The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 8: LOL

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

  • Eddie Griffin – Undeniable (2019)

I think to get this one started, I have to give some solid background information. There was a point in my life where I really enjoyed stand-up comedy and I’m the type of guy that will laugh so hard at something that other people laugh at me, laughing. I’m that douche in the movies that causes you to miss two full scenes because I’m snorting. At one point I loved stand-up comedy as well, both on disc and in person but over the years my interest has died off. I have went to see many a celebrity comic in person and have not laughed at all, even though I went in as a fan. So I really wanted to do this one to go back and see if some of the discs I used to listen to are still funny or if some of the comedians I love(d) are still in my wheelhouse.

But this all started with a buddy telling me that the last Eddie Griffin album started off with a long rant about Donald Trump or as Griffin calls him, the “Orange Avenger.” And boy, does he rail on Trump on everything from his politics, to the wall, to his racism and it’s all hilarious, of course for someone that believes he’s on point. I’m sure this album is horrifying to Republicans. And I actually started this Rabbit Hole a few days before George Floyd’s death but it really hits home now as most of the disc talks about racism and the differences in the races. And Griffin really likes the N-word. I didn’t count but it’s like every other line. The album is pretty damn funny and really relevant right now (I’m writing this on June 4th, a little over a week since the protests in America started), and probably something that everyone should take a listen to and pay some attention.

  • Katt Williams – Pimpadelic (2012)

I wasn’t even sure I could do this Rabbit Hole as I had no idea what the Tidal “similar artists” algorithm would present me for comedians as I never see stand-up albums come in any feed I have. And it only gave me one option after Eddie Griffin. Katt Williams. I went back to 2012 and chose his album Pimpadelic.

So as far as the format of the disc goes, I hate it. Williams does a bit and follows it up with a track that comes across like a confessional, where he’s all serious talking about life and how he comes up with the material and shit like that. That said, the comedy bits themselves are funny as hell.

However, what I love about this disc is one of the key things that makes me like a comedian. I don’t know if his material was scripted beforehand or not but it’s certainly tailored to the area he was performing in. I don’t know if this was all recorded from the same show or not since those “confessional” interludes are in there but the second track is all about the city he was in, “Washington, DC” – the people, the streets, the ghetto etc… But the tracks I laughed the hardest at were “Bills and Weed” where he bases the story around the “chemical in weed called ‘fuck it'” – so when you worry about your bills and then take a puff, you just say “fuck it,” and “Side Effects,” where he talks about the side effects of pills, specifically a “fat blocker” that causes gas with an oily discharge. And I love this as it’s so relevant. I mention it to my wife all the time as a new pill comes on screen – “side effects include diarrhea and constipation.” How the fuck can you be clogged up and have the runs at the same time? And then “Spinner Hubcaps” which has a secondary passage about hanging out with DMX and him sounding the same ordering dinner as he does on this songs.

Overall, despite the weird format of the disc, Katt Williams is a funny motherfucker and this disc is still fire, eight years after the release.

  • Chris Rock – Never Scared (2005)

Let’s face it, Chris Rock’s a funny man and it still comes through well on this disc from 2005, featuring a performance in Washington, DC in 2004. This has a similar format to the Katt Williams disc – a track of standup, followed by a track that isn’t stand up. But while Katt got all serious on those tracks, Never Scared has actual comedic skits and those are truly funny. There’s a series of “Tip Your Hat to Whitey” skits that show how whites get all the money and a series of “Real People of Ignorance” skits parodying those old “Real Men of Genius” radio spots. Pay attention to the “Tattoo” version of that skit for a great laugh. But the comedy is still on point too. Talking about how gross it is to be the guy at the strip club that eats a meal, “tities and tater tots don’t mix,” to how hard it is to defend rap back then – having an intellectual debate about the merits of “Move Bitch” or having hoes in different area codes. A funny disc, though a little long for a CD but the stage show translates well.

