliant off-kilter tunes that are worth listening to by anyone with even a fleeting interest in krautrock or early-Pink Floyd era style psychadelica. They only made one album but it is quite the masterpiece. Fuck Piper at the Gates of Dawn, this is where it's at.


Love - Forever Changes

Rated by many to be the best album of all time, I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's certainly a great album. Most of it is pretty straight forward poppy psychadelic rock, but you can hardly hold that against them, because they do it so damn well. Every song on here is an instant classic, full to the brim of beautiful, psychadelic bliss. When I listened to it the first time, it sort of slipped by me, but then I listened to it again, and again, and by the third time I recognized it as a masterpiece.


The Red Krayola - God Bless the Red Krayola and All Who Sail With It

Here's another album that's sure to get divided opinions. It's fans hail it as a visionary album decades ahead of its time, and see in it the roots for punk, new wave, post-punk, and indie rock. It's detractors say its an unlistenable pretentious piece of garbage. Who's right? They're both probably a little right. It has its incredibly pretentious moments (see: "Listen to This") but at the same time it is completely unlike anything else being recorded in 1968, and quite unlike anything else I have ever heard. I can't guarantee whether or not you'll like it, but, if you're anything like me, it'll find a special little crevasse in your heart to occupy.


Giles, Giles & Fripp - The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp

This is one of the most quirky, whymsical, and delightfully British albums I have ever heard. Not only are the songs odd, poppy and experimental slices of artsy psychadelia, the snippets of "story" that come between the songs are incredibly hilarious. This album will make you laugh out loud and blow you away at the same time. Get into it.

password: posted_first_at_chocoreve

Country Joe & the Fish - Electric Music for the Mind and Body

This is a pretty straight-forward accessible psychadelic rock album. Some of its songs are very Doors-y, and all of them are very feel-good easy-going pieces of rock. Very chill and good.
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Thursday, January 25, 2007


Proto-Punk is about as much a genre as Classic Rock is. That is to say, rather than being a concrete stylistically-defined genre, it's used more as an umbrella term. In this case, the term is used to refer to the multitude of bands who preformed in the sixties or seventies and whose experimentation and stylistic innovations can be seen as direct precursors to the punk-rock explosion of the late seventies. The influence of many of these bands can be immediately picked up on, from the raw, snotty garage rock of early bands like The Seeds or The Sonics to the somewhat later manifestations of MC5 and The Stooges. The influence of other bands is more obtuse, often providing more the stripped-down, barebones frame in which punk rock would flourish rather than the actual sound. Bands such as The Velvet Underground or Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band certainly fit into this category. The only true common factor between all proto-punk bands is that they were all exploring new ground, pushing the limits on what was considered acceptable in rock music, and they were all kickin' out the jams.


The Stooges - S/T
MC5 - Kick Out the Jams
The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat
The Sonics - Boom
Television - Marquee Moon
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Trout Mask Replica

MC5 - Kick Out the Jams

An absolute classic. Wild, self-destructive garage rock at its very best. Guarantee: more punk than your favorite punk band. Kick out the jams motherfuckers!

The Monks - Black Monk Time

One of my absolute favorite proto-punk records. Recorded by American GI's stationed in Germany, this album is unlike most anything I've ever heard. Its blunt minimalism hits you first, with occasional blasts of guitar feedback, chaotic organ, and even occasionally some electric banjo. The lyrics range from quirky relationship songs to delirious diatribes about the Vietnam war. Why this album hasn't caught on more is completely beyond me, it's original, infectious, and historically relevant. Oh, and it kicks ass.

Rocket From The Tombs - The Day the Earth Met the Rocket From the Tombs

Rocket From the Tombs were the precursors to two very important bands: Pere Ubu, maybe my favorite post-punk band, and Dead Boys, a great punk rock band. Most of the songs on this album were recorded in 1975, and feature terrible production and sound quality, but can very easily be called punk rock a year before The Ramones released their self-titled debut. In fact, one of the songs is the familiar "Sonic Reducer," which features David Thomas on vocals but contains just as much furious punk-rock spirit as the ultimate Dead Boys version. Maybe they would have today been hailed as the "first punk band" if in 1975 they'd been able to raise the funds to get in a studio and get a record released.

