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.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Foreskin From the Warlock -- The Strange Fascination With Foreskin 500's Manpussy

How do you take a band called Foreskin 500 seriously?  What happens when it puts out a release called Manpussy?  Well, you put it in the player and are blown away in so many different ways.  That’s when you take it seriously … kind of.  (And as aside, do not do an image search for the band and album unless you are prepared for what you might see.)

From the ashes of Warlock Pinchers, Foreskin 500 made its brief mark on the music world as a hybrid metal/industrial band, allegedly playing its first show with the infamous Pigface.  With three releases (and a few singles) under its belt, my exposure to them came with the 1994 Basura!/Priority Records release mentioned earlier.  I bought it strictly because of the Warlock Pinchers connection.  I kept playing it because it is so good.

After a short intro plays, “Ticket to Hell,” opens the CD with the proverbial bang.  If I raced cars on any kind of level beyond video games, this is the song I’d play right before the race.  It’s a fast, brutal speaker burner that you think would set the tone for the rest of the release, but then “Permatortise” starts and the whole mood changes to something more psychedelic.  It is one of the strangest transitions on a CD I’ve ever heard, but somehow it works.  How?  Sort of the same way John Christopher’s The Little People works – it just does.

The rest of Manpussy follows the same eclectic suit.  You hear an adrenaline pumper like “Highway 69,” and you think you are back on the standard metal/industrial track and then “Kiss Me” happens.  It all makes for a release that is equal part schizophrenic and brilliant composition.  It evokes little in the way of actual emotions, though, but it does get the heart pumping.

Foreskin 500 holds a special place in the music collection of those who are fortunate enough to remember the band.  And while it isn’t like Warlock Pinchers, it is a natural progression from where that band was headed.  I find myself listening to it less these days, but when I do revisit it I enjoy it just as much as I did on the first day I heard it, and there aren’t a lot of releases I can say that about anymore.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this, idiots! Clicking on a link may earn me some dough.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pretty Pig to the Slaughter

Magic?  Anger?  Experimental nonsense?  Nazis on a warpath?  Death in June’s All Pigs Must Die has been called all those things.  No matter what you call it, though, it is amazing.

The story behind the album goes something like this: Douglas Pearce, Death in June’s masked face, had some issues with the business practices of World Serpent Distribution, a company he helped create.  When Pearce finally got fed up, he made this album as a ritualized magic attack to take it down.  Yes, that’s the story, and if you don’t believe it keep in mind that Pearce himself has called the release “a cleaning, an act of revenge and contempt.”  (Take that, Rage Against the Machine.)

Regardless of what one thinks of that tale, the 2001 result is a stunning work of art just shy of 40 minutes in scope.  Part neofolk and part experimental mind destroyer, these 11 songs will have an effect on you … and for some, that effect is far from positive.  There are people cannot stand to listen to the songs because they sound so “wrong” and “evil.”  Others, like myself, have no problem with Pearce’s “We Said Destroy II” and “Ride Out!”  And yes, that is Boyd Rice doing the narration.  (More magic at work.)

Just looking at the cover of All Pigs Must Die lets you know you aren’t in for the usual Death in June release.  A masked Pearce wielding a knife amongst the Three Little Pigs makes for quite an alarming photo.  It looks clandestine.  It looks sinister.  It looks like a warning, and it is a running theme throughout the work.  When you play it … well, that feeling doesn’t go away.

The title song is the first thing you’ll hear on the album.  It’s a calm, though somewhat disturbing tune.  “Tick Tock” is next, and is the first time listeners hear Rice’s voice.  It’s also calm and somewhat uncomfortable.  Song five is where it all starts to change.  “We Said Destroy II,” mentioned earlier, kicks the spell into full gear and takes any previous serenity and extinguishes it.  By the end of the album, senses are left reeling and fans divided.

I know where I stand on this release.  It has been said it is too self-indulgent, and that is true, but that is what makes it so remarkable.  It can’t be anymore self-indulgent actually, but it’s that way for a reason.  It was created with one thing in mind (and it should be noted that World Serpent did go out of business), and that “thing” beats the usual self-indulgence that is really just nonsense masked as soul-cleansing.  Pearce’s agenda here makes this unique in the annals of music history.  He understands that music can be magic (something I believe the old blues performers understood, too) better than any other performer alive today, and that shows here.  Death in June has rarely disappointed me, and this is no exception.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this for review.  If you click on a link, you may earn me a commission.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Struttin' Cock in Arcata, California

There are about three bands I’m interested in seeing live these days.  Well, that may be a bit of an understatement.  I’d see anything on Voodoo Rhythm’s label, so that’s a stable of bands.  The other two are Death in June and NashvillePussy.  When I got word that Nashville Pussy was coming to Humboldt in February (Valentine's Week, no less), I was filled with the kind of internal conflict you only read about in literature or see in movies like Twilight or Throw Momma From the Train.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see the band.  Far from it.  The problem was that there were two things keeping me from buying a ticket.  One: there would be people there.  I hate people.  I don’t mind them individually, but put them in a group and suddenly what was tolerable on a one-on-one basis produces the most murderous thoughts in my mind.  As if the fact that Nashville Pussy wasn’t putting on a personal show for me wasn’t enough, there was the second problem:  the venue, which was Hum Brews … in Arcata, California.  Arcata is one of those places I do my best to avoid.  The people, the “vibe,” and even the town’s layout makes me froth at the mouth as if imitating Cujo.  If Al Qaeda was taking a poll of places one would most like a dirty bomb to be detonated, Arcata would have my vote.  Sayonara, Trust Fund Babies.

