Noisey feed for https://noisey.vice.comenMon, 10 Dec 2018 16:45:00 +0000<![CDATA[Kanye West's "Christmas in Harlem" Squashed Some Beef and Became a Classic]]>, 10 Dec 2018 16:45:00 +0000Tracking down the original version of the Kanye West- and Teyana Taylor-helmed "Christmas In Harlem" is far harder than it ought to be. Unless you're careful, you'll end up on a major streaming service, listening to the three-minute song that includes only West, Taylor, and CyHi the Prince. It's fine, but it's a pale imitation of the original. You really need to be listening to the nine minute cut that featured Cam'ron, Jim Jones, Vado, Pusha-T, Musiq Soulchild, and Big Sean. So, in the spirit of the season, let's embrace nostalgia. Here is the full-length version of the song, buried in the middle of a ripped-off DatPiff mixtape:

It's twinkly and grand, propelled by an effortlessly soulful beat that, via some miracle, sounds Christmassy without resorting to any of the most obvious holiday cheat codes. There's no unnecessary jangling, no reinterpretations of old-fashioned carols. Hit-Boy built the song out of four samples—the crackling gospel-funk of Joe Tex's "Papa Was Too", Shuggie Otis's lugubrious "Strawberry Letter 23," and Marvin Gaye's inevitably romantic "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)"—none of which sound at all wintry. But the spare piano over the top and the background strings line up perfectly. It conjures the joyful spirit of A Motown Christmas while still sounding completely modern.

West can take the credit for figuring that out. Hit-Boy, then an underground producer looking for a leg up, had been sending beats to Kanye via a proxy for months, hoping that something might sneak onto his sprawling fifth LP, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It was only on the night of the Twisted Fantasy release party that November that Kanye's cousin, Ricky, called Hit-Boy to tell him that Kanye wanted the beat for a Christmas song. "I never really heard it as a Christmas song," the producer told Vibe after the song first leaked onto the internet, "but when Kanye heard it, he said it sounded like some classic Christmas music."

With the beat locked in, the ensemble cast was free to riff. Kanye had fun with it, opening up with a few sweet-enough lines about Christmas sex: "My only question is, 'Where my presents?' / She said, Shhh,' she got a gift for me that ain’t for the kids to see." It set the tone for a song in which even the dumbest boasts came shot through with a little sweetness. Vado bragged about his cars and his jewelry, but ended up getting a "peck kiss" from someone he saw as "special." CyHi was miles away from his Chicago home, but he knew it was "pretty" on the East Coast. Even Push, who couldn't help help but rap about moving heroin on the holidays, rifled off a line about New York feeling like his home in Virginia. Taylor held the track together and kept things humble in the hook: "Even though we ain’t ballin’ / Feels like we bought it all." "Christmas in Harlem" was, as Craig Jenkins wrote for Noisey three years back, "about making the most of what you have when you might not have too much."

Beneath the surface, though, the song iswasjust as much about Christmastime reconciliation. Kanye managed to get Dipset icons (and known Christmas authorities) Jim Jones and Cam'Ron on the track, and while their verses fit the tone perfectly—Jones played the ghost of Christmas past, rapping about days when money was tight, while Cam'Ron decided to wish his lawyers a Happy Hanukkah—it was more about what went unsaid. Just three months earlier, The Diplomats had remixed Kanye's newly-released "Runaway," repackaging it as a diss track. Cam'Ron's lines were vicious: "And Kanye, you a sucka nigga / Dissed Dame [Dash], so my attitude is fuck the nigga / Sucking Jigga, how you gon’ live with that? / Took the beat, now come get it back."

Despite that shot, it was Cam'Ron who got his hands on the "Christmas in Harlem" beat first. As Jones told MTV News in 2010: "Cam called me, sent me the beat, I did my part, sent it back to Cam and he took care of the rest of the business." If Kanye intended that as a peace offering, then it worked perfectly. Jones told MTV that Dipset had known Kanye for years, that they were close with his then-tour manager Don C, and that they even had a "great rapport" with Ye and his team. "I don't think people took what we did so serious more than it was [just the] art of the music that we do," he said. "I guess Cam had something on his mind but it wasn't really a life-or-death situation. And I know Kanye's a very smart person, he's got a great spirit, so it's great that he chose to look past anything that was going on. I appreciate it."

Maybe West just wasn't in the mood for antagonism. He'd spend much of the year recording in Hawaii, experimenting, collaborating, throwing ideas around an island paradise. "Christmas in Harlem" marked the end of that year's G.O.O.D Friday series, one of the most brilliant streaks in modern mainstream rap. He'd released fifteen new standalone songs already that year, four of which eventually made it onto Twisted Fantasy. Almost every other track that Kanye released from that late-summer through the fall was proof that he was in an incredible groove, sharing space with RZA, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Mos Def, and dozens of others. He was the most exciting musician in the world. Petty spats probably just seemed like a distraction.

Or perhaps, as Jones told MTV, he just needed two more real Harlemites to balance out the track's Midwestern core. "Shit, if I was Kanye I would've called us too," he said. "It don't make sense. If they from Chicago, they would've made 'Christmas in Chicago' then, right?"

