Friday, February 15, 2019

Bad Luck Rising

In what world did this come out in 2011? That’s what you’ll ask yourself when you first hear Delaney Davidson’s Bad Luck Man. It’s an honest question because this music at first sounds … old. Then after you settle into the groove of this one-man band, you understand it isn’t really old, it’s timeless.

Davidson is fromdson is a New Zealander New Zealand, but you wouldn’t know it listening to these fourteen tunes of hard luck, depression, and relationships gone belly-up. He sounds fully American, like he was born and bred in the land of the blues, parishes, and voodoo. You can picture him wandering the swamps, playing dive bars, and keeping it honest. It’s no wonder he used to be part of The Dead Brothers.

Voodoo Rhythm Records put this out. It was the label’s second release of his. It was a good choice. Years from now when civilization is fighting over scraps of irradiated food and looking for shelter from the perpetual inferno/polar vortex cycle the planet has been plunged into, this music will still touch souls. Whether it’s the title track, “I’ve Got the Devil Inside” or “Windy City,” this music will be understood by people everywhere at any time. They will recognize and respect its purity just as easily as they know its shame.

As I write the first draft of this, Naked Massacre is playing on my television. It’s a sleazy little movie, inspired by a real crime. It’s a subject Davidson could sing about and make it relatable if he so desired. He has this ability to turn even the most transgressive of men into a tortured being you yearn to understand. He’s not a bad luck man, or even a bad man. He’s just a man with the ability to perform songs that move souls.

And that will never get old.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Midnight Memories

It’s just noise. That’s the common refrain heard by every child about their music from every parent. You heard it. I heard it … especially when I was listening to Diesel Rhino.

Of course, it goes the other way around, too. The younger generation has a hard time coming to grips with the music of its elders. They don’t understand why their parents and grandparents like what they do as much as they do. I remember taking road trips with my grandparents, and the scariest thing I’d hear was, “Let’s listen to Boxcar Willie one more time.” My soul would scream. I could not understand the appeal of Boxcar Willie. I couldn’t relate to him or his songs. Nor could I relate to my dad’s love of Johnny Mathis, or my mother’s need to play Judy Collins.

On the flip side of that, I’m sure my parents cringed whenever they heard Kiss, Iron Maiden, or later on – Skinny Puppy. How could my parents relate to it? It wasn’t their music, and it wasn’t their memories.

That’s where the power lies. Music moves people for different reasons. It creates different memories in different people. How it connects with you as a child may be different than how it connects with you as an adult, but if that connection was strong enough when it originally was created, it will most likely always stick with you no matter how little you listen to it in your later years. I do not listen to Kiss much these days, but if it comes on Sirius, I’ll crank it up and I’ll have some sort of memory attached to it. The last bit of music I bought was Essence! by Death in June. I do not have early memories attached to that band, but I’m interested in making new ones – a new soundtrack for this point of my life. I don’t just stick with the songs and albums I know. My parents did the same thing. I remember my mother buying the newest Blondie release. I remember my dad getting excited when he got a new Anne Murray eight-track.

The music that sticks, though, is what we’ll never understand between generations. We don’t share the memories and that’s okay. We’ll go on not understanding each other’s music choices and it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t diminish either side in either way. We don’t have to understand each other in this sense because it’s so personal that it could never be fully understood anyway. Just remember that the next time you question your grandparent’s love of Boxcar Willie, though I have a hard time coming to grips with that ever being an acceptable music choice.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

No One Can Save You

Destination Lonely. If that band name doesn’t scream emo I don’t know what does. Then have a title like No One Can Save Me, and you know what the songs will sound like.

You would be wrong.

Three young men from South France have armed themselves with instruments and have created pure, crisp garage rock with roots firmly in the punk scene and a sound that sometimes evokes the guitar playing of Poison Ivy. Yeah, who would have thought such a thing could exist and sound so raw yet refined?

Not I. Not when I first heard the release three or so years ago. Knowing it was on Voodoo Rhythm Records told me it probably wouldn’t be some emo band, but the label has surprised me before. Not with garbage, mind you, but with something I was something unexpected. The Dead Brothers comes to mind. This was no exception. I was expecting one thing and got something else entirely different, and I was blown the hell away.

A quick read of the lyrics finds plenty of doom and gloom. Suicide, murder, loneliness, and hatred are the common themes. They are not happy ditties that one can sing in the shower. These are songs that play over and over in your head in the dark … after your loved one has walked out the door … or you shot him.

Still, it’s not emo. No, Sir. It’s a grabbing, multi-limbed monster, much like the one that can be found on the cover of issue eight of Marvel Comic’s Fear. It’s reaching through an open window, grabbing you by your shirt sleeve as your wife screams in terror from the stairs. That’s what this is.

