Batshit Insane Vol. 7: The Flowers of Romance

The Flowers of Romance is one of the strangest records ever made.  There is barely a guitar or a bass or anything melodic in sight.  It’s drums, percussion, strange sounds, and John Lydon’s wailing voice.  People go nuts for Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac, which are great albums, but this record is way more out there years before, more primitive.  It is a really dark uncomfortable record, but something about the way it is recorded and the fearlessness of it makes it strangely beautiful too, in its own way.  If you were to read how horrifying punk was, without ever hearing it, this is the kind of thing you would imagine.

The drum sounds are fantastic.  They were heavily influenced by Peter Gabriel’s third album in the way they were treated and processed.  Lydon was never one to be told what he could or couldn’t listen to.  He had a curious mind and was willing to take in anything and turn it into something completely original and fascinating.

The record is a very visual sounding record.  One can almost imagine Whitechapel in Victorian London, prison walls, dark alleys, ancient tribes.  It is sheer sonic insanity.  Lydon was going through a very troubling time as his fame lead too many strange people to his doorway.  This record was years ahead of its time.  A work of bizarre genius.

The track by track commentary at this album’s Wikipedia page is pretty interesting:

The Flowers of Romance

On this series:

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  (I didn’t quite make the cutoff date!)  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Batshit Insane Vol. 6: Fear of a Black Planet

At the beginning of the year I wanted to do a week where I posted seven batshit insane albums to start the year off right.  I only made it to five, as first I went to the Steamboat MusicFest and then I cedar fever hit me here in Austin like a ton a bricks.  I am making it up now.  At the bottom I’ll post the the idea behind the series.

Not choosing a Public Enemy record would be a disservice.  Their work, especially with the Bomb Squad, is some of the most intense music ever made.  In reality I could have picked several of their records, but I had to go with Fear of a Black Planet for the sheer knowledge that it had the song Welcome to the Terrordome on it.  James Brown beats, air raid sirens, scratches, white noise, and extremely political lyrics make this album sound like nothing else ever made, other than other Public Enemy records.  Chuck D’s voice is one of the greatest voices in popular music.  He has the deep baritone of a street preacher.  It’s a voice of righteous anger and endless knowledge.  I’m not even a huge hip-hop fan to be honest, though I’ve started appreciating it more in recent years.  But this stuff is more punk rock than most punk rock.  It sounds every bit as revolutionary as it did in 1990.  Samples stacked upon samples until it becomes a Phil Spector wall of sound.  However, where Spector’s wall of sound sounded heavenly, this one is full of discord.  There is so much chaos going on that it goes through the mirror and becomes beautiful.  It’s a classic album.  The song Welcome to the Terrordome especially, for sheer sonic chaos, would have to go in my favorite recordings of all time.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Batshit Insane Vol. 3: BXI

boris-bxi-sleeve

BXI – Boris and Ian Astbury – This EP brings out the best of both Cult lead singer Ian Asthbury and Japanese metal gods Boris.  Whenever I think of this music, I think of the shot of the older Conan in Conan the Barbarian, sitting on his throne like some kind of decadent Viking king:

1312323357-conanking

The EP features three originals with Astbury on lead vocals and one cover version of The Cult song Rain, with the petite female Japanese guitarist Wata on vocals.  The music is heavy, but artier and more damaged than most metal.  Astbury continues his lyrical fascination with Native American spirit imagery, which is strange coming from an Englishman, but that somehow always works in his favor.

The music sounds tired, but not in the way that that word would typically be applied to music.  It is decadent and world weary, like a warrior that has gone too far and crossed the final borderline, overly satiated on bloodlust and sex.  There is nothing left to do now but sing a death song while crossing the threshold.  There is a strange violent beauty to this music.  The sound of one defeated only because there is nothing left to conquer.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Batshit Insane Vol. 2: Yeezus

Yeezus_Kanye_West

Kanye West – Yeezus – Kanye West’s album sounds front to back unlike any other record ever made.  Oh there are recognizable pieces all across the record, but it is the combination that is unique.  Electronic noises, Marilyn Manson drums, strings, melodic choirs, and atonal noise all rear their head at different moments.  It’s mood evokes everything from David Lynch inspired dread to raunchy comedy.  It is a hip-hop record only in the vocal delivery, a few of the beats displayed, and its cut and paste genre bending aesthetic.  I get a physical high every time I listen to this album from both it’s sonic insanity and intensity, and his seeming willingness to sacrifice himself to the judgmental and often hypocritical gods of common decency.  West begins the record:

Yeezy season approaching
Fuck whatever y’all been hearing
Fuck what, fuck whatever y’all been wearing
A monster about to come alive again

From that start through the rest of the record West seems like a man unhinged.  It is as if all of the press scrutiny he has faced has been internalized and is being spit back out with maximum venom.  But the record is not a humorless affair.  After spouting one particularly vulgar line, you can hear West start to crack himself up at the end of his delivery.  This is not a dumb record either, as it is masterfully constructed to take an art form to a new level.  The record is also emotionally complex as West plays with the public perception of him as an extremely arrogant yet successful African American, who has overstepped his bounds.  There is pain in certain parts of the record, but there is no mea culpa.  There are times when he is purposely playing into the monstrous version of himself that the media has created around him, but he slips out of any easy categorizations, always one step ahead of those that want to define him as a one dimensional caricature.  It is a dark and visceral listen by someone willingly putting his head on the chopping block and having fun while doing it.  A masterpiece.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Batshit Insane Vol. 1: Lulu

Lou_Reed_and_Metallica_-_Lulu

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.  Entry #1:

Lulu – Lou Reed and Metallica – Maybe the most insane recording of all time.  So many people hate this record, but I love love love it with my whole being.  I don’t love it because people hate it, but because it seems like someone going as far out on a limb as they possibly could.  Lou Reed was apparently already suffering from the sickness that would eventually kill him.  Did he go out by reflecting on an extraordinary life or by begging forgiveness for past sins?  No, he went further out into the storm than he had ever gone before.  He was a warrior poet that went out into the jungle, that the rest of the village feared, and brought back strange truths.  This record is poetic, vulgar, bizarre, and heavy as fuck.  Based somewhat on the “Lulu” plays of the German dramatist Frank Wedekind, it deals with murder, Jack the Ripper, sadomasochistic sex, and a femme fetal.  And that is just the tip of the iceberg!  On the single The View Reed sings:

I want to see your suicide
I want to see you give it up
Your life of reason
I wanna see you in a coffin, your soul shaking
I want to have you doubting
Every meaning you’ve amassed

When I hear this album I can’t help but mentally be in Berlin’s Teirgarten on a dark and rainy day.  Yet, in case you think that this is just shock for shock value, the album ends with the incredibly poignant and heartbreaking Junior Dad, which casts multiple layers of meaning over the prior proceedings.  The song features, from the breakdown on out, lyrics that are some of my favorite lyrics of all time, lyrics that never cease to move me.  Even if you have no desire to check out this record, check out that song.  A poetic tour de force that shows that Reed was, on his last song on his last record, still a poet of incredible insight and depth.

Sunny, a monkey then to monkey
I will teach you meanness, fear and blindness
No social redeeming kindness
Or oh, state of grace

Would you pull me up
Would you drop the mental bullet
Would you pull me by the arm up
Would you still kiss my lips

Hiccup, the dream is over
Get the coffee, turn the lights on
Say hello to junior dad
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad
Psychic savagery
The greatest disappointment
The greatest disappointment
Age withered him and changed him
Into junior dad