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January 12, 1995 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-12

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, January 12, 1995 - 7

.The music revolution begins with you

Let the bloodletting begin.
I've always viewed myself as Music Utopian Man, using His invisible
superhuman powers to rip into the souls of lightweight performers and
massmediaized icons. I shred any sense of the falsely secured respectability
they've gained from both MTV and the consumer-oriented youth culture. The

An i .Maffep usi
* Matt Carlson

intended benefit for this role o' mine
was the satisfaction received by deliv-
ering, often shoving, my holy knowl-
edge into the faces of readers, and bet-
ting that at least one person out there
was better educated because of it.
No dice.
Recently, a good friend pointed
out that you don't read what doesn't

interest you. This is obvious now and obvious then, but I was unable to see this
fact, because, after all, I was Music Utopian Man -savior of the righteous and
scourge of the hokey. Now, opinion and individuality should be sacred
concepts for everyone in the world, but what would you say if I were to tell you
that the world we live in today is assassinating these holy values one by one?
*No, I'm not some crazy conspiracy theory nut. I'mjust looking at our supposed
free world, and what I see scares me. Interested yet?
A critic stakes his job upon opinion. And upon creativity. But in a world
where a handful of corporations are trying to sell you their products (in my
case, "musicians," but Iuse the term lightly and infrequently) -a world where
a band must get MTV airplay to be heard, my whole creative energy screams
out "Enough! Open up the fiber-optic cables and satellite technology to those
who have been out in the cold for far too long." My brother thinks I'm a fascist,
and my dad thinks I'm a Marxist. No, I'm just a hopelessly unromantic rock
writer trying to find a voice in the debris of the Global Village time-bomb that
as not yet gone off (the clock's a-tickin' though).
I've come to understand that mere rock criticism achieves nothing - I'm
willing to bet that 90 percent of all rock lit 101 amounts to Guns 'n' Roses
fuckin' rocks or Guns 'n' Fuckin' Roses is weak. Crisscrossed, rearranged
symbols all saying the same thing. Which is nothing. There's got to be more
than that - something for the culture that we stomp in to hang our individual
hats on and feel proud for the courses that we have chosen. We need writing
that pleads in orgasmic disdain for contemptible garbage made by weak wills
and strong cocks; together, we need to grow intimate with the joke that all mass
media play on us, collectively laughing at the heroes of this popular culture
writhing in pseudo-testimonial wrath on the stage that we built. We need to

dethrone Nine Inch Nails.
"Yeah, Reznor's drowning himself in Woodstock '94 Mud (copyright
1994, Sony Corp.) with all of the angst and fears and neuroses of my
generation and I can't get enough man! C' mon shit on us some more," some
of you no doubt cheer as the great nine inch thespian himself mocks us all,
getting rich in an unabashedly infomercialian manner with the booty of our
fears and voyeuristic association. Stop.
I could just say right now what the whole idea is, what the whole crux
of the matter is - think for yourself. A singular pronoun - not "your-
selves" - because I'm attempting to communicate here with you as an
individual. One method of transmittal that MTV (commercials with com-
mercials), television, fashion magazines, rock rags and mass culture don't
want you to partake in. They want to squelch your creativity, opinion and
ability to choose until we're all one massive universal buyer.
"Yeah, Reznor's drowning himself in Woodstock
'94 Mud (copyright 1994, Sony Corp.) with all of
the angst and fears and neuroses of my
generation and I can't get enough man! C'mon
shit on us some more ...
"What?" you say, "I choose what I want everyday. I eat at McKing Burger
not Taco McArby's; I drink Diet RC Coke not Caffeine Free A&W Pepsi; I
listen to Gunsn' Nails not Nine Inch Roses." Again, theserare all rearranged
symbols that convey the same meaning and end up delivering nothing but the
same unified and monotonous white noise. Modern humanity has indeed
become what Sartre dubbed "a small committee surrounded by adoring
I'm not the best candidate to preach about this garbage-in, garbage-out
culture that we live in. I'm a casualty of the Cola Wars as much as the next
person. But I feel that, from my armchair, I can point out the silliness of what
the music industry is dumping on us and offer some better alternatives to the
inbred grunge bands, masturbatory techno wimps and carbon copy-cat gangsta'
rappers (rappas?). Other, more worthwhile opinions are out there, amongst the
commercial static - they're your own opinions. Go ahead and find them
yourself. Ignore MTV and mass media; c'mon, make my job obsolete.
This is all bloodletting; pointing out the absurd packaging of our deceitful pop

"Mr Reznor, Mr. Reznor, Alice Cooper on line four, he wants his wardrobe
and posturing back A.S.A.P."
culture icons is only a starting point that will never truly yield a music utopia.
However, we do need to strive continuously to make the anti-matter into
the matter, for the mass industry and media squelch too many of these voices
in the minority: we need to look around and grasp the unheard souls shouting
out for recognition. pull them up and shake their hands; we need a revolution,
and we need it now.
There will never be a utopia for music -® we need the crap so we can
remember and point out the good - but we can fight like hell for one. Battle
the mass mediaized MTV-ruled culture that we live in. The music revolution
begins now.