The opening number, “Freeze Beat,” is an instrumental piece. If a film of my short story Night Fishing ever happened to be made, I would want this music playing during the opening scene. It sets the mood, but doesn’t really give you a clue as to what is coming, much like my short story’s opening scene. The song lets you know you are in for a ride, but at this point you are not sure if it’s a rollercoaster or a ride through a haunted house. Truth is, it’s a little of both.

Between “Gonna Break” and the title song there are moments of clarity and greatness that aren’t evident at first. In fact, those moments are mostly lyrical, but the music is so appealing that you will overlook the lyrics the first couple of listens. The sound is a sonic whirlwind of broken glass, and it is overwhelming in all the best ways. When you finally decided to take in what Marco Fatal is singing (you may remember him from The Fatals), you will experience this moment of enlightenment where the entire picture becomes clear. It is beautifully terrifying.

No One Can Save Me will probably never be heralded as the must-have, top release of all time, but it doesn’t need to be. It is far too personal for that … and far too fun from a listening level. Yeah, it’s a dark, angry release, but it’s also a work of art. And because of that, far too many people will never quite understand it. For those who do … it’s near perfection.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Rainy Morning, Humboldt with The Jackets

Driving south on the 101. Heading into Eureka, CA. Rainy. Cold. Morning. Sun is just starting to rise behind the clouds, but it won’t be seen for hours. The Jackets’ Shadows of Sound is playing on my car’s stereo.

What one needs to know about the Voodoo Rhythm Records release is simple. It’s a trio from Bern, Switzerland that formed in 2007. It’s singer/guitarist is Jackie Brutsche, a strong a frontwoman as any band could want. It was recorded at Circo Perrotti, which only really matters to musicians, but if you know the name you know why it’s important.

Simple. Just like the day.

I’m going to Eureka. Lately, many people have been fleeing from it. Most have taken flight to Los Angeles or Las Vegas. Two entertainment hubs. Two places where dreams go to flourish or die. Some have opted for points north. They Great White Way, with lots of emphasis on white. Either way, The Jackets, I think, is the perfect soundtrack for the thoughts on the thoughts on the journey.

From the opening track, “Don’t Turn Yourself In,” there is one word that comes to mind. “Fuzz.” It tells you all you need. That fuzz sticks throughout the album. Guitars at their fuzziest. You either dig the sound or you don’t. I dig.

Garage rock, with a hint of the good ol’ fashioned punk spirit, is worn by The Jackets not so much like a badge of honor, but a birthright. Often caricatured, but rarely parodied, garage rock, The Jackets’ forte, is primitive and pure enough that it keeps capitalist jackals at bay as it is hard to co-op. It’s not a sound that works for selling Jeeps. It’s a sound as simple as a Hanna-Barbara cartoon, and if you remember some of those you can recall whenever a garage rock-type was in one of them they were the aforementioned caricatured creations. Hair in the eyes. Simple lines. Creepy. Outcasts. Misfits, but not the Misfits. There was a mystique about them. To the adults they sounded like fools, but to the kids they offered sage wisdom, and welcomed their tiny souls into the unknown. Some of us went willingly. Others ended up bopping to Hanson.

Looking at the eye makeup worn by Brutsche, it brings back the memories of those cartoons with the promise of something new. In many ways, she encapsulates why those people are fleeing Eureka. It is an allure of the savage. The appeal of the primate. Fight and flight. Her eyes can be seen from afar … and they frighten.

After the musical flea circus of the 1990s and 2000s, I can’t help but think that music is devolving as it is evolving. An expanding universe that is also pulling back into itself. A feat of quantum mechanics that exists only in theories and vague ideas mumbled by the scientific elite. From that nexus of garbage music which dominated the airwaves in that 20 years of vapid tunes, music went back to the basics with bands like The Jackets and forward into an aural soundscape both ambient and anxiety ridden, as exemplified by the continuing output from Non. One only has to look at the movie Mandy to see how sound can inspire love and dread.

Mandy, ironically, took place in the Pacific Northwest, that Great White Way. It is a land where fuzzed out guitars are as at home as the tall redwoods loved equally by tree huggers and tree killers. The movie and The Jackets could not exist in the inner city poverty project of a place like Harlem. Primitive rock, which at one time had a home there, no longer belongs on those streets. Eureka, no stranger to garage rock, has evolved, too. It may be losing its artist elite, but others will replace them. This place of certain opposites is bound to create more of them. The Jackets, it should go without saying, would find an audience and a home here. People would go to see the trio without ever having to hear a muddied note. We’re that kind of folks.

