IDLES Full Set | From The Basement - YouTube
An absolutely brilliant performance. Sound is so good.
End On End
IDLES Full Set | From The Basement - YouTube
An absolutely brilliant performance. Sound is so good.
I went to my first hardcore show in a while last night: Snapcase, Earth Crisis, Strife, One Step Closer, and Be Well. Here’s Strife playing “Lift” off their 1994 album, One Truth.
Read my Ode to Hardcore from earlier in the month for more on what the music means to me.
Some really, really good releases out this week:
The top two are record-of-the-year contenders for me, so far…
Kendrick’s release floored me in terms of the topics he addressed and the complexity of the whole album. A multiple pass listen – I’ve gone through twice and the second time was just as rewarding, with new layers unveiled.
And Kevin Morby’s new record is probably his best to date. He’s progressing past the Dylan emulation and really coming into his own as a songwriter.
Let me know if I missed anything this week!
Welcome to issue #11 of One Last Wish – my regular series where I look back at records that changed my life. This issue: 1994. Thanks for reading!
I spent a good deal of time considering all of my favorite records that came out in 1994. I couldn’t pick one that impacted my life as much as the previous ten issues, but I did notice a theme: hardcore. Collectively, hardcore music definitely did change my life… and 1994 was the year I went all in on the music and scene. Let’s dig in…
With hardcore music, the shows are a huge part of the scene and experience. Sure, you can own some vinyl or cassettes and get the gist, but seeing those bands live, singing a long, dancing, and stage diving is where it’s at. Some of the bands I saw live that year:
Most of these shows are memorable for different reasons, but the two bands that absolutely sealed my interest were the Endpoint and Outspoken shows in June. The shows were about two weeks apart at the Icon in downtown Buffalo. Both bands were so powerful live and had a unique sound that really stood out. On top of that, both bands had the best lyrics of all the bands I was familiar with at the time.
Here’s Outspoken from their 2010 reunion show:
Outspoken - Sound and Fury set (2010)
Outspoken - Innocent
Alone. He doesn’t want to face the prejudice. Afraid. While the fear lies in the ignorant. All love is legitimate. It is hatred that is the enemy. An innocent man portrayed as being guilty. What crime is love between two people. The crime is hatred caused by ignorance of difference. Have to open my eyes to see a wider range. Have to open my mind. I’m the one that need to change.
And Endpoint from their 2010 reunion:
Endpoint reunion show in 2010
Endpoint - Caste
Hope is the savior, it will be the cure. It fuels them on. Dreams are the only escape from the rich man’s rape. So they still hold on. Equality: lies. Freedom: lies. But their spirit still shines. Justice: lies. Independence: lies. You cannot take their minds. All men are created equal? We’re not even born equal. One nation under God? God doesn’t have enough money.
Other bands that were crucial to me at the time included Strife, Chokehold, and Unbroken:
Strife - Gilman Street (2019)
Chokehold - Philly (2015)
Beyond the music, the hardcore scene introduced me to new friends and solidified friendships I’ve had since at least second grade. I went on many road trips all over the northeast United States — to festivals in Cleveland and Detroit, tours with both Despair and Union as the roadie/merch guy, and trips to meet Internet friends in Connecticut and Massachusetts when meeting people online meant IRC and Usenet newsgroups — all on an ASCII screen. Most importantly, I even met my wife through hardcore friends! For those things alone, the music has given me so much. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without those experiences.
Beyond that, the scene is also responsible for discovering and growing my belief system. If you’ve read the One Last Wish issues to date, you’ve probably noticed I’m drawn to lyrics — especially political lyrics – so it’s not a surprise that hardcore is the one genre that has meant the most to me over the years. It led me to vegetarianism, to books by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and many beliefs that were radical and “far left” in a time of centrism and Bill Clinton. I’m thankful for that – it’s given me compassion, empathy, and critical thinking skills that I couldn’t get from a formal education.
Finally, the hardcore music scene also got me into making zines and taking photos. I’ve been sharing pictures of mine in each issue, but I also have two Flickr albums that collect many of these pictures in an easy-to-browse format. It’s the entire reason I’m writing these today.
Thanks for reading.
71 songs released in 1994 — a mix of hardcore, punk, alternative, hip hop and more…
Other playlists: Best of 2022 and 2022/365 (my song a day project - also on Spotify)
Kowloon Walled City - Lampblack
Botch - Transitions from Persona to Object - final show
Arlo Parks - live on KEXP
Wet Leg - Too Late Now
illuminati hotties - live on KEXP
IDLES - Lollapalooza Brazil
Nilufer Yanya - Midnight Sun
Where does tone come from in an electric guitar?
Los Campesinos! Tiny Desk
Los Campesinos! Knee Deep in ATP / My Year in Lists
I had the pleasure of seeing Jawbreaker this month in Philly with my friends Chris and Amy. As I mentioned previously, Jawbreaker is one of my favorite bands of all time and a band I’ve never seen (I did see Jets to Brazil a few times after Jawbreaker broke up…) until this trip.
It was a dream come true.
And a video I posted on Instagram.
Thanks for reading this issue of One Last Wish! Next issue we’ll see you in 1995.
Two more album of the year candidates for me:
First up is Tomberlin with i don’t know who needs to hear this… (Listen)
One of her singles “happy accident” (Watch):
Next up is the ultra-hyped Wet Leg with their self-titled debut (Listen)
“Too Late Now” off the album (Watch):
This month I created a Shortcut to help with my 2022/365 playlist - my song-a-day project. The shortcut grabs all of the songs I listened to in the last 36 hours, puts them into a list, and adds my selection to the playlist. Simple, yet effective!
Some recent vinyl pickups: Guilt, Endpoint, Small Brown Bike, Sunny Day Real Estate, Modest Mouse, Karate, Nilufer Yanya, and Ian Sweet.
Thanks to the suggestion from @alans, I now have a sync setup on Spotify to copy over my Apple Music song-a-day project. There are now two options: Spotify and Apple Music. Enjoy!
One thing I’ve been doing this year, that I absolutely love, is adding one song to a playlist every day. We’ve listened on a few road trips and it sparks so many good memories. It’s pretty amazing. Follow along if you are interested!
Two new favorite recent releases: the self-titled album by Plosivs (Listen) (ex Pinback, Drive Like Jehu, and Against Me) and sore thumb by Oso Oso (Listen).
1993 was another good year for music, with Nirvana’s In Utero, Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, The Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream, and A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker, Digable Planets' Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space), The Breeders' Last Splash, Dinosaur Jr.’s' Where You Been, Sepultura’s Chaos A.D., Archers of Loaf’s Icky Mettle, Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head, Quicksand’s Slip, Bad Religion’s Recipe for Hate, and The Posies' Frosting on the Beater – and I’m sure there are more I am missing!
All of these albums had a big impact on my musical taste, interests, and listening habits – though I’ll have to go with Fugazi and Quicksand as my selections to focus on this month. Just like last issue, I’ll include some brief words on a few other important albums – some of these are just too good to pass over completely.
Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker (Listen) and Quicksand’s Slip (Listen) are both post-hardcore masterpieces. Both records acted as gateways into the world of hardcore for me – charting the course for some of the biggest changes in my life. (Even more on that in future issues!)
Fugazi led to their back catalog and all of the Dischord record label, while Quicksand led to Gorilla Biscuits, NY hardcore, and Revelation Records. To say that was life changing is an understatement.
Quicksand formed in 1990 with Walter Schreifels on guitar and vocals, Tom Capone on guitar, Sergio Vega on bass, and Alan Cage on drums. Schreifels was also in Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today, two of the biggest hardcore bands of the period. Capone spent time in Beyond and Bold. Cage played with Burn and Beyond. Vega played with Collapse and Absolution. A hardcore super group, no doubt.
