Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“Like A Chainsaw In A Hurricane”


It was 2004 and the mindless political environment of the U.S. election year had played out in the worst possible way. My interest had turned away from politics towards my youth. I had just turned 30 (moved from New York to Los Angeles 7 years earlier) and after writing several screenplays the idea came to me to start a project about a style of music that was an inspiration to my creative endeavors.

It was in early 1992 when I first heard the song “Reverence” by The Jesus and Mary Chain with a best guitar cover that hooked me into seeking out their catalogue. They had been around many years and I had even heard and liked some of their songs before but at that moment I was finally hooked. The overall production was intense but it was the massively thick fuzz guitar sound that was infectious. William Reid is one of the most inventive and skilled guitar players I’d ever heard and it was with that guitar sound that I became obsessed.

At that time the Internet wasn’t popularized yet, it was through hunting record stores in St. Marks Place, Manhattan that a store clerk told me about Creation Records. With help from a used copy ofThe Trouser Press guide, I slowly made my way through the Creation catalogue from My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, Swervedriver, Telescopes, Boo Radleys and then beyond Creation to all the amazing 4AD Bands: Cocteau Twins, Lush, Pale Saints… Each revelation was as exciting as the last and over the next few years there would be even more bands that I would enjoy with the same intensity: Medicine, Curve, Chapterhouse, Spacemen 3, Loop, Flying Saucer Attack, AR Kane, Seefeel. It was an unforgettable sound; generally speaking it was an overwhelmingly loud music that consisted of long distorted guitar riffs and droning vocals that produced a hypnotically hazy world of confusion. It challenged perceptions by ushering in a new style of music that was more comparable to states of mind rather than to other forms of music despite strong varied influences from Psychedelic Music, Krautrock and Post-Punk.

It didn’t occur to me right away that many of these bands had switched gears creatively, broken up, changed names or just completely disappeared. It was a mystery to me what happened to this amazingly unique non-commercial music, virtually unknown in the U.S. when they were active, with few MTV plays and even less journalistic coverage. At the time Rolling Stone, Spin and to a smaller extent Alternative Press and Raygun come to mind, as the music magazines of the day rarely covered any of these bands beyond Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine. Only a few books, chiefly Jim DeRogatis’s excellent “Kaleidoscope Eyes” and Rachel Felder’s equally magnificent “Manic Pop Thrill” covered more of these bands than most of U.S. music media. Throughout the 90’s I was still listening (while getting into electronic music as well) and was still challenged by these user-friendly sounds. The music was interactive in the most primal way, music I could listen to no matter what my mood. Eventually later in the 90’s there were fewer and fewer musician dabbling with these ideas, only Bowery Electric, lovesliescrushing andMahogany instantly come to mind, even Sigur Ros – there were a few others but the distorted guitar sound was mostly out and barely anyone was mentioning names like Ride, Slowdive andChapterhouse.

One of my first Internet searches ever was: “When is the new My Bloody Valentine record coming out?” Soon after searching for info about Cocteau Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain who were still around through most of the nineties, I’d looked up many of the other band names mentioned above and I found out very quickly why many of these bands had broken up, changed names or just completely disappeared.

Some of the younger groups (notably Slowdive and Chapterhouse) were initially well received by the UK press but after poor album sales and other burgeoning movements, the press already wanted to move away from them. There were many snarky journalists' back then in the UK who wrote a lot of nasty things about these groups; mostly unrelated to their music. Though having a sizable cult appeal their influence and importance would not be heard for another decade.

This is the first post in an ongoing series, more to come...

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