Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year/Decade!

Just a quick note to thank everybody for their support over the past year and the past decade!
We'll have lots of new and vintage rock n' roll bullshit for you in '10!

Keep it sleazy!

- Sleazegrinder

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cory Case

Waiting on a Remedy
Dead Beat Records

The world used to be filled with guys like Cory Case, shaggy-haired troubadours willing to sing for their supper, skinny young dudes with acoustic guitars hoping to charm some pretty girls and get a song on the radio. The 70's was the singer-songwriter's heyday, and you couldn't flip on a static-y transistor without hearing one of Case's forebears: Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Lobo. I miss those days. Comic books were a quarter then. True story.

Now, here we are in the jet-age, flashing through the decades with digital hiccupping as our soundtrack, and here's Cory Case, bumming around Paris with his beat-up guitar, singing sad songs about girls that almost-were. Is he a man out of time? Sure, but that's what's great, and noble, and true about it all. One kid, one guitar, a whole batch of catchy, maudlin tunes. I am sure this would sound even better on an old radio that only gets two stations, but even on a space-age gizmo like an I-Pod, it still sounds sorta 1974. And 1974 will always be cool, no matter what year it is.



- Sleaze

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December Peals

People Have Demons
Chorus of One

Although the gutter they're gleefully sloshing around in has become an elephant's graveyard for middle-aged hair-twirlers with no pension plan, Germany's December Peals somehow manage to make 80's groin-rock sound fresh and reasonable. Mushing fistfuls of GN'R high-wire swagger and burly AC/DC chug, DP sound not unlike an all-boy version of the Donnas with a mid 90's alt-rock fixation. Lots of hooks, lots of slithery solos, and more brains than you usually get from a band with the same musical influences as your aging dirtbag uncle. The title track is the obvious hit, but the whole thing works, really.

I predict a headlining Rocklahoma gig in 2025.

- Sleaze

Monday, December 28, 2009

Orpheus

Self-titled
Sidehorn Records

Walloping, femme-fronted, fist-in-the-air chugrock with a frothy head of doom on top. The long-ish tracks (they generally hover around the five-minute mark) leave plenty of room for Opheus's intricate twin-guitar interplay, and singer Ingrid Galadriel's forceful bellow is impressively Doro-esque. Plus, like all Norwegian chicks, she's blonde, and hot. If you're the street-level hesher type, this one's a no-brainer. Van metal lives!

- Sleaze

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Flash Metal Suicide: Tsar


LA's TSAR would find out that it's brand of catchy 70's arena power pop mixed with a dose of some glitz n' glam music was entirely out of it's time. Plus, the cliched bad timing, and the lack of a proper scene of bands to tour with had helped to compound the problems of the band in finding a proper audience. Their sound which was too pop punk for many people's taste, and then too rock n' roll for others' tastes (big guitar solos, huge arena rock sound, etc) put them squarely in the territory of nowhereland as far as most audiences were concerned. But I get it--even if there's only a comparatively speaking few others who do, as well.

I didn't hear the first album at the time--first off, I think that they properly weren't promoted enough really to reach the average audience! A friend of mine whose taste that I trust told me to buy the album, as it was probably in his top ten rock albums of all time. I saw a copy of it for 5 bucks in a used cd store and picked it up, I think, this was the year 2003 or so--well out of the album and band's heyday (if you could call it that). Prior to that, i'd heard the song "Kathy Fong Is The Bomb" somewhere and liked it, and also heard their cover of the Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life", but done in a vintage 70's KISS style. For sure you get the sense that the band's record collection has alot of guilty pleasures in it; ballroom glitz and flashing TSAR sign and all.