Quicksand put out a 4-song EP on Revelation Records that year, which included three songs that would later appear on their first full length, Slip. That full length was released three years later on Polydor - a major label - which at the time was generally a controversial subject in underground music.
The album itself is amazing from start to finish. Every single song is good. Heavy, groove based riffs and a top notch bass/drum combo – the musicianship and song writing helped set Quicksand apart from the very beginning. Lyrically, Quicksand tends to focus on the personal: conflict, relationships, and identity. In many ways, it was a more refined and mature approach to classic hardcore song topics.
Let’s dive into some of my favorite songs on the album…
What a way to start the album with drums kicking into a heavy groove. It immediately grabs your attention.
The lyrics of this song spoke to me because I felt out of place and awkward as a teenager - like most young people that find hardcore, punk, or some alternative means or outlet for creativity and expression. We’re looking for someplace to fit in and find others in a similar place.
Needing to find something Is everything ok I hope you find your niche, someday soon Easy to change your phase To move from where you stand But you got to keep that face Each change you plan Wonder Is everything ok The problem is hesitation
And as an introvert, “the problem is hesitation” rang completely true and that led to a lot of second guessing.
For me this song is about knowing and believing yourself – rejecting the societal pressure to fit in.
It's a cinch To, pass the time with you But hard to pass the time alone Can you take it And it's true True, the couple next to you think you look strange Alone, what are your aims Or do you have any
Even this line: “No, I always go out eating with my best friends.” - can mean both knowing who your friends are and feeling comfortable with yourself - so even when you are alone, you are with a friend.
This is my favorite song on the album. Lyrically the entire song focuses on disappointment and regret:
Things you love but did not get And all the times you've been upset by Unfulfilled dreams and visions And the guilt for your wrong decisions
But Walter ends it with some great advice:
Time to reach out for what's real, It's easy to miss, insist, That you shouldn't always follow the first thing you feel.
The first thing you feel when you miss out on something or make the wrong choice is always disappointment. What you do after that is always the most important.
This song is about the stories we tell ourselves to avoid pain and sadness – to the point of not even recognizing yourself.
I, said Why do I always have to spell it out for you? Our story is always changing We change it to hide the pain And when the truth rears Its ugly head, it's all too late Too late for the omission That you kept inside and wished it wasn't you
I’ve seen Quicksand probably five times and they’ve always been an amazing live band. Here’s a set from 2017 after they re-united as a 3-piece:
Fugazi is my all-time favorite band and I have this album to thank. Steady Diet of Nothing was actually my first introduction to the band, but I just couldn’t get into it at the time – it sounded almost industrial to my ears. (I like it now, by the way!)
In on the Kill Taker was the album that broke Fugazi into the “mainstream” in a sense that it hit at the same time bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and others were redefining alternative music and creating fans all over the world.
Fugazi was formed in 1986 by Ian MacKaye (guitar, vocal - who was also in Minor Threat and Embrace), Joe Lally (bass), and Colin Sears (drums - who was also in Dag Nasty). Shortly after forming, Sears left to return to Dag Nasty and Brandan Canty (a member of Rites of Spring) replaced him on drums in 1987. Guy Picciotto (guitar, vocals - member of Rites of Spring and One Last Wish) would initially sing with them at early shows before officially joining the band in 1988.
Beyond their music, Fugazi was also famous for their business practices – releasing their own music, $5 shows, $10 albums, no other merchandise like t-shirts, and a staunch DIY work ethic. In reality, much of that came from the punk and hardcore scenes – they just were the face of a whole world that mainstream music fans weren’t aware of at the time.
The combination of this DIY work ethic and the political/social justice messaging in their lyrics won me over as a fan. Behind that, the angular guitar riffs, the reggae/dub influenced bass, and one of the best rock drummers of all time combined to make some of the most unique and creative punk music ever.
Let’s dive into some highlights from my favorite songs on the album…
This song is about ugly nationalism – like patriotism used by default to cover for not even considering the impact of our country’s past/present actions or having a real solution to a present problem.
Pride no longer has definition Everybody wears it, it always fits A state invoked for the lack of position
Or this ending section, which I could read as either being so invested in the patriotism that we blindly follow along OR potentially the business investment in building a false image of our country that keeps us divided. Either one fits.
It's not worth, it's the investment That keeps us tied up in all these strings We draw lines and stand behind them That's why flags are such ugly things They should never Touch the ground
This song takes on special importance in 2022, with the horrible laws passed in states like Texas, Idaho, Florida and others that encourage people to turn in already marginalized people in the LGBTQ+ community.
The eyes have it and the eyes always will The eyes have it and they're watching you still You'll see, you'll see tonight I'll be watching cause I want you tonight All right
I have a feeling the song was originally about undercover cops and other law enforcement agents that have historically infiltrated activist groups in the past.
This song seems to be about backstabbing someone and then hiding behind “humor”. The chorus seems to contemplate revenge. The phrase “turn the screw” generally refers to doing something to someone in order to force them into action – “re-turning the screw” would be reversing that back on the orginal party.
Fine disservice Intended, too Check for the sender Sender was you The point has been recorded The malice has been revealed When I stripped away the humour From the arrow that it concealed
This song is clearly about the U.S. government’s actions to spread disease amongst the Native American tribes as we expanded our footprint on the continent.
Smallpox Champion U S of A Give natives some blankets warm like the grave This is the pattern cut from the cloth This is the pattern designed to take you right out Right out, right out, right out, right out, right out Right out, right out, right out, right out, right out, right out
Bury your heart U S of A History rears up to spit in your face You saw what you wanted, you took what you saw We know how you got it, your method equals wipe out Wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out Wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out
There are a number of theories about the subject of this song, but I am in the camp of it being about Magic Johnson and HIV. Let’s look at the lyrics:
A name I recognise that name It was at the center Of some ticker tape parade
Championship teams have ticker tape parades (the Lakers won in 1987 and 1988 - just 3 years prior to Magic’s announcement and Magic was on the 1992 Olympic team that won a gold medal - after his announcement) and Magic was certainly a household name:
A name I recognise that name It was at the center Of some magnifying glass
A classic sports trope/cliche is “going to war” and “battling” the other team:
He used to pretend He was fighting some war somewhere Now everything depends On fighting some war
He never thought he'd be an Exclamation point A demonstration of his disease A punctuation mark A household name with HIV
Fugazi’s homage to Cassavetes is basically related to the directors' DIY ethics, something the band always fully embraced – not only as a band, but for the record label their founder created, Dischord. Similarly, Cassavetes also formed a distribution company for his movies, Faces International.
In the lyrics:
Complete control, for Cassavetes If it's not for sale you can't buy it - buy it Sad-eyed mogul reaching for your wallet Like hand to holster why don't you try it - try it
A song about betrayal and distrust:
Got a lot of questions for me You got a lot of questions for me Got your finger pointing at me Distrusted I look for wires when I'm talking to you Distrusted I look for wires when I'm talking to... You'd make a great cop Said you'd make a great cop Said you'd make a great cop, you pig
Digable Planets' Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (Listen) and A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders (Listen)
Musically not too far apart with jazz and bebop based beats and loops. Digable Planets had the added layer of jazz influenced lyrics and style, which ATCQ were master storytellers and lyricists. These two albums were the soundtrack to my time on the high school track team. They were top notch to listen to while running. Both groups are still very high on my list of favorite hip hop artists.
The Posies' Frosting on the Beater (Listen) and The Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream (Listen)
I wore these two tapes out on a family trip out west in the summer of 1993 – in fact I bought the Siamese Dream tape in Bozeman, Montana before we headed south to Yellowstone National Park.
I was exposed to The Posies through listening to a great Canadian alternative radio station (102.1 CFNY-FM), particularly Alan Cross' radio show “The Ongoing History of New Music” and George Strombo. That station was my introduction to Sloan, Tragically Hip, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Doughboys, and many other alt-rock bands I would quickly love. I also honed my ‘quickly hit record on the tape deck’ skills listening to this station!