When friends and acquaintances first started leaving, it begged the question of why. Why now? Why there? Los Angeles is plastic fantastic. Las Vegas is gaudy gauze. Oregon is gone. The answer, which came to me during track “Watch You Cry,” seems simple now. They are pursuing dreams that stagnated here. Fresh air. Fresh ideas. Fresh pain. Watch you cry is no longer a song, but a promise. Humboldt, it has been said, always welcomes you back, however. And if it’s your first time, we guarantee you won’t forget us.

You can’t escape no matter how hard you try.

Jorge Explosion produced Shadows of Sound. Nothing digital. Nothing unpure. Three musicians and the truth. U2 had it wrong all along. The Jackets formed in 2007, right at the end of the musical death decades. It flourished. It grew. It produced this third album, recorded in Spain without the aid of computers, and became the stuff of legends. 11 tracks. The soundtrack to running away while staying in place. If the Empire is dying, this is the party music that is playing.

Pulling into Eureka it’s no surprise that traffic congests right near the Burger King and McDonald’s. Amongst the pick-ups caked with mud and the Prius doing its best, The Jackets remind me of being younger and realizing you can create your own reality. Those who never knew that world will continue traveling south to L.A. or Lost Wages. Whatever happens in Vegas, stays there, however. Whatever happens here can be inbred or exported, and its creators will never care. The Jackets embody that same attitude. That Prius doing its best? It’s got an old faded Feel the Bern sticker. The Jackets formed in Bern. The irony is not lost on this soul.

But then again, I was never one to run … and the dreams pursue me.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Special Thanks From Disarray

I have been thanked on film credits, in books, and on various band releases. One of the bands to thank me (well, to thank my 'zine Married Punks, actually) was the TN based metal act Disarray on its 1996 release, Bleed, which I was sent a cassette copy of to review back in the day. It wasn't the first band to thank me, but it was the one of the few bands that wasn't punk, and appearing on its "Thank You" list opened the door to getting a lot of new readers and a lot of metal bands sending material our way.

Bleed was just five songs, but they were five really good songs, and the band went on to do even better things. From what I can see, the band's last release, Edge of My Demise, came out in 2007. The band started in 1995, however, which makes its legacy a lot longer than many of the bands we reviewed in the 'zine. (A song from the band did appear on a 2008 tribute album, too, it should be noted.) What happened to the band? I have no idea. I imagine it's the same thing that happened to many bands. Back in the day, though, this was a metal band I enjoyed listening to, and I was bummed when my cassette copy of Bleed was eaten by my tape player. I could find a new copy on eBay, along with releases from Mr. Big and Van McCoy, but I doubt I will. Not because I don't like the band or didn't appreciate being thanked, but because I doubt it will be as good as I remember it being. My tastes have changed, and while I still enjoy metal of all sorts, I'm more discerning these days.

Still, it was pretty cool to be thanked by the band at the time, which is something Maiden never did for me.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Soundtrack to Depravity is Classic Rock

Those who have read my novel Black Devil Spineor even just read the reviews, know it is not a light read meant for the beach or the easily offended. For the years I worked on it I described it as my "sex and violence" manuscript. Those who read it know that is an accurate description.

Throughout the novel there is a constant reference to classic rock. Songs punctuate some scenes. Why? It's the music one of the main characters likes quite a bit. This meant that I had to listen to a lot of it while writing. While I don't hate classic rock, it is not exactly my go-to music ... especially not for writing.

But it worked.

It worked really well, actually. In fact, while editing and listening to  even more classic rock I found that songs were matching scenes ... and I had not written those scenes to the music. The Stones. Eric Clapton. Rush. Bad Company. Those bands had somehow infiltrated the manuscript in places, and editing felt almost magical. Everything just flowed.

Some people have told me that they thought the music to which I wrote the book would be death metal or industrial. That didn't fit the mood. Not at all. It was too on the nose. I was writing about real people doing bad things, and the character of Martin Springer would call that stuff "noise." It would distract him from his art and murder.

I am not recommending you read the book. Like I mentioned, it's not for everyone. If you are easily offended or squeamish, forget it. But if you are mildly curious and have a strong stomach for violence, I would love for you to pick it up and drop me a note. If you're a classic rock fan, all the better, but I may have ruined a song or two for you.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Power a Secret Holds ...

The title to this blog posting is a play on The Dead Brothers' song "The Power a Secrt Holds," which can be found on the incredible Voodoo Rhythm Records Records to Ruin Any Party Vol. 3. I have had nothing but praise for the label and these compilations, and this one, complete with Juke Joint Pimps, Pussywarmers, Urban Junior, Reverend Beat Man, Possessed by Paul James, Bob Log III, Andy Dale Petty, Roy and the Devil's MC, and many more doesn't disappoint.