Unfortunately perhaps miscast as yet another band in a seemingly endless line of pop punk bands groomed for "despicable" mainstream top 40 status, there's definetely something upon first listen that maybe was misperceived about TSAR on their first album from the year 2000 (seriously, it's hard to believe this was nearly a full decade ago!)--highly compressed, polished punk with ultra catchy choruses, courtesy of Rob Cavallo (Green Day). And their choice of bands to tour with at the time likely didn't help--SR-71, Duran Duran, etc. But on further inspection, it's clear that the band was doing something different--way overblown guitar god guitar solos, vintage Cheap Trick/ Sweet powerpop glam riffs; tongue firmly in cheek, but entirely getting the vibe and underlying greatness of the 70's worship that not every similar band really understood.

"Calling All Destroyers" has to be one of the best leadoff tracks of all time, in my opinion--it rocks hard, but never loses sight of melody or catchiness. As a matter of fact, the first four tracks (the first album never even quite matches the power of the first 4 songs, although the second half is decidedly slower and more ballad oriented) are so damned good, that it's hard to not consider this as a real true classic, up there with the best albums of all time. It's that good. Principle songwriter and singer/ guitarist Jeff Whalen does such a damned good job, that I find it hard to believe that he's not Rick Nielsen or Chapman/ Chinn--he can seriously write hit songs on command, effortlessly.

I also find it extremely hard to believe that he wasn't asked to write hit songs for other people. It was probably connections and "who you know and who you blow" and all that probably, but in a perfect world he would have been bigger and much more well known than he is, even if Tsar never took off. I seem to remember him saying that after the release of the debut album and them being dropped after it going nowhere, that he'd moved back in with his mom or something like that, that he was that broke. I dunno, maybe the world just wasn't ready for orange leather pants, and Jeff's kinda odd looking Ziggy Stardust gone mod look. Or his wide eyed enthusiasm (literally, he's got big, intense eyes). Or Jeff's obsession with wearing the American Flag as a cape onstage while he was rocking out.

There's always sort of a reason why bands don't connect with wider audiences. As mentioned before, the pop punk thing probably alienated them from the rock n' roll audiences, and the rock n' roll thing probably alienated them from the pop punk audiences. I could see people wondering why these guys were whipping out rock poses and huge solos and classic rock riffs, and seeing it as overly retro or maybe trying too hard or something like that. That's what I love about the band, because when I think of power pop bands that are heavy on the "power", i'm usually at odds to come up with something that I think is really rocking, and really melodic. TSAR is both, and I can see them splitting their own vote. Usually bands are aping the Beatles or are jangling in an indie pop way, innocuous and derivative enough to not offend purists of genres so as to have more appeal in a certain genre.

Truthfully perhaps, Whalen isn't the strongest singer, and i've heard other people mention this. It's possible that his vocals, coupled with the fact that he eschewed some sort of futuristic glam rocker thing (he mentioned in an interview that I can't find now that he'd admitted that he's a "odd looking dude"), could have been the reason for their popularity ceiling. He doesn't really have your typical gruff, throaty rocker voice, but has a voice well suited to pop songs. Looks count for alot in popular music, particularly the vibe of your frontman, whether people can relate to him in some sort of rock n' roll fantasy type of way where he's doing what they always wanted to do or be, or whether they're baffled as to what he's trying to accomplish. But I think that he has a youthful charm to his style and a naive exuberance that works well for the music. Whatever works, as they say.

"I Don't Wanna Break Up" is your typical love song on lyrical analysis, but the slightly melancholy vibe suits the concern of the song. "Silver Shifter" is a bit slower, a mid tempo rocker that eventually kicks into a massive pre-chorus/ chorus crescendo. "Kathy Fong is the Bomb" follows; back to the up-tempo pop grandeur, sounding not unlike something you'd hear off of Def Leppard's "Hysteria", but with one more arm and the attitude and conviction of the band on "Pyromania". "Teen Wizards" starts out with a fluffy piano/ chimes/ understated vocal before it kicks into some vintage Ramones territory, and then kicks into a big Thin Lizzy dual guitarmony lead in the middle breakdown section. The two big ballads on side two--"Ordinary Gurl" and "The Girl Who Wouldn't Die" have excellent major/ minor chord changes and embellishments, and have excellently overblown aforementioned guitar god solos courtesy of lead guitarist Dan Kern. Kern also sings two songs, "MONoSTEReo" and "Disappear", good pop songs in themselves. "Afradio Pt One & Pt. Two", starts out on some psychedelic noises, then kicks into a furious rocker (there's multiple parts in the "Afradio" series, as evidenced by some demos that they'd done that i'd heard).