Here are some new(ish) releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:
(This issue took so long, some of these are actually older now!)
And some older releases that have made it (back) into regular rotation:
Follow me on Last.fm to see more.
I also have two 2022 playlists up on Apple Music:
Thanks for reading this issue of One Last Wish! Next issue we’ll see you in 1994.
Foxing and Manchester Orchestra tonight in Buffalo. Such a good show.
Two of my favorite releases from 2022 (so far) have been released in the past couple weeks. The albums are so opposite in style and substance – and I’ve been flipping back and forth – it’s keeping me sane in many ways.
Painless by Nilüfer Yanya
Some of the most unique indie songwriting I’ve heard in a while. Every song is good. Her last full length, Miss Universe, was a very good album – this is otherworldly. And, hey, Pitchfork agrees.
Your Neighbors are Failures by Bitter Branches
Featuring members of hardcore bands Deadguy, Kiss it Goodbye, No Escape, Lifetime, Paint it Black, Walleye, and others. It’s everything you’d expect from that group and more. It’s everything I need to get through the insanity that is our world right now.
I am a lonely one But not a sad one I am a broken one But not a lacking one I am proud one And I know I’m not the only one Let’s be broken together Let’s be ugly together Let’s not talk of weather Or speak of things mundane Let’s celebrate Being Insane Let’s take pride In finding your lane Let’s build some regrets And wear them like tattoos Let’s find Some fears Carry them like weights
Mail day! Dischord’s first six records box set arrived. Worth the wait.
What a year for music! SO many good albums came out this year – it made it difficult to narrow it down to the finalists (see the playlist below) and then to the final 25. A handful of records could have easily fit in the #1 slot, but there’s one that has remained in heavy rotation for a majority of the year: Ian Sweet’s Show Me How You Disappear. It’s a criminally underrated album that I haven’t seen on any “best of” lists this year and I don’t understand why – so I’m changing that!
Ian Sweet is the stage name of songwriter Jilian Medford, who had released two albums prior to Show Me How You Disappear: the quirky, angular debut album Shapeshifter (Listen) and the more confident, yet still melodically discordant, Crush Crusher (Listen). The song “#23” off Shapeshifter was my introduction to Ian Sweet back in 2016 and I’ve been a fan ever since – seeing them open for Ted Leo in November of that year:
Medford has pushed boundaries and her sound with each album and her latest is no different. Released in March on Polyvinyl Records, Show Me How You Disappear is Ian Sweet’s most complete collection of songs to date. This time Medford moves from discordant guitar-based songs on previous albums to dreamy, minimalist beauty. The songs on Show Me How You Disappear flow and swell, build up and fade away, producing an almost dream-like state with Medford’s sweet (and unique) melodies layered on top – it’s a fantastic listening experience.
Medford’s lyrics have always been heavily personal, but this album took that to a new level after she spent two months in intensive therapy following multiple severe panic attacks in January 2020. The journaling and self reflection process from those therapy sessions are the lyrical foundation of the album.
Mesmeric and kaleidoscopic, shimmering with electrified unease, Show Me How You Disappear is both an exercise in self-forgiveness and an eventual understanding of unresolved trauma. Medford’s third record as IAN SWEET unfolds at an acute juncture in her life, charting from a mental health crisis to an intensive healing process and what comes after. How do you control the thoughts that control you? What does it mean to get better? What does it mean to have a relationship with yourself?
Medford via Apple Music:
“I don't think I would have written this kind of record or had the strength to keep writing if I didn't go to treatment,” she says. “I was processing things in real time. It is exactly what was happening in my life—I just made it to these songs.”
Guilty Pleasure of the Year
2021 - Best of - Finalists by Jason Dettbarn
If albums aren’t your thing and you like a little more diversity, here’s a collection of almost 200 songs that I’ve collected over the year. Follow me on Last.fm to see more of what I’m listening to each week.
Doing these year-end recaps is a great way to reflect on how important music is to our lives. I’ve really enjoyed focusing on music again through these One Last Wish posts – the intentionality that’s necessary to dig in a little deeper on these albums really makes me appreciate everything about the process of creating music and the power these songs can have on the artist AND the listener. It’s certainly made a huge impact on my life and I’m now seeing that play out as I take my kids to their first shows – seeing them sing along with Beach Bunny in Cleveland or be blown away by Mannequin Pussy in Rochester. It’s amazing to see and I’m thankful to be able to give that experience to them at the same age I experienced those same feelings and excitement for the first time.
Well, I can only hope 2022 brings more joy to our ears. I’m certain it will and I look forward to every Friday to pour over those new releases to find my next favorite album. In the meantime, next up for One Last Wish is the year 1993. See you in a few weeks!
The year was 1992. Half of the year was me finishing 10th grade and the other half, the start of 11th grade. A critical time in any teenager’s life, as you transition to an upperclassman in high school. Music, of course, was still a huge part of my life as I started to branch out into new genres, including punk and hardcore music.
The new releases that meant the most to me that year (in the moment) were the Beastie Boys' Check Your Head, Smeared by Sloan, Predator by Ice Cube, Sweet Oblivion by Screaming Trees, and Rage Against the Machine’s self-titled debut. Shortly after, other 1992 releases like Sugar’s Copper Blue, Jawbreaker’s Bivouac, Farside’s Rochambeau, Shudder to Think’s Get Your Goat, and Sonic Youth’s self-titled album would be added to the list. It was certainly a good and diverse/creative year for music.
Picking this issue’s focus was a challenge! I narrowed it down by selecting two “in the moment” albums: Check Your Head and Rage Against the Machine. From the “later” records, I would pick Copper Blue and Rochambeau – maybe even Bivouac. To compromise, I decided to focus on Check Your Head, but I will also comment on the three “later” albums, since they ended up being pretty crucial in the grand scheme of my life.
The Beastie Boys are the group that combined the genres that have impacted my life the most: hip hop, punk, and hardcore. (As well as some other genres I came to like: funk, jazz, soul, etc.) In fact, Check Your Head was the first album where they connected all of these styles and influences to create a collection of songs that would ultimately define the group for the remainder of their careers. They played instruments on many songs, weaved in a political/social consciousness, and did it all unapologetically as only the Beastie Boys can do. They proved they could do anything. This album might not get the cult attention of Paul’s Boutique or the massive hits of Ill Communication, but Check Your Head is just as important for this fact alone: you could tell they were finally exactly who they wanted to be as musicians.
Do what I do professionally.
To tell the truth I am exactly what I want to be.
Let’s dig in to my highlights!
A funky, upbeat opening to the album (as well as the third single.) The song is a perfect opening to show off what the Beastie Boys were going to unleash with Check Your Head.
[MCA] This is a type of kinda like a formal dedication [MD] Givin' out a shout [AD] for much inspiration [MD] All I ever really want to do is get nice Get loose and goof a little slice of life [MCA] Sendin' out love to all corners of the land [AD] I jump up on the stage and take the mic in my hand [MD] I'm not playin' the role [AD] Just being who I am [MCA] And if you try to dis me, I couldn't give a damn
Originally an instrumental groove, Jimmy James was said to be a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Not much to this song, but to a teenager working their first low paying jobs, some with questionable bosses, it was enough.
Pass the Mic
A Beastie Boys classic and the first single off Check Your Head. One of my all-time favorites.
Well I’m on 'til the crack of dawn Mowing down emcees like I’m mowing a lawn I go off like nothing can faze me You think we'll ever meet Stevie? one of these days, D But I can stand my ground and I am down To wax an emcee who acts like a clown But for now, I’d like to ask you how You like the feel of the bass in your face in the crowd?
The fourth single off the album with it’s instantly recognizable fuzzed-out bass guitar line. Another of my favorites. Pretty sure I got my wah pedal because of this song too.
