It’s an ill wind blowing this year. It’s cold outside. The sky turns grey, and I am so weary of entropy. Of decay. Of rot. These aging bones ache more each passing day. Time is a paltry thief. And every few months, he steals another hero.
Steve Dillon is gone.
The name may not mean much to you wayfarers who ostensibly visit this column to read about music and not comic books. But for those of us who view the term Rockstar as a label embodying a manner of excellence, imbued by a lifestyle?
Steve Dillon was such an artist. His work was as Punk Rock as Punk Rock gets. The ultra-violence of it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he was capable of startling moments of tenderness in-between personalized depictions of horror. If you have the stomach for that sort of thing and have not yet experienced his work? You should run, not walk, to pick up an issue or trade paperback containing the pages of his art. That he wielded a pencil instead of a git matters little. As the co-creator of Garth Ennis’ and DC Comic’s Preacher, Dillon turned the art of comic books on it’s head in a way few thought possible anymore.
The man was fucking brilliant. Awe inspiring through his ability to convey cold, steely nihilism. A favorite choice of some of my favorite writers.
And now he’s dead.
Why do we still bother with all this dying bullshit? Are we so poorly designed that there’s no way around it? Or have we merely wasted our resources on trivialities like hoarding and war and domination. What, would we just work together, might we accomplish if we turned the eye of human achievement towards the goal of conquering endings?
I feel the frost laden whispers, keenly of late. At an age where I finally have some semblance of understanding of how I fit into the world, the body begins to fail. And though I assume I’ll live as long as my father’s father, news like that of Dillon’s death scares me. He lived a mere half century. At the age of forty-four, this terrifies me.
I don’t want to die. I have so much left to do.
And I am running out of time.
. . .
True Body. Unmaker. Shadow Age. Pain in the Yeahs. At the Thank You Gallery.
Thoughts of dying usually turns my ears towards the soothing tones of Goth Rock. Every generation stakes a claim on a particular sound, and this was mine. Sadly, I haven’t run across a ton of local music on this flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised to catch a show at the Thank You Gallery last weekend featuring Pain in the Yeahs alongside three groups that summoned forth memories of a time when music was all that mattered to me.
True Body is from all appearances a young band with a limited playlist, but I thoroughly enjoyed their set. Summoning forth shades of Christian Death by way of New Order, these guys offered up a dark intensity that bodes well for future efforts. I want to hear a full album, and will be looking for this next year.
. . .
Straight out of RVA after forming in 2015, Unmaker recalls a bit of mid-eighties Cure. Think albums like The Top or Faith, but more aggressive with a harder edge. Again, this is my stripe of music from the earliest days, so I can’t help loving it — but if you dig the darker sounds of the early to mid eighties this is a band you should get real with.
AltDaily: Tell me about your sound?
Aaron Mitchell (Unmaker; Vocalist): I think of us as a mix between a bunch of different genres. Post-Punk. Death Rock, Goth. We started last year, but have just been playing shows this year. This is our first tour. Just a small run, five dates.. Starting in Richmond and then through Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and then back down here to Norfolk.
Are you on a label? What’s next for you?
No label yet. We’re gonna stop playing shows for a bit. Taking a hiatus so we can work on new songs. We’re recording in December. And then we’ll start to plan stuff around supporting that.
. . .
Shadow Age, also from our sister city of Richmond, works roughly in the same oeuvre as Unmaker, but feels more mature. More fully realized. Again, the comparison to the Cure is obvious, but there are darker undertones here. A bit more Bauhaus. Timbres of Leonard Cohen. If you love the Cure’s Pornography, you’re gonna love these guys.
AltDaily: I feel like my readers are gonna think I’m a broken record on this, but you’re fans of the Cure, yeah?
Aaron Tyree (Shadow Age, Vocals): Oh yeah. Sure. Anything before Head on the Door, definitely. Faith. Japanese Whispers. That Walk mini LP. But also, we really like the Dance Society. Early 480 records stuff.
What’re the cliff notes on your group?
We’ve been together for about three years. We worked with a label called 6131 Records. They were based out of LA for years, and then they moved to Boston. The owner lives in Boston and but the manager lives in Richmond. So we recorded an LP last Winter. We’re waiting for things to get finalized on that and then we’ll be touring with it for a long time. Should be out at some point next year.
. . .
PAIN IN THE YEAHS
Pain in the Yeahs closed things up. One of singer/songwriter James Wagner’s many projects, PitY is probably my favorite of his efforts. Wagner fuses New Order era gothy Synthpop with a harder Post-Punk sensibility that soars on the combined wings of Wagner’s and guitarist Tyler Warnalis’ consummate musicianship, lifting off the bedrock of bassist’s Ashley Wright-Drake’s unrelenting groove. Wagner’s brother, John, rounds things out nicely on synth while providing an electronic beat. While this has worked beyond well for the group so far? I’d like to see them pick up an actual drummer in the future. Maybe someone on an electronic kit, using triggers and the like.
Where Pain in the Yeahs truly succeeds is is channeling Wagner’s heartrending intensity and stage presence through some of the better musicians on the scene. These are solid, immensely listenable songs. The group has quickly grown to own a spot on my personal playlist, and of the pantheon of Norfolk bands who have the chops to make a more national push? I rank PitY in my top four right now.
That’s it for this one, kids. Remember — At best, none of us are anything more than clever meat. With an expiration date that some useless fuck forgot to label..
But we possess the opportunity to fashion such pretty baubles. Such beautiful art. Words. And of course, music.
That’s what we celebrate here.
This is why we matter.
Time is currency, children.
Spend it wisely.