The thing that makes the album so great is that on almost every song, there's a pre-chorus that would be most bands' chorus in it's strength. Much like Ginger and the Wildhearts, they know that a killer pre-chorus makes alot of difference, as there's always some structural heightening that happens with another section in a song, leading up to a smaller crescendo amidst the individual songs. It has a great effect, because the songs keep on launching off and off into the stratosphere. And the production sounds amazing--sure it's super slick, but I grew up with big sounding arena rock albums in the 80's as a young boy, and this caters to the aspect of larger than life albums that scream "guilty pleasure" but in the best possible way.

The backing vocal harmonies are absolutely excellent--Jeff Whalen sings high enough, but listen to t
he higher harmony--it's insanely high. The guitars are overdubbed lots--there's acoustic guitar embellishments here and there, too, and to my ears, it sounds like there's nylon string acoustics on here, which you don't usually hear.....it's usually metal string acoustic guitars. So there's a different touch right there.

The budget for this album must have been tremendous, and considering that it didn't sell much at all, i'm guessing that the label--Hollywood Records--lost a ton on it. But you can't accuse the band of not giving it their all--if you watch live footage of the band then--and after--they were incredibly tight, infectious, energetic, fun, cheeky and retro without being regressive and perhaps almost too modern (hence the pop punk tags/ misunderstanding).

The cover of the album also is interesting-- it seems to have some sort of innocence, in a girl pointing up to a sky with an apparition in the sky, surrounded by businessmen. I think that it could also symbolize the enthusiasm and the ideal about being in a band, before the business end comes in, the bump and grind of music being business in the end. "Hey man, you guys are great and all, but it's nothing personal....".

The thing about the album that makes it so cool is that it seems to reference itself in a couple of songs--hence the mention of "silver shifter" in "I Don't Wanna Break Up"; and the mention to "Kathy Fong" in followup album "Band-Girls-Money"'s title track. And the band's respect of the history of rock music had came up in an interview with Jeff around the 2000 range of the promotion of the first record, perhaps addressing the misconceptions about the surface value sound that some listeners never got past:

"you know how bands from the ‘60s like the Beatles or Bowie (who I guess really isn’t the '60s, but sitll), those older bands are really influenced by Chuck Berry and Elvis? But then their music doesn’t sound anything like that, even though in the end you got the sense that all they really wanted was to just play 'Summertime Blues' or whatever. If they got to play what they wanted, they’d just play "Good Golly Miss Molly" all day. I guess it’s something like that . I’d say 90% of what we’re compared to, which varies so much depending on the listener, is not really the prime influence on us." (original interview appeared here)

Then.....nothing for 4-5 years, until the "Band-Girls-Money" album was recorded and then released. That amount of time, in musical years, is ages. Trends come and go and the industry changes so much that it can spell the end of bands that aren't in it for the right reasons, or it can simply tear them apart from too much turmoil of infighting and label pressures to sell and all that other shit that turns the whole ideal of the fun of being in a rock n' roll band, into a very un-fun task. Thankfully, TSAR was never about trends or any other bullshit; just about plugging into the world's biggest amp and rocking out and having fun. And it shows.

"Band-Girls-Money"--with a new rhythm section-- in what it somewhat lacks in the first albums' catchiness, makes up for it in pure rock power. It's much, much rawer, and grittier. The polish of the first album is
largely gone (save for some big rock drum sounds), and in it's place are more overdriven guitars, more fuzz guitars, and most noticeably, Jeff Whalen's harder edged vocal sound where he's screaming/ shouting more. There's also less correction/ polish on the vocals than there was on the first album. I imagine that the more live sound translated a bit better to their live show. I like the two albums both in different ways, as they're not trying for the same thing.