Severed Heads twist, warp and sever ind

I i l 4 10 i Cu W INC4rnA


Severed Heads is the name of the
twisted musical vision of Australia's
Tom Ellard. For the past 13 years, this
vision has transformed from a post-
industrial vibe into a bizarre version
of dance music, but Ellard's technical
expertise and warped sense of humor
have always allowed his music to
stand out from the usual crowds asso-
ciated with these kinds of music. His
most intriguing works, however, were
his first three full length releases,
"Blubberknife," "Since The Acci-
dent" and "City Slab Horror."
"Blubberknife" and "Since The
Accident," were highly reminiscent
of the industrial movement pioneered
by bands like Throbbing Gristle,
Cabaret Voltaire and SBK. But while
these bands seemed to delight in us-
ing machine-like drones in order to
drain every aspect of humanity from
the sounds they created, Ellard chose
to use human voices as his most pow-
erful atmospheric tool.
Nearly all of the songs on these
three releases feature manipulated
tape loops of choirs or short snippets
of conversations, layered and played
,at varying speeds, a technique that
Ellard has always utilized to perfec-
tion. These loops are then either sub-
tly meshed into the synthesizer tex-
tures and noises, or left to stand on
their own. On tracks such as "A Mil-
lion Angels," "Houses Still Stand-
ing," and "Tarzan's Grip" the ghostly
voices are enough to give anyone the
cl~ills, much like walking into an aban-
doned torture chamber. Another track,
"Dead Eyes Opened," features the
voice of a storyteller relating the tale
of a scientist who goes mad after
seeing the eyes open on a severed
head that he's been experimenting
on, all over an early-period Depeche
Mode-style melody - apparently, this
was Ellard's idea of an accessible pop
But Severed Heads music also
*contained something else that most
industrial outfits lacked - a sense of

humor. Often, Ellard would use his
voice manipulating techniques to cre-
ate absurd collages of voices or to
create dialogues between two unre-
lated voices. Ellard's sense of humor
is, well, somewhat difficult to fully
appreciate (i.e. it's often not that
funny) - but it's refreshing to hear
someone who doesn't see anything
wrong with taking noise-oriented
music a little bit less seriously. For
example, in "I Stand On My Head"
from "Blubberknife," an unmistak-
ably harsh bass line swells as a clown
voice repeats the song's title alter-
nated with a cartoonish little girl say-
ing in response, "But all I've got is 75
cents!" And on "Brassiere, In Rome,"
Ellard informs us, for eight excruciat-
ing minutes, that the song's title is
actually the phrase, "Lord, we praise
you!" played backwards.
On "City Slab Horror," released
in 1984, Ellard chose to use his own
subtly mischievous-sounding voice
for the first time. It gelled perfectly
with some of the more accessible
sounds on the album as Ellard began
to break away from his industrial in-
fluences, such as on the quirky pop
anomalies, "4 W.D." and "Now, An

Explosive New Movie." But his voice
manipulating techniques were clearly
improving, and on the noise collage
"Ayoompteyempt" he somehow man-
aged to fuse a mess of voices in with
the sound of adidgeridoo. The result
is one of Severed Heads' most com-
pelling songs.
Once again, Ellard chose to write
another Severed Heads version of a
techno-pop song in "Goodbye Ton-
sils," which features a reading of Walt
Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," but
this time over a complex rhythm of
synthesized drums, percussive voices,
string samples and catchy analog syn-
thesizer melodies. As enjoyable as it
is, Ellard would have been crazy to
think that something so complex
would fit in with the simple-minded
synth-pop movement of the mid-'80s.
After "City Slab Horror," a mini-
album entitled "Stretcher" was re-
leased featuring some of Severed
Heads' most accessible earlier work
as well as some new songs. This al-
bum contained "Halo," a fairly stan-
dard synth-pop love song, but with
Ellard's usual tricks of the trade in-
suring that it would only have limited
commercial success. This was fol-

lowed by the inconsistent but inter-
esting "Come Visit The Big Bigot"
LP which featured the body music
stylingsof "Twenty Deadly Diseases"
and a warped cover of Cream's
"Strange Brew."
After "Bigot," Severed Heads
changed it's direction to a much more
dance-oriented sound for their last
three albums to date, "Bad Mood
Guy," "Rotund For Success" and
"Cuisine (with Piscatorial)." The re-
sults have been mixed, and many of
the band's newer material tends to
obscure the most unique features of
their music. The choral and vocal
samples and tapes still play a part, but
to a much smaller degree. But the
incredible textures that Ellard created
and still creates with these techniques
and others show that he is one of
music's truly great innovators.



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