Sunday, July 2, 2017

Thrashomatic Danger Mix I

"Dog Will Hunt"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

“Angry” music is stereotypically associated with teenage boys.  I certainly was a teenage boy once,1 and I listened to my share of angry music then.  But I never really stopped.  I find there to be something cleansing in music that you need to crank way up or else it’s not worth listening to—music to make your ears bleed, music to headbang and thrash and pogo to.  I was, in fact, exactly 26 years old when I heard these lyrics:2

No new tale to tell,
Twenty-six years on my way to hell.
Gotta listen to your big-time, hard-line, bad luck, fist fuck.
Don’t think you’re having all the fun:
You know me, I hate everyone.

Now, I certainly didn’t hate everyone back then ... but, you know, everyone has those days when they just want to say “fuck the world.”  And when those moods hit me, I mainly want to put in some music that fuels my rage—“unchecked aggression music,” I sometimes call it—because, after I’ve finished listening to that, after my adrenaline has shot through the roof then slowly wended its way back down, after I’m physically exhausted from the jumping around that is absolutely required to keep up with the beats of these songs ... after all that, I just feel better.  These are songs that (at least for me) stoke my rage, sure, then whirl it around, carrying me helplessly along, then the music stops and my rage is gone.  It washes into me, through me, and then out of me.  This is not music which makes my black moods worse: this is fucking therapy.

Of course, this is not to everyone’s tastes.  There will be lots of F-bombs (three just in the post so far), and some people don’t like that.  There will be screeching guitars, and some people don’t like that.  There will be screeching vocals too, and some people really don’t like that.  So if this mix is not your cup of tea, I can dig that.  But, if you’re open to some good, old-fashioned, “angry” music, I think you’re going to enjoy the shit out of this one (profanity very much intended).

Now, some people have a tendency to pick an angry music genre and stick with it: punk, or metal, or industrial, or grunge, or what-have-you.  I’m a bit more eclectic, so this will definitely be an “all of the above” approach.  Why limit yourself?  You’ll see all those subgenres represented below, plus more specific variations—speed metal, or hardcore punk—and other styles as well, such as nu-metal (which is not quite metal), skate-thrash (which is not quite punk), funk metal (which is not quite anything but itself), and some just plain pop that got out of control.  And whatever in that rage soup that we only brush lightly here in volume I you can rest assured will be more fully explored in volumes to come.

This volume actually started out life as a pre-modern mix.3  Most of the tracks that were on the original version are retained here, and mostly in the same order.  However, I’ve also taken the liberty of expanding it and diversifying it somewhat, to reflect my chameleon moods (by which I mean that I have many shades of black).

Let’s start by looking at what may well be my absolute favorite unchecked agression music: industrial.  Early industrial (which I generally refer to as “proto-industrial”) is not, in my opinion, very good.  It’s messy and experimental, much like no wave, only even more chaotic, if such a thing can be imagined.  This phase is epitomized by Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, and especially the granddaddy of all industrial, Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, who were known for things like beating hollow metal pipes against the concrete walls of underpass tunnels and calling it music.  While I don’t much care to listen to that sort of stuff, I do acknowledge that I owe a great debt to those bands, because without them we wouldn’t have the great industrial bands of today.  I like to think of industrial as being split down the middle, with the guitar-based bands on one side, such as Big Black and Ministry, and the synth-based bands such as Nitzer Ebb and KMFDM on the other.  And, of course, bridging the two, the perfectly balanced guitars-and-synth-working-together of Nine Inch Nails.

For this volume, we have two entries from the life-changing NIN, including the one I quoted at the beginning, “Wish.”  I was originally going to try to restrict myself to only one, but “Wish” is just too perfect to leave off, and there was absolutely no way I was going to bump “Sin.”  Off Reznor’s amazing first album (which really did change my life, in some ways) Pretty Hate Machine, “Sin” vies with a lot of other great candidates: “Head Like a Hole,” “Terrible Lie,” “That’s What I Get” ... hell, nearly the entirety of that first album could fit here.  But there’s a special place in my heart for “Sin.”  Perhaps it was playing it at a college party once and seeing a good friend of mine really get into it,4 or perhaps it’s just the perfection of the lyrics (“you give me the anger; you give me the nerve”), but I just adore this song.  It really gets under my skin, to steal a few more of its excellent words.