I remember them coming through town on the "Band-Girls-Money" tour in 2005, opening for Juliette Lewis and the licks, and I couldn't go for some reason--no money, other committment or something like that. I really wish i'd gone, because that's probably the only and last time they'd come through here, and it would have been nice to talk to them. From interviews, i've got the impression that they appreciate fans that know about their history and what they're trying to do, musically.

The title track starts off with some really blown out fuzz guitar, and i'm se
rious when I say that it's some of the closest approximation to James Williamson's stuff in the Stooges--endless soloing for no apparent reasoning, but I happen to love excessive soloing, and Dan Kern pulls this off with amazing results. The lyrics seem to deal with a fictitional character that's got the band, girls and money, but somehow, lyrically, it seems to deal with the whole ideal that TSAR had when they started out, whether or not they actually hit the major big time or not.

Here's the official video for the song:



Note the lyrical reference to "you gotta live with your mom and dad"...so I think that there's some fiction and reality in the song. "Wanna Get Dead" is a grimy sort of three chord garage/ punk rocker, and it's followed by "The Love Explosion", which sounds the most like a carry over from the first album's days, as it's the most undeniably pop song on an otherwise pretty straightforward rock album, with it's "ah ah ah ah oh, ah ah ah uh oh" chorus line, sounding like a brother/ sister song of maybe "I Don't Wanna Break Up".



Sometimes I wish that there were a couple more songs like this on "Band-Girls-Money", as even live around that time, the band didn't feature too many songs from the debut album in their setlist. But that's just a small gripe. "Superdeformed" is a mid tempo rocker, featuring some self autobiographical lyrics that are wrapped up in fiction:
"Hell in 1999 I was lookin' for a little action, droppin' outta school and working for the FBI, I was goin' with a girl but man she put my shit in traction, and now i've been reborn and i'm superdeformed aye aye", and slightly more absurd: "Jesus is just alright, but he never got you high, I been reborn, superdeformed".

"Straight" is one of the harder, angriest rockers on the album--punk/ hardcore energy with a rock n' roll flair that they do so well. "Wrong" sounds like it could have also been on the first album--very melodic and featuring an excellent chorus. "Everybody's Fault But Mine" has kind of a darker, psychotic riff and a killer chorus with an excellent backup vocal section. The grit and power of the album can sometimes overpower the melodies at times, but the chorus in this song is as strong as anything that they've done (with another in joke/ past song reference in "monostereo"), sans maybe the handclaps and alot of the overdubs and embellishments. "Conqueror Worm" is a pop punk song, good energy and execution. "Startime" is another song about being in a rock n' roll band, ending with the line "get ready to let it rock on", with a cool fake ending where you'd think it would bash out a couple of times for synchronized fist pumps before ebbing out completely, yet it goes on for a few more blasts. Ending off the album is "You Can't Always Want What You Get", another classic rock reference in a play off the old Stones' song title. The only ballad on the album, it closes off the album amidst Christmas bells and really huge Slash via Neil Young fuzz guitar soloing from Dan Kern, while suggesting a more optimistic musical mood than some of the darker and angrier sounds on the record.

Oddly enough, one of the best songs was never on the album, but as a bonus track with a single--"Rebel Rouser", that I would have suggested to be on the album, and as a single. It really rocks the sort of "Ballroom Blitz" type Sweet influence, but has this really gigantic cock rock Guns N' Roses thing going.