I don't think that has the same ring to it. And, besides, Hit-Boy's beat will always sound like uptown Manhattan—a little luxury in the face of turmoil, hanging out underneath the blinding lights of skyscrapers a few blocks away.

Alex Robert Ross's only question is, "Where my presents?" Follow him on Twitter.

mbyxeqAlex Robert RossTrey SmithLeslie Horn ChicagoHip-HoprapNew YorkDipsetPusha Tkanye westJim JonesCam'ronBig Seanteyana taylorThe DiplomatsMusiq SoulchildThe Noisey Advent CalendarChristmas in Harlem
<![CDATA[Ty Dolla $ign Indicted on Felony Drug Charges, Facing 15 Years in Prison]]>, 10 Dec 2018 15:57:14 +0000Ty Dolla $ign faces up to 15 years in prison after being indicted on felony drug charges resulting from a September arrest in Atlanta, Georgia. According to an initial report from TMZ and court documents since obtained by Noisey, the musician, whose real name is Tyrone Griffin, was charged with possession of a Schedule I controlled substance and possession of cocaine—both felonies. The indictment also includes a misdemeanor charge for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis.

A van carrying Griffin and five other people—including Skrillex—was pulled over by police officers in Fulton County on September 5. The officers said that they smelled weed coming from the vehicle. Sniffer dogs found drugs inside a bag that Griffin admitted belonged to him. The five other individuals were released, but Griffin was arrested and later released on $6000 bond.

"He had no drugs on his person at all," his lawyer, Drew Findling, told Channel 2 Action News in at the time. "Apparently there was a small amount of some drug found in the car, and they let five people walk away. And they let the international superstar go into custody."

Follow Noisey on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[DJ Lag’s Noisey Mix Shows How Fast Gqom Moves]]>, 10 Dec 2018 15:45:11 +0000

It’s tempting to call gqom—the ecstatic, frenetic form genre that’s emerged from the heart of Durban, South Africa over the past few years—a fusion genre or dance music subgenre, but the truth is a little more complicated than that. Less than a decade old, gqom music typically comprises a heady punch of bruised hip-hop samples over Zulu maskandi drums that are beat in rhythms resembling techno or house. The end result is wild, beautiful and thrilling; although each component gestures towards something familiar, gqom is distinct and experimental. As producer KingIce told Noisey last year, "People assume it's all just a mashup of broken beats and drums, but when we started this sound we made a conscious choice to do something that didn't exist before.” And while gqom is only beginning to touch international stages now, the genre is already shifting into new forms and areas, proving that it’s as much a movement and scene as much as it is a genre classification.

Leading the global takeover is DJ Lag, the self-proclaimed godfather, inventor, and king of gqom, whose caustic and hypnotic anthems have taken him everywhere from Afropunk NYC—where he played between Tyler, the Creator and PUSHA-T—to Unsound’s late-night programming in Krakow and Adelaide. As one of gqom's elder statesmen, Lag keeps his feet in the worlds of both traditional gqom—the intoxicatingly chaotic music that you’ll hear blaring out of taxis and mobile phones on the streets of Durban—and new splinter scenes giving birth to subgenres like sgubhu and dombolo. While he was one of the first artists to properly cross over into Western scenes a couple of years back, 2018 has still felt like something of a banner year for Lag; aside from releasing Stampit, his third EP for London-based label Goon Club Allstars, this year also found the producer dropping “Going Modd,” a new collaboration with Epic B, and appearing on TAKE ME A_PART, THE REMIXES, Kelela’s Take Me Apart remix record, also featuring reworks from Kaytranada, serpentwithfeet, and Gaika.

To celebrate his upcoming appearance at Unsound Adelaide, DJ Lag has put together a Noisey Mix that outlines gqom’s vibrant origins as well as its future. The 45-minute primer features plenty of Lag, as well as tracks from some of gqom's most important producers, including Biza Wethu, WesternBoyz and Terrace. Get to know gqom—and read an interview with DJ Lag about the mix—below.

NOISEY: How are we meant to enjoy this mix? What’s the perfect setting?
DJ LAG: The mix is a combination of two styles of gqom: the gqom we all know and love and sgubhu, which is an evolution of the sound. In my view the best place to experience this mix is in a club or parking lot with your friends.

Was there any specific concept to the mix?
Not really I just try to let each track develop into the next one, creating the best vibe possible. My mixes are influenced by my settings and surroundings. This one was done the day after a show in Los Angeles, where Kelela came to watch my set. I was so excited as we had worked together on a remix of her track "Onanon" but never met in person before. The mix the next day was a combination of excitement and touring adrenaline.

In Durban gqom is huge. When you have to travel abroad to play music, does it feel strange translating it to niche or underground clubs or festivals like Unsound?
My consistent experience is that people dance along to my sets because the sound is new and exciting to them. They connect on a very real level. They don't know what to expect and often are not able to follow the patterns of the sound, so they have to let go and find a very primal connection point. I see people of all ages and backgrounds having the same reaction to it, to me that is exciting too. So my audiences and I exchange on a very real and honest level. This is different from South Africa where Gqom is now mainstream, with sing along choruses and A list artist features.

