Whether he’s exploring our digital dependency (Lo and Behold), capital punishment (Into the Abyss) or the straight-up bliss of evil, 74-year-old moviemaking icon Werner Herzog has always looked deep into our collective soul. He’s also fascinated with the primordial fire – all those majestically fiery, lava-filled craters, along with the noxious fumes and massive eruptions that generally take us mortals by surprise. In the 1970s, he visited…read more »
Late on Friday, US Vogue announced what we all hoped to be true – the theme of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s next Costume Institute show will be the work of Comme des Garçons and Rei Kawakubo. Set to open on the 4th of May, it will mark only the second time the institution has paid tribute to a living designer – the last occasion being in 1983, with an exhibition around the work of Yves Saint Laurent.
“In…read more »
Finding a place in society based on sexual orientation and belief systems, continues to be an ongoing struggle – one that is sadly felt worldwide. But, what if that ‘place’ is predetermined for you through governmental legislation and without compromise? This is the reality for the Hijras (trans community) in Bangladesh, where homosexuality is still classified as a pathological condition or disease deserving of life imprisonment. Horrified by the treatment of the LGBT and trans community in…read more »
A$AP Rocky’s short film project ‘Money Man’ premiered in London on Friday, featuring new music from the mob’s upcoming Cozy Tapes Vol. 1. Skepta, La Haine actor Said Taghmaoui and A$AP Nast feature in the intense 12-minute visual.
The piece was shot in three days around northwest London, tracing the story of a young woman named Rina as she navigates the underworld of crime and violence that surrounds her. A drug made from scorpion venom and butterfly wings plays a central…read more »
Drake has premiered four new tracks on Sunday’s OVO Sound Radio show, with three featuring on an upcoming ‘playlist project’ titled More Life.
On the eve of his 30th Birthday, the Views rapper unveiled “Two Birds One Stone” – which apparently makes a reference to his drama involving Kid Cudi and Kanye West last month – “Fake Love”, “Sneakin’” with Atlanta youngblood rapper 21 Savage and his remix of London rapper Dave’s “Wanna Know”.
Speaking on the show,…read more »
If time heals all wounds, as anybody who has ever suffered heartbreak has been reassured, that’s scant comfort when time won't move. On Male Bonding’s 2010 debut Nothing Hurts, a high watermark of the era’s fuzz-punk boom, the London trio stared at the clock, wondering when, exactly, the healing was supposed to begin. “Year’s not long,” singer/guitarist John Arthur Webb repeated to himself on the band’s breakthrough song, unconvincingly—because in the wake of trauma, a year is an eternity. On the band’s fuming third album Headache, Webb stops straining to find a bright side and just leans into the misery. Opener “Wrench” begins by laying out the kind of worst-case scenario that even the most dejected scorned lovers try to resist considering: What if 15 years pass and you still don’t feel any fucking better about things?
It’s been five years since Male Bonding’s last album, Endless Nothing, though it just as well could have been 15, given how off the radar they’ve been lately. At some point after that record, they split from Sub Pop, the label that aided their swift rise, and ceased touring. Their social media accounts sat dark for more than a year before they surprise-released Headache, and at this point even its existence does little to clarify whether they have or haven’t broken up. Releasing a new album for free, with no promotion or any live shows to support it, is the type of thing a band does when they’re over. The no-frills Facebook post announcing the record reads like a farewell note: “Have our third album for free—see ya.”
Was another Male Bonding record necessary after all these years? The band’s debut so effectively laid out their formula—fizzy hooks, neurotic tempos, 1990 production values—that there wasn’t much room to improve on it. Endless Nothing faced the same burden justifying itself, too, and good as it was, that album didn’t add much to their legacy, either. But then again, in the post-No Age age, where this kind of purist noise-rock generates a fraction of the interest it did just a half decade ago, Male Bonding have fallen so far from the public consciousness that they barely have a legacy to protect. There was nothing to lose by giving it another stab.
Perhaps the best thing about Headache, then, is the reminder that this band even existed in the first place, but the album stands on its own merits, too. Since the band once touted the youthful fallacy that nothing ever changes, there’s a curious poignance in hearing how they’ve aged—and, to be sure, they have aged. They’ve grown angrier, crankier and, fittingly, grungier. The boyish harmonies of Nothing Hurts are mostly gone; the band can still turn a hook, but they aren’t nearly as sweet or nimble as the old ones. There used to be something vaguely anti-gravitational about the band’s songs, a lightness, but these tunes hang low to the ground, collecting dirt.