If you're looking for bands that rock hard with great melodies and harmonies, check 'em out--it's probably too late for the band to have any present or future, but they sure as hell have a past, man. In the meantime, enjoy some live performances from the old days:




--Ry Crooder

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saviours - Accelerated Living


Saviours
Accelerated Living
Kemado

Is it time for the New Wave of Oakland Heavy Metal? Saviours seem to think so. The quartet takes obvious inspiration from the 80s hard rock of our former colonial masters on its third album Accelerated Living, while somehow not sounding retro at all. The band has the hellbent-for-leather (pants) drive down pat, and works hard to resurrect the days when riffs oozed from every pore. Slave to the Hex, We Roam and the awesomely titled The Rope of Carnal Knowledge kick the proper amounts of ass without pretense or excuses – this band is all about getting the job done, regardless of what label anyone tries to hang on it. Ironically, one of the main elements that sets Saviours apart from its more slavish compatriots is also its weakest link: the vocals. Justin Barber’s raw shout is hardly the kind of soaring powerhouse one usually associates with this kind of trad metal - it’s not the hardcore roar with which he started, but it’s not exactly the charismatic croon a song like Livin’ in the Void needs. Then again, you could also argue that the larynx is beside the point here – Accelerated Living is all about the plectrums and amplifiers.

- Michael Toland

Zoroaster - Voice of Saturn


Zoroaster
Voice of Saturn
Terminal Doom

Southern-fried psychedelic doom. Sounds like a dish on the menu in a hip greasy spoon, don’t it? It’s not edible, merely audible, as it’s as good a description as any for the eardrum-abusing sounds provided by Zoroaster. The Atlanta trio digs deep into the Georgia mud for crusty sludge stompers like Lamen of the Master Therion and Undying, which will warm the cockles of any doom-monger’s blackened heart. But it’s tunes like Voice of Saturn and Spirit Molecule that mark Zoroaster as something special – spacey, melodic, experimental, but still grunged all to hell. Even the more straightforward doom metal tracks often have synth bleeps poking out through the smoke – not for nothing are all three members credited with Moog as well as their regular instruments. Plus there’s an untitled piano-based coda that’s, Gog and Magog help us, actually pretty! Zoroaster is more than just another chip off the old Sabbath block – this is doom tailor-made for the when the acid kicks in.

- Michael Toland

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NAAM - s/t


NAAM
s/t
Tee Pee

The lysergic power trio NAAM returns to this dimension with a self-titled debut, following up the Kingdom EP from earlier this year. The NYC bunch may be a trio, but they make a big noise, filling up every inch of the earthly cosmos with enough feedback and distorted guitar waves to make Hawkwind jealous. Frigid, mysterious tunes like Tidal Barrens and Westered Wash provide some respite, but overall the band drenches the world in dark, acid-washed hues. The aggressively psychedelic Black Ice, Frosted Tread and the massive Kingdom (a longer version than the one that headlined the EP) roll mercilessly across the skyline, leaving bad dreams, broken bongs and a buzz in their wake. Righteous, minus the hangover the next morning.

- Michael Toland

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moss - Tombs of the Blind Drugged


Moss
Tombs of the Blind Drugged
Rise Above/Metal Blade

I remember well the last time I was trolling the swamps, looking for dead alligators so I could keep the off-brand shoe business going. The moon was high and clear that night, the wetness glistening on the reeds. Suddenly the temperature dropped; despite the humidity in the heat of summer, the air was near freezing in an instant. I instinctively looked around for the cause, thinking I was being silly – after all, changes in temperature aren’t precipitated by the sudden presence of…Something Else, right? But I was wrong.

It was rose from the fetid waters, scattering frogs, birds and snakes in its wake. It was horrifying to look at, seemingly constructed of leaves, mud and, most prominently, Moss, as if a piece of the swamp itself had come alive and detached itself to wander. I was stunned, riveted to the spot as it slowly, so slowly, drew closer. Then a sound began to emit from it, and I realized to my horror that, deep in the recesses of the mossy strands at its apex, it had a face. And from that face issued a sound of pure pain, as if every shuffling step it took in my direction was utter agony; indeed, the sludge from which it was formed seemed to have its own viscous sonic flow. It shrieked and roared, and words could barely be discerned – something about Skeletal Keys, Tombs of the Blind Drugged and some kind of Eternal Return. It halted briefly, then began again, lamenting painfully about I know not what. As it inched its way through this horrific performance, I couldn’t move – repulsed by its suffering, I was also strangely absorbed by it, as if I was witnessing the destruction of something holy, making it impossible to look away as it twisted my soul.