Good times gone, but you feed it Hate's grown strong, you feel you need it Just one thing, do you know you What you think? That the world owes you? What's gonna’ set you free Look inside and you'll see When you've got so much to say It's called gratitude, and that's right
Another song the Beasties played live as a band, with it’s funk, soul and African musical influences. Good stuff.
Finger Lickin' Good
The group returns to it’s more classic hip hop sound, though the did also play their instruments on the backing track.
Well they call me Mike D with the mad man style I put the mic up to my lips and I can scream for a while Created a sound at which many were shocked at I’ve got a million ideas that I ain't even rocked yet I’ve got the light bulb flashing on the top of my head Never wake up on the wrong side of the bed
An interesting aside on that Dylan sample:
Interviewed for a piece in Boston Rock, Mike D shed some light on clearing the Dylan sample: “Seven hundred bucks, but he asked for two thousand dollars. I thought it was kind of fly that he asked for $2000.00, and I bartered Bob Dylan down. That’s my proudest sampling deal.”
So What’Cha Want
Another classic track and the second single off Check Your Head.
Y'all suckers write me checks and then they bounce So I reach into my pocket for the fresh amount See, I'm the long leaner Victor the Cleaner I'm the illest motherfucker from here to Gardena
Time for Livin'
The story behind this hardcore influenced track:
The music is by a really great but unknown, and I believe unreleased, early ‘80s New York hardcore band called Front Line. Yauch was particularly fond of this one song by them and had asked Miles Kelly, Front Line’s guitar player, to show it to him. I kind of remember Yauch would just play it on his bass every now and then when we would be messing around. One day after playing it a bit with Yauch showing me the arrangement, we decided [to] put it on tape. As usual for the time, Mario C. was ready to roll. I think we did a few takes, and then we had it.
Something’s Got to Give
This mellow song has serious dub influences. From Ad Rock:
“Something’s Got to Give” is one of my all time favorites ‘cause of all the elements inside; mixing live music with samples of our live music, live vocals with samples of our vocals, the lyrics and their sentiment, and the fucked-up bass.
Some skronk-y funk. Not sure if that’s even a word! I can picture this on a soundtrack for a 70s blaxploitation film.
Yeah, you motherfuckers, I'm all that I see you lookin' at me sayin' How can he be so skinny and live so phat? You know why, cause I'm the maestro
Richard Arnold “Groove” Holmes was an American organist who performed in the genres of hard bop and soul jazz. His most notable recording is “Misty” (1965). With virtuoso groove and technique evident in “rapid, punctuating, and pulsating basslines,” Holmes’ work is regarded as antecedent of acid jazz. One year following his death, Beastie Boys paid tribute to Holmes on this track.
Live at PJs
Another super funky live-band-backed track with Ad Rock on vocals.
Well! Back to the back to the beat, y'all Down with the sound so sweet, y'all Just how fresh can you get, y'all? Those that are blessed say yes y'all
The fifth single off Check Your Head. Samples include:
Interestingly enough, for being a single the song was only performed live twice.
An instrumental, but a good one.
A smooth instrumental with MCA"s poetry over top.
To my mind I brought the image of light And I expanded out of it My fear was just a shadow And then a voice spoke in my head And she said, Dark is not the opposite of light It's the absence of light And I thought to myself She knows what she's talking about And for a moment I knew what it was all about
Listen to the whole record on Apple Music:
Beyond the music, the Beastie Boys were a big part of my friendship group, including road trips to see them at Lollapalooza in Saratoga in 1994 and later (1998) in Barrie, ON. We played in a very Beasties-like band in college called the Butter Cream Gang (named after we found this movie during a late night trip to Blockbuster) and jammed many times after that with my newly purchased wah pedal. Honestly, after probably Fugazi (more on them in a future issue!) and Run DMC, the Beastie Boys were one of the most influential bands in my life.
'Copper Blue by Sugar (Listen)
The first album from Sugar and Bob Mould’s first band (non solo work) after Husker Du. It’s an amazing collection of power pop breakup songs that only Bob Mould can write. It was one of those albums I fell in love with the first time I heard it from Chris Fritton on the bus ride to high school. Highlights include: “Changes”, “Hoover Dam”, “Fortune Teller”, and “A Good Idea”.
Funny enough, Husker Du had an influence on Nirvana, which in turn had an influence on Bob Mould and Sugar:
The popularity of Nevermind and its grunge sound had a profound impact on Mould. In an interview with NPR, Mould said: "When Nevermind came out, that album changed the way people listen to music. A lot of the songs that I had been writing in 1991 led up to my next group, Sugar — and had it not been for Nevermind, I don't know if Sugar's Copper Blue would have stood a chance in '92.
Rochambeau by Farside (Listen)
Farside’s debut full length. At the time, this record broke every assumption of what a “hardcore” band could be with acoustic guitar parts and well sung, emotional and thought provoking lyrics. At the time they were essentially an alternative band with former hardcore band members (even Zach de la Rocha was in the band early on!), which automatically put them in the hardcore scene. For me personally, this made for an excellent gateway into the classic record label, Revelation Records, and an entire music scene. Farside went on to release two more classic albums, Rigged and The Monroe Doctrine – both of which are must listens. They are one of my favorite all time bands, for sure.
Bivouac by Jawbreaker (Listen)
This was one of the first albums I bought based on a zine, more specifically Maximum Rock and Roll. I got it on cassette at the mall record store of all places. Jawbreaker is a top 10 band for me and this was the starting place. I started liking Jawbreaker because they were punk as fuck, but they weren’t stereotypical punks. They liked poetry and wrote music that wasn’t regular punk music - it was noisy, fast, aggressive, and poppy. Other releases to check out (all crucial in their own way): Unfun, 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, Dear You.
With this issue’s focus on 1992, I put together a playlist of some great songs from that year. Listen on Apple Music.
Here are some new releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:
And some older releases that have made it back into regular rotation:
Follow me on Last.fm to see more.
More live music! This time it was Hop Along at Mohawk Place in Buffalo, NY. The band and crowd were amazing. We need more shows like this so musicians leave our town and encourage others to visit. Too many touring musicians skip over Buffalo for no good reason.
🔗 Michelle Zauner (AKA Japanese Breakfast) on Sable’s Wistful Soundtrack
In her own words, Michelle Zauner, aka indie-pop artist Japanese Breakfast, didn’t grow up in a household of high culture. She wasn’t shown fine art, foreign directors, or classic literature by her parents in Oregon during the 1990s. What Zauner had was video games, first on a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and then on a PlayStation.
🔗 The 200 Best Albums of the Last 25 Years, According to Pitchfork Readers
A pretty solid list and ranking, in fact I own 20 of these on vinyl. A few albums that shockingly aren’t listed: Being There by Wilco, Black on Both Sides by Mos Def, 100 Broken Windows by Idlewild, Relationship of Command by At The Drive-in, Mass Romantic by The New Pornographers, The Argument by Fugazi, Fantastic Damage by El-P, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case for example.
Thanks for reading this issue of One Last Wish! Next issue we’ll see you in 1993.
Seeing Wilco for the third time triggered a listening binge. Picked up the deluxe re-issue of Being There today at Revolver Records.
I went a little crazy with the 1992 playlist in preparation for the next issue of One Last Wish. So many good albums came out that year. 91 songs so far and I don’t think I got everything!
As mentioned in the last post, 1991 was an amazing year for music. While Nirvana was tops in rock music (and probably music as a whole), A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory was an instant hip-hop classic and the best rap record of 1991.
Like Nirvana following up Bleach, A Tribe Called Quest took things to another level with their second album. ATCQ’s 1990 debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm is a classic as well, but The Low End Theory fine tunes everything from their debut and pushes their style to new heights.