What hasn’t changed is the emotional charge. If anything, Webb’s conviction comes across more pointedly than ever. “Why does this keep happening? I cannot feel the way I want to feel,” he shudders over helter-skelter guitars on “What’s Wrong?” On “Chipping Away,” a sloppy, half-finished sketch of a song, he curses his writer’s block, blaming it on his inability to move on from an estranged ex, but he saves his harshest accusation for the Dinosaur Jr.-heavy “I Would Say”: “Why did you leave when I needed help?”
So on the surface, Headache is another album about wounds that won’t heal. But at its best it brings a wizened new perspective to those same themes. It’s also about growing older and, for all the wear, still feeling like yourself, something that anybody who's been shocked to discover that they connect as deeply with In Utero in their 30s as they did as a teen can relate to. Sometimes there’s comfort in feeling sad, simply because it can remind us of times when we were younger and felt the same. Judging from these cloudy songs, Webb needs all the comfort he can get. “What deserts me cannot hurt me,” he sings on the closer “Out to Sea,” but once again, he’s deluding himself. It already has.
The third album from Chicago trio Oozing Wound begins with a backwards guitar wail that puts a fresh twist on the technique Metallica used in the iconic intro to their ...And Justice for All leadoff track “Blackened.” True to form, of course, the prelude gives way to a muscular, uptempo chug as the song, “Rambo 5 (Pre-Emptive Strike)” achieves liftoff, announcing that “okay, now we’re really getting shit started” in stereotypical metal fashion. More importantly, on “Rambo 5” Oozing Wound manage to recapture the energy of classic Slayer, Left Hand Path-era Entombed, and skate punk-rooted metal like Suicidal Tendencies and Excel all in the same riff.
In purely musical terms, Whatever Forever is bound to attract thrash, stoner rock, doom, and punk loyalists as well as people arriving at those particular strains of heaviness for the first time. Metalheads will no doubt recognize how frontman/guitarist Zack Weil howls like a cross between Exodus vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza and Kreator’s Mille Petrozza. Likewise, now-departed drummer Kyle Reynolds’ fills and thumpa-thumpa-thumpa beats recall genre luminaries like Dave Lombardo and Charlie Benante. By the same token, though, Oozing Wound exude an attitude that immediately distinguishes them from the music they reference—and update—with such convincing skill.
Oozing Wound play with undeniable passion. They also shift gears between tempos with uncanny ease, and their ability to incorporate slower sections gives the faster material an explosiveness it wouldn't otherwise have. As the lava-like churn of “Eruptor” bubbles to a boil and segues into “Tachycardia,” for example, Oozing Wound not only channel High on Fire at their most infernal but also manage to sustain the buildup over both songs. Additionally, engineer Matt Russell’s rendering of bassist Kevin Cribbin’s tone should serve as the ultimate reference for how to capture low end that’s Godzilla-huge—full and imposing, but most of all clear.
All that said, it’s hard to listen to this album and not get the feeling that these guys are making fun of their influences while also honoring them. Despondency, hopelessness, and even outright nihilism can certainly make for engaging music. But when those emotions are worn on the sleeve as affectations, they ring hollow. With Oozing Wound, it’s hard to tell. On their own, the lyrics on Whatever Forever contain vague but nevertheless thought-provoking undercurrents. When Weil sings that “peace is a lie” and that “tonight we will track, and identify spies” on “Rambo 5,” one gets the distinct sense he might be talking about more than the outward silliness that the song title lets on.
The same goes for Weil’s lyrics on “Mercury in Retrograde Virus,” where he sings “Conscious killing keeps the planet spinning.../Can’t fight that kind of breeding/The facts a mask revealing.” But Weil also plays up a fuck-it-all malaise that comes off as a posture and begs you not to care about what he’s saying. As he sneers his way through self-defeatist headbanger anthems like “Diver” and “Everything Sucks, and My Life Is a Lie,” the band’s raucous delivery sounds better suited for the upbeat mood of keg party. On paper, the contrast should make for rich juxtaposition. Instead, Weil and company end up looking like they lack the courage of their convictions.
Oozing Wound deserve credit for standing apart from purist thrash revivalists like Bonded by Blood and Mantic Ritual. Clearly, they intend for their music to serve as a beefier, decidedly modern take on classic forms. But by hiding behind detachment, the music's underlying power ends up getting smothered by its bluster. As engaging as that bluster is at first, over the course of ten songs Whatever Forever begins to grate not unlike a person who tries too hard to look nonchalant when they would hold your attention longer if they just opened up a bit more.