But I, like Peter David, digress ...

It's been about two years since I've last had a post here. Why? I've been busy. Very. Busy. Black Devil Spine came out, which meant I was listening to classic rock for months of editing. (Classic rock is a huge part of that story.) I also started the Sinful Cinema series, which is proving to be popular with film fans. So, yeah, blog posts took a backseat to other ventures.

As I was cleaning the house and tossing out stuff, I was listening to this compilation, and when Reverend Beat Man's "Jesus Christ Twist" came on I thought, "I haven't written a blog post in a while!" What better music to inspire a new posting? Voodoo reinvigorated my love of music, and now it's served as a catalyst to getting the blog going again. I can't promise this will be a regular thing, but I'm sure going to try and make it so.

As to be expected, I believe that anyone who appreciates excellent music should march out and find this CD. Sure, it's six years old, but the music is as timeless as sunsets and funeral rites. There's blues trash, swamp rock, psychedelic, and just about everything else to stir the heart. I'm not saying this because I received it free to review, either. This is stuff I'd be recommending regardless of how much I had to pay for it. Trust me, this is worth it, as are the other two volumes in the set.

Maybe next time I'll delve into how music fit into the writing of Black Devil Spine. Maybe not. In the meantime, you've got some trash blues to enjoy ...

Monday, October 26, 2015

Backseat Education - Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction.  If that name made you grin, you know of the band.  The year was 1988.  Tattooed Beat Messiah was released (some fools would say “dropped” these days), and the world of hard rock would never be quite the same.  I was a fan from the first track, which was the “Wolf Child Speech.”  It was over the top.  Ridiculous.  Not to be taken seriously.  Perfect.  It was what hard rock should be.

It’s no surprise that this band came out of the same era that gave us Sigue Sigue Sputnik (affordable firepower), Adam and the Ants, and Mötley Crüe.    

The music was blistering and the lyrics didn’t take themselves all too seriously … or at least one hoped they didn’t.  Zodiac Mindwarp (Mark Manning) put a lot of swagger in those tales of debauchery, and that’s what made it so great.  Sure, there were other bands out there of this ilk that sang songs of wine and women, but none looked or sounded like this one, and few seemed so real.

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction never got much of a following here in America.  It made an appearance here and there, and some college stations played its songs, but for the most part it was merely a footnote in musical history, while insipid garbage like Mr. Big (1989 actually marked the band’s debut album, but it was formed in 1988) captured audiences’ ears and hearts  -- easy listening for the easily distracted.  I don’t know why this was the case, but perhaps it was due to the fact that Zodiac Mindwarp and company looked like a bunch of coke-up bikers who may be Nazis while Mr. Big looked like a bunch of Bon Jovi fans from the Midwest who dreamed of playing the Cloverfield County Fair.  Me?  I’ll take biker Nazis over cowboys any day.  The rest of America, sadly, didn’t feel the same way.  Oh, what could’ve been…

Enjoy the video.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hank Haint's Blackout

Man, when it comes to a label that has a knack for getting great one-man bands, nothing beats Voodoo Rhythm Records.  Case in point?  Hank Haint.  He even covers an old GG Allin song (“Don’t Talk to Me”)!  How could you possibly go wrong with this guy?

On May 25, 2012, Blackout was released on an unsuspecting world.  You, the listener, is first subjected to “Keep on Walking.”  You think, “This can’t possibly be a one-man band.”  You are, of course, wrong.  Just like the times you thought there wasn’t a cop around and that one time you swore she was 18.

There are 12 other songs (including the Allin cover) that will only serve to strengthen your disbelief.  When you think about the fact that he only started working as a solo act five years earlier, you will chastise yourself for wasting the last half decade doing … what?  Not this, that’s for sure. 

Blues trash with a punk attitude is how this music has been described.  That is about as accurate a description as one will get.  It’s too raw for the “hip” crowd., and too obscure for mainstream music lover.  It’s in that void to be enjoyed only by the daring and the lucky. 

Of course, this may not be your thing at all.  You may lean more toward pop or, Heaven forbid, hip hop.  You may be wondering what the fuss is about.  It’s one guy, after all.  How hard can that be?  He goes into the studio, lays a track, switches instruments and lays another track.  Well, he performs live, too.  And not with a backing band.  One man.  Many instruments.  The touch of death!

My only complaint?  I would’ve moved “Pissing in the Sink” to the last track.  It is the perfect way to end an album.  As it stands, “Untitled,” the last song, isn’t a horrible way to end it (and one can easily see why it is the last song), but “Pissing in the Sink” would have been the feather in this mighty cap. If that is the only complaint one can muster, you know it is a solid release.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Frozen Angel

I haven’t seen the movie that this soundtrack is from, but if Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle and Voodoo Rhythm Records are behind it, I know it has got to be good.  First, some history, and then we shall delve into Tino– Frozen Angel.

Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle has been around 20 years.  You’ve most likely never heard of the band.  For the uninitiated, it combines blues, garage, psychedelica and some folk to create a sound unlike most anything else out there.  “Unique” doesn’t do it justice.  Three brothers.  Guitars.  Truth.  It is primitive.  It is otherworldly.  It is necessary listening for those who think outside the box.

Adding another feather to its ornate cap, the band has done the soundtrack to a documentary about Martin “Tino” Schippert, aka Frozen Angel.  Tino was the first Swiss president of the Hell’s Angels.  He started as an activist.  He ended up dead in Bolivia.  Without seeing the film, I must say that the story itself would have me intrigued, but the music only serves to heighten my curiosity.  It is eight songs of primarily instrumental swirl, with snippets of the movie seemingly thrown in.  I can imagine its place in the documentary, and I must say it seems to fit the subject matter, as well.  It is unlike most soundtracks I’ve heard, and that’s a good thing.  If music could be ephemeral…

If you are a film soundtrack collector (I know you are out there – I used to be one), then this is something you must look into.  If you like any of the musical descriptions I gave, this must also be sought out post haste.  Granted, it is not for everyone … or even most people … but that’s because the majority of people have no idea what they are missing and would rather stick with the tried-and-true over the dirty unknown.  This is for the seekers of the unusual, the transgressive, the bizarre … music for music lovers.  Those who look at music as art, and not as entertainment.  Forge onward, brave bastards.  This is the soundtrack to your dreams.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Let's Start a War at the Whitehouse, Said Wattie One Day

The first release I ever bought by the Exploited was the 1986 cassette, Live at the Whitehouse.  I had heard the band a few times on our local college radio station, and I liked what I heard, so I set out to the music store to procure whatever Exploited I could get my hands on (which is how one bought music in the days before downloading).  The store I went to wasn’t well-stocked with anything but pop and heavy metal, and Live at the Whitehouse was the only Exploited to be had.  As it stands, it wasn’t a great listening experience, as those who have heard it can attest to. 

If you are familiar with the Exploited, a live album delivers exactly what you’d expect.  The sound is raw, angry and turns to buzzsaw noise in spots.  The release I bought was a full live show and featured some great songs, including “Let’s Start a War,” “Horror Epics,” “Wankers,” “I Hate You,” “Dogs of War,” “Sex and Violence,” and “Punk’s Not Dead.”  That’s a satisfying line-up of classic Exploited songs despite the dodgy sound.  Couple that with cover art that shows a partially destroyed Capitol Building (not the White House, oddly enough) and you can’t help but capture a young punk’s heart.

The band, which has had roughly 3,859 members through its years of existence, has always had its share of controversy, and violence followed many of its shows.  (I wasn’t there when it played Airport City Music Hall in PA, but I heard that white power skins maced singer Wattie when he took the stage.  For those who remember shows at that venue, skinheads were a constant source of misery, as were the bouncers. The reason for the attack was Wattie’s anti-American beliefs.)  For many, the Exploited has always symbolized the best and worst of what punk rock was and should be.  For me, it was just an energetic, politically angry band that seemed more interested in slogans than real change.  It was entertaining, but nothing I’d formulate a political philosophy around.  (Remember the Barmy Army?)

Live at the Whitehouse may have been my first Exploited purchase, but it was far from my last.  Sometimes those purchases felt shameful, like when I would purchase really creepy porn from seedy shops reeking of bleach and sweat, but others were moments of sheer celebration.  Not every release was worthy of the effort it took to make it, but all of them had moments of sublime chaos.  (My own sublime chaos that was linked to the Exploited came when one of the releases was playing on the car stereo as my friends and I were engaged in a high speed chase with a cop.  We were winning the race, the flashing cop lights not making the best headway, when we flipped the car.  We slid something like 116 feet on the roof until we hit a boulder.  As I spat out windshield glass, the cop on the scene told us to get away from the car I was still inside because gas was flooding out and he thought it would explode. The Exploited continued to play on the stereo.  Surreal.) 

These days the band doesn’t much resemble that which it was in 1986, which is a good thing.  Bands should evolve over time.  I’m not sure that what the Exploited has become is much worth pursuing, but seeing its skull logo on a shirt still brings a smile to my face even if the new music leaves me kind of cold.  I will say, however, that the later stuff is far more cohesive and better produced than the band’s earlier releases.  It’s as if the band took the power of metal and matched it with the anger of punk and came up with something that works for it.  That said, it doesn’t fully work for me.