You’re pretty much the face of gqom at this point; do you feel like your music is most representative of gqom's truest form?
Well yes I can say that because I was there from the start and I can produce any style of Gqom from sgubhu to dombolo. I also work very hard on growing the community worldwide. I spent most of this year on the road doing shows all over the planet converting people to followers of the sound. So I am happy to be considered the face of gqom and will sure as anything continue to work hard to keep things interesting for my fans.

You’ve included other gqom artists on this mix including Terrace, Western Boyz, Biza Wethu and Ceeya. Why did you choose to include them on this mix?
They are some of my favourite producers currently making music in Durban. Some are my friends too. I am happy to be the facilitator of people around the world being introduced to them.


1. Umshudo - DJ LAG ft. Charlie
2. Asphakamanga - DJ LAG ft. DJ Athie
3. 3 Turns - DJ LAG ft. DJ Funky Qla
4. Jika - DJ LAG ft. Vumar and Biggie
5. Woza - DJ LAG
6. Macala - Biza Wethu
7. Dis Rude - DJ LAG
8. Izwi - DJ LAG
9. Khuza - Ceeya
10. Chessa - Western Boyz
11. XXXX - Terrace
12. Ukushisa - Biza Wethu

This article originally appeared on Noisey AU.

xwj5jnShaad D’SouzaColin JoyceMikey BureyhousegqomNoisey Mixdj lag
<![CDATA[Cardi B Changed Her Lyrics to Reference Her Divorce From Offset]]>, 10 Dec 2018 14:58:36 +0000

Rap's second most significant power couple after The Carters broke up last week, with Cardi B announcing that she was amicably splitting from Migos member Offset via an Instagram post. "It's nobody's fault, I guess we just grew out of love. But we're not together anymore," the Bronx rapper told fans in her post. Offset, on the other hand, seems to be more than a bit miffed, tweeting "FUCK YALL I MISS CARDI."

Last night at New York's Jingle Ball, Cardi made reference to the divorce during "Motorsport," a Migos song that features a verse from her. Cardi changed a line in the verse from "I told him the other day/ Man, we should sell that porn" to "I told him the other day/ We're going to get a divorce." Spicy! Watch footage of the performance below:

This article originally appeared on Noisey AU.

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<![CDATA[Blink-182's Big, Dumb, Anti-Christmas Spirit Lives On]]>, 09 Dec 2018 17:57:47 +0000There are dumb Christmas songs—brash, adolescent, sex-obsessed, donkey-brained pieces of music that return to playlists every December like misbehaving college freshmen coming home to workshop their smuttiest "stuffing" puns. There is, however, no song as proudly imbecilic as Blink-182's "I Won't Be Home for Christmas." It is the Family Guy of Christmas songs, the New Jersey boardwalk T-shirt of holiday jams, the gurning, half-stoned brat of Yuletide anti-merriment. We're nine days into The Noisey Advent Calendar, and there's no point in putting it off any longer:

Fifteen years after hearing this for the first time, I'm still amazed by how fully Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and then-drummer Scott Raynor realized their goal here. Released as a radio promo in 1997—shortly after Dude Ranch had marked them as goofy pop-punk insurgents—"I Won't Be Home..." fit the band's aesthetic and ethos perfectly. It was dressed up as a song against Christmas, but it was really a song against adults and normal people, all of whom are boring and stupid and uncool. Its title negated a swooning holiday staple. It told wallet-chain-wearing kids in late-90s suburbs what they already knew but somehow hadn't heard often enough on the radio—that their parents were annoying, and Christmas was just a week-long stretch of putting up with their corniness.

Hoppus's lyrics don't leave anything to chance. "Outside the carolers start to sing / I can't describe the joy they bring / 'Cause joy is something they don't bring me," he deadpans before going onto introduce us to his girlfriend, a character who will never return. Her purpose is singular—to set the protagonist up as the type of guy who has a girlfriend. Our hero's Christmas Eve will soon spiral out of control. He attacks the carolers with a baseball bat, they flee, and the cops turn up. Like another famous Christmas anti-hero, he finds himself in jail on Christmas Eve. And, of course, jail can only mean one thing to suburban, middle-class, teenage dumbasses—blow jobs from a man named Bubba. "You people scare me / Please stay away from my home," Hoppus sings in the chorus, stumbling down that fine line between rebel and sociopath. "If you don't wanna get beat down / Just leave the presents and then leave me alone."

I loved this shit as a kid. Obviously. It was daring and revolutionary, like saying the word "balls" in class or glueing a picture of Stewie Griffin to a notebook. So-called civilized society wasn't ready for it, but Blink-182 were right there shouting their takes anyway, threatening to violently attack the wholesome. Grown-ups didn't get it, man. Christmas, like, sucked or whatever.

Blink replaced Raynor with Travis Barker in 1998, and the band went on to genuine superstardom, dropping some of their more puerile material as they grew up and started pushing at pop-punk's boundaries. But "I Won't Be Home for Christmas" never died. It came out as a fully-fledged single in 2001, then made it onto the Immortal Records compilation A Santa Cause: It's a Punk Rock Christmas in 2003. It outlasted every other pop-punk Christmas cut, including their own infantile "Happy Holidays, You Bastard" from Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. Nobody else was able to quite copy Blink's mix of loathing, dick jokes, and power chords, so nothing ever replaced this in the anti-Christmas canon.