My love for A Tribe Called Quest started with that first album, specifically the songs “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo”, “Can I Kick It?”, and “Bonita Applebum” – all of which were in high rotation on MTV and Yo! MTV Raps at the time. ATCQ was a truly groundbreaking group, incorporating jazz and R&B with laid back, conversational lyrics. Between ATCQ, De La Soul, and Disable Planets, I found my favorite hip-hop style – one I still prefer 30 years later.
Over the next few years I wore my The Low End Theory tape out – it was my go to for almost every situation: skateboarding, playing video games, running track in high school. It was my soundtrack for the very early 90s.
Let's dig in to each track:
Excursions sets the stage for the whole album – great lyrics over a jazz/bebop influenced track. A great opening and introduction to ATCQ.
Back in the days when I was a teenager Before I had status and before I had a pager You could find the Abstract listenin' to hip-hop My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop I said, "Well, Daddy, don't you know that things go in cycles? Way that Bobby Brown is just amping like Michael"
The beat samples “A Chant for Bu” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
A great song and Phife Dawg’s coming out party as a world class MC. The video for this track can be seen below with “Jazz (We’ve Got)”.
What an opening:
Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this? The five foot assassin with the roughneck business I float like gravity, never had a cavity Got more rhymes than the Winans got family
The bass is sampled from Jack DeJohnette’s song, “Minya’s the Mooch”. The drums were sampled from Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel”.
Rap Promoter is another track from ATCQ taking issue with the music industry (you’ll sense the theme by the end of the album.)
If there ain't no dough then there ain't no show So take your roly poly fat promoter (ass) To the Chemical Bank, and get my cash If you wanna see the people scream and laugh You best Quest, you ask the Quest, you ask real fast
“Rap Promoter,” is a pointed jab at the monetization of rap music in the music industry. Q-Tip warns up-and-coming rappers about venue promoters and their shady tactics of scamming money out of them
The drums were sampled from The New Birth’s “Keep on Doin' It”. The guitar sample is from Eric Mercury’s “Long Way Down.”
Phife Dawg takes this track with an autobiographical look at his girl problems:
1988 senior year at Garvey High Where all the guys were corny but the girls were mad fly Lounging with the Tipster, cooling with Sha Scoping out the honeys—they know who they are I was the b-ball playing, fly rhyme saying Fly girl getting but never was I sweating
The drum beat was sampled from Chuck Jackson’s 1968 rendition of “I Like Everything About You.”
Q-Tip takes this one solo (well, Vinia Mojica is featured on the chorus) with a very jazz/funk influenced flow that has since influenced many MCs:
I'm moving, yes I'm grooving cause my mouth is on the motor Use the Coast in the morning to avoid the funky odor Can't help being funky, I'm the funky Abstract brother Funky in a sense, but I play the undercover Once had a fetish, fetish for some booty Now I'm getting funky in my rap and that's my duty
The drums were sampled from Joe Farrell’s 1974 track “Upon This Rock”. The background instrumentation on the hook was sampled from Heatwave’s 1977 song “The Star of a Story”.
A cautionary tale about the record industry. The song was also the first song on the album to include guest artists/groups. For this one it’s Lord Jamar and Sadat X of Brand Nubian, as well as Diamond D of D.I.T.C..
Yo, I gotta speak on the cesspool It's the rap industry and it ain't that cool Only if you're on stage or if you're speaking to your people Ain't no-one your equal Especially on the industry side Don't let the gains just glide Right through your fingers, you gotta know the deal So Lord Jamar speak, because you're real
The drums are sampled from Aretha Franklin’s 1971 song “Rock Steady”. The bassline is from The Fatback Band’s 1974 track “Wicki Wacky”. The guitar break is a ssample from Ferrante & Teicher’s 1969 song “Midnight Cowboy”. Other samples were taken from James Brown’s “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” and Gerson King Combo’s “Mandamentos Black.”
Some more great lyrics and flow from Q-Tip and Phife Dawg on this laid back jazzy track.
Here I am ghetto, full with a lot of steam Think I gotta, I think I gotta, I think I gotta scream Cause that's how good it feels child Let your hair down, so we can get buckwild Do your ill dance, don't think about the next man We must have unity and think of the bigger plan Division we will fall, we must stick together, see I'd like to take this time to say what's up to Kool G
The song samples Grant Green’s 1970 song “Down Here On the Ground”.
1990 was an important year in the discussion of rape, date rape, and rape on college campuses in the United States. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg add their social commentary in this song, along with some casual jokes (maybe too casual for 2021) about sex in general:
Listen to the rhyme, it's a black-ink fact Percentile rate of date rape is fat
The drum samples are from Jackie Jackson’s 1973 song “Is It Him or Me” and the keyboard sample was taken from Cannonball Adderley’s 1972 song “The Steam Drill”.
One of my favorite songs on the album and a hip-hop classic. Q-Tip and Phife Dawg use call and response to celebrate their roots and how far they’ve come together:
Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden We used to kick routines and the presence was fittin' It was I, The Abstract And me, the Five Footer I kicks the mad style so step off the frankfurter Yo, Phife, you remember that routine That we used to make spiffy like Mr. Clean? Um… um… a tidbit, um… a smidgen I don't get the message so you gots to run the pigeon
The hook samples Minnie Riperton’s 1975 song “Baby, This Love I Have” and the horn sample comes from Average White Band’s 1976 song “Love Your Life”. The drums were sampled from Grover Washington Jr.’s 1975 song “Hydra” and Dalton & Dubarri’s 1976 song “I’m just a Rock N' Roller”.
Look at Miss Elaine who runs the fast lane Barely knows her name, struck by fame She just got a Benz, she rides with her friends Gotta keep her beeper in her purse to make ends Rollin' down the block, checkin' out the spots She winks at the cops, always give her props She knows she's the woman, can't nobody touch her Hangs with the elite, makes her papes from the gutter
“Everything Is Fair” is a social commentary about crime and survival in New York City in the early ’90s.
The hook was sampled from Funkadelic’s 1976 song “Let’s Take It to the People”. The drums were sampled from Willis Jackson’s 1972 song “Ain’t No Sunshine”. The bassline was sampled from Willis Jackson’s 1972 song “Don’t Knock My Love”.
Another one of my favorite jams on this album. The lyrics are top notch.
Stern firm and young with a laid-back tongue The aim is to succeed and achieve at 21 Just like Ringling Brothers, I'll daze and astound Captivate the mass, cause the prose was profound Do it for the strong, we do it for the meek Boom it in your boom it in your boom it in your Jeep Or your Honda, or your Bimmer, or your Legend, or your Benz The rave of the town to your foes and your friends
The video combines two songs: “Jazz (We’ve Got)” and “Buggin' Out” from earlier in the album.
The drums were sampled from Five Stairsteps 1968 song “Don’t Change Your Love”. The keyboard sample twas taken from Jimmy McGriff’s 1972 song “Green Dolphin Street”. On the beat, three samples are manipulated on the turntables from The Dells 1972 song “Segue 2: Funky Breeze/Ghetto Scene”.
ATCQ’s commentary on the importance of pagers in the early 90s. I know that probably seems crazy to younger people, considering what we have now. But yeah, pagers were a thing well into the 90s.
Those who don't believe, see you're laid behind Got our skypagers on all the time Hurry up and get yours cause I got mine Especially if you do shows, they come in fine
The drums were sampled from Sly and The Family Stone’s 1967 song “Advice”. The jazz sample heard in the hook was taken from Eric Dolphy’s 1960 song “17 West,”, featuring jazz bassist Ron Carter.
A short, uptempo track with many rhetorical questions from Q-Tip.
The sparse track entirely consists of a loop of the Paul Humphrey song called “Uncle Willie’s Dream” (1974). The track’s bouncy momentum culminates into a group shout of “What!!” that leads directly into the album’s crown jewel posse cut, “Scenario.”