At least I have the memories…

Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to the Past ... Cartoon Monsters and Humboldt Mist

The Groovie Ghoulies is my favorite band named after a cartoon.  Alas, the band no longer records its version of pop punk tunes, but the memories linger on.

Recently I was driving to work listening to the Freaks on Parade release.  It first came out in 2001 on Stardumb and was later re-released by Surfin’ Ki 13 years later.  If that isn’t a testament to the band’s sound, nothing is.  Listening to it reminded me of how timeless the music sounded.  It was fresh.  Upbeat.  It could’ve been recorded the day before.  All good music (except the blues) should sound that way.  (The blues, it should be noted, should always take place in the past.  It gets its magic from a time period long expired, and while the sound remains strong, it does not and should not sound contemporary.) 

We all have these bands we forget about for a few years, and once we break them out again and give them a listen we wonder why we waited so long in the first place.  Driving through the Humboldt mist was one of those moments, brought on by not one particular song, but all of them.  I thought back to my when I did my ‘zine.  I thought back to different times, different mindsets.  Different everything.

I wasn’t riding a nostalgia trip.  I wasn’t pining for the old days or lamenting how today’s music leaves me cold for the most part.  I was just, not to sound too California stupid, being “in the moment.”  The air was cool on my face.  The wipers did the occasional whisk across the windshield.  I had the stereo cranked, not to assault the pedestrians, but to immerse myself in that mindset albeit briefly.

I’m not the biggest fan of pop punk.  I tend to like my music with more of an edge, but this was a band I could get behind.  I tolerate a lot of pop punk bands, but this one was always different.  That misty morning reminded me why.  Say what you want about it, but it is still one of the best things to come out of Sacramento.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

This Ain't No Blues Show

The idea behind Boogie the Church Down is simple.  It’s the Juke Joint Pimps versus the Gospel Pimps.  Blues versus gospel Louisiana style.  The end result is that Voodoo Rhythm Records has another winner in a long line of champions.

Harmonica.  Drums.  Guitar.  Choir-like choruses.  It’s 14 songs that my daughter found incredibly odd and “old-time” sounding.  That it is, and I love it.  It’s a combination that works.  In fact, it is so cohesive that even after hearing it you may wonder where one band begins and the other ends.  I’ll tell you: it doesn’t matter.

Songs like “I Feel Guilty,” “Juke Joint in the Sky,” “King Roland’s Prayer” and “Keep Your Arms Around Me” are pure pleasures.  They fit in at church or a dark bar.  They cause toes to tap and heads to nod.  They inspire sinful hip gyrations and animalistic copulations.  Praise the Lord and pass the salt, Momma needs a spanking tonight.  These songs, for better or for worse, are a celebration of life and all that comes with it. 

I listened to this CD almost exclusively for two weeks before writing a review for it, as it was important to me that it sunk in properly before I tried to break it down into what worked.  Even now, however, I’m not sure I can do it right.  The fuzzy vocals coming from my speakers seem so organic, yet so powerful … I’m not sure there are proper words for what this release does to listeners.  

“King Roland’s Prayer” asks why it always rains on the song’s crooner.  It’s an honest question.  The answer, however, isn’t what’s presented in the song.  It rains because the music is magic.  Old blues is magic.  Gospel is magic.  Poverty row pontifications in song are magic.  It changes the elements.  It mutates.  It devastates.  That’s the answer.  Both line-ups, though, would argue that.  That’s fine just as long as they do it in song.  Anything else would be a tremendous waste of talent.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Future is Now

Die Zorros’ Future is exactly what you’d expect of the band … and then some.  The band’s second release on Voodoo RhythmRecords is 17 songs of their own design and creative covers (mostly instrumental) of some other acts like Amy Winehouse (“No No No,” the opening song), Black Sabbath (“Black Sabbath”), the Rolling Stones (“Paint it Black”), the Beatles (“Walrus Eats Taxmen”), and Rod Stewart (“Sailing”).  The band’s original numbers include “The Shark,” “Zorros in Afrika” and “Streets of Baltimore.”  Again, all are primarily instrumental.

To understand Die Zorros’ sound, you have to picture a garage surf band tinged with some psychedelica.  There really is no better way to describe it.  I guess you could add some jazz and metal to it, too.  Not bad for a band that claims it started as a theatre and poetry slam project.

The release is available on CD, LP and cassette for all you completists out there.  It may seem like a step backward (despite the album title), but it actually makes sense.  Voodoo Rhythm always puts music ahead of everything else, and while it doesn’t long for days past, it also doesn’t ignore it, either.  MP3s are cold.  Cassettes bring back high school memories, back when discovering new music was harder than just logging on and doing a Google search.  Future is that gem you would find, hoard and only share with a few like-minded people.