The recent rise of emo-rap might be able to mount a challenge though. Just last Friday, pop prodigy Lil Aaron released a five-track EP called WORST CHRISTMAS EVER. The highlight is the second song, "FUCK CHRISTMAS," an Auto-Tuned glob of pop-punk that I suddenly can't stop playing. It's certainly concise. Here's the chorus:

Fuck Christmas, I hate it
It’s so overrated
I’d rather be naked in bed
Fuck Christmas, It’s stupid
These presents are useless
I’d rather get faded instead
Fuck Christmas

Aaron is every bit as misanthropic and sick-of-this-shit as Hoppus, but he's seemingly less inclined to chase after folks on the street with a potentially deadly weapon. "FUCK CHRISTMAS" picks up on the same teen-Scrooge idea that Blink were selling, but does away with their giggly homophobia and replaces it with tired fury—it's more anguished than it is cruel. "Somebody tell me when it’s over," he sings, "Cus until then I won’t be sober / Yeah it was really nice to know ya / But get me back to California." He's so clearly picking up on Blink's legacy here. WORST CHRISTMAS EVER was produced by Travis Barker, and you can hear his influence in the crunchy, palm-muted chords as much as the crash-heavy beat.

Today's teenagers finally have a pissed-off anti-Christmas anthem all of their own. And even though "FUCK CHRISTMAS" is the better song, the kids still have Blink-182 to thank.

Alex Robert Ross would rather be naked in bed. Instead, he's on Twitter.

a3m4maAlex Robert RossNoisey StaffTravis BarkerBlink 182Pop PunkTom DelongeEmo RapLil AaronThe Noisey Advent Calendari won't be home for christmasfuck christmasworst christmas ever
<![CDATA[Run-DMC's "Christmas in Hollis" Is a Wholesome Alt-Holiday Classic]]>, 08 Dec 2018 17:46:18 +0000You can tell a lot about a song from its parodies, so before diving into to Run-DMC's still-perfect 1987 holiday rap cut "Christmas in Hollis," it's worth watching "Jingle Barack," the Chance The Rapper-starring Saturday Night Live sketch from two years back that was thankfully a little less awful than most late-era SNL bits.

With Obama leaving the White House in a few weeks, Chance and Kenan Thompson wanted everyone to celebrate the holidays by stocking up on the sorts of things that decent societies provide to their citizens: birth control pills, legal weed, same-sex marriage licences. In the second verse, Chance took a turn for the apocalyptic—"This year I bought four Christmas trees / Stockpiled all the Home Alone DVDs / I got batteries, canned food, everything I need / There'll probably never be another Christmas Eve"—but even then he was suggesting it might be worth breaking his own arm before Obamacare was repealed. You had to get what you could before Trump cancelled Christmas "for a new holiday called Regular Winter." It was all about abundance.

That's what Run-DMC were driving at with "Christmas in Hollis" too. The second-ever hip-hop Christmas hit—the first being Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rappin'," which we'll get to soon enough—was welcoming, wholesome, and a little fantastical. It retained all of the energy and bluster that turned Run-DMC into such a devastating trio in the mid-80s, but its lyrics embraced an ideal family holiday, tied together by gifts, lights, myths, and, most importantly, a gluttonous amount of food.

The song was cut for A Very Special Christmas, a charity record dreamed up by legendary record producer Jimmy Ioivine. He wanted to make a Christmas album in honor of his father, who had died in 1985, and his industry connections helped him to get just about all of the biggest names in pop music at the time: Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Madonna, and Bon Jovi.

Despite the esteemed company, Run-DMC flat-out refused to record a track for the album at first. They'd just released Raising Hell, a gargantuan LP that turned them into rockstars and helped to confirm rap as a commercially viable genre. (It hit the top-10 on the Billboard 200 and eventually went triple-platinum.) Run, DMC, and Jam Master Jay were supposed to be hard-nosed insurgents, street poets, torch-bearers for an uncompromising and honest new movement. They didn't want to turn into a hokey punchline by following up with a novelty song. DMC told The A.V. Club in 2013 that they felt almost insulted by the idea. "We’re not doing it," he remembered saying. "That’s what they try to do to hip-hop. They commercialize you and try to make you corny. We’re totally against anything that’s going to be fake. If it ain’t beats and rhymes and DJ-ing and graffiti, we ain’t doin’ it! Here you go again with the corporate America powers that be and Hollywood trying to ruin hip-hop! We ain’t going out like that!”

But the band's publicist, Bill Adler, who knew how good the opportunity was, had a secret weapon. According to a New York Post article from last year, Adler collected oddball Christmas songs, so he brought a crate of stuff over to Jam Master Jay to see if anything would inspire him. They hit on Clarence George Carter's horny-as-hell 1968 funk cut "Back Door Santa."

"Run and DMC were in the next room and came in as if they’d been drawn to the scent of a big Christmas pie or something," Adler told The Post last year. "They nodded at Jay, and everybody knew that was going to be the sample."

