Rated Rebellious: A Playlist by Nick Oliveri

nick oliveri - leave me alone - album art

PlanetMosh’s latest ‘playlist guest artist’ is California’s own (in)famous Nick Oliveri. At various times, as an integral member of Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator, Dwarves, Bl’ast!, and as a solo artist with The Uncontrollable, bassist and multi-instrumentalist Oliveri has been at the forefront of desert rock, hardcore punk, and hard rock for decades. If there’s anyone who’s qualified to share a shortlist of heavy music, Oliveri fits the bill, as someone who’s helped found a subgenre – desert rock – as well as lived an immersive, hardscrabble lifestyle.

Part of the ‘DIY’ ethic central to punk remains independent music discovery, through a network of peers. Remember tape trading? Remember asking your friends to make you a mixtape for your next road trip? This is the digital, modern extension of that concept and ethos. Here is Oliveri’s virtual mixtape, made exclusively for PlanetMosh.

Rated Rebellious: A Playlist by Nick Oliveri


(Commentary and bonus tracking by Iris.)

Black Sabbath – “Johnny Blade”
“Tortured and twisted, he walks the streets alone…”
“Mean as a tiger, society’s own child”
“Those that tried to burn him, paid”
“Life has no meaning…”
On one hand, it’s just a good doom metal or hard rock song. On the other hand (you have five fingers…) what a profound statement to open and underscore the rest of the list. Creepy analog synths introduce a song with a potent lyrical and musical message. A robotic, simpler riff repeats extensively, until the song’s chorus. The repeating ‘riff’ takes the place of a commoner ‘strum’ in prior and lighter rock subgenres. The song is fairly melodic, and sounds typical of Black Sabbath: slow tempo, creepy vocals by Ozzy, and heavy distortion. The song also eschews perfection, using the guitar solo more as a noisemaker or tension and release effect then a technically proficient break. This is ground zero: where it begins, for metal and punk alike.

BL’AST! – “Cut Your Teeth”
And now let’s get heavy, and bassy.
The song is nicely mid tempo, with an irresistible crossover punk / thrash metal grab. It’s gritty hardcore, with toughened, streetwise ambiance. The crazy, noisy solo recalls those days of basement punk shows, homegrown and full of energy. The lyrics carry a powerful message for individual freedom: “let your spirit come unglued”.
Watch on YouTube

Iggy Pop – “The Passenger”
One of Pop’s magnum opus tunes from one of his most adored albums, “The Passenger”, an ode to being swept along by the tides of life, thankfully transcended cult classic status some time ago. Those who counted themselves in Pop’s circle in 1977 bore witness to not just an articulate, engaging entertainer and his backing band cranking out some rock, but the earliest days of an entire genre: punk rock. Richly melodic, the song features a robotic, repetitive riff with a twisting, bent overlay.

The Ramones – “Daytime Dilemma (Dangers Of Love)”
More simplistic arrangement, more richly melodic sensibility, and… it’s The Ramones! Like AC/DC, this band figured out early on that songwriting and hooks would best technical perfection. That’s punk in a nutshell: saying ‘we’ll do what we want, not what you want’. The song has a wet, analog drum sound, a nice double-hit snare accent on the intro and chorus, and of course, a vocal-forward, stripped down arrangement typical of punk rock. Guitar wise, this isn’t nearly as distorted as metal or later punk would get – it more crosses surf rock’s bend (and even a little rockabilly piano), with a catchy, classic rock sound.
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Motorhead – “Killed by Death”
The late, great Lemmy (killed by death, rest in peace) and his crew of hard rocking wreckers follow. The relaxed tempo is coupled to the heavy hitting, distorted, classic Motorhead sound. Lemmy’s gritty vocals and apt, honest lyrics “I ain’t no pretty boy” further underpin the “thumb in the eye” to proper society that punk and some hard rock ensconce. Some may call this metal, possibly due to the guitar distortion and solo, but Kilmister preferred to remain known as a rocker until the end of his days.

Trash Talk – “Explode”
And now for some melodic, hyper, grindcore punk. If this was downtuned and less melodic, it could be death metal. Blastbeats, heavy distortion, screaming bloody murder… this is great. Around now, it’s nice to realize one of Oliveri’s hidden talents, as a product of a musician who’s been in this game a while: he -knows- music, and can sequence a list with the best of ’em. This list has gotten progressively heavier, while retaining that “don’t tell us what to do; we’ll do what we want” message.

Cro-mags – “Malfunction”
Gritty, biting bass guitar rings in the next tune, by Cro-mags, another seminal punk outfit. Relatively atonal, angry sounding vocals overlay aggressive, metal guitar and driving, wet, full drums. This tune is notable for the audibility of the bass – usually a buried and sadly forgotten instrument, especially with heavier genres. The riff is relatively simple and repetitive, typical of both metal and earlier desert rock.

Dwarves – “We Only Came To Get High”
Known for their controversial early performances and outlandish, provocative lyrics, Blag Dahlia and crew are represented here with this tune. The music sounds very ‘metal’, almost like it was cut from the same cloth as M.O.D. The shreddy guitar solo ices the cake; the thrash metal tone and punk infused lyrics keep it good. And short.

The Uncontrollable – “The Void”
This is from Oliveri’s 2014 album, Leave Me Alone. He played every instrument, wrote the lyrics, and sang the lead vocals. “The Void” sequences beautifully into the other tunes, with similarity of tone, message, and repetitive, melodic riffing. The tone of this recording is a little muffled – it sounds warm, saturated, ‘analog’, and interesting. There’s a fun, almost-false ending, too.
Watch on YouTube

Queens of the Stone Age – “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”
This song’s lyrics are just a (short) list, but what a list to stir conversation and controversy. There are some guest vocalists on this studio version. The song embodies a lot of what desert rock embraced: repetitive riffing, simpler messages, and a subversive affront and broadside to contemporary or pop culture.
Watch on YouTube

Bonus Tracks:
Black Flag – “Jealous Again”
Oliveri recorded a cover version of this song to benefit the West Memphis Three. While rebellious, the song isn’t lyrically as culturally profound as some of Black Flag‘s other work. Still, it’s dyed in the wool West Coast hardcore punk in an enjoyable, pure form.
Watch on YouTube

Queens of the Stone Age – “…Millionaire”, live in 2002
Widely regarded as Queens’ breakout or breakthrough album, Songs for the Deaf basically opens (not discounting hidden track 0, “The Real Song for the Deaf”) with this sardonic critique. Oliveri’s raw vocal is still regarded as one of the highlights of the song.
Watch on YouTube

About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!