Another classic and my favorite ATCQ song. What a way to close out the album. The song was my introduction to Leaders of the New School and Busta Rhymes, who went on to massive success as a solo artist.
The verses and interplay between everyone involved is simply quite amazing. I could quote all of the lyrics – they are that good – so check out the Genius page to read along.
The drums on “Scenario” were sampled from The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s 1967 song “Little Miss Lover”. The bassline and other elements heard throughout were taken from Brother Jack McDuff’s 1970 song “Oblighetto”.
This album is now over 30 (?!?!) years old, which makes me feel very old… but I am very happy that it has stood the test of time. It may not fit with current radio play and trends, but it is truly a classic record that is 100% listenable today. It’s hip-hop, creativity, and lyricism at it’s finest. A true piece of art.
Since A Tribe Called Quest is this month’s featured artist, we’ll focus on hip hop from 1991. Enjoy! Listen on Apple Music.
Here are some new releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:
And some older releases that have made it back into regular rotation:
Follow me on Last.fm to see more!
LIVE MUSIC?!?! Since the last issue I had the pleasure of attending two concerts: an indoor show with the twin bill of Japanese Breakfast/Mannequin Pussy and an outdoor show with Wilco/Sleater-Kinney/NNAMDI. Both were very good.
The Japanese Breakfast show was thankfully vaccine + mask required, which definitely helped us relax. It was truly amazing to see live music again. Before the pandemic I definitely took it for granted. I’ve seen hundreds of bands over the years and the thought of standing in a hot sweaty room, packed in with other people was not appealing any longer, in most cases. That show 100% changed my mind. The best part of that show is we took Lu and two of their friends and they were blown away by Mannequin Pussy. Such a great, in person experience to give young kids.
Wilco tonight at Artpark
Sleater-Kinney tonight at Artpark
Note from Jason: Wow, I procrastinated a lot on this one. This issue was like 90% done for weeks. The last 10% was the hardest – putting the focused listen into words. Maybe it’s because SO much has been written about Nirvana, I didn’t think I could do it justice? Anyway, here it is… I will attempt to follow up with another issue this month to get back on track. Thanks for reading!
1991 was a huge year for music – I’m thinking we’ll be stuck here for the next few issues, as there are a number of crucial records I really need to include in this project and it just happens to be the 30th anniversary. Nirvana’s Nevermind and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory will definitely make the cut for me.
Other classic records out that year: My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, Slint’s Spiderland, The Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, Fugazi’s Steady Diet of Nothing, Sepultura’s Arise, Geto Boy’s We Can’t Be Stopped, De La Soul’s De La Soul is Dead, my most underrated album of the 90s: God Fodder by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, and many more — I could keep going.
This issue I’ll focus on the album that made the biggest impact of all those listed above: Nirvana’s Nevermind. Released on September 24th, the album knocked pop music off the charts – taking over the #1 slot from Michael Jackson on the Billboard 200 in early 1992. Over 24 million copies have been sold and it’s obviously on many “best of” lists – including #17 on Rolling Stone’s all-time top 500 list. Beyond the mainstream success of Nirvana, this album inspired and opened the gateway to success for many, many alternative rock bands from that point forward.
I received the cassette version for Christmas that year. It turns out, I wasn’t alone:
Nevermind had its best sales period during Christmas week of 1991, when it sold a spectacular 374,000 copies in a mere seven-day frame
Like most of us at the time, I was sucked in by “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the short ride. Overall, I think Nirvana epitomized the Gen X experience: noisy, angsty sly sarcasm, and enough hooks to get you through it all. As a teenager, you couldn’t ask for anything more.
Beyond music, Nirvana obviously wasn’t the reason we moved to Seattle in 1999, but the introduction to the Seattle music scene was a huge selling point. We lived in Seattle for five years and enjoyed many bands during that time at some of the classic Seattle venues: The Crocodile, Showbox, Paramount, Rock Candy, Neumos, El Corazon/Graceland/many other names, Cha Cha Lounge, The Comet, Paradox, and many more. The 1999 to 2004 period was amazing for us in terms of shows – I can’t imagine experiencing all of the scene history that pre-dated that time.
Anyway, enough of the blathering – we all know Nirvana and Nevermind – let’s get on to the focused listen! (I just hope I can do it justice – so much has been written about this band.)
Smells Like Teen Spirit
The debut single off Nevermind, it was certainly the song (and regularly played video) that jumpstarted the success of the album. Not to mention help it become one of the most recognizable songs of the last 30 years. In fact, Rolling Stone named it #9 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Turns out, Nirvana was trying to rip off The Pixies (another of my favorite bands). Cobain in a Rolling Stone interview from January 1994:
I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard.
Lyrically, Nirvana is one of those bands that seem to have two distinct camps: one group that think it’s all non-sensical to fit the melodies and cadence and another group that dissects every single line for meaning. To me, I think the non-sensical has a purpose for Cobain, so I lean toward the “find meaning” camp in most songs. (When this project is complete, you’ll notice I tend to love bands that have meaningful lyrics, if you haven’t already.)
As a shy introvert, my favorite part of this song has to be:
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous Here we are now, entertain us I feel stupid and contagious Here we are now, entertain us
I don’t think there are many songs that sum up that feeling for me as well as this one does… the constant feeling of having to entertain others just to be heard, the feeling of failure when you aren’t heard, and finding those “dark” places where you can feel comfortable being yourself. It’s quite perfect.
In the end, it’s hard to not say this is the best song on the album, given all of the accolades, though I think “Drain You” is a very close second.
Another video I remember seeing a lot on MTV. The song was an ode to the fans the jumped on the Nirvana bandwagon, yet didn’t understand anything about them – which became commonplace for alternative/underground rock bands in the 90s, think Rage Against the Machine, Fugazi, and the like…
The best part is the song is so damn catchy and easy to sing-a-long to — it’s the perfect honey trap.
He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs And he likes to sing along and he likes to shoot his gun But he don’t knows not what it means Don’t knows what it means, when I say He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs And he likes to sing along and he likes to shoot his gun But he don’t know what it means, don’t know what it means, and I say, “Yeah”
Come As You Are
Originally intended to be the main single on Nevermind, it was put on the backburner after the surprise success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
I get why “management” picked this song as the lead single, since it has a low key, catchy almost sonic feel to it. It’s a good, safe song. Though in context of the rest of the album and Bleach before it, I think it’s a pretty non-representative sample of who Nirvana was at the time. Maybe I am wrong – I’m not a millionaire music executive after all. 🙂
Come as you are, as you were As I want you to be As a friend, as a friend As an old enemy Take your time, hurry up Choice is yours, don’t be late Take a rest as a friend As an old memoria
This song could be on Bleach – it’s certainly the most caustic, aggressive song on the album. Lyrically, Cobain focuses on getting stuck in the stereotypical “middle America” life:
Even if you have, even if you need I don’t mean to stare, we don’t have to breed We could plant a house, we could build a tree I don’t even care, we could have all three
“Lithium” is a perfect description of manic depression, where every line is both happy and sad, up and down, while having references to God recalling when Kurt lived with a devout Christian family.
Musically, Cobain once again goes the Pixies route – I’d argue even more so than “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It’s certainly catchy.
My favorite section of lyrics:
I’m so happy ’cause today I found my friends, they’re in my head I’m so ugly, that’s okay, ’cause so are you, we broke our mirrors Sunday mornin’ is every day for all I care and I’m not scared Light my candles in a daze ’cause I’ve found God
This is probably my least favorite song on the album, though I learned something new about it:
This song is about the actual kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl. In 1987, she was returning from a concert in Tacoma, Washington when she was abducted by a man named Gerald Friend. He took her back to his mobile home and raped her. The girl, whose name was not released, was tortured with a whip, a razor, and a blowtorch. She managed to escape when Friend took her for a ride and stopped for gas. He was arrested and sent to jail.