After nearly 40 minutes, during which time it seemed to draw no nearer, it fell silent; the spell broken, I made my escape, not looking back. I vowed never to return to the swamp and to seek my fortune elsewhere. And yet…and yet I feel compelled to return, to confirm the thing’s awful presence, to prove to myself it wasn’t a hallucination, to experience once again its frigid, mossy embrace. Pity me, dear readers, for I am in the grip of something stronger than I, and if you see a faint trail of moss and swamp water behind my feet, please, I beg you…lend me some hip-waders.

- Michael Toland

The Gates of Slumber - Hymns of Blood and Thunder


The Gates of Slumber
Hymns of Blood and Thunder
Rise Above/Metal Blade

Heavy metal has so many genre permutations it’s ridiculous: power metal, doom metal, progressive metal, black metal, death metal, blackened death metal, doomdeath, etc., etc. So I have to raise a sardonic eyebrow to the notion that there has to be a new category, “traditional metal,” to encompass the acts that don’t prominently fly the flag for a particular style. But if there’s got to be a trad metal banner, then the Gates of Slumber is the band to carry it. Like historical predecessors Trouble, Manilla Road or Cirith Ungol or contemporaries Grand Magus, the Indiana trio earnestly combines the atom bomb-heavy crunch of Black Sabbath with the soaring melodic sweep of NWOBHM acts like Iron Maiden or Angel Witch and a bit of Dio’s melodramatic fantasia. On Hymns of Blood and Thunder, leader Karl Simon writes tunes big on deliberate pacing, majestic momentum and, of course, big-ass riffs – perfect for killing zombies, blowing up tanks or leading the conquering hordes. Oddly, Simon diffuses his vocals by clouding them in the arrangements, but he makes sure his guitar solos (which tend to be concise and to the point) are right up front. If you wanted to strap headphones on an alien to explain what heavy metal is, The Bringer of War, Iron Hammer and The Doom of Aceldama are the ones you’d use to do it. Simon varies the mood with Age of Sorrow and The Mist in the Mourning, which sound like ancient folk songs performed in a cathedral over the bodies of the dead. Wrapped in a war-torn barbarian cover that would make Frank Frazetta proud, Hymns of Blood and Thunder smashes its ale stein over goblins’ heads before drawing its broadsword and flaying every headbanging inch of you.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Stabs - Dead Wood


The Stabs
Dead Wood
Spooky

I’m sure there are complex and interesting reasons why Australian musicians are so goddamn good at blending rootsy rock & roll with dissonant noise, but I don’t know what they are and I’m not feeling up to writing a book about the subject. (Yet.) I’m always up for that particular band of clang, though, so I’m already pre-disposed to like the Stabs. Dead Wood, the Melbourne trio’s second album, hews closer to the more accessible side of the style, like contemporaries the Drones or Kill Devil Hills instead of old dogs like Feedtime or the Birthday Party, but it’s definitely still in the tradition. On No Hoper, Blues in F# and Ain’t That the News, mutant blues grooves hold hands with honky-tonk skronk, while frostbitten decadence flirts unselfconsciously with seething rage. The Stabs are a well-named outfit; as their best, they approximate the strangely sensual discomfort of a keen dagger inserting into your flesh - acutely painful at first but strangely satisfying once the blade slides home. Dead Wood is a model of ugly beauty.

