Saw these U.S. guys recently when they were travelling the country doing a tour as supports and picked up their album Evergreen (it was the only CD on offer at the gig, everything else was t-shirts – sign of the times). Yet to have a chance to give this one a full spin but must admit Behold The Crown is catchy stuff. Their live performance was tops too, definitely worth checking out if they tour Australia again.
So I went to Running in the Shadows: The Australian Fleetwood Mac show on Saturday. They were great (and it was loud)! I quickly found my way to the front of stage-left given that my initial position near the sound desk positioned me behind some tall dudes who blocked my view of ‘Stevie Nicks’ (can’t have that!).
For the record, they played a variety of tracks from throughout the bands history including an early thumping blues number from ’69 as well as all the expected fan favourites (their performance of Tusk was great – don’t think I could have held my phone up long enough to record that one even if I tried). You’d be hard-pressed to find a better collection of Fleetwood Mac songs other than at the bona-fide bands own concert (and as Australian fans outside the limited places that they’re touring in 2019 know this is the best way to get a fix of live Fleetwood Mac).
Landslide was performed early in the gig and that’s one song that never ceases to blow me away. Nicks’ lyrics are exceptional and the performance by Running in the Shadows hit all the right notes.
I didn’t plan on videoing any of it but as I saw a few folk stick their phones in the air I couldn’t resist. Recommended as a night out with the Missus or Hubby or just go solo, you won’t regret it.
This night capped off a pretty intense run of band watching over the preceding weeks. I’m going to post some more clips and chat about band stuff (pick-ups from gigs and other albums) over the coming weeks. Also I’ve put up a YouTube channel for anyone interested in following what I’m up to. Check it out.
I bought The Cranberries song Linger on cassingle at the time of its re-release in 1994. That song and Soundgarden’s newly released album Superunknown are linked in my memory, tethered as part of my overall youthful experience of the groundswell of creativity and good will that the Seattle-sound revolution had ushered in in 1991-92, when people all over the world—consumers, in record industry parlance—suddenly made an album—by a band dressed in thrift store hand-me downs—a generational mega-hit.
In 1994, the popularity and sheer force of Seattle bands (and all manner of other generationally-associated American bands) had resulted in a rising tide of youthful enthusiasm-for and awareness-of change across music industries, in America and abroad.
To be swept up in that period of music-making was exciting, energising and full of seemingly endless listening options. I had very little money to spend and so had to be highly selective with whatever I purchased. I had been primed for Superunknown by Soundgarden’s previous effort: Badmotorfinger (one of the great masterpieces of 90s music). A CD album set me back between $25 and $30—a monstrous amount of money for me at that time and one that had the potential to literally send me broke for weeks (I couldn’t simply buy every new release no matter how much I liked the band). Each purchase had to be carefully vetted. What was the band’s track record? Was this their first, second, third or more album? (Better to buy their second, in some cases, rather than chance it on a first timer—on the other hand, without taking chances you risked being left behind and potentially missing out on discovering some new, great band). Friends recommendations mattered as well—as did friend-access to older brothers’ CD collections (potentially a loan-copy of an album could be procured for a trial run of a week or so). Could songs be taped from radio for pre-purchase listening (presuming I had something to tape them on, which in 1994 I certainly didn’t)?
Even the purchase of a cassingle was vetted, as the cheapest form of permanent access to a bands music I had to consider whether I’d later buy the album (and thus waste approx. $5, in advance, buying a single—and accompanying b-side—that I would later own anyway). These considerations had to be weighed against whether or not the song was worthy of purchase as a single, just how much replay value would I get out of it? Thus, the song had to be damn good, I had to want to listen to it over and over and I likely wouldn’t be buying the album version of it anytime soon (this last consideration being tempered somewhat by the reality that most singles I did buy were from bands that I was unsure of, whose work I was unfamiliar with or who had limited output with little to no quality consensus about their work from friends). These were the conditions which saw me buy the singles for (but not the associated albums for) Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train (which was already a hit at the time I picked it up) and the Smashing Pumpkins Smile (which I recall buying on CD single for around $7, I knew I was still on the fence about the band as a whole so I felt pretty comfortable in that lone purchase at that time, my attitude would change with the release of their 1979 single in 1996). This was also the space that Linger occupied.