And while I hate the Beatles, I must say that this cover is light years ahead of anything that band did.  Thanks to Die Zorros, I can even now tolerate a Fab Four number.  Who would have seen that coming?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me some dough!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

25 Years of Monsters

2011 marked 25 years of the Monsters’ existence.  25 years of garage rock psychostomp.  25 years of Switzerland’s own making what is decidedly American music better than Americans.  With Pop Up Yours, out on the legendary Voodoo Rhythm label, the Monsters solidifies its stranglehold on the world. 
This release is 14 songs that maintain that patented Monsters sound while at the same time sounding a bit more polished than previous releases.  That rawness the band is known for remains, but it is a pristine raw, if that makes any sense.  Think of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All versus the black album.  Then think the opposite.  That is pristine raw. 

“I Want You” opens the CD, and there is no mistaking what band you are hearing.  It’s a great way to start the release, and it captures your attention immediately, and you attention will be held until the final number, “Into the Void,” which is a moody, slightly sinister piece.  In between there are 12 other songs that are just as catchy and destructive, like candy dynamite.  “More You Talk, Less I Hear You,” “Ce Soir,” “Ain’t Crawling Back to You No More” – there is no stand out because they all stand out.  It’s a Monsters release.  What do you expect?

At this point in my life I have exactly one band related tattoo.  That tattoo is from a Monsters press release from years ago.  There is a reason why that is the only one, and this release exemplifies it.  It is one of the few bands that is timeless and I know won’t disappoint whenever it releases something new.  I can’t say that about many, but I can confidently say it about this one.

If you haven’t heard the Monsters before, this is an excellent place to start.  Frankly, any of the band’s releases are a good place to start, but this one may be the one that can honestly ease you into the experience.  Every other one kind of just throws you into the pool when you least expect it.  This one just gives a gentle nudge.  Either way, you end soaking in it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this to review.  Clicking on a link may cause me to earn a commission.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Music to Mate By

It’s 8:38 a.m. on a Friday morning as I write this.  Humboldt County is at 42 degrees.  The sun is creeping over the trees and a bird is chirping incessantly somewhere near my bathroom window.  Outside, the morning’s music is shattered by a car stereo blaring some kind of country tune.

It seems that the people around here with loud car stereos only play hip hop or country.  I never hear anything I’d define as “good.”

This obsession with assaulting the world with your music seems odd to me.  I’ve witnessed males (and it is usually males who do this), turn up the stereo at the approach of a young lady/teen girl.  It’s the equivalent of showing their pretty feathers.  “Look at me,” it says.  “I have Kayne playing!”  I’ve never seen these ladies just hop into the car and rip their tops off unless they were hookers.  (If that’s the case, you don’t need the music, chaps.  Just wave a Jackson around.)  In fact, most of these ladies ignore them and go on about their day.  Dejected, the young men will speed off looking for some new, easier conquest.  Perhaps a drunk aunt.

Music as a mating ritual is nothing new.  Barry White is often the one that comes to mind.  Prince.  Justin.  Skinny Puppy.  You name it.  Almost every band has had one of its songs used to woo a potential conquest into bed or onto his or her knees.  It is kinder and more legal than a date rape drug.  It shows insight into the hunter’s interests.  It lets the hunter know if his or her prey is worthy of his or her advances.  Music, when used to induce sex, is a far more interesting and accurate barometer than, say, the clothes you are wearing.  A woman should not be expecting romance if her beau puts on Cannibal Corpse and starts stripping off his clothes.  However, if she starts stripping in turn, that beau knows he is going to be in for a good time.

If you want my body, and you think I'm sexy ...
I always thought it would be amusing to invite some potential sexual conquest into the Compound for a little experiment.  I’d have a few candles lit for mood lighting.  I’d do my best to charm and seduce her.  Say all the right things, make all the proper compliments.  I’d then ask if she’d like to hear a little music.  She would, of course, agree to that.  Why?  It offers a break.  While I get up to put on a CD, she can think things over.  “Do I want to do this?  What if he thinks I’m fat?  Did I shave?  Yes.  Does he care?  What will he think of that Ohio State University tattoo on my ass?”  In the span of time that it takes to get up off the couch to put a CD into the player, she can either commit to the act or find a way out.  She doesn’t need the music.  She needs time.  And time is what I give her … and then I start the CD.

Kidz Bop Volume 23.  Tiny voices singing “Let Me Love You.”

She realizes she has made a terrible mistake … or she thinks it’s really funny and takes her clothes off because nothing gets to a woman like humor.  Either way, it’s a win win for me as long as she doesn’t run from the house and call the police to report me as some weird pedophile.