But the industrial train doesn’t stop there: we also get to hear from Ministry, with their amazing “Stigmata,” and Big Black, with the insanely good “Kerosene.”  Both of these bands can be hit-or-miss with me.  Ministry has a few other tracks that I think are almost as good as this one,5 while Big Black has hardly anything else which comes close.  But these two songs are just fucking brilliant.  Again, the lyrics are a big part.  Here’s a bit of “Stigmata”:

Just like a car crash,
Just like a knife,
My favourite weapon
Is the look in your eyes ...

There’s also a line about “chewing on glass,” which is pretty much what the music sounds like, but in a good way.  And then there’s “Kerosene,” which absolutely has to be the number one most perfect song ever written about the hell of living in a small town:

Never anything to do in this town
(Live here my whole life)
Probably learn to die in this town
(Live here my whole life)
Nothing to do, sit around at home,
Sit around at home, stare at the walls,
Stare at each other and wait till we die,
Stare at each other and wait till we die,
Probably come to die in this town ...

The music for this tune is bass-heavy, menacing; it stalks you, like a kerosene fire, waiting to pounce on you ... which, eventually, it does.  “Kerosene” (and Big Black in general) was another introduction by the same friend of mine who first played me “Goo Goo Muck” by the Cramps and made me truly appreciate “Troy” by Sinead.6  She always said it was the only song that could make her dance on the table ... so naturally we played it often at parties.  But above and beyond the fondness of my personal connection, it really is just an amazing song that you sort of have to hear to believe.

Moving on past industrial to grunge, we of course couldn’t have a mix like this without throwing in some Nirvana.  My original cut at this mix included “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but it was just too obvious ... and, anyway, that’s not the best/thrashiest song on Nevermind.  I personally give that honor to “Lounge Act,” whose third verse features some of Cobain’s best tortured screaming while still being a very hooky tune somehow.  To complement Nirvana in the Seattle grunge scene, I went with a more obscure option—Mudhoney.  Who really shouldn’t be obscure: the half of Green River that didn’t go on to form Pearl Jam7 became Mudhoney, and, while they may not have been as influential in the popularization of grunge as their fellow Seattleites Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, or even Alice in Chains, honestly, they kick more ass than most of those other guys put together (and that’s saying something).  Mudhoney’s first album is their rawest, and therefore their best, and I was torn on which track off it to include here.  After narrowing it down to two, I finally went with “Get into Yours.”8  It’s a fairly short track—as are many of the songs here9but it gives you a good idea of the Mudhoney style.

When it came to Boston grunge, I could of course have gone with Dinosaur Jr, or even Buffalo Tom, but in the end there really is no substitute for the Pixies.  Of course, the Pixies were more than just a grunge band, but, if you had any doubt that they were at least a grunge band, put them to rest with the two offerings I present here.  Off of Doolittle, there is the classic “Debaser,” in which Black Francis would like you to know that he’s got him a movie, slicing up eyeballs (oh ho ho ho!).  But the grungiest Pixies album of all has got to be Trompe le Monde, from which I chose “Planet of Sound,” which is just an amazing ride that builds to a frenetic wail by the end.  It’s not to be missed.

Now, when it comes to heavy metal, I confess I’m not much of a fan.  My favorite Metallica album is the Black Album, which I gather many hardcore metalheads felt was a bit of a sellout album for them.10  But even on the original iteration of this mix I knew I couldn’t realistically put together something called “Thrashomatic” with including some Metallica, so I went to a friend of mine who was a huge Metallica-head and asked for some ideas.  After rejecting many (many) suggestions, I finally decided that “Trapped Under Ice” wasn’t too awful, and it might grow on me.  (Which in fact it has.  A bit.)  When I built this version of the mix, I also decided to throw in the one and only Anthrax song I like: their cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time,” which I find simultaneously hilarious, headbanging, and almost subversive.  I’ve used it as the volume closer here.  Of course, I’ve now pretty much shot my speed metal wad, and future volumes may just have to fight over “Enter Sandman.”

Which leaves us, among the big four, with punk.  Of course the huge names here are the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, and I’ve not included either of them, which is probably a bit sacrilegious on my part.  But I did throw in a short Black Flag tune—“I Don’t Care,” which, despite being a bit macho, I still think is an absolutely great snippet of hardcore punk.  Moving from the late 70s to 1990, I next went to Sonic Youth’s album Goo, which is a fantastic album that you should run out and buy right now.  Sonic Youth is a bit of a bridge between punk and nu-metal, and they can do feedback-laced noise-rock with the best of ’em.  “Mary-Christ” is the hardest thing on Goo that I actually like; anything harder than that (e.g. “Mildred Pierce”) is a bit too angry even for me.  Finally, when looking at modern punk, you’re talking about two major bands: Green Day, and the Offspring.  While I’ve no doubt that something appropriately gnarly off Dookie is looming in our future for volume II, for this volume I chose “Bad Habit,” which is certainly the greatest ode to road rage ever written:

You drive on my ass,
Your foot’s on the gas,
And your next breath is your last ...