  • Denis Leary – No Cure For Cancer (1993)

I wasn’t about to force it but I was hoping this would be offered up as listening to this was why I wanted to do this rabbit hole in the first place, so when it finally came up in the algorithm, I took it. And the reason I wanted to listen to see if it still held up is because this was the very first comedy album I owned and listened to repeatedly. This came out in 1993 back when I trying to actively listen to everything that came out but needed to actually purchase these fucking round plastic discs to do so. Hate streaming services all you want but my lord, the amount of albums that I listen to these days is probably 100x what I listened to back then. Anyway…

I don’t find this one as funny as I used to. I remember singing the opening song, “Asshole” all the time and when I listened again, I remembered all of what was coming but it just wasn’t that funny any longer. Although a lot of the material is about drugs, more than the other three discs, this is really timely comedy that came across well in 1993 but has lost a little luster in 2020. “Life sucks, get a fucking helmet” is always going to apply but comedy about what he did in the 70s is now 40+ years old. I’m assuming that there’s a lot of discs like this from back-in-the-day as well and the only ones that are going to hold up are ones with timeless topics.

  • Sam Kinison – Louder Than Hell (1986)

I know Kinison was a loved comedian whose life ended too soon, but his act doesn’t do anything for me. There’s comedy in there but his “thing” was of course just random screaming, whether it be certain phrases or just making noises now and again. And this disc, was his first record, back in 1986 – which starts off with a full bit on why it sucks to be gay. Comedians aren’t made to be PC and I don’t know if this was fine back in ’86 but in 2020 this doesn’t fly. Unlike the rest of the albums I’ve listened to here, this seems like a very visual performance as well. I’m sure watching him scream is better in person and his diagrams of how to lick pussy on “Alphabet” probably are much funnier watching him do them rather just picturing it. Either Kinison just isn’t for me or this disc hasn’t held up well at all.

  • Andrew Dice Clay – Dice (1989)

The totally weird fucking thing about this disc in 1989 was that it was produced by Rick Rubin. Beastie Boys to Andrew Dice Clay.

Obviously, you know that Andrew Dice Clay made a name off his XXX material, including his nursery rhymes, but just like Kinison, he starts off the disc ragging on homosexuals but in Dice’s case, he uses slurs all over the track “A Day at the Beach” and then follows it up with derogatory comments about the Japanese too and well, really…no one is spared. And weirdly enough, we made him a star based off of this, at least for a while. Yeah, I got a few laughs at his bit about designer pussy on “The Golden Age of Television,” but overall, it’s really hard to laugh now at a racist, homophobic, asshole because you simply have to assume he really thinks this – it’s not just comedy. It would be bad enough if it was just for laughs but the delivery says this guy believed himself and well, it’s just ain’t cool.

  • George Carlin – Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics (1990)

Dice almost derailed me. I’m no prude and I don’t care if you curse up a storm but Dice was filthy, just because. George Carlin also has a filthy mouth but you know what? There’s meaning behind those words. Carlin’s filth is to punctuate a joke or to hammer home a point, not just because he can say the word. To me, that’s what makes him one of the greatest and even here, with an album from 1990, a little after his heyday, this material is still very funny and very relevant. There’s a 20 minute section in the middle of this disc starting with “Feminist Blowjob” which is about making everything gender neutral (“David Letterperson”) to “Good Ideas” (“A diet salad dressing called 500 Islands”) and the trio of “Things You Never See/Hear/Don’t Wanna Hear” that’s absolutely hilarious. Follow that up with the scenarios where you really don’t want to have to take your underwear out of your ass crack and there’s at least 20 straight minutes of laughter and plenty of more in this hour long disc. And it’s typical Carlin of course, political and topical, harping on the bad stuff in life but turning it all into a joke. So even on a disc that wasn’t his most popular, you can easily tell why George Carlin was a legend.

