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Five & Five on Friday, 11/10/2023
Remembering Aaron Spears & Recommending Recommendations
Happy Friday! Congratulations on making it to the end of the week. As you head into your weekend, here are five recommendations and then five micro reviews of albums from my high school CD collection. Maybe you’ll find something new to read, listen to, or do this weekend. See you next week!
If you’re reading this letter on the day of its arrival in your inbox and live in the New York metropolitan area, congratulations, there’s till time to buy a ticket for my show tonight drumming for Laughing Stock at Windjammer. We’ll have brand new shirts for sale and brand new songs in the set. If you like post-punk, shoegaze, goth rock, or if you’re just a fan of loud guitars, this one’s for you!
Since I’m evidently on the Oppenheimer and Hayao Miyazaki beat this year, I can’t go without mentioning this piece by Evan Fusco discussing Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Oppenheimer in the context of the on-going Israeli attack on Gaza.
I was sad to learn that drummer Aaron Spears passed away at the age of 47 at the end of last month. A prolific session drummer for stars like Usher and Ariana Grande, Spears was no celebrity himself except in the world of drumming. I first saw Spears play the way a lot of people probably first saw him, as part of the “R&B Summit” at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival. Spears stole the show with his performance of Usher’s “Caught Up”, which he treated as a launching pad for increasingly ludicrous linear fills played with kit-busting power. I don’t know if there are many other videos that have had as long lasting an impact on drumming culture on the internet and the kind of skills drummer have chased over the last decade. Last year Spears reprised the performance at Drumeo and reflected on the legacy of that 2006 breakout. His immense talent and deep humility will be missed. RIP.
Ian Chainey kindly shouted out this Substack and this very series in his latest “Wolf’s Week” post. Thanks dude! If you need even more recommendations for music, reading, movies, and more, give Plague Rages a read!
My mom sent me this piece by Jeff Tweedy about learning to love Abba’s “Dancing Queen” after hating it as a teen. The piece ends with the recommendation to give something you previously hated another shot. Is this the sign that I should rewatch Holy Motors? Should I try eating raw almonds? Drinking coconut water? The possibilities are endless!
Now, onto the five micro reviews. Long time Lamniformes Instagram followers will recognize these from my stories back in late 2020, however they’ve been re-edited and spruced up with links so that you can actually hear the music instead of just taking my word for it.
And Then You’ll Beg by Cryptopsy (2000) - Death Metal
After hearing this album in high school I bought their drummer’s instructional DVD. I never made much progress on the blasting and double bass exercises, but it was pretty easy to pick up Flo Mounier’s stretching routine. I noticed a sharp increase in my facility on the kit, and the habit prepared me for stretching before running and lifting. So this is an important record me in the big picture, but the music? Awful. Riff salad, no dressing. This band had done and would go on to do much better work than this record.
Ordo Ad Chao by Mayhem (2007) - Black Metal
Well, I suppose there are worse things an edgy teen can do than buy Mayhem records (like, for example, the stuff that Mayhem did as edgy teens) but I still find the presence of this band in my collection a little embarrassing. This album sounds like ass. It tries really hard to be spOoOky “anti-music” but ends up sounding like aimless minor key noodling for the most part. I am not impressed.
Astronome by John Zorn (2006) - Noise Rock
Performed by the Moonchild trio (Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn, Joey Baron) this thing is somewhere between jazz and the nastiest noise rock around. The draw for me in high school was Patton’s cuckoo-bananas “demon scat” vocals. I won’t pretend to understand the occult themes in the liner notes, but the presentation definitely sets a mood. I remember blasting this in the dark one Halloween and having a real good time with it. Truly out there stuff.
The Last Sucker by Ministry (2007) - Industrial
The third in Ministry’s George W. Bush trilogy. After this they were supposed to call it quits, but the retirement didn’t stick. I think it was clear they were already running low on creative juice by this point. Not the best record, a bit too samey for its length, but a valuable cultural document of anti-Bush sentiment from the 00s. Please remember not to whitewash Bush’s bloody legacy when attacking the current iteration of American hegemony.
Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain by Mono & World’s End Girlfriend (2005) - Post Rock
70 minutes of unimaginably dreary music for post rock band and chamber orchestra. I remember listening to this a lot while reading The Bell Jar for the first time in high school. This record’s slow passage through darkness and finally into something approaching light definitely felt appropriate. This used to be one of my favorite records, and it is certainly well composed, but good god is it depressing. Makes me want to give my younger self a firm hug.