Then there was the fact that it was on Sunday night and I had to be at work early Monday morning.  That barely registered on the radar, as I usually only get three to four hours of sleep a night, but I’d be lying to say that time wasn’t a factor.

I remained conflicted right about up until the show date.  It seemed like an easy choice – just fucking go.  It really doesn’t get much easier than that.  For me, however, the cons were outweighing the positives.  Arcata.  People.  In order to help mitigate this mental stalemate, I decided to repeatedly call Hum Brews.  I figured if the show started just about on time and there was no opening band, I could actually tolerate the event.  So, a few days prior to the show I started calling, and must have done so about five times.  Every time I called I spoke to someone different.  Every time I got the same answer.  Band takes the stage at nine.  No opening band.  I figured that really meant the band would go on at 9:30, but I was convinced there would be no lame-ass opener.  I was partially right.

Butter Licker, RC/DC and I arrived at Hum Brews around ten of eight.  Why?  None of us knew.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I do know it wasn’t to take in Arcata’s atmosphere.  College kids who can’t handle their organic liquor and aimless thirtysomethings whose chief goal in life is to win the Pot Olympics are hardly people I want to converse with in any capacity other than to say, “Sorry I ran over you with my car.”  Since the show wasn’t set to start for about another hour, we waited, watched hockey coverage on television and had discussions about the fluid nature of reality and stealing artwork.  (Butter Licker did not like my example of the brain not being able to react properly to what it was seeing, and RC/DC did not appreciate my approval of art theft.)

About quarter after nine, the doors to the band area opened and we are the first through after paying our admission.  My initial thought was that the area was small and the stage far too compact.  A bar at the back of the room promised that if the music wasn’t your thing, overpriced drinks could soothe your savage soul.  We ended up taking a seat against the far wall.  I figured the band would take the stage in about fifteen minutes, sweat like hell, and we’d call it an evening.

By the time 10:30 reared its head, I was getting antsy.  The guy who let us through the doors had told me that Nashville Pussy’s rider said “no openers,” but when the band members got there they were apparently surprised by the fact that there was no opening band.  My guess is that they expected to go on around 10:30 because that would give the opening band time to do its magic.  When the musicians saw there was no opener they took it easy backstage and then came out to kick ass.
The crowd was small, though I wasn’t too surprised.  Arcata, while playing host to a lot of various musical acts, has little in the way of what I would call “good taste in music.”  Stale hip hop, faux indie a-go-go, and the ever-present reggae crap is the town’s musical backbone and it leaves much to be desired, though the people eat it up and little else.  The band took to the stage, however, and just started blasting through its sleazy Southern rock as if it were playing to an arena-sized crowd.  One song after another with little banter in between.  There was a moment when the singer, Blaine Cartwright, dedicated a song to Humboldt because he’s a lifelong “pothead” and we’ve been keeping the quality up and making America realize weed isn’t so bad.  (I guess those aimless thirtysomethings have something they can take pride in after all.  Let’s hear it for personal achievements!)  Nashville Pussy played a bunch of my favorites.  “Go to Hell.”  “Hitchhike Down to Cincinnati and Kick the Shit Out of Your Drunk Daddy,” “Wrong Side of a Gun,” “Struttin’ Cock” and so on.  Beautiful.  Insane.  Tight.  I had reviewed some of the band’s work back when I used to write for Tattoo Savage, and I can safely say the years have done little to slow the act down.  That said, there was a new addition to the band that caught my attention.

Butter Licker snapped this of Buitrago in action.
I found it fairly hard to ignore the bassist, Bonnie Buitrago, who was filling in for the super cool Karen Cuda while she was taking a break from the tour.  She was playing with a wild skill and abandon that floored me.  Few things in life are sexier than a woman kicking ass at something she is really good at doing.  Butter Licker agreed with me.  RC/DC didn’t, but only because she wasn’t paying attention.  I, on the other hand, barely noticed the rest of the band.  Buitrago was that demanding of my attention.
All in all, I made it through the night without gutting someone and had a pretty damn good time.  Nobody from Arcata attempted any kind of lame conversation with me, much to both of our good fortune, though Butter Licker was touched by someone she and RC/DC dubbed “Molester.”  Arcata didn’t give me some rare disease, either, and the only downside of the night was the ringing in my ears that served as a reminder that I was at a great show. 

Still, fuck Arcata.  Enjoy the dirty bomb.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid to get in the show.  Clicking on a link can earn me a commission.