Jay chopped it up, turning the original's parping horns into a blaring and unforgettable hook. With that solid base, Run and DMC were free to explore. They set their verses in their hometown of Hollis, Queens, but took two different stances. Run reached for the absurd, writing his own Christmas myth about encountering Santa in a local park, picking up his lost wallet, and dutifully trying to return the million dollars that St Nicholas kept in cash—though it turned out the money was Santa's gift to Run all along.

DMC instead went with realism, detailing past Christmases at his own home. It's all very sweet. He raps about Santa leaving gifts, the house covered in Christmas lights, snow on the sidewalk outside. And, most importantly, he raps about the food: "Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens / Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese."

This wasn't fiction. According to that A.V. Club interview, DMC's childhood home was full of good food and good spirits. He said that his mother would cook up six-course meals, steak, pork chops, clams, different meals every day. "My house was a restaurant," he said. "And I think the importance of food is a big part of the reason why that song was able to touch so many people—Asian people; Hispanic people; Italian people; Catholics and Buddhists and Muslims. People could relate to that video, because what do you do during holidays and celebratory times? You sit down with your family and share that special meal." DMC's mother even appears in the song's now classic video, chasing a troublesome elf out of the house with a broom while everyone else opens their presents.

One is an alt-holiday classic and one is a terrified send-up, but "Christmas in Hollis" and "Jingle Barack" have that much in common. The overblown threat to Christmas in the SNL sketch is a threat to basic human decency and a threat to their God-awful meal of "eggnog and chicken and turkey and fries." So, if you're looking for some form of political resistance this Christmas, look to DMC. Eat the best food you can, and lots of it.

Alex Robert Ross is chillin' and coolin' just like a snowman on Twitter.

gy78e7Alex Robert RossNoisey Staffchristmasrapchance the rapperSaturday Night LiveRun DMCJimmy Iovinerev rundmcjingle barackkenan thompsonchristmas in hollisThe Noisey Advent Calendarjam master jay
<![CDATA[The Guide to Getting Into Siouxsie and The Banshees, Dark Pop Outsiders]]>, 07 Dec 2018 20:48:10 +0000"Flexed-Up, Sexed-Up Siouxsie Sioux Wisely Loses the Lost-Girl Image," the Los Angeles Times proclaimed, two days after Siouxsie and the Banshees played LA’s Universal Amphitheatre in 1992. The British alternative band was on tour supporting Superstition, its tenth full-length album, and the release that spawned its biggest US hit, "Kiss Them For Me."

By 1992, the post-punk outfit was already more than 15 years into its career, and past the point where frontwoman Siouxsie Sioux was being compared to Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde. Now, with her dark makeup and fetish aesthetic, she was being cast as the leader of a cult of weird chicks in a review that spent five paragraphs on her looks and a whopping two on the music. Maybe, at that point, the band was used to that: From its punk origins to the dark pop of its later career, Siouxsie and the Banshees would spend its career flouting convention and playing with public perception, all the while maintaining a fanbase that stuck with them as outsiders scratched their heads.

Siouxsie and the Banshees formed in 1976, during London's punk heyday, when a last-minute slot opened up at festival put on by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Sioux and bassist Steven Severin—the band’s only two consistent members throughout the band’s 20-year run—were Pistols acolytes, and jumped in to play a 20-minute improvised rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer.” Sid Vicious played drums.

Buzz swirled around Siouxsie and the Banshees. What was intended to be a one-off gig lead to frequent shows, a magazine cover, and turning up on Tony Wilson’s punk-heavy TV show, So It Goes. But it wasn’t until 1978, after the Sex Pistols disbanded and the original punk scene was essentially dead, that the band released its first proper album, The Scream, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. By 1980, though, ex-Slits drummer Budgie had joined and would remain part of the band until its split in 1996. Other members came and went, including John McGeoch of Magazine and Visage, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Jon Klein of the goth band Specimen, and multi-instrumental 4AD staple Martin McCarrick.

Siouxsie became an iconic front-person of the era, and it is nearly impossible to separate gender from her work. Before the Banshees, she was the Sex Pistols fan rocking A Clockwork Orange-inspired makeup and a cigarette on the British show Today—a member of the band’s on-stage posse who rolled her eyes and made a sour face when host Bill Grundy hit on her on-air. The exchange prompted a defensive, expletive-laden response from Sex Pistol Steve Jones, and helped launch the Pistols to UK tabloid infamy.

As one of the few female performers to emerge from the UK punk scene, Siouxsie was already well-acquainted with being an underdog. In interviews, she has recounted growing up in a London suburb with an alcoholic father, who died when she was a young teenager. She has also spoken about how she was sexually assaulted as a child, an experience that would influence the scathing Banshees song "Candyman." In it, she details the long-term effects of abuse, singing: “And all the children, he warns ‘don’t tell’ / Those threats are sold / With their guilt and shame, they think they’re to blame.”

As her star rose, she found herself being compared to women—Madonna, Sheena Easton, and Louise Brooks, for example—with whom she had little in common. Sometimes, like in the 1992 LA Times review, an appraisal of her appearance would take precedence over an assessment of her work, and her female fanbase would become the brunt of snarky comments. But, for female fans, it was never just about fashion and make-up. Siouxsie Sioux showed us that rock music, so frequently perceived as the realm of boys, was ours too.

