Pop Unmuted is a podcast dedicated to in-depth discussion of pop music from varying critical and academic perspectives. On Episode 14, Scott Interrante and Kurt Trowbridge are joined by PopMatters’ Annie Galvin, a PhD candidate in English at the University of Virginia and Alice Bolin, a poet and essayist to talk about various aspects of pop lyrics. The panel then discusses the latest album from country singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material. As always, we end with our Unmuted Pop Songs recommendation segment.
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The original idea for the cover of Black Sabbath’s sixth album was a great one. The four members of the band were going to be dressed all in black suits, standing in front of full-length mirrors in a big, creepy corridor of an old castle with stained glass windows. According to drummer Bill Ward’s assistant Graham Wright, the image would be “reversed like a Magritte, so it was their image being sabotaged.” Something classy, foreboding, iconic. The cover photo that resulted was something completely, bizarrely, hilariously different.
When it comes to stories of drug-addled excess and lunacy, there is no shortage when it comes to Black Sabbath, from Geezer Butler being held back from leaping out a hotel window after someone spiked his drink with acid, to Tony Iommi standing in a recording studio naked banging his cross necklace on a guitar and putting it on Vol. 4 as the instrumental “F/X”. However, the Sabotage album cover story is a personal favorite.
I did not grow up with country music. The first time I heard “Ring of Fire”, it was on a Social Distortion album. So for me, twang comes from a punk source as logically as it does anywhere else, and Southern California has a distinct take with music that I love. One of the first bands we ever featured on Country Fried Rock was former Agent Orange musician, Steve Soto, with his two “country” records, with the Twisted Hearts. So, hearing that Jonny 2 Bags of Social Distortion has a solo country album ran right up my alley.
If there was ever a genre called “blue devils hip-hop”, Andy Kayes may just be its choice practitioner. His blustering, electronica-squelched hip-hop is heavily saturated with moods so blue, his music grows heavier with every play. The France-based Englishman has been working the underground scenes of Lyon for some years now, splitting his time between open mics and recording studios whilst hooking up with some of the genre’s most respected names.
Lifestyle‘s opening trio of tracks ensures its classic status even at this early point in the album. It’s not just the quality of the songs, but their sequencing and the way in which they complement one another, easing the listener into the journey and then quickening the pace with each step. “Slave Wages” of course is the centrepiece of the triptych.
As the dreamy chords of “Contempt” die away and the feminine wiles of Andy Cohen recede in a Tyrrhenian heat haze, the listener’s attention is jolted by a chiming, circling guitar pattern. It is irresistible. It also represents that prenominate quickening of pace, the acceleration from “Contempt” that will continue through “Slave Wages” on to the next track and propel the listener through the first quarter of the album.