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Volume 90, Issue 86
Friday, March 07, 1997
Soundwaves: Pop goes the world
Way too much has been made of U2's apparent foray into the electronic world. Ever since the Irish supergroup released Pop's debut single, the techno-inspired "Discotheque," the buzz surrounding U2's newest release has been an attempt to bridge the gap between rock and electronic and in effect save a fledgling pop music industry.
Pop may very well bring the recording industry out of the post-grunge doldrums not only because the record is so high-tech but the fact that Pop is a stellar and innovative rock album. It employs U2's penchant for melodious and inventive songwriting and The Edge's avant-garde guitar stylings, while still being smart enough to incorporate the latest sounds from the underground.
Much of the impetus for U2's electronic experimentation was necessity. While drummer Larry Mullen Jr. was sidelined from recording sessions, the drum machines and turntables of mixer Howie B. filled in. But while eight of the dozen tracks contain some sort of loops or programming, it is only on "Mofo," "Miami" and "Discotheque" where electronica seems to drive the music.
The bulk of Pop's songs, like the stellar 'Staring at the Sun" and "If God Will Send His Angels," employ electronic elements, but seem more akin to the feel of 1991's Achtung Baby than anything by Prodigy or Underworld.
What are prominent themes on Pop are religion and spirituality. Six songs mention religion, God or Jesus, while two "If God Will Send His Angels" and "Wake Up Dead Man" ask directly for divine intervention.
On the latter Bono croons: "Jesus, Jesus help me/ I'm alone in this world/ Tell me the story/ The one about eternity/ And the way it's all gonna be."
And almost as a counteraction perhaps in parody, though partly in conscious wonder U2 explores the decadence and extremes of modern western society in "Discotheque," "Miami," and "The Playboy Mansion."
"If coke is a mystery/ And Michael Jackson history," queries Bono in "The Playboy Mansion." "If beauty is truth/ And surgery the fountain of youth/ What am I to do?"
But as far as music goes, U2 knows exactly what to do. Pop utilizes what U2 does best but manages to be influenced by what lies outside its four heads.
Where most of U2's '80s-born contemporaries meander around in circles searching for inspiration from within, U2 has managed to keep things poppin' fresh by also writing from without.
Dine Under the Stars - Recorded Live
The biggest problem with blues performers is a lack of something. That something is rarely a lack of skill or desire to play.
No, it's more like soul is missing. Sure, blues is enjoyable to play but it should literally hurt when you play the blues. Think about greats such as B.B. King and Albert Collins. The blues don't just exude from their guitar and voice, it seeps from their skin, releasing the pain and passion from their souls.
For a white kid from B.C., David Gogo embraces the genre the same way his idols did. Picture Colin James, smiling and dancing and singing about getting the girl back.
David Gogo is quite the opposite. His songs are when the girl is long gone. She's hitched in another country with a job and a kid and you ain't ever seeing her again. That's the blues and that urgency comes across emphatically in Gogo's impressive live disc, Dine Under the Stars.
His well-practiced four-piece unit takes the intimacy of a dive and plays with a fervour. Their eyes are closed and their fingers are just moving. The album features some nicely-crafted originals and some classic covers.
"Death Letter" is a nine-minute blues romp reminiscent of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Gogo's guitar screams mercilessly, much like Vaughan's in "Cold Shot." His vocals are deep throated and passioned while the band, led by Rick Hopkins' organ, carry the band's raunchy groove.
While the band is no match for Gogo's soloing abilities, its tightness complements and even challenges his onslaught. The organ is purely background but its staccato phrases in "You Belong to Me" are harmonious foil to the lead work.
Tha blues don't really have much place to grow. It's not that everything's been done already but its themes are universal and unchanging. Gogo jokes before "Sad and Beautiful" that the song takes a new slant on the traditional blues theme. "This guy is in love with this chick and she leaves him and he's really bummed out about it," he says sarcastically.
What keeps blues timeless and playable is its hit-home emotion. David Gogo doesn't change the blues with his live recording but he does identify himself. His blues are genuine and his disc is some of the finest blues work ever produced by a Canadian artist.
It appears that Skinny Puppy is alive and thriving somewhere in the misty shadows of British Columbia. From the depths of Vancouver's Subconscious Records comes Paradigm Shift, a compilation of industrial/ambient recordings created and manipulated over the last year by Cevin Key and friends. The album offers previously unreleased and unavailable tracks from Skinny Puppy and its various solo and side projects, including The Tear Garden, Download and Doubting Thomas, as well as many other new and well-known bands.
Paradigm Shift is an odd title for this compilation because the 12 songs seem to melt into one unified, hour-long symphony of musical madness. Most of the tracks consist of the typical layering of sound and sampling which is the key characteristic of industrial music. In most cases this similarity between tracks would make for one boring album, but Paradigm Shift reflects a lot of musical talents pooling their energies, creating one monstrous musical animal.
Perhaps the songs which deserve the most attention are the two tracks by The Tear Garden (Cevin Key and Edward Ka-Spel) which were recorded during the production of its latest 1996 release. The songs ("Georgie the Parasite" and "Message 3") are slightly different from the rest of the album because they feature vocals, but also because The Tear Garden's signature ambient groove is particularly emphasized.
Another remarkable track is "Zonk Lift," recorded by the original lineup of Download in early 1995, a year after its birth into the industrial music world. Although the song is not particularly representative of its musical capabilities, it can definitely be described as beautifully haunting and hypnotic.
Appropriately enough, the album begins with a track by Aduck, the solo project of former Skinny Puppy member Dwayne Goettel, the man to whom the album is dedicated. Goettel's untimely death in 1995 prompted Cevin Key to create a compilation album which would celebrate the past, present and future of Goettel's Subconscious Communications. The two songs by Aduck which are included on the album tend to be anxiety-inducing, demonstrating the powerful ability of industrial music to affect the mood of the listener.
Paradigm Shift is a worthwhile compilation which effectively showcases the musical talents of Cevin Key, Skinny Puppy and the others who have helped to define the industrial/ambient music genre. The dark, creative energy of Subconscious Records has been captured from the shadows and brought to light in this compilation.
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