Looking at the choices which are a bit of a mixed bag, there’s Suicidal Tendencies, who are ostensibly a hardcore punk band, but who also evince elements of skate-thrash and funk metal.  Many people favor “Institutionalized” for a Suicidal choice,11 and, while that’s an amazing song, I fell in love with “You Can’t Bring Me Down” when I first heard it.  Probably mostly because of Mike Muir’s confrontational lyrics: not only does he advise his listeners that they wouldn’t know what crazy was if Charles Manson was eating fruit loops on their front porch, but he also points out that:

Yeah, maybe sometimes I do feel like shit.
I ain’t happy about it, but I’d rather feel like shit than be full of shit.
And if I offended you, oh I’m sorry.
But maybe you need to be offended.
But here’s my apology, and one more thing ... fuck you!

But let’s not give short shrift to Rocky George’s amazing guitar work on this track either.

I also threw in a track from the Vines—the magnificent “Get Free”—which I suppose is categorized as nu-metal, and one from the Butthole Surfers, who are generally not considered categorizable in any way.  Not all their music is angry, but it’s all somewhat mindbending, and their bizarre “Human Cannonball” is actually fairly tame for them.  But it’s plenty punky enough to warrant inclusion here.  Then we have whatever you want to call Bad Brains ... mostly I’ve heard them referred to as “hardcore.”  Now, hardcore is a term which was originally short for “hardcore punk,” and it applied to bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.  Somewhere along the line it became shorthand for a strange marriage of punk and metal, and then it sort of became its own thing.  And Bad Brains is the hardcoriest of hardcore, as far as I’m concerned ... I can listen to very few of their songs in a row before my eyeballs start to bleed a little.  But “Soulcraft” is certainly the best of their best, and I couldn’t omit it for this mix.

Well, there are some Bad Brains songs I can listen to without physical damage, and that’s because 30 – 40% of Bad Brains’ output is actually reggae.  Not like reggae-tinged, nor reggae-influenced, nor even reggae-infused ... just plain straight up reggae.  I don’t know if there’s a word for bands that do partially thrashy-ass hardcore music and partially laid-back reggae, but, if there is, it also applies to 24-7 Spyz, who have some absolutely fantastic reggae gems on their debut album Harder Than You.12  When they’re not doing laid-back, they’re amping up with a branch of hardcore that’s probably closest to funk metal: nice strong basslines, and just a touch of hip-hop sensibility that’s hard to put your finger on.  I find “Grandma Dynomite” in particular to be an incredible piece of thrash, and there was never any question in my mind but that it would be showcased here.

Thrashomatic Danger Mix I
    [Dog Will Hunt]

        “Trust Me” by Jesus Jones, off Doubt
        “Wish” by Nine Inch Nails, off Broken [EP]
        “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” by Primus, off Sailing the Seas of Cheese
        “Mary-Christ” by Sonic Youth, off Goo
        “Human Cannonball” by Butthole Surfers, off Locust Abortion Technician
        “Bad Habit” by The Offspring, off Smash
        “Debaser” by Pixies, off Doolittle
        “Grandma Dynamite” by 24-7 Spyz, off Harder Than You
        “Dad I'm in Jail” by Was (Not Was), off What Up, Dog?
        “Soulcraft” by Bad Brains, off Quickness
        “Sunless Saturday” by Fishbone, off The Reality of My Surroundings
        “Kerosene” by Big Black, off The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape [Compilation]13
        “Trapped Under Ice” by Metallica [Single]
        “Waiting Room” by Fugazi, off 13 Songs
        “Get Free” by The Vines, off Highly Evolved
        “Planet of Sound” by Pixies, off Trompe le Monde
        “I Don't Care” by Black Flag, off Everything Went Black [Compilation]
        “Sin” by Nine Inch Nails, off Pretty Hate Machine
        “You Can't Bring Me Down” by Suicidal Tendencies, off Lights ... Camera ... Revolution
        “Get into Yours” by Mudhoney, off Mudhoney
        “Stigmata” by Ministry, off The Land of Rape and Honey
        “Lounge Act” by Nirvana, off Nevermind
        “Got the Time” by Anthrax, off Persistence of Time
Total:  23 tracks,  78:39

Genre-wise, that only leaves us with funk metal.  Again, there are two big names here—Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus—and, again, I’ve chosen only one representative.  We may see the Peppers here eventually (although honestly they’re mostly better suited for a different mix14), but Primus can thrash a bit harder when they put their minds to it, in my opinion.  “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” is the ultimate expression of that,15 and it was always on this mix, quite near the front—it may have been the original opener, in fact, though I can’t recall now.  The lyrics are not particularly angry, per se, but they are Primus-typically whimsical and, as an added bonus, they provide our volume title.