I didn’t know anything about The Cranberries, not even their individual names when I bought that first cassingle. There wasn’t mass media coverage of the band. I had seen no interviews with them and nor would I have expected to. They were a very minor blip in a much bigger cultural movement. All that I did know was that I liked their song and that it struck a chord with me. I had seen the song’s video clip a couple of times, late at night, on Rage (an Australian late night music video program which showcased new videos, band selected videos and top charting single’s videos for each week). That Linger stuck with me in my waking hours, and haunted me for days after first hearing it, spoke volumes for its ability to impress and impact me on a personal level. I took the plunge, bought the cassingle, loved it and frankly never heard much more out of the band again, until later that year. I don’t recall any follow-up single (and I can’t ever recall hearing Dreams, their other Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? era single release, until some time later—for the record, it didn’t have the same impact on me as Linger and perhaps if I’d heard that first I might have been inclined to dismiss the band outright—a case of a providential first encounter, shall I say).
I paid no great mind to the absence of The Cranberries after I bought Linger because there was no shortage of great and exciting music to be swept up with in the 90s, and despite the contemporary media concocted narrative about the youth of the nineties being cynical and their music being depressed and negative the truth of the matter was that there was never any of that that I saw—quite the opposite in fact. Those wholly negative associations still stand today, lazily hashed out by journalists, music reviewers and people who have no first hand experience of just how electric and generationally binding the nineties music scene actually was. Bands became a generational focal point across the entire decade and that’s precisely why the work of so many of those artists has endured, influenced and stood apart: being something special that is not easily reproduced or mass manufactured. I always understood the ‘cynicism and negativity’ critique to simply be another generations scolding of youth’s unwillingness to go along with the prevailing establishments attitude of the time. (Nothing changes across generations in that regard, clearly.) The world is not a worse place because the youth of the nineties purchased Nine Inch Nail’s The Downward Spiral though it likely owes that release—and many, many others of the time—a debt of thanks for generously broadening the focus of music’s themes of human experience and modes of musical production and expression.
I saw that lazy negativity creep into articles eulogising Dolores O’Riordan this week—backfooted authors who wrote shame-facedly and apologised unnecessarily for the naiveté or ‘simplified times’ of the nineties, oh those dark unenlightened times of yore which didn’t benefit from the enlightenment of an era in which grown adults relentlessly slang verbal abuse at each other over Twitter because of differing political or social opinions, an era when (like no other before!) the media can be genuinely trusted (see The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s 1992 track Television, The Drug of the Nation—another nineties highpoint—that dissembles the media, its ever-predictable behaviours and their associated social impacts—it’s every bit as relevant today as it was then), an era in which the rise of political-academic-media language has given us a plethora of names and terms to divide each one of us into seperate discrete unrelated ‘cells’ but hasn’t been insightful, intelligent or simply human enough to coin any populist phrases that might bind us together so that we can better see our own common humanity (Love is all you need sang The Beatles—resurgent in popularity in the 90s thanks to the The Beatles Anthology documentary—thanks John, Paul, George and Ringo, apparently you were from an idiot-simple era and your exclusionary sentiment doesn’t stand the test of time, we’ll take it from here #BeatlesCancelled), an era in which reality TV stars are our cultural and aspirational leaders, we’re dissatisified with bloated overlong movies that don’t make sense but we watch them anyway because we know we aren’t going to get anything better any time soon. And, war? You’ve got to be kidding. That ancient dark ages activity from the nineties? We haven’t seen war in decades. ROFL. SMH. Oh, so much has changed for the better, hasn’t it?