  • Sinbad – Brain Damaged (1990)

I never really listened to Sinbad’s comedy routines, though I watched The Sinbad Show and enjoyed it. However, this disc does nothing for me. I was scared that it was songs rather than stand-up at first as the disc starts with “Brain Damaged,” an absolutely 100% terrible rap tune. Sinbad doesn’t have a great singing voice and it’s not Biz Markie bad either, just bad bad. And the album just seems like it’s filled with pretty generic material. Material about grandmothers and weaves and the problems with leaving a woman – feels a bit been-there-done-that – at least listening now in 2020. And there’s a bunch of skits in between the stand-up that just aren’t funny in the least bit. There’s one called “Mike Tyson as A Substitute Teacher” that’s utterly painful to listen to and his impersonation of Tyson is terrible. I know a lot of people loved him in the 90s – any maybe because he was a part of the classic comedy, A Different World as well as for some of his movies. But at least this disc in particular is pretty dull. The only fun part for me is when the crowd started gasping at his conversation about weaves and you can hear some dude in the background going “woah” and “no, no” as if he’s fucking scared at how pissed off Sinbad is making all the ladies in the audience.

And with that, I’ve hit a dead end. The only recommendation of similar artists to Sinbad is back to George Carlin, so that ends the comedic rabbit hole.

The Rabbit Hole, Vol. 7: Post-Something Something Something

The definition of a Rabbit Hole is similar to this: Used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment, typically one from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.

While listening to music doesn’t seem like something bizarre or confusing, what I do can often be nonsensical and difficult to get myself out of, so I think it fits many of the treks I do through the Tidal streaming service. This series should be no different.

What I’m simply planning on doing with this series is having someone recommend a starting record, listening to that on Tidal and then using the “Similar Artists” algorithm to go down the rabbit hole and see what records it leads me to. The trek will continue until I hit an album that is either A) so great that there’s no reason to move forward, B) so bad that it derails me or C) feels like a natural end point. In the end, we’ll see how the records hold up and how solid the connections are.

So, to begin:

  • An Autumn For Crippled Children – Try Not To Destroy Everything You Love

I’ve been really getting back into post-(black)metal and post-rock lately and the latest release from one of the leaders in post-black metal, An Autumn for Crippled Children, really got me wanted to dive back in. And so the last three or four AAFCC albums have been very similar but it’s this record, their 4th from back in 2013, that’s widely considered on the peak moments in the genre and I haven’t listened to it for years to see if it’s held up, until now. And it has and it truly is a great record.

For those not familiar with the genre – you’re looking at typical black metal vocals – grim, indecipherable and basically the sound of someone strangling you while singing. Musically, dark, repetitive cold riffs but with mellow passages mixed in, sometimes with an electric guitar, sometimes with acoustic guitar but mostly with pianos/keyboards. That’s the shoegaze part of the music. Shoegaze itself was made to almost be a depressing type sound (hence the label, where you walk around with your head down all the time) and then the black metal elements kind of twist the knife in deeper. And while I’m listening to these records while on our stay-at-home Covid-19 orders making them all the more depressing, the elements described above work just perfectly here. The combination of memorable riffs and somber passages make this one a must listen if you like the genre at all.

  • Alcest – Spiritual Instinct

Another leader in the post-black metal genre is France’s Alcest – who were black metal at first, then moved to ambient/shoegaze and now fall somewhere in between the two of them. I chose this record from 2019 as for some reason I never bothered to listen to it when I have heard all their other albums. This is also a pretty great record – the perfect combination of their styles and personally I’m happy to see them get back to the metal again. There’s an interesting track on here that stands out to me from the rest – “Sapphire” which is most post-rock than metal, with clean vocals and quite different from everything else on the album.

  • Pelican – The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw

I knew I would always get to Pelican and somewhere down the line Isis will show up as well – I mean you can’t have any sort of post-whatever without these guys but I didn’t think I was going to get there so soon. The Tidal “similar artist” algorithm admittedly isn’t too strong with post-metal. I mean the service encompasses all types of music but let’s face it, this is still and R&B and Hip-hop focused streaming service. I mean, one of the recommendations to go to next was Metallica for heaven’s sake. I feel like they just get tagged with all metal because, well, they are Metallica. So instead, I chose the Pelican path now, which likely means I’m off the black metal portion of this trip.