You can have your Kanye and whatever else you think works.  I’ll take a chorus of prepubescent voices singing in high-pitched tandem any day of the week.  If that doesn't scream romance, nothing does.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Worst Band Interview Ever

I’ve been lucky enough to interview a lot of bands, big and small, in my time.  I’ve done it for ‘zines, magazines and websites.   Along the way I’ve even been able to interview a few favorites of mine, too.  Some of those interviews have been great.  Others were … not.  Only one band, however, stands out as the worst band interview I've ever done.  But first, an explanation of how the whole thing works.

When I interview bands the process starts in one of three ways: I either contact the band myself with the hopes I can get the interview picked up by a magazine or website, I get assigned the interview by a publisher, or a band (or its PR people) contacts me.  When I go freelance, I pick the bands, which means I’m selecting bands I like or that I think have something interesting to say.  When I get assigned a band to interview, it means I either have to accept the assignment or decline it.   When a band contacts me it is much the same way.  I can accept or decline.  I’ve declined a few in my time.  Korn comes to mind.  Its management team wanted to fly me to Los Angeles for a meet-and-greet and set me up with the band for a one-on-one.  I was scheduled to interview the Misfits at the same time, so I declined, which led to Korn’s people saying, “What have the Misfits done lately?”  (At the time, American Psycho was just due to come out after the band’s apparent demise many, many years earlier.)  I replied, “You know what?  Korn is just another boy band to me, and I’d turn it down even if I wasn’t busy.”  That went over horribly, but it’s Korn.  Who cares?  The guys can’t even spell.

This is what it looks like when cartoons come to life.
Back when I wrote for Tattoo Savage I was assigned band interviews from time to time.  I actually helped start its music section, so when something needed to be covered, I was the guy the editor called.  She knew I could make deadline, and I rarely turned down a piece.  One of those bands I was assigned turned out to be so horrible that I can’t even remember most of the interview, only the problems associated with it.  That band in question?  Coal Chamber.

Coal Chamber’s first big release had just come out, and I was reviewing it for the magazine.  The editor at Savage thought an interview would be a good idea.  Since I needed money, I accepted.  I had, as always, a deadline I had to make, so I quickly drafted some questions and called the band’s PR guy to set up an interview.  I got a date and time a few days in the future, and then I waited.

When the time came, Coal Chamber did something no other band has done to me – it skipped out on the interview, which was thankfully to be done by phone.  I’ve had bands be late to interviews (The Offspring had a bus breakdown when I interviewed it right after it broke the Billboard charts, but still made the interview despite being hours late and needing to set up for the show), but this was new to me.  It was unprofessional and annoying.  The band was not a huge name, but the magazine I was interviewing it for was a big deal, so blowing off the interview was not a smart move.

The next two calls I made met with the same results.  The PR guy was an apologist for the band, which means he played his role just right.  He didn’t care that I had a deadline, which was fast approaching, and cared even less that if I didn’t get an interview in then the magazine would have a lot of white space to fill.  Eventually he told me to call in about three days because the band had a break on its tour and some down time, so it would be the perfect opportunity to get my interview done.  The band, he assured me, was excited to talk to me.
Should I have been surprised?  No.

I called and finally got a hold of them, and then they turned out to be the worst thing an artist or entertainer could be: boring.  I’ve had bands that weren’t the most talkative or interesting, but I’ve managed to turn the interview into something worth reading.  A few questions in told me that would not be the case here.

When I interview a band I have some generic questions to fall back on in case the band member is a bit of a bore.  These questions usually lead to interesting stories that I can actually work a readable interview out of, but that was not happening here.  I had to use all my standard questions, and I was getting one word answers to all of them. When I pressed for stories, I would get nothing.  At one point I fell back to one of the questions I hated to ask, but figured it would, at the very least, lead the interview in a new direction that I could capitalize on to save the sinking ship.  I asked one of the members what he would be doing if he weren’t in the band.   It was a throw-away question, but I figured I would have to get something good out of it.  Again, I was disappointed.  “I don’t know,” he replied.  “Working at McDonald’s?” 

Yes, that was his answer, and it was somehow fitting.  If he wasn’t in Coal Chamber he’d be fucking up your order in the drive thru.

I ended the interview frustrated and angry.  I had to take the band’s horrid answers and formulate them into something someone would want to read.  I was able to do it, and it was published, but it was a mess and embarrassing.  I told the editor I would never deal with the band again, and after hearing how it went, she decided that the magazine would be steering clear of it all together after my piece ran.  I’ve ignored the band ever since, too, but whenever I pass a McDonald’s I have to wonder if that guy ever found his true calling.  Who knows?  By now he may have promoted to assistant manager, but I doubt it.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me so cold hard cash used to buy anything but Coal Chamber releases.