The Modern Lovers - S/T

The Modern Lovers' debut is another great proto-punk album. It's teenage geeky angst set to minimalist stripped-down rock'n'roll, no doubt slightly indebted to its collaborator, John Cale. I don't really have much to say about this album, it strikes me as the type of album which would generate mixed reactions, but its certainly worth trying.

Noise Rock

Noise rock, or "pigfuck," as it is sometimes lovingly called, is a genre of music that takes punk aesthetic to its extreme, generally drawing from the atonal musical experiments of noise and industrial and making them more direct, generally with song structures resembling punk rock, though this is not necessarily true. The roots of noise rock can be traced back to the 60's, to the "Nihilist Spasm Band," a group who constructed their own instruments and played mostly free improv. The Velvet Underground truly laid the foundations for noise rock, most notably with their songs "The Black Angel's Death Song" on VU&Nico and "I Heard Her Call My Name" on White Light/White Heat. In the 70's, No Wave became an important genre in New York, inspiring artists such as The Ex and Sonic Youth. Noise rock finally emerged as an independent genre in the 80's, with bands like Big Black, the Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, The Swans, The Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, and Pussy Galore gaining attention from an "alternative" audience. In the 90's, Japanese bands like The Boredoms and Melt Banana emerged on the scene, making noise rock even more abrasive and direct.

Some essential albums:

Big Black - Atomizer
The Butthole Surfers - Locust Abortion Technician
Jesus Lizard - Goat
The Boredoms - Pop Tatari
Scratch Acid - The Greatest Gift
The Swans - Children of God
The Cows - Sorry in Pig Minor

For those of you who already have most of those albums, and are into noise rock, here are some more albums that you'll be sure to enjoy:

Arab on Radar - Queen Hygiene II

Noise rock the way it was meant to be done, screeching guitars, demented vocals, and a strong underlying sense or rhythm and a twisted atonal sense of melody.
(Not my link, so I can't vouch for it, sorry)

The Cherubs - Heroin Man

One of my favourite noise rock albums, extremely tight and loud, it comes at you and pummels you with violent guitar and vocals that make your head spin.

Dazzling Killmen - Face of Collapse

Similar to The Cherubs, look on allmusic if you need more information.

Skullflower - IIIrd Gatekeeper

As far as noise rock goes, Skullflower are rather unique. Their music is sometimes described as "dark ambient," but that to me reminds raises connotations of Sunn 0))) style drone music. Though Skullflower is sometimes that, they're also a lot more, they have pummeling riffs, distorted guitar, pummeling drums, all to keep you on the edge of your seat. At other times, they rely on a more Neu-like driving rhythm with interesting guitar experimentation layered on top of it. Basically, this album lies somewhere in between Sunn 0))) and Arab on Radar, it's dense, experimental and challenging, but hardly boring.


So, there's this genre called Avant-Prog.

I've probably already lost most of your attention, seeing as how that appears to be the most pretentious combination ever, you've got avant-garde, which immediately calls to mind pretentious snobs sitting around listening to a one note drone for hours on end, and on the other hand, prog rock, which causes images of guitar-molesting long-haired guys playing music that only they really want to listen to and writing hour-long epics.

But no! Avant-prog is different. Avant-prog is basically, to me, the modern equivalent of RIO (or Rock in Opposition), which basically was dense, non-radio-friendly music that challenged classic rock idioms. What does this mean? Well, it means that avant-prog has more in common with classical music (think Stravinsky) than it does with your average generic rock'n'roll single. Avant-prog songs are like jazz-rock fusion symphonies, they're elaborate, dense, and complex while simultaneously direct and visceral.

Basically, you won't really know what I'm talking about unless you've heard it. So here are, for your benefit, some starter albums:

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - Faultline

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic are a very chill avant-prog outfit who started in 1983 as a side-project of Mission of Burma members Roger Miller and Martin Swope. Both had left by 1988 but the band continued regardless, playing a unique blend of rock, punk, classical, and freeform. This is their brilliant 1989 album.

Doctor Nerve - Every Screaming Ear

Doctor Nerve is completely wild. Seriously, this is like listening to an avant-jazz album on speed with doses of rock randomly scattered about for good measure. Some of these songs are "Nervewares," which means the score were actually generated by a computer program. And they're actually good. Definetely worth checking out.

Thinking Plague - A History of Madness

Another great album, sounds like a more modern version of Henry Cow. If you liked the previous two chances are you'll like this one as well.