This is supposedly one of the best Pelican records and it still doesn’t do much for me. In this genre, I either need fierce riffs of which this record has good rock riffs but more mellower shoegaze passages than I would like or needs some killer vocals and Pelican are an instrumental group. This was decent background music while I worked but didn’t interest me beyond that point.

  • Isis – Celestial

And just like that we go from Pelican to Isis. The similar artist algorithm is going in two directions – metal bands that have very little to do with post-rock or the obvious choices in post-metal. So I’m sticking with the post-metal direction and going to the most well known band in the genre, Isis. I went back to their first full album in 2000 because “Celestial (the Tower)” is one of my favorite songs in the genre. When I mention above that I need fierce riffs, this track and the album in general has it in spades. But it’s really not as good as an album as I remember it being – maybe that track in particular made me thing the album is better than it really is but the mellower passages simply aren’t as mesmerizing as some of their later work and really just plod along without direction.

  • Jesu – Silver

Similar artists to Isis could have taken me down an alt-rock path or down a sludgier route – so I took the latter choice and went with Justin Broderick’s project – Jesu, which is the sludgey/doomy/shoegazy companion to Godflesh’s industrial aural torment. And I went back to 2006 for the Silver EP. You might ask why choose a four song EP and the answer is two fold. It’s only four tracks but nearly a half-hour long so it’s not like I get five minutes of music and secondly, Jesu’s sound changed over time but if you go back to the beginning – anywhere between 2004 and 2008 or so, you get the sound that fits here. Later you get drone, rock, instrumental ambient but this little EP is the top of the line of early Jesu material. A masterful blend of beautiful melodies and clean singing and Broderick is the king of effects and loops and getting the most out of individual riffs before moving on to something different. The four tracks are easy to get lost in and mark the more subdued side of the genre.

  • Envy – Recitation

From there, there were only two choices, get on the shoegaze train and hit up My Bloody Valentine or stay on the post-something-something track with Envy and since I love these Japanese masters of post-hardcore, I went their with their record from 2010. Envy started out as a punk band and gradually evolved into post-hardcore and shoegaze with screamed vocals, clean singing and spoken word. This is the only album with no clean singing on it though and what they do is kind of different than most bands in the style. They do play shoegaze and post-hardcore in almost every song but they keep them separate. The post-hardcore material contains the screaming, the shoegaze contains the spoken word (and on other records, the clean singing). Most other bands layer the two on top of each other at points but these guys simply move from mellow and dreamy to screamo without missing a beat. It’s a style that’s tough for a lot of people to get into and all the words are in Japanese so I can’t understand a word of it but the melodies are out of this world. I fell in love with the band a while back when they were an opening band for the huge post-xx band, Deafheaven. Go to one of their shows – it’s fucking life changing.

  • Heaven in Her Arms – 白暈 / White Halo

Well, never back an animal into a corner, right? But here I am in the corner of the rabbit hole with only three choices to choose from – Mono (Japanese instrumental post-rock), Hot Cross (post-hardcore) and Heaven in Her Arms (Japanese post-hardcore/screamo). Heaven in Her Arms was the only band I hadn’t heard of here and the genre made it sound like they would be most like Envy, so what the fuck, right? And sound like Envy they do. Or maybe Envy sounds like them? Or maybe all Asian post-hardcore has a similar vibe – I don’t really know and Tidal won’t take me down a very specific Asian post-hardcore rabbit hole, so I might have to hunt things down on my own but if this is what the genre brings overall, I’m sold. 100%.

And from here, I have to stop. Not because I want to, nor have I met my criteria to stop that I talked about in the introduction but because Tidal has ZERO recommendations of similar artists. And staying true to the purpose here, this becomes the first rabbit hole that has stopped because I’ve hit a dead end.