Truth is, there are ups and downs in every era. Good stuff is always happening somewhere. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that and sometimes I just have to ignore Twitter, Youtube and whatever mainstream media opinion-tool is shoving its tainted version of reality down my throat at that moment and go out and look about for myself to see what’s really happening in the real world (in that regard today is really no different than the 90s—très cynical-chic much? Apologies. #HeartSymbol.). Maybe it was my own fault to think that the occasion of the death of a musician whose life and career had meaning—beyond superficial commercial and marketing associations—would inspire authors to put aside their own negative navel gazing, utterly trite career observations (she had a good voice, they made a lot of money, Zombie is their best known song, she had short hair, some of her youthful statements don’t really hold up, her lyrics are simple, their music was ‘typical’ of the nineties, the nineties aren’t like today, no one listens to The Cranberries these days, the world has moved on) and bullshit generational history ‘facts’ gleaned from the internet or sluiced through an author’s memory-gate, gummied-up with filters mouldering-over with the bitterness of their own unfulfilled dreams to reach deeper, be more vulnerable, put themselves on the line and describe how The Cranberries reached them or their peers at a pivotal point in their own lives (if ever). Nah, bullshit—these people were just slapping out ‘numbers of words’ to satisfy their editors requirement for fresh clickbait (that is, with the exception of The Irish Times who seemed to fully understand that the best way to eulogise O’Riordan was to focus on her, her achievements and her impact—not on an author’s treatise for delivering the most appropriate social-programming buzz-worded and factoid-roided article—or to simply let the fans speak from their own hearts. Good work Irish Times.).
I did cross paths with The Cranberries again, several months later in 1994. By that time there had been great highs and lows in music but the 90s journey ever-onward was as exciting as ever. Kurt Cobain had died, leaving behind shocked peers and fans and a wound that would forever remind of the enormity of loss of his talent and future potential. Stone Temple Pilots had released Purple, their introspective slow burn follow up to Core. Pantera went even harder with their follow up to 1992s Vulgar Display of Power with Far Beyond Driven and delivered a classic anthem—and perfect accompanying video—in the form of the single I’m Broken. Hole released a hard edge grunge-punk missile with the perfectly titled Live Through This that featured so many great songs that to spotlight any one would only diminish the cumulative effect of an extraordinary album. Rollins Band further cemented their already formidable reputation for delivering albums of tension, release and musical experimentation with Weight. Kyuss’ Welcome to Sky Valley sounded gargantuan and like nothing else being made at that time, from opener Gardenia to closer Whitewater the band, exceptional vocalist John Garcia and that very album held and continues to hold a special place in the memories of fuzzed out heavy rock fans. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by Sarah McLachlan crept beneath the skin, discomforting and comforting in equal measure, the solo version of Possession that closed the album (a hidden track) stands aside Tori Amos’ cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit as one of the most haunted and memorable songs of the nineties. R.E.M. went all rock star on us with songs like What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? and Crush With Eyeliner from their appropriately titled album Monster: the band, like those singles, seemed to be everywhere in those days—a world without an ever-present R.E.M. is a strange place to be. Portishead released Dummy an album that sounded like a fever dream from a faraway place replete with drones, repetition and dissonance that was held together by the sinew of Beth Gibbons’ eerie and soaring vocal. It was so otherworldly; just the ticket for a decade that prided itself on the alternative—it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that it became as popular as it did (the 90s were full of such surprises). And Grace the debut album by Jeff Buckley laid a phenomenally impressive groundwork for a future that would sadly not come to pass with raw, emotional song highlights such as Eternal Life and The Last Goodbye. Into that incredibly rich environment The Cranberries No Need To Argue was released. That time I was ready for them.
I didn’t hesitate to buy No Need To Argue the first moment it appeared in shops. I was still primarily only familiar with Linger but the chord that that lone song had struck with me urged me to shut up, put down my still very limited funds and bank on this band having the goods to hold up a full album pretty much the first week of its release. I had heard none of the songs, not a one. I wasn’t disappointed. From start to finish No Need To Argue spoke to me every bit as much as Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power had in 92, as much as Helmet’s Meantime (92), Stone Temple Pilots Core (92), Tools Undertow (93), Counting Crows August and Everything After (93), Pearl Jam’s Vs (93) Alice in Chains Dirt (92) and Jar Of Flies (released in January 94, just prior to my purchase of Linger), Front 242’s 06:21:03:11 Up Evil (93), Rollins Band’s The End of Silence (92), Kyuss’ Blues for the Red Sun (92), Tori Amos’ Under the Pink (released in January 94) or the soundtracks to Judgment Night (93) and The Crow (March 94). It didn’t exist separate to any of these, it was part of the enormous excitement of an ever-expanding list of great albums that connected, engaged, moved, provoked thought, provoked feeling, bridged gaps, created new found friends and pushed me further out of whichever zone I had been in previously to some new exciting territory yet to be fully discovered. In short, it was great.