Leonard Cohen has been bidding his farewell for decades, since before we ever met him. In 1966, he opened Beautiful Losers—his mystical, lysergic, gleefully obscene second novel—with the sunset plea, “Can I love you in my own way? I am an old scholar, better-looking now than when I was young. That’s what sitting on your ass does to your face.” He was just 32 then, rakish without ravaging, not yet celebrated for pairing wry, elegant sacrilege to folk melodies—a year before courting “Suzanne,” 18 from raising his “Hallelujah.” But even then, he was conscious and deferential to the light waning around him.
Which is a placidity his followers don’t always share; what other 82-year-old artist could possibly acknowledge his impending mortality and alarm his fans enough to recant? After The New Yorker’s remarkable recent profile quoted him as “ready to die”—depicting a mentally dexterous, physically frail ascetic “confined to barracks” in Los Angeles, solemnly tidying his affairs—Cohen took pains to console his fans, with familiar drollness: “I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live forever.” But even as he demurs, it’s hard not to play his 14th studio album, You Want It Darker, and hear a pristine, piously crafted last testament—a courtly act of finality that extends to the title. (Notice it’s not a question; it’s a prescription.)
Cohen has always kicked up his heels in the ambiguities of love and spirituality—casting prayers to the carnal, getting off on enlightenment. And so this new darkness he offers has dimensions instead of declaratives—it feels, in turn, to lyrically reference the encroaching blackness of death, the insularity of plumbing the soul ever-deeper, a fresh fatalism toward the spinning world. “I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game/I don’t know the people/In your picture frame,” he laments, achingly, on “Leaving the Table,” over a warm and minimal waltz. Later, he intones, “I’m traveling light/It’s au revoir/My once so bright/My fallen star” (“Traveling Light”). It’s delivered with a wink, and no more dramatically brooding than his past work, but it is inescapably morbid; every track is vivid yet still enigmatic as it conjures loss and lamentation of some variety.
This darkness also apparent in the newly fathomless boom of his baritone, which already stripped the floorboards on recent albums Old Ideas and Popular Problems. Whereas the rough edges of his younger, nasal reediness suggested chic bohemian nonchalance, now his low caroling is edged in defiance, and Darker’s production is singularly complementary to it. When he imagines, not so subtly, the stars above him losing light (“If I Didn’t Have Your Love”), his intoning dips below cherubic organs, hinting at what these enamored lyrics soon reveal—that this bright devotional is of the spiritual sort, hewing closer to his past career as a monk than as a Olympic-level ladies’ man. (The most jarring thing about Darker is how utterly devoid of lust it is.) The gracious, spare production adds to the spell—contributed by his son, Adam Cohen, who almost wholly replaces his father’s proclivities for tinny keyboards and stately, gospel-esque female harmonies in favor of violins, warm acoustic guitar, and a cantor male choir. The elder Cohen’s familiar scaffolding of flamenco-influenced guitar remains, a bridge to history.
Cohen is not a songwriter who panders; he speaks above us, sometimes quite literally to higher forms, but also to universality instead of common denominator. Topicality, to him, remains somewhere around the Romantic era. But Cohen is also keen to experiment here. He embraces spry, rootsy bluegrass strings on “Steer Your Way,” which nods back in a few directions—to his college stint in a country band, to 1971’s Songs of Love and Hate (which featured Charlie Daniels on fiddle), to brighter moments on Popular Problems. The album’s final track, for the first time, is a string reprise; it bows out “String Reprise/Treaty,” Cohen’s difficult conversation with his higher power (“I wish there was a treaty we could sign/It’s over now, the water and the wine/We were broken then, but now we’re borderline”) with delicate, mournful dignity.
The album’s heart is exposed early, and plainly, in the title track. Its religious tones veer toward disdainful (“If you are the dealer/I’m out of the game/If you are the healer/I’m broken and lame”) but his oaky growl quickly becomes rapturous. Three times, as the choir drops out, he chants, “Hineni Hineni”—a Hebrew cry of devotion, the reply of a ready worshipper who hears their calling from God and is ready to act in service. Often, it’s the service in the afterlife. His is not a yelp of fervor, or excitable in any shade; the moment is his most quaking, sunken baritone delivery on the album—so deep, it would sound sinister without such compassion imbuing it. It’s the informed conclusion of a lifetime of inquiry. Hopefully, it is one holy dialogue of more still to come. But in this moment, he sounds satisfied; he has loved us in his own way, and he is ready for what awaits him next. But that doesn’t mean we are.