Lyrically, you can certainly hear that story after learning of the background.
The most traditional punk song on the record – fast and aggressive. Lyrically, Cobain stuck with that theme as well, focusing the rage on the mistreatment of Native Americans and women. From Cobain:
On one hand “Territorial Pissings” references Native Americans – people smashed by raging attacks. And at the same time it’s about appreciating woman.. I hate the violence they suffer, the daily injustices for belonging to a different sex.
It all starts with the classic opening – spontaneously included by Krist Novoselic – which was directed at the Baby Boomer generation since they seem to have forgotten the ideals The Youngbloods sang about in the classic hippie anthem “Get Together” from the 60s:
Come on, people, now Smile on your brother Everybody get together Try to love one another right now
My second favorite song on the album. The chorus just ripping through while Cobain sings:
One baby to another says, “I’m lucky to have met you” I don’t care what you think unless it is about me It is now my duty to completely drain you I travel through a tube and end up in your infection
It’s the classic Nirvana sound that I love.
The next two songs kind of do the same thing for me – similar vibe (generally a loud, catchy ripper) – though I probably prefer Lounge Act of the two, since it’s got more dynamics and better lyrics:
And I’ve got this friend, you see who makes me feel And I wanted more than I could steal I’ll arrest myself, I’ll wear a shield I’ll go out of my way to make you a deal We’ll make a pact to learn from who Ever we want without new rules And we’ll share what’s lost and what we grew They’ll go out of their way to prove they still Smell her on you They still smell her on you Smell her on you
In fact the lyrics from Lounge Act are probably the most straightforward on the album – almost traditional, well as traditional as Cobain would get on this album.
Another ripper, with the controversial ending: “God is gay.”
In a 1993 interview with The Advocate, Cobain claimed that he was “gay in spirit” and “probably could be bisexual.” He also stated that he used to spray paint “God Is Gay” on pickup trucks in the Aberdeen area—he did attend church throughout his youth, but became dissatisfied with religion.
On A Plain
Another one of my favorites, with some of the catchiest riffs on the album. It definitely lays the foundation for many alternative bands to come. I can hear bits of Weezer and The Posies to name just a few.
I’ll start this off without any words I got so high, I scratched till I bled I love myself better than you I know it’s wrong so what should I do? The finest day that I’ve ever had Was when I learned to cry on command Love myself better than you I know it’s wrong so what should I do? (Ooh, ooh)
Something In The Way
A mellow and mournful end to the official track listing.
Underneath the bridge Tarp has sprung a leak And the animals I’ve trapped Have all become my pets And I’m living off of grass And the drippings from the ceiling It’s okay to eat fish ‘Cause they don’t have any feelings
Overall, I’m pleasently surprised how well this album held up over the years. It’s a classic for sure and definitely one of most important albums of my generation.
Since this album had such a huge impact, I also asked some internet friends for a tweet-length reaction from their 1991 self:
P.J. Hagerty (@aspleenic on Twitter)
This is something different. Do I like this? It’s so messy, but at the same time precise at channeling emotion. I think I like this. Someone understands my rage and confusion!
Odd-Egil Auran (@odd on Micro.blog)
I was excited like I hadn’t since about 1988 about something that sounded heavy, although at the time I didn’t know it was the death of Heavy Metal as I knew it.
Guillaume Barillot (@gbarillot on Twitter)
Honestly, my first impression was: “mmmh, fine, nothing fancy but I like the songs. This album won’t change the world, I dont get all that hype”(disclaimer: for me in 1991 the revolution was RHCP blood sugar sex magic)
Patrick Rhone (@patrickrhone on Micro.blog and Twitter)
As someone who spent his teenage years in and around the NYC punk scene of the early 1980’s, my first thought was “See, I knew punk wasn’t dead!”
Hjalmer Duenow (@hjalm on Micro.blog)
1991 I worked in a record store. I didn’t get why lightning struck for Nirvana over many other bands that sounded similar on the same record label or from the same scene. They had some nice hooks and that Butch Vig sound.
Since Nirvana is this month’s featured artist, we’ll focus on rock music from 1991 – such a diverse mix of sounds in the (mostly) alternative scene. Enjoy! Listen on Apple Music.
Here are some new releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:
And some older releases that have made it back into regular rotation:
🔗 What Had Happened Was – Season Two with El-P
Open Mike Eagle and El-P talk about El-P’s career from Company Flow to Run the Jewels. I was super into Def Jux back in the early 2000s, especially El-P, Mr. Lif, and Aesop Rock, so it was amazing to hear about it first hand. A must listen if you are into indie hip hop.
That wraps up the sixth issue. Feel free to send me feedback, questions, ideas — anything. I’d also love if you shared this newsletter with anyone you think would enjoy and encourage them to subscribe.
See you next time.
I picked up these two albums this week:
One will be this month’s featured album. I’m sure you can guess which one it is!
Added a few new slabs of vinyl to my collection:
Most important, my daughter bought her first record: the Prom Queen EP (Listen) from Beach Bunny. Someone will be getting a turntable for the birthday in May. 🙂
Quick Note from Jason: This month is the first issue published from my brand new site. If you subscribed to the email via Substack you are all set – no need to re-subscribe, in fact you can manage your subscription by clicking Login on the new site.
If you subcribed via RSS or read issues by visiting the Substack site, you will need to update your links. This will be the permanent home for One Last Wish from here on out.
I’m super excited about this for a few main reasons:
The monthly issues will always be free and found here on this site.
Thanks for reading and following along. Last month was the most successful issue to date, so I really appreciate all of the interest.
Onward to issue five! (I hope it’s worth the wait – it’s a long one.)
While Living Colour was my first true experience with overtly political lyrics, the next logical step, given my love for hip hop, had to be Public Enemy. My first PE purchase (and the focus of this issue) was the cassette version of Fear of a Black Planet – released in April of 1990.
Public Enemy was formed in 1985 by Chuck D and Flavor Flav. Fear of a Black Planet was Public Enemy’s third studio album — a followup to 1988’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and 1987’s debut Yo! Bum Rush the Show. The album is certified platinum by the RIAA and both “Fight the Power” and “911 is a Joke” both reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart.
My first exposure to Public Enemy was music videos off the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album via MTV’s Yo! MTV Raps. Songs like “Bring the Noise”, “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Rebel Without a Pause” certainly sold me on Public Enemy – they were the real deal.
In addition to MTV and their first two releases, Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee had a big impact on me – not only as the debut of “Fight the Power”, but the overall message and power of the Lee’s work. It’s still one of my favorite movies to this day.
The absolute peak of my Public Enemy experience was at the 1994 University at Buffalo Fall Fest during my freshman year of college. There you would have seen eighteen year old me, up front for PE, getting a high five from Flavor Flav after he came to life out of a casket on stage early in their set. It was an otherworldly experience I will never forget.
Now that we have a little backstory, let’s dig in to my focused listen:
1. Contract on the World Love Jam
PE was no stranger to criticism, so what better way than to open your third album with samples of that criticism. Face it head on.
“A lot of the samples on ‘Contract’ came from me taping radio stations, taking bites of interviews and commercials. Sometimes I might go through the dial, just sampling at random, keeping it on a cassette, listen to the cassette, and say, ‘Well, being that I’m the lyric writer, how should I arrange these fragments so they’ll add up to a kind of a song?’ That’s how ‘Contract’ came along.
2. Brothers Gonna Work it Out
The first full song kicks off Fear with PE’s classic sound – driving bass, borderline caucaphonic noise, and that classic hip hop beat. Chuck D’s lyrics don’t hold back either:
History shouldn’t be a mystery Our stories real history Not ***his*** story
In 1995, you’ll twist to this As you raise your fist to the music United we stand, yes divided we fall Together we can stand tall Brothers that try to work it out They get mad, revolt, revise, realize They’re super bad Small chance a smart brother’s Gonna be a victim of his own circumstance Sabotaged, shell-shocked, rocked and ruled Day in the life of a fool
At almost 14 and questioning everything I’d been taught, Public Enemy could get you hyped and teach at the same time. It’s exactly what I needed at that age… and still enjoy today.