I never considered The Cranberries divisible. They were a band, not a lead singer with a back-up band, and in my estimation they were more stronger for that fact (it was the 90s after all, an era of remarkable and great bands). I read media gossip in the mid-90s about Dolores going solo and hoped that those rumours weren’t true. My feeling then was that they were unique and strong and that they delivered music with vision, insight and purpose, and that while, no doubt, solo success beckoned what they had created with each other was well worth fighting for, to keep going—ever onward. That’s the selfishness of a dedicated fan for you. Their follow-up album To The Faithful Departed (96) reportedly wasn’t well received and they seemed to disappear for much of the rest of the nineties, releasing only one further album Bury The Hatchet (99) that decade. I felt then as I do now that they unjustly missed the latter half of that decade, a decade that their pioneering music had helped to shape and define.
When I look at the four Cranberries I see a family. That concept—band as family—is one that Cameron Crowe well understood when he made Almost Famous, a rock’n’roll movie (perhaps the rock’n’roll movie), a movie about family—whether that family is the one that you’re born into or the one that you find standing next to you on a stage, in front of a crowd, at home, in some faraway distant land or playing to you on the turntable in front of you, the CD player or through the digital device in your hands. Families have meaning no matter how they were created and no matter who they are made of. It was to those three family members, the remaining Cranberries, that my mind travelled to, once the shock of the discovery of Dolores O’Riordan’s death had passed. As an observer I know that that family will never be whole again and I share their pain that this simple truth will not alter, be undone or diminish with the passing of time.
I don’t know that much about Dolores O’Riordan, but I do know that she and the band that she was a member of were an awesome, exciting, vital part of a phenomenal generational groundswell of music creativity, that their albums earned their place amongst the great releases of the 90s aside bands across diverse styles of music, that they are fondly remembered and that their music will be rediscovered again and again in bedrooms, on screens, in headphones, in the casual conversations that pass between those that were there and those for whom stories of them will lead to the chance purchase of a song or an album—much as I did in 1994 when I took a chance with that first cassingle of Linger.
There’s nothing else to say, just that perhaps I erred in seeking solace in other peoples words when so easily what I should have done is to have done the very most obvious thing. Put on some Cranberries and listen to what they have to say.
No need to argue.
Three videos to end out, first up: Linger
From No Need To Argue, first Ode To My Family:
And finally, taped at a performance of the Late Show with David Letterman, Zombie Live in November 1994:
When Adolf Hitler marched to the centre of Munich in 1932, bounded by approximately 2000 men, with the intention to overthrow the then State Commissioner Gustav Ritter von Kahr, he couldn’t have imagined—even in his most feverish moments of ambitious delerium—that his act of political and social defiance (which would be lionised upon his becoming Fuhrer as a significant chapter in the development of Nazi party mythology) would one day result in an American Stand-up Comedian—Doug Stanhope—taking said event’s name and adapting it for use as the title of a comedy special, replete with provocative unconventional thinking, commentary about the absurdity of modern existence, dick jokes and one hell of an awesomely bad seventies-era suit (the type that you might expect to see on a stereotypically sleazy car salesman).
The Beer Hall Putsch coup attempt of 1932—to which Adolf Hitler, and his fellow senior Nazi’s, attributed so much meaning, remembrance, ceremony and respect—through the creative vandalism of comedian Doug Stanhope—is scaled from Hitler’s intended solemn, valourous, memorial and symbolic heights, to a moniker atop one particularly sharp hour of a scruffy looking guy standing on a comedy room stage, telling off-colour jokes to a bunch of (frequently) laughing people who are most likely only a little more under the influence than he is.
Beer Hall Putsch (the comedy special, not the historical event) did one thing to me other than make me laugh heartily, its title provoked me to think about my own relationship to titles of significance: that is, to titles that I can’t get out of my mind, that have followed me for years, or decades, that have some special significance or resonance to me whether due to or in spite of their creator’s original intent. Here then are two such titles.