Siouxsie's husky, powerful voice sucked listeners into stories about war, dysfunctional families, and mental illness. These weren't typical pop songs; the subject matter was heavy, the imagery was often layered. These were lyrics you had to dissect and analyze, while the music came with sinewy rhythms that compelled you to dance. That made the band a perfect obsession—and style inspiration—for the bookish, sensitive types who would become the clubs kids known as goths.

Like The Cure’s Robert Smith, Andrew Eldritch of Sisters of Mercy, and other alleged goth icons, Siouxsie and the Banshees rejected that description, and perhaps rightly so. "Goth" didn't exist when the band released The Scream 40 years ago. Their first album preceded debut full-lengths from goth forebears like The Cure and Joy Division, as well as Bauhaus' landmark single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead." They existed before scene-defining clubs like Batcave in London.

If they embraced darkness, Siouxsie and the Banshees had moments of light-heartedness as well. Its cover of The Beatles’ classic “Dear Prudence” was a faithful one, and the band tapped into childhood nostalgia with a rendition of The Jungle Book’s “Trust in Me.” The band often made dance music, releasing club-friendly 12-inch singles in the early 80s, and dabbling with hip hop-friendly beats in the late 80s and early 90s. Alongside radio-friendly pop singles, they’d go long and get weird on album tracks and B-sides, consistently pushing their sound in new directions until they disbanded in 1996. The band’s longevity, and its willingness to experiment with new sounds, would shape a cross-genre, cross-generation legion of musicians. The Smiths, Radiohead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, LCD Soundsystem, U2, and PJ Harvey are among the bevy of artists to cite them as influences. Tricky has covered them, The Weekend has sampled them, and shoegaze icons Slowdive took its name from a Siouxsie and the Banshees song.

Getting through the Siouxsie and the Banshees catalog can be a daunting task. In recent years, its catalog has been reissued, and compilations have pulled together the formerly obscure cuts. It's still a mountain of music, so the playlists here break it down into the band's essential veins of influence.

So You Want to Get Into: Dance Floor Siouxsie and the Banshees?

Siouxsie and the Banshees may have been uncomfortable with the goth tag, but that doesn't change the fact that their music became a cornerstone of club nights that cater to the kids dressed in black. However, image and lyrical content is only part of the reason why this band continues to draw crowds to the dance floor more than 20 years after they split. Siouxsie and the Banshees crafted a lot of solid dance songs with a stickiness that persists to this day. There's a simple reason for this: the rhythm section. Siouxsie and the Banshees went through a lot of guitarists during their two decades as a band, but the rhythm section remained fairly stable. Bassist Steven Severin co-founded the group with Siouxsie Sioux. Budgie, one of the finest drummers to emerge from the post-punk era, joined the fold for the band's third album, Kaleidoscope, and remained a member for the rest of the group's lifespan. That kind of consistency meant that they never lost the groove while moving from the energetic, galloping "Spellbound" to the downtempo "Face to Face" and the bones of the songs, frequently credited to the whole band, were strong enough to withstand changing trends in club music and culture.

Siouxsie Sioux has acknowledged that soul was a formative influence on her. She also was a club-goer. In a 1999 interview for The Independent, she and British singer Marc Almond talk about how they met at a London sex shop and began hanging out with each other at clubs. Almond notes that the two loved to dance to "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," the disco hit by Sylvester. This was a band in tune with the sounds developing around them. You can hear that as years pass and the sound of Siouxsie and the Banshees evolves. "Kiss Them For Me" samples hip-hop artist Schoolly D and "Face to Face," from the Batman Returns soundtrack, has a languid stride that links together the late '80s R&B of Soul II Soul and 90s trip-hop, a la Portishead.

Siouxsie and the Banshees' influence on the dance floor extends beyond a single scene. "Happy House," from the 1980 album Kaleidoscope, has been remixed a number of times to varying degrees of success. LCD Soundsystem covered "Slowdive" and Junkie XL covered "Cities in Dust" with singer Lauren Rocket. Santigold borrowed from "Red Light" for her song "My Superman."

Playlist: "Christine" / "Happy House" / "Red Light" / "Spellbound (12" mix)" / "Arabian Knights (12" mix)" / "Monitor" / "Fireworks" / "Slowdive" / "Dazzle (Glamour Mix)" / "Cities in Dust" / "Killing Jar" / "Peek-a-Boo" / "Kiss Them For Me" / "Face to Face"

So You Want to Get Into: Cinematic Siouxsie and the Banshees?

In a 2005 story for The Guardian, Steven Severin is quoted on how Siouxsie and the Banshees' influences differed from others in the punk scene: "While most of the protagonists of punk looked to American garage bands—Flaming Groovies, MC5, the Stooges, the Dolls—or to the New York scene of Patti Smith, Television, Heartbreakers and the Ramones as a benchmark, we, perversely, saw ourselves as taking on the baton of glamorous art rock—Bowie and Roxy Music—while incorporating a love for Can, Kraftwerk and Neu."

