The Nation of Ulysses, "Maniac Dragstrip"
There's a search for authenticity in rock music that goes back decades, where bands are judged to be real or poseurs based on a variety of markers, many of which make no sense at all. And in this view of music, artifice is usually heavily discouraged. A band that is self-consciously trying to be different, to make art as opposed to just blasting raw emotion is seen as inauthentic. I get it, the drive for the visceral, particularly in rock. But clinging to this structure leaves out so much interesting experimentation, and ultimately can be so limiting, that you just want to sometimes embrace artiness.
So, we come to the Nation of Ulysses, post-hardcore band on Dischord that only issued two albums, but what two albums they were. They were packed full of intellectual rambling, vague philosophizing, and an endless series of provocations that provided an underpinning to their noisy take on punk rock. It's impossible to tell how serious they were about all the political trappings, and it didn't really matter. Their restless approach to both music and lyrics served them extremely well, and their albums are still interesting to this day. Here's to artifice!
Has-Lo, "Subliminal Oppression"
I discovered Has-Lo through his guest work with J-Zone, but here he's on his own. This comes from In Case I Don't Make It, an introspective album that reminds me of Mr. Lif's I Phantom in a lot of ways. Anyway, I really like this album a lot.
Shining, "21st Century Schizoid Man"
OK, let's just go full on multi-layer artiness here! This, of course, is a cover of the legendary prog band King Crimson. But Shining is taking it in an industrial metal kind of direction here, just to add another layer on top of the original song's flashy artistry. This song is the closer to the fantastic Blackjazz, an album where Shining attempts to answer what happens when you meld the aesthetics of mid-period Nine Inch Nails with black metal and add a saxophone. Magic, that's what happens.
The Miracle, "Going To A Go-Go"
This time, Motown takes us to 1965, with yet another blast of pure sunshine.
The Cows, "A Gift Called Life"
Aaaand, so much for sunshine. The Cows were the most prolific and longest lived of the various Amphetamine Reptile bands, creating their own brand of noise rock featuring Shannon Selberg's unique lyrics and vocal approach atop an always interesting base of bracing punk. They actually made nine albums over their career, and starting with 1991's Cunning Stunts had a great run up through Whorn (the album this comes from).