Apocalypse Now, the title of Francis Ford Coppola’s acerbic look at (specifically) the Vietnam war (and more generally, at the state of warfare and what it does to people, and what it makes them do) is one such memorable title. In fact, in my estimation, as a title it is one of the all time greats. Its lineage is worth recounting briefly; reportedly writer John Millius thought apocalypse now a suitable sarcastic rebuke to a popular hippie button of the nineteen sixties: Nirvana Now. As a descriptor of the film it couldn’t be more appropriate, truly Apocalpyse Now is about the end of times; churning from one scene of civilisation in collapse to another. Whether morally or physically, the whole place is going down (the film concluding in orgiastic, violent death and a rainy downpour that washes away its ephemeral and ghost-like characters—back into a murky ether from whence they first emerged). Apocalypse Now, the title, conjures up a canvas full of images of Bosch-like horrors which Francis Ford Coppola then, more than capably, delivers to the screen.
Zabriskie Point is the name of a visually unique eroded-lattice landscape region in Death Valley National Park, California. It is also the enigmatic title of a 1970 film by Michelangelo Antonioni. There’s no hint as to what the film may be about from its title alone, except to say that it may be about a place. Upon viewing Zabriskie Point one may well suggest that it is more a film about the experience of places (a university, the business world, and various natural evironments untouched by the presence of man) and man’s sense of displacement when faced with each of these—his lack of belonging no matter where he finds himself in spite of his own best efforts to ‘fit in’. This is, after all, the film in which the lead female protagonist joyfully imagines the erasure (obliteration through explosion after explosion) of the man made world from its unceasing encroachment on the world of nature.
Upon release Zabriskie Point became a spectacular box office bomb, its critical reputation seems never to have fully recovered with some assessments suggesting that it is notable principally for its soundtrack (I’ll get to a key part of that later) and its cinematography (in particular, that spectacular, explosive ending sequence). But, I am rather fond of Zabriskie Point and have been since I first saw it as a child. It is an unconventional film in that its characters purposely exist outside of the world that they inhabit—an element of design that perhaps assisted to embolden distributor MGM to the idea that it would appeal to 60’s-era counter-cultural youth, perhaps in the hope that they would have the next Easy Rider on their hands. But, it’s clear from the opening scenes of a politically charged college campus (shot in claustrophobic fashion by Antonioni) that our lead male protagonist no more belongs to the world of the counter-culture than he does to the opposing establishment police force who later amass to disperse protesting college students with force. Antonioni’s sympathies lie with the individual, not with movements or with the preoccupations of any given generation. In the film’s explosive finale the only place that the lead female protagonist is truly accepted and is free is inside of her own mind.
Zabriskie Point, then, is a state of mind as much as it is a place—a place where people can be free (free and naked, as the film shows in another notable sequence which visually suggests man’s return and reconnection to a more natural state).
My fondness for Zabriskie Point extends far beyond nostalgia, it remains as fresh and as lively as the day it was first released, and, given the present-day, tumultuous political positioning that now grips all spheres of society—the way in which the ‘personal’ individual is so aggressively and consistently assailed by pundits, zealous ideologues and mobs of their dedicated followers to incorporate the ‘political’ into every sphere of individual existence—the films message that personal fulfilment is best derived from following a path toward the realisation of one’s own individual identity—even if that act is one as as ultimately isolating and alienating as the journey of Zabriskie Point’s male and female protagonist—seems as equally important today as it ever was in 1970.
For me, both titles Zabriskie Point and Apocalypse Now are sparkling and resplendent; they are never far from mental reach. These two title’s longevity, and eminence, speak to the unique qualities of their design and impact (their distinctiveness, their originality, their ability to inspire, to provoke, to challenge and, of course, their relationship to the very films to which they are permanently attached) and, as well, to their simple, functional utility. Apocalypse Now is a handy mental reference point and rejoinder to have when faced with evidence of social, economic and political dysfunction (Milius maximal rebuke awesomely dwarfs any other proportion instantly) while Zabriskie Point suggests that the answers to all of those ills are not to be found by working through them but by shutting them out of oneself entirely, blocking them out of the world and forbidding them entry to the sanctity of the individual mind at any cost (or, as the film’s finale figuratively suggests: blowing them the fuck up).
One final thing. In this conversation about titles I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the title to this article. Careful with that Axe, Eugene is the title of a musical composition (its minimalist lyric simply repeats the composition’s title in an almost-whisper over and over) by Pink Floyd which was re-recorded (without lyric) for use in the final explosive scene of Zabriskie Point and retitled Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up (that title was apparently taken from a line by English surrealist comic Spike Milligan). My original intent was to use the first provocative line of The Beatles song Revolution for this article’s title before reconsidering and briefly adopting Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond before finally settling on the much more provocative and impressionistic Careful with that Axe, Eugene. Careful… is also, of course, much more in keeping with the unexpectedly jolting nature of Doug Stanhope’s comedy special title, and thus my foray into examining memorable titles has arrived at full circle.
View the excellent ending to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point which features Pink Floyd’s Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up, it’s well worth seeing and hearing.
For a bit of fun, here’s Director Stephane Sednaoui referencing Zabriskie Point’s naked couples in landscape scene in the form of Smashing Pumpkins’ film clip for their song Today, from the 1993 album Siamese Dream. Rock on!
About once a week I pull out my super-fangled High Resolution Audio Music Player and headphones, which together cost me a frightening amount of dosh, and I listen to Armoured Angel’s anthemic Thy Blood Eterne; which I transferred direct to my player from the Hymns of Hate collection—no ripping or compression of the original track, straight drag and drop of the original CD file to the HRA MP hard drive.
Hearing grinding death metal guitars and coarse growled vocals in high resolution is immediately exciting, then relaxing, and then—finally—enervating. (I would listen to the entire Hymns collection but I am at heart a track-skipper—or disc-changer—and want to hear dance-pop, post-punk and whatever else that catches my stylistic fancy at any given moment.)
Progress in portable digital audio equipment has made listening to great bands in high resolution an option for discerning audiophiles. Anyone can choose to be a discerning audiophile though. With the best quality audio equipment, and highest available audio source files, a listener’s experience of their favourite band’s music—via digital equipment—can reveal depths of sound, production and instrumentation that are likely to be obscured or diminished while hearing lower quality audio-source compression formats that don’t fully reveal the range of sound that was originally recorded. But the cost of portable HRA players, such as my own, are woefully prohibitive—with one less expensive entry-level option apparently offering not much better audio quality than that of an advanced MP3 player (due, at least in part, to the lack of a quality amp module).
People tell me that they’re not fussed about sound quality—it doesn’t matter—as long as they can hear the sound and it’s clear (whether played on an MP3 player, through a cell phone audio output or via some alternate system), and folk justifiably baulk at spending hundreds of dollars on a portable music player that (certainly, in my HRA MPs case) does little more than play audio files. It’s a losing battle: that is, the argument that people should preference sound quality when listening to their music is a losing battle. That battle has been lost.
I don’t begrudge anyone’s choice (and I can’t comfortably debate anyone on the issue of price given that HR MPs are typically sold at a luxury-status price point) but I am selfishly disappointed in a present-day that requires me to spend a motza to achieve sound quality levels that were much more financially accessible, and available, to everyone decades (literally decades) ago. (I own a cheerful 70s/80s orange-box portable suitcase turntable—the orange portion serving as the speaker, which detaches from the black turntable base—which, to this day, provides richer sound than any MP3 I can recall hearing.)
Perhaps, to better understand how we arrived at this present state, it is fruitful to briefly turn back the clock and examine the events of the not too distant past. After the dawn of the 2000s, the attitudes and behaviours of music consumers changed significantly in response to events that were developing or occurring in the technology and music industries. A shift in the public perception of popular music—as a commodity, an entertainment source and a medium requiring a technological go-between to access—occurred, happening as the result of a convergence of factors, including; pressure on consumers due to prohibitive CD price points, a creatively stagnant mainstream industry entertainment product (I’m talking about the failure of A&R—Artist & Repertoire services—here), the introduction of convenient digital audio player options and the rise of online piracy (buoyed itself by the rise of the internet) which was often fuelled by the desire of music fans to simply share and expand their own music libraries. Priorities and the attention of music consumers (casual or otherwise) were clearly shifting. Free from the prohibitive constraints of music industry pricing, and with the advantage of networks of distribution heretofore unimagined, consumers could demand and receive volumes of product through instantly accessible mediums at (sometimes) reduced or no cost. The music industries (both content and technology producers) were left reeling. But the trade-off, right from the start—whether in terms of content or technology—was audio quality.
In the past, being into your favourite band meant sharing your enthusiasm with like-minded people (whether passing on a new find or discussing a common musical interest). Post-2000 those behaviours continue to exist as staples of our music-culture interactions, though they’re now supplemented by (or they take second place to) internet interactions (comments, ratings, social media, online vendors and blogs—to name some of the ways in which we source music, and discuss or discover it). Do some of those present day interactions question the quality of what we hear and the quality of the mediums through which we hear it, or is it more likely the case that we simply accept what we’re sold, with no consideration given? Is there a clear audio quality benchmark that we can aspire to or doesn’t that standard matter at all, anymore?
Access to high quality audio fidelity was always the goal in the days of my youth, influenced heavily by hearing thundering Led Zeppelin, Creedence, Doors, Sex Pistols etc on a vinyl stereo system well into the early/mid-nineties—and, at least, partly as a result of spending equal time having to suffer listening to taped music on Sony walkman rip-offs (of wildly varying quality) through dollar-store bud earphones. Stepping up was always a desire, limited only—to this day—by a requirement to remain within the portable option range (I’d love to have a wall-sized stereo with speaker stacks but that option only exists in my daydream fantasy-land of a ’70s inspired lounge suite with an orange shag rug, lava lamp and chill cane furniture).
Vinyl is back though, even if only as a boutique option (despite steady, increasing sales it still is only a boutique option). And there is a growing awareness of the benefits of audio fidelity emerging across the music retail market, perhaps driven by consumer access to better fidelity portable digital audio toys (wireless speakers, players etc.) and the growing realisation that their sound improves upon—or reveals—the over compressed limitations of mp3-type audio files. Maybe a brighter HR audio future is just around the corner, though—it should be noted—we had that very future 20—30 years ago (and at a more reasonable price).
Personally, I miss my Sony walkmans (plural, I had several—I was particularly fond of the green slimline one that I bought in 2000), upon which, up until two or so years ago, I still listened to CDs—flipping discs out willy-nilly whenever I wanted to change it up. It was my last discman’s eventual failure—and Sony’s decision to stop making them a few years prior—that finally forced me into a year and a half long trough of purchasing second hand discmans (or third rate rip-offs thereof) and portable digital audio players whose design emphasised the commercial pillars of convenience and ease of use over audio fidelity. Discovering the burgeoning world of portable high resolution audio players was an enormous audio lifeline—an expensive lifeline, but a lifeline nontheless. I had so missed listening to the immersive wall of thundering drums, guitar fuzz and John Garcia’s perfect rock wail vocal that is Kyuss’ Gardenia (a track that’s been a favourite of my own since its initial release decades ago) that, when I first heard it pump through my brand new HRA MP, it was like being reintroduced back into the vivid wild—in full colour—after being cooped up in a wooden crate box for a year and a half.
But… back to Thy Blood Eterne. A rich, heavy immersive sound is what makes the track. It’s what keeps me coming back for more, again and again. The lyrics are well worth reading in full too, though I won’t summarise them here; suffice to say that they could be interpreted as a punkishly philosophical response to the conundrum of living under the yoke of Christendom (or any organised religion for that matter). Even if metal tunes aren’t your bag, you have to admit, it’s damn catchy stuff. All credit to the band for being the full package: impressive of sound, style, performance and lyrics. Armoured Angel haven’t been an active band for decades but that’s no excuse not to listen to them. Whether you’re into heavier music or you’re just adventurous in musical taste, the rewards of hearing Thy Blood Eterne are well worth the effort.
Purchase Hymns of Hate via Raven Clothing ebay: Armoured Angel | Hymns 2CD
And, get a taste of My Blood Eterne via youtube (it’s the first track up).
As an addendum, I suggest listening to James Hetfield’s appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast. The whole thing is entertaining from start to finish and includes Hetfield discussing the moment he opened his children’s eyes to better audio quality by giving them a decent pair of headphones.
Clearly, a metal-heads work is never done.