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?

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