- Michael Toland

Black Breath - Razor to Oblivion


Black Breath
Razor to Oblivion
Southern Lord

Moving forward in their attempt to corner the market on bands with “black” in the name, Southern Lord releases its latest slab o’ sludge, the Razor to Oblivion EP by Black Breath. Hailing from bucolic Bellingham, Washington, the quintet reaches beyond the grunge for which its region is most famous to the legacy of bands like the Accused, combining whiplash-inducing thrash, spittle-gushing hardcore and Baphomet-baiting extreme metal. Kinda like Celtic Frost and D.R.I. grudge-fucking each other, in other words. Like a self-referential slasher flick, the four-song set is ugly, violent and messy, yet somehow compelling; Neil McAdams’ caffeinated shriek is simultaneously forbidding and inviting. I don’t know if I’d really want to hear more than 15 minutes; music like this can be numbing and tedious unless the riffs flow like blood from a severed artery, and the heart quits pumping over time. But this particular quarter of an hour is the perfect length, and more bracing than a cup of espresso chased with No-Doz.

- Michael Toland

Church of Misery - Houses of the Unholy


Church of Misery
Houses of the Unholy
Rise Above/Metal Blade

Oozing out of the tar pits of Japan, Church of Misery tramples the world once again, leaving bloody kaiju prints on the flattened ground in its wake. The Tokyo quartet’s third studio album is as obsessed with homicidal mania as ever, rounding up another batch of nefarious evildoers. This time the notorious Richard Speck (Born to Raise Hell), Charles Starkweather and his partner Carl Fugate (Badlands), Albert Fish (Gray Man) and Richard Trenton Chase (Blood Sucking Freak), among others, get tributes/criticisms/whatever the fuck it is. (There’s also another classic metal cover, this time of Sir Lord Baltimore’s Master Heartache.) CoM’s thematic intentions may be unclear, but what isn’t in doubt is the band’s mastery of Godzilla-heavy doom metal; if Ozzy had been replaced by a demented grizzly bear, Black Sabbath couldn’t have sounded any better.

- Michael Toland

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brimstone Howl - Big Deal. What's He Done Lately?


Brimstone Howl
Big Deal. What’s He Done Lately?
Alive Natural Sound

Not everything from Omaha, Nebraska is socially conscious indie folk rock. Witness Brimstone Howl, a pounding, throbbing garage rock trio that sounds like it rolls in mud before hitting the studio. The group’s cleverly-titled third (or fifth) album keeps the boat steady, or as steady as this kind of racket can let it be, subtly increasing the melody quotient beneath the muffled grunge. Indeed, the Howlers explore the folk rock side of the Nuggets experience with End of the Summer and Final Dispatch, and quite nicely, too. But in the main the record consists of beer-fueled slammers like M-60, Iota Man and Everybody Else is Having Fun, perfect for rock club rave-ups and apartment trashings.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Jayhawks - Music From The North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology
Sony Music

Not before time comes this harbinger of the alt.country pioneers declaration to stumble down the remastering and rumoured reformation campaign trail. Originally centred on the writing partnership of Mark Olson and Gary Louris they sauntered out of mid-eighties Minneapolis, issuing a quartet of releases including the hallowed Hollywood Town Hall and fabled Tomorrow The Green Grass before the twain split under the strain like the twin cities of their hometown. The earlier material - take the gently disembodied loping opener Two Angels or Waiting For The Sun - shows their clear passion for Gram Parsons and Crazy Horse though the sheer songcraft easily sets them several saddles apart from mere Americana five-minuters, as does the askance, sardonic worldview shared by fellow Minneapolis alumnus Paul Westerberg. The seemingly simplistic songs being shrugged off are in reality unassuming masterclasses and defining examples of autumnal, starkly sun-dappled laments and lonesome, cloudy lullabies. Concise, eloquent, evocative and sent still further astray from the middling majority by virtue of the unique, quite possibly divinely ordained, celestial harmonies of the two songwriters' tremulous, keening drawls. Utterly entrancing on the more (often than not) subdued mournful moments, positively ecstatic on the less present but more madly exuberant elegies like the deliriously sublime Miss William