“The song part of Total Trash is cool enough, but part two is what makes it essential – the noise part, what happens when the various rules of music break down and pure escape velocity takes over. I remember seeing Sonic Youth perform this live in maybe 1991 and having one of those profound and prolonged WOW moments that I can’t help calling religious. I remember thinking, they aren’t really playing this music, they’re just channeling it, deflecting it, aiming it, wrestling with it. It’s like they’d punched a hole in a cosmic dike and suddenly it was all just about containment. But not even that. Because this kind of flood can’t be contained. All you can really do is ride it, keep moving, keep playing, because if you don’t, you’ll get dragged under, and where’s the glory in that?” (Philip Random)
“Was I cool enough to be hip to Pop Will Eat Itself in 1987? I think so. Or maybe it took until 1988. Those were weird days, and seriously, I wasn’t the cool one, it was the people I was hanging with. By 1987-88, I was deep in a negative hole of my own making (though the Reagan Administration had helped), which was manifesting musically as NOISE, and also looking backward, digging through old records, because I couldn’t afford cool new ones. Which by 1987-88 meant Hip-Hop if you were even half paying attention. And I was, I guess, I just wasn’t buying much, because I was so broke. Which reflects now in how woefully misrepresented that form is on this list. Because it’s all there (Guideline #1). Except I did buy Box Frenzy. Or maybe somebody just gave it to me, no doubt because they’d decided Pop Will Eat Itself weren’t properly cool anyway, being white guys, and long-haired geeks at that (Grebo was the name of the scene). But I’d pretty much given up on cool by the end of high school anyway. Lucky me.” (Philip Random)
Mysterious live performance from somewhere in Europe, 1983. Chris + Cosey (late of Throbbing Gristle) exploring strange sonic regions via the nebulously labelled CTI – European Rendezvous album. This was the kind of thing you’d record off the radio back in the day, late night weirdness, the DJ never telling you who it was. Maybe a decade later, you’d finally figure it out.
“Evol (the name of the album in question) is love spelled backward, which is pretty much what was going on in 1991, Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, as Sonic Youth warmed up Neil Young + Crazy Horse, choosing not to pander even slightly to all the aging hippies in the house, but rather to deliver unto them a profound and beautiful and sustained NOISE. The climax came with Expressway to Yr Skull, which actually starts out kind of nice, but then ‘We’re Gonna Kill – The California Girls – We’re gonna fire the exploding load in the milkmaid maidenhead.’ The hippies were very confused, angry even, but I just laughed. The times, they just kept a-changing.” (Philip Random)
“The Jesus and Mary Chain seemed to come from nowhere way back when, that lost decade found somewhere within the mid-1980s. Something’s gotta f***ing give, the zeitgeist was screaming, somebody’s gotta take all this noise to its extreme edge, give us all a smug, punk sneer, call it music, cause riots, get arrested, sell records. In the case of You Trip Me Up, that meant taking a nice little la-la-la love song and plugging it into the end of the universe. Sometimes on late night radio, we’d play it at the same time as Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive, both channels maxed to eleven – like competing nuclear mushroom clouds. It had to be done.” (Philip Random)
“No doubt about it, Negativland‘s fourth album Escape From Noise was album of the year 1988, assuming you’d pretty much had it with music by that point, which I had. Not that there weren’t cool songs, essential melodies continuing to percolate. Noise just seemed a more relevant response to the prevailing cultural sewage of the time, which there was no escaping, except by diving full-on into it, which is what Escape From Noise (song and album) is really all about. And it’s hilarious, from beginning to end.” (Philip Random)
Before they were mixing it up with big beats and samples and otherwise bringing the millennial noise, Pop Will Eat Itself were psyche-garage punk malcontents (aka Grebos), and way smarter than they were letting on as their torn up take on Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s annoying 1986 hit made rather clear. And no, there’s no intended Satanic significance in this being the 666 selection on the list – just how things worked out.
In which Severed Heads remind us that there’s joy in repetition, or maybe just madness; and truth in the notion that many of the so-called Industrial artists of the 1980s only got worse as they got better at figuring out their instruments and related technology, got to sounding more and more like normal musicians. In Severed Heads case, that means they’d peaked long before I ever heard them via any number of cassette only releases. But fortunately, that truth eventually found me via Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live In The Past, a double vinyl compilation full of delightfully strange and, if needs be, antagonistic excursions.
“The Beatnigs only released one album, and it’s unique. A place where industrial noise and all manner of other musics don’t so much blend as find a way to grind together, intensely and intelligently, with Nature a standout because I agree with Michael Franti, yeah, I love all the doves and coyotes and flamingoes and rats running wild and free, but short of a dog or two, all of my favorite animals are human.” (Philip Random)