3. 911 is a Joke
Probably one of PE’s most recognizable songs (and video) – this was Flavor Flav at the top of his game. Only he could deliver this message:
4. Incident at 66.6 FM
Chuck D on this track:
“Incident At 66.6 FM’ was actually a live radio interview that I did at WNBC in New York before a show we did with Run-DMC at Nassau Coliseum. Those people you hear in the record actually called the station.
5. Welcome to the Terrordome
This song was Chuck D’s response to the Professor Griff anti-semitism controversy and the media focus.
Never be a brother like, “Me go solo” Laser, anesthesia, maze ya Ways to blaze your brain and train ya The way I’m livin’, forgiven, what I’m givin’ up X on the flex, hit me now I don’t know about later As for now, I know how to avoid the paranoid Man, I’ve had it up to here Yeah, I wear got ’em going in fear Rhetoric said and read just a bit ago Not quitting, though signed the hard rhymer
Musically the song is a banger, with samples from James Brown, The Temptations, Kool & the Gang, and The Jackson 5. So damn good. Chuck D is in attack mode lyrically the whole damn song too. It’s a treat.
6. Meet the G That Killed Me
Dabbling a little in the homophobic territory of early ‘90s rap on this controversial skit, Public Enemy speaks on the then recent subject of AIDS in the black community.
8. Anti-N***** Machine
Chuck D’s commentary on how the police system, government, and laws work to censor Black Americans – whether it’s literally censoring music, voting, or the taking of one’s life at the hands of the police. Still very relevant 30+ years later, as we watch George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and sadly many others… as well as Republican controlled states rush to make voting more difficult after the 2020 election.
9. Burn Hollywood Burn
A criticim of Hollywood and the treatment (and stereotypes) of Blacks in media:
Hollywood or would they not Make us all look bad like I know they had But some things I’ll never forget, yeah So step and fetch this shit For all the years we looked like clowns The joke is over — smell the smoke from all around
And an interesting annotation from Genius.com taught me something new:
Stepin Fetchit (the name is a variation of the phrase “step and fetch it”) was the stage name of the black film actor Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry. He played the “laziest man in the world” in dozens of movies in the 1920’s and 30’s.
10. Power to the People
This feels like a song that was made to take the listener out of Side A. Not necessarily a throw away song, but not one I’d target to listen to on an album this good.
11. Who Stole the Soul?
PE jumps back into side two head first. The song focuses on the continued attack on Black people’s soul – their creativity, home, family and livelihood. All while having to experience holidays and other symbols of America that have some relation to slavery and the plight of Black Americans over the generations. That in itself has to be soul killing.
We choose to use their ways And holidays notice some of them are heller days Invented by those that never repented For the sins within that killed my kin
The song features samples of The Beatles, James Brown, and the Magic Disco Machine.
12. Fear of a Black Planet
The title track – another song that is still relevant today, with the increasing popularity of white nationalism and white supremicist ideas/policy.
13. Revolutionary Generation
This song deals with America and the black community’s poor treatment of women.
Cause I’m tired of America dissin’ my sisters (For example, like they dissed Tawana) And they try to say that she’s a liar My people don’t believe it, but even now they’re getting higher
Another historical tidbit from Genius:
Tawana Bawley is an African-American woman who accused 6 white men including police officers of raping her. The judgement and racial stereotypes that ensued from the media and, ahem, whitey caused people to think she lying.
14. Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man!
Another Flavor Flav jam. Love it – he was certainly on his A game this record.
Runnin’ for your life, by the knife Runnin’ from your wife, yikes! You should’ve stuck with home Off your mind to blow your dome It was you that chose your doom You built the maze you can’t get through I tried to help you all I can Now I can’t do nuttin’ for you man
15. Reggie Jax
A freestyle from Chuck D – very Run DMC in flow – with some references to previous songs and recycled themes/phrases.
I’m here to live for the love of my people Kickin’ it all about rebuildin’ so all the children Avoid the self-destruction So long I’m gonna do y’all a favor Cause I got the flavor yea yeah
16. Leave This Off Your Fu*ckin Charts
17. B Side Wins Again
Musically, a driving bass line and PE’s patented style help make this one of the better tracks on Fear. Featuring samples from Kool & the Gang and the Commodores. Lyrically, the song pulls no punches:
And the suckers on the right get cynical Cause the record’s to the left and political And you search the stores Attack the racks with your claws For the rebels without a pause
18. War at 33 1/3
This song aim to challenge the status quo and the history taught by schools and the media – whether it’s portraying Black people as the enemy in the media or simply not given them credit for playing a major part in building the country:
Can I live my life without ’em treatin’ Every brother like me like I’m holdin’ A knife alright time to smack Uncle Sam Who don’t give a damn, look at the flag My blood’s a flood Without credit Black and close to the edit I fed it, you read it, just remember who said it
There are a lot of theories as to why the song is titled the way it is – one is a reference to the speed of the song, which is way faster than most PE songs.
19. Final Count of the Collision Between Us and the Damned
20. Fight the Power
One of PE’s best and well known songs. Chuck D on what inspired it:
I wanted to have sorta like the same theme as the original ‘Fight the Power” by the Isley Brothers and fill it in with some kind of modernist views of what our surroundings were at that particular time.
The lyrics definitely hit hard:
As the rhythm’s designed to bounce What counts is that the rhyme’s Designed to fill your mind Now that you’ve realized the pride’s arrived We got to pump the stuff to make ya tough From the heart It’s a start, a work of art To revolutionize make a change nothing’s strange People, people we are the same No we’re not the same ‘Cause we don’t know the game What we need is awareness, we can’t get careless You say what is this? My beloved let’s get down to business Mental self defensive fitness
The music is anthemic, featuring samples from James Brown, Bob Marley, Rick James, Sly and the Family Stone, Trouble Funk, Afrika Bambaataa, and many more. The classic PE sound.
Then there’s the video. I definitely remember watching that on Yo! MTV Raps:
Listening to these songs and prepping for this issue, I couldn’t believe how good this album was – even 30+ years later. This was Public Enemy at it’s creative peak. It Takes a Nation of Millions may be their breakthrough and an important album on it’s own, but the confidence PE exudes on Fear is just palpable.
One of my favorite things about Public Enemy and music in general is it’s ability to teach and experience empathy – whether it’s political in nature, a culture you may not have much exposure to, heartache, or immense joy. Listening to and experiencing someone else’s feelings is one of the most crucial life skills in my opinion. I imagine as this project ages, that will become even more clear with each new issue.
In terms of this album specifically, I know it set the stage for who I am in terms of my beliefs and interests. It’s certainly what helped open me up to punk/hardcore music, reading books by folks like James Baldwin, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, and having an interest in politics/social justice in general. I know I will be forever grateful to Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and Public Enemy.
This issue’s theme is 1989 + 1990 — 30 of my favorite songs from these two years. Enjoy the playlist on Apple Music.
Follow me on Apple Music.
Here are a few recently released albums (well more than a few – it’s been a good few weeks!) I’ve been listening to:
And a few older ones on repeat:
Arlo Parks Live on KEXP at Home
Beach Bunny – Good Girls (Don’t Get Used) on Jimmy Kimmel
Lemuria @ The Fest 17
Lia Ices – Live
Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mike to the Surface
Oh, live music. Someday.
That wraps up the fifth issue. Feel free to send me feedback, questions, ideas — anything. I’d also love if you shared this newsletter with anyone you think would enjoy and encourage them to subscribe.
See you next time.