58. the man whose head expanded

“I admit it. I never really gave Fall main man Mark E. Smith his proper due back in the day. But I had my reasons, mainly connected with the cult that seemed to spread up around him, which got particularly annoying as the 1980s dragged along (certainly in my narrow version of what passed for reality at the time). But that was then. Now there’s no arguing the guy had something genuinely fresh and cool mixed in with all the bile he was spewing. And to my ears, he never spewed it so well as The Man Whose Head Expanded, an assault rifle of a single that crossed my path in 1983 or thereabouts. Did I actually buy it? Or did Martin Q force it on me after one too many arguments, late night and accelerated, our heads definitely well expanded. Either way, tip of the hat to Martin for forcing the point, and to Mr. Smith just for being who he was-is-shall-always-be, good bad and ugly, because he will never die, I’m pretty sure, not with all those f***ing records kicking around.” (Philip Random)

63. sweat loaf

“I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again. If the Butthole Surfers hadn’t existed, it would’ve been necessary to invent them. Because somebody had to do it, finally deliver a noise that was the manifestation of everything any decent, god-fearing parent or businessman or teacher or priest or shopkeeper or hockey coach had ever feared about so-called rock and roll, and worse.

Like that family of three that went missing in the vicinity of the Butthole Surfers’ compound in rural Texas, the young son butchered by the band, barbecued and force-fed to the dad who went mad and was later found naked at the side of the road, babbling, claiming he knew the truth about who killed JFK and the Jonestown massacres and how the Trilateral Commission figured into it all. Meanwhile, the mom just joined band, danced with them on stage, naked, and helped sell merchandise afterward. Such was the ugly and evil infamy of the Butthole Surfers circa 1987 … but only if you didn’t get the joke. Like their ‘cover’ of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf, the title adjusted, everything else turned up and on its head. Better than the original by orders of magnitude, and Satan.” (Philip Random)

95. just like honey

“If you want to know what the mid-1980s really sounded like, slap on The Jesus And Mary Chain‘ s Psycho Candy and it’s all there in the (sort of) Phil Spector melodies channeled through not a wall of sound, but a god damned holocaust of it. And yet there’s a sweetness you can’t ignore, perhaps more obvious in Just Like Honey than most of the rest of the album. But be careful, it’s a dangerous sweetness, because this is an outfit that call themselves The Jesus and Mary Chain, more than just suggesting a pure and fierce and superlative purpose that will destroy the unrighteous. And many were destroyed in 1985, the battle lines being drawn in what would come to be known as the Winter of Hate (by a few of us anyway). And you could even sing along.” (Philip Random)

122. Jezebel spirit

“I believe I’ve already rhapsodized about David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, how it changed everything forever, put sampling into the cool music toolbox, set more than just the white man free. But it was also a hell of a fun album in a creepy way, and nowhere more so than Jezebel Spirit, the track that used audio from an actual exorcism to serve its groove, which yeah, is pretty dime a dozen in certain goth and industrial circles these days, but man, what a groove! And this was early 1981. Ronald Reagan had barely been sworn in as President, John Lennon had only recently been murdered. Mix in the strong LSD that was suddenly so plentiful in my little corner of Americaland … and let’s just say some deeply weird realms were explored, entities encountered, the Winter of Hate enthusiastically engaged, not that we had the term figured out yet. But the soundtrack was already strong.” (Philip Random)

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127. Sister Ray

“Second of two in a row from the Velvet Underground, with Sister Ray likely to hit many as more weaponry than music, or as a DJ friend once put it, some songs you play for people, some you play at them. Either way, it’s a seventeen-plus-minute argument for A. how willfully out of step the Velvets were with pretty much everything else that was going down at the time (1968), and B. how brilliantly, thunderously, violently ahead of that time they were. By which I mean, the world needed Sister Ray. It just didn’t know it yet. At least, that’s how it worked for me. Discovered maybe fifteen years after the fact, mucking around through the bowels of a radio station‘s record library, educating myself. And I ain’t gonna lie. The extreme length was a particular selling point because not only did it force the limits of what we called The Reality Barrier, it also gave one time to cover a prolonged smoke or bathroom break – all the prog-rock epics of yore still being frowned upon in those contentious, battle weary days of the so-called Winter of Hate††.” (Philip Random)

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176. Christianity is Stupid

“Speaking of Jesus and surrealism and full-on agit-prop satire, Christianity Is Stupid has to rate as one of Negativland‘s high water marks. I remember it being particularly useful roundabout Christmastime, 1987, peak of the so-called Winter of Hate observances. Which, I suppose, are best understood as the mirror opposite of 1967’s Summer of Love  observances, neither being exactly what they were advertising. In other words, there was more than little fear and loathing caught up in all that overhyped San Francisco hippie shit (even if some of it was no doubt wonderful); likewise, there were traces of peace and love to be found in the massively under-hyped Winter of Hate (even if much of was deliberately abysmal). And whatever was going down (or perhaps up), Christianity is Stupid has to stand as one of its key anthems, a record you generally played at people (as opposed to for them). It even caused a proper controversy, which still seems to be playing  out. And oh yeah, the whole damned album‘s a masterpiece. Assuming noise is your thing, interruption, interference.” (Philip Random)

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184. locust

“Of course 1987 would be a locust summer, being the midpoint between the two winters, 1987 and 1988, that would come to represent the full de-flowering of the so-called Winter of Hate, Current 93’s David Tibet being its sort of patron saint and/or hell demon. But seriously, this stuff is sinister for damned sure, but also mysteriously beautiful and heartfelt. Just because a man is pointing into the maw of Moloch does not make him an agent of Moloch – just a messenger, filing a missive on the topic of Apocalypse (ongoing) by way of wigged out folk music by way of deep and dark industrial sturm + drang, or as a friend put it late one psychedelic evening, ‘this neo-Christian-pagan rigmarole I can’t seem to get enough of.’ The album in question is called Imperium, and yes, it goes places.” (Philip Random)

185. stoned immaculate

 

Another argument in favour of the Dub Syndicate (the whole On-U Sound project in general) continuing to be one of the great overlooked items in recent cultural history. Seriously. In the case of Stoned Immaculate, that means you grab a sample of Jim Morrison waxing poetic about what it’s like to be way out there at the psychedelic edge, lay it over some suitably strong and mysterious dub and voila! It hits the cool zeitgeist of summertime 1991. A stupid war has ended and with it the so-called Winter of Hate, so maybe something new and beautiful is being born. The 90s did have that vibe … for a while anyway.

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215. one summer dream

“The Electric Light Orchestra were an early fave of mine – big melodies, bigger production, like the Beatles by way of some overblown Hollywood fantasy from the 1930s … except unlike many of those fantasies, ELO was always in vivid colour. Over time, a lot of this pomp and electricity started to feel a little uncool, silly even, particularly as the 1980s imposed, the Winter of Hate and its doomsday realities. Not much room for sunny fantasy anymore. But then a strange thing happened in the early 1990s, right around the time that the last Republican got turfed from the White House (for a while anyway) and the grunge thing got over-hyped (being serious getting taken way too seriously). ELO started sounding fun again, relevant even in a retro-cool sort of way. Not that a song like 1975’s One Summer Dream had ever really lost its lustre. It was just too beautiful, like a summer afternoon in the middle of nowhere, looking out over an unknown lake with great birds soaring past and mountains in the distance. You’re sixteen years old and you know this is one of those moments that’s going to last forever.” (Philip Random)