In that same article, Siouxsie Sioux acknowledges the role that film played on the band's music, saying, "I suppose I was interested in creating a vision; in the same way I was very drawn to tension within cinema. Hitchcock was my other early obsession—Psycho, and its score. So there was the sense of trying to create an atmosphere: how a sound resonates and makes an effect."

It's in that mix of glam rock, Krautrock, and cinematic thrillers that the band demands undivided attention. Siouxsie and the Banshees could kick listeners in the ass with their short, hyper cuts like "Love in a Void" and "Carcass." But, they were also masters of building a mood that could envelop listeners and sustain them, sometimes for minutes on end, as dramatic tales unfolded within the songs. This is something that was part of the band from the get-go. The Scream closes with "Switch," clocking in at nearly seven minutes and alternating between rhythmic punk and atmospheric moments that foreshadow the rise of shoegaze a decade later. On Join Hands, their sophomore effort, "Icon" plays out like a movie with Siouxsie's voice rising to a climactic moment when drums crash and she begins to wail. These dramatic pieces remained part of the band's work throughout their existence. Indeed, the title track of their sorely underrated final album, The Rapture, plays out like an 11-and-a-half-minute miniseries complete with cliffhanger moments that leave you wondering where the band will go next.

Playlist: "Switch" / "Icon" / "Israel" / "Red Over White" / "Night Shift" / "Voodoo Dolly" / "Tattoo" / "92 Degrees" / "The Last Beat of My Heart" / "The Rapture"

So You Want to Get Into: Cover Master Siouxsie and the Banshees?

Siouxsie and the Banshees were very open about their influences, even releasing a covers album, Through the Looking Glass, in 1987. Those sources of inspiration, though, were varied and extended beyond music and into film, art and literature. If you were lucky enough to stumble upon Siouxsie and the Banshees at an impressionable age, the band could become your window into a world beyond the mainstream. Through them, you might find out about the Velvet Underground, Man Ray or Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Siouxsie and the Banshees pieced together bits of counter-culture history, made music that was accessible enough to draw in young teens and then passed knowledge down to their fans.

Throughout their career together, the band took an approach to covers that was almost like that of a crate-digging DJ. They got in some of the hits, taking on songs by the likes of The Beatles, T. Rex and the Velvet Underground in reverential ways. Yet, they also pulled out some unexpected choices. "Supernatural Thing," which appeared on the "Arabian Knights" single, was originally performed by soul singer Ben E. King. Their Kraftwerk pick, "Hall of Mirrors," is a lesser known track from the German band's landmark album, Trans-Europe Express.

Playlist: "20th Century Boy" / "Helter Skelter" / "Supernatural Thing" / "Dear Prudence" / "Hall of Mirrors" / "Trust in Me" / "The Passenger" / "All Tomorrow's Parties"

Liz Ohanesian is a journalist and DJ based in LA. Follow her on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[In Praise of Sufjan Stevens! A Christmas Enthusiast! (or, Holy, Holy, etc.)]]>, 07 Dec 2018 17:45:13 +0000Sufjan Stevens had always been reticent to open up about religion too much in interviews, but a shocking victory for evangelical nationalism in the US drove him to write a short, sharp, and open note on his website in early 2017. The piece became an op-ed at the Washington Post called "Stop repeating the heresy of declaring the United States a 'Christian nation,'" but it's best in its first form, without paragraph breaks, as a block of text that reads like a stream of forthright incantations: "God is love, period. God is universal, nameless, faceless, and with no allegiance to anything other than love."

He was making a political statement, but Stevens was also revealing something about his process. Biblical allusions and after-church oddities are strewn across his catalog. Most of his songs—from the folksy and delicate to the obtuse and experimental—are hymns in one way or another, either lifted from scripture or written in response to it. On "The Greatest Gift," the centerpiece to a collection of loosies and remixes he released last year, he sang: "The law above all laws / Is to love your friends and lovers / To lay down your life for your brothers / As you abide in peace / So will your delight increase."

Still, he's a Christian and an artist—not an artist making "Christian music" in the conventional sense. As he told the music blog Delusions of Adequacy in 2006, "faith and art are a dangerous match[...] they can quickly lead to devotional artifice or didactic crap." Factory-farmed religious music is propaganda—designed to convert the unbelievers or at least reassure the chronically faithful. It's music with an end-goal, and Stevens has never been interested in producing something so simple.

That might be why Stevens committed himself to recording Christmas music once every year for an entire decade, inspecting and occasionally subverting a genre that's typically among the world's most devotional and didactic. On those 10 EPs, he released everything from church standards like "O Come O Come Emmanuel" to buzzy, absurdist originals like "Come On! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!" They've since been collected on two sprawling, multi-disc records: 2006's 42-track Songs for Christmas and 2012's 58-track Silver & Gold. Listening to them all in one go, you'll hear Stevens progress as an artist, widening his scope as he adds new layers and textures to his early acoustic songs.

But what really strikes me about these records is the way in which Stevens jumps from song to song without thinking twice about the whiplash. A banjo-and-falsetto version of "Away in a Manger" floats into a buoyant indie rock song called "Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time!" A couple of years later, he reels off a faithful piano rendition of "Jingle Bells" before a jittery, pretty original called "Christmas In July." The sound changes as swiftly as the subject—spiritual songs give way to to the secular, then jump straight back again.

Some of this is down to compulsion. His mythic 50 States Project—an attempt to write an album about every state in the Union—was never really going to work out, but Stevens did seem to believe in it for a while. For a long time, the same obsession, the same drive to complete things, was there with his Christmas efforts. There are only so many God-fearing carols to get through. With Stevens recording a clutch of Christmas music every year for a decade, digression and repetition were inevitable.

But it also spoke to a holistic approach to the holidays and its soundtrack. In an interview with Uncut Magazine in 2012, Stevens said that the festive EPs went beyond the religious for a reason:

At its core, Christmas has a mysterious punchline: the incarnation of God as a Christ-child. This is weird. Consider the details: angel visitations, teenage pregnancy, shotgun wedding, the massacre of the innocents, the wise men following an astrological phenomenon, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It’s a Hollywood blockbuster. Mix all that with contemporary pop adaptations: Frosty, Rudolph, Santa, the Grinch, etc., and you have a veritable chop salad of sacrilege. Not to mention the elements of capitalism and consumerism the Western world has imposed on it. We have made Christmas our bitch, for better and for worse. These EPs are desperate to find meaning in all of that, I suppose, both sacred and profane.

At his best, this is what Stevens has always done, bleeding the sacred into the profane, making the mundane spiritual, articulating tiny details before laying out an earth-shattering catastrophe. At points on those Christmas records, he did so beautifully. My favorite of those songs is "That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!," originally written for 2003's Ding! Dong! Songs for Christmas - Vol. III. It starts out as a nostalgic idyll:

Going outside
Shoveling snow in the driveway, driveway
Taking our shoes
Riding a sled down the hillside, hillside

But in the second verse, in the same careful and quiet tone, Stevens sings about familial terror:

Our father yells
Throwing gifts in the wood stove, wood stove
My sister runs away
Taking her books to the schoolyard, schoolyard

The protagonist slips into some incantations of his own to stave off the fear and misery. "In time the snow will rise, In time the Lord will rise," but that doesn't seem to work. Then, "Silent night, Holy night, Silent night," but that doesn't resolve anything either. So Stevens ends the song nowhere. "Nothing feels right," he sings. Then the song burns up and floats away.

Alex Robert Ross is a Christmas unicorn on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[Robert Christgau on The Goon Sax's Humble Reflections]]>, 07 Dec 2018 17:32:21 +0000 The self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics," Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it—the music editor of the Village Voice from 1974 to 1985 and its chief music critic for several decades after that. At the Voice he created both the annual Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll and his monthly Consumer Guides. Christgau was one of the first critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: "Melodic." He taught at New York University between 1990 and 2016, and has published six books, including his 2015 memoir Going Into the City. A seventh, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017, is now available from Duke University Press. Every Friday we run Expert Witness, the weekly version of the Consumer Guide he launched in 2010. To find out more, read his welcome post; for almost five decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.


Mad Crush: Mad Crush (Upon This Rock) Because the guitar-bass-drums-violin as well as the vocals aren't so much subtle as mild, these seven love songs never work up the right pitch of emotional intelligence. But you still believe in your heart that John Elderkin and Joanna Sattin are a couple, because only a couple would notice these things? In the jocose "My Pre-Existing Conditions" Elderkin admits to two left feet, getting stuck in the past, needing to talk before bed, and there's more. In the pained "Where Does It Hurt" Sattin is so sick with ennui she asks only that he still be there in the morning. And he will be, because elsewhere they stay in bed, miss each other when they don't, and overnight a Christmas turkey on Amazon Prime so it'll be there for the Fourth of July. B PLUS

Flasher: Constant Image (Domino) Twentysomethings foresee, rue, and encapsulate in tightly wound pop-rock a constrained, moderately diverting life of futile, moderately comfortable survival ("Go," "XYZ") ***

Weakened Friends: Common Blah (Don Giovanni) Brave young woman gains ground in her wavery-quavery battle with insecurity, which this album proves she has the stuff to win ("Younger," "Early") **

Follow Robert Chrsitgau on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[Noisey Power Rankings: December 3 - 7]]>, 07 Dec 2018 16:32:54 +0000Folks, we are in the home stretch of this Hell Year. Surely, all of the world’s problems will be resolved come January 1 and we can start anew. In the meantime, all you have to do is avoid saying anything problematic at your office holiday party, pretend you’re stoked on whatever your auntie gives you for Christmas, and not puke on the person you’re trying to kiss on New Years. Anyway, here’s our Power Rankings, where we determine who had a good week and who had a really shit week. We must've been in the holiday spirit because almost everyone goes up this week!


Meek Mill

Three years ago, Drake delivered a club banger and diss record, "Back to Back," aimed at Meek Mill. It's been a long year of Drake "hiding a child," and Meek fighting for his freedom during a five-month prison stint. Now, the Philly rapper is rapping over the song that could've ended his career and he fucking killed it. We’re glad to see him have this moment. Welcome back, Meek. Also, “Get you wet, running around like you was Rambo” is just a great line.

wj34bmNoisey StaffFeaturesViolent JSoulja BoyMeek MillTyler Perrysonicfoxpower rankings