For more excellent examples of funk metal, I’ve chosen Fugazi’s not-nearly-well-known-enough “Waiting Room,” which is one of my all-time favorite bass-heavy thrashers.  It lends itself to moshing most excellently—I had some friends that had a band and they used to play a cover of this song, and I’m pretty sure it was mainly to watch me attempt to mosh to it.  And then we have Fishbone, architects of my all-time favorite party song.16  Not everything Fishbone does is funk metal, but they have a knack for it, and The Reality of My Surroundings is the album on which they achieve it most often.  “Sunless Saturday” is a vicious attack on urban decay full of power chords, a thumping bassline, and some fine trumpet work by Walter Kibbey II.

Which just leaves us with the two “what the fuck?” choices.  Our volume opener is the opener for Jesus Jones’ second and best (by quite a large margin) album, Doubt.  While the majority of this album is full of slick pop gems like “Right Here, Right Now” and “Real, Real, Real,” there are also a couple of surprisingly hard-edged tracks there as well.  There’s the sludgy “Stripped,” reminiscent of the electro-industrial of bands like Stabbing Westward or Machines of Loving Grace.  But it’s the sudden blast of “Trust Me” that really blew me away.  It sails in smoothly on a meager feedback tone, there’s four almost quiet drumstick hits, an electronic voice says “trust me: I know what I’m doing” ... and then the guitars and drums just explode.  I don’t know what you normally expect from Jesus Jones, but I bet it isn’t this.  It’s only 2 minutes long, but it’s the perfect opener.

Finally, there’s the bizarre little minute-and-a-half that is “Dad I’m in Jail,” by the ever-eclectic Was (Not Was).  A lot of their music has a bit of a soul feel (such as “Spy in the House of Love” or “Walk the Dinosaur”), but they are far-ranging, which explains why we’ve seen them so far on mixes as diverse as Bleeding Salvador, and Moonside by Riverlight, which is just about diametrically opposed to this particular mix.  “Dad I’m in Jail” was a weird little snippet that I first heard in the background of Pump Up the Volumea movie which is decidedly average, but that song really stuck with me.  I had almost forgotten about it when I happened to pick up a copy of Was (Not Was)‘s What Up, Dog? in a used CD store one day and nearly hooted in delight upon perusing the tracklist.  I bought it mainly for that one track, but there are 1517 others to recommend it as well.  “Dad I’m in Jail” is a gleeful, cacophonous, discordant jumble, with distorted cackling from David Was that’s just perfect when you’re feeling a need to vent.

Next time, let’s take it way down from this energy level and go back to something much more soothing.


1 Yes, yes: long ago.  But once.

2 Primarily because Trent Reznor and I are very close to the same age.

3 Remember, that means it was originally a one-off mix tape, back in the early 90s.

4 There’s something energizing about watching someone you care about really throw themselves into a song.  We’ll see it again when we get to “Kerosene.”

5 And I’m sure we’ll see them on upcoming volumes.

6 And, honestly, I think she may have introduced me to “Stigmata” too, now that I think about it.

7 Via Mother Love Bone, of course.

8 And we’ll see that other choice on volume II, I’m sure.

9 I think this sort of music just lends itself to shorter songs.  Unchecked aggression is hard to maintain over long periods.

10 Which—let’s be honest—is probably why I actually liked it.

11 And we’re sure to see that one on volume II, because, you know: all I wanted was a fuckin’ Pepsi!

12 Which produced, so Wikipedia tells me, the first ever video to get played on 120 Minutes, Yo! MTV Raps, Hard 60, and Headbanger’s Ball.  Just to give you a taste of how eclectic they were.

13 If you just want something downloadable, you can also get “Kerosene” off of Atomizer.  But you really owe it to yourself to pick up Rick Man’s Eight Track if you can find it.

14 Which we will come to, of course, in the fullness of time

15 Again, just my opinion ... but, then, it’s my mix so it’s my opinion that counts, don’t ya know.

16 And the only exception to the No Reuse Rule.  See the series list for full details.

17 Yes, fifteen!  Quite a bargain for a single album.

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