It’s almost as if Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are a Faygo-soaked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, powerless to effect the drama in the world around them, forced to carry out actions that were predetermined without their consent or approval. Forced to content themselves with being psychopathic pawns on a chessboard they can barely see.
Insane Clown Posse, due to the fiercely independent nature of their career, have done all of their growing up in public. After two EPs of generic gangsta rap under the moniker Inner City Posse, the crew was struggling to differentiate themselves from other Detroit rap groups. Two key things happened to make that possible. The first was hooking up with Mike E. Clark, who produced much of their debut full length, Carnival of Carnage. The second was a dream Violent J had, in which spirits from a traveling carnival appeared before him. J and Shaggy 2 Dope were charged with warning the world of the Dark Carnival’s approach. That new mission–and the new name–gave the Insane Clown Posse more than enough to differentiate themselves from the other local crews.
The mid-90s were a time when kids in Michigan needed someone to look up to, too: the closure of the GE plant in Flint started a ripple effect of poverty across the state. Detroit itself had long since stopped booming, the industrial districts largely abandoned and left to rot. In the suburbs, places like Zug Island were mythical destinations you didn’t quite believe were real. Detroit was a distant continent one only visited for brief glimpses of culture. Eight Mile Road was the dividing line.
2016 sucked in a lot of ways for a lot of people. Not the smallest of ways was the closure of Other Music, and a good handful of New York’s most beloved music venues, including the sudden death of Palisades. In the darkest times, though, the brightest of lights shine through. Here are ten glimmers of hope, to send off a dark year.
Sometimes, brevity is king. An old saying, one kicked around the entertainment business, goes: “Always leave them wanting more.” Holy Ghost, Modern Baseball’s excellent new album, a clean eleven songs in 24 minutes, has me thinking about classic albums that exist as a complete statement, without exceeding the thirty minute mark. Here are six of them.
Times are Gettin’ Tough, ‘Bout Time to Start Runnin’: Four Bands That Made One Perfect Record, Then Quit
The classic career trajectory for any long-term musical artist is as follows: Artist spends entire life writing first album. Album is raw, snarky, full of poetry. Brash. Artist strikes a chord in the cultural zeitgeist. Artist is suddenly a household name. Pressure is on. Artist has six months to write follow-up album. Follow-up album either tanks, or The Artist grows under pressure and their sound grows/improves over the course of a few albums. The Artist enjoys a few years or a decade of glowing success, anywhere between three and six albums wherein the new music is informed by the old music, but builds upon it. Then, Parenthood, or Divorce, or Creative Differences enter the scene, and The Artist’s mission statement is warped. That old, raw snark is gone, replaced by pressure from The Label to keep churning out The Hits, to keep The Cash rolling in.
What we witnessed, on August 26th, was not so much a show as it was a “happening.” I am reminded of stories about Lou Reed in his post-Velvets days, holding court in his New York loft, with scenesters and downtown illuminati surrounding him.
He stood in the middle of the living room, kids crowded in all around him. No microphone. None of us used one at the time. The kids screamed every word to every song. A pit broke out. More than once. I swear to God, at one point, the crowd picked Erik Petersen up and passed him over their heads. This is an acoustic show. In a living room. On a Monday night.
The Messerschmitt Pilot’s Severed Hand, one of three albums released by Thee Headcoats in 1998, is a jumping half hour of nasty, quick and dirty blues-based punk rock.
In December 1977, “Ca Plane Pour Moi,” the only hit from Belgian punk singer Plastic Bertrand was released, going Top Ten in a dozen European countries, and hitting number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Despite being composed of nonsense lyrics written in a language that is notoriously difficult to sing, “Ca Plane Pour Moi” has inspired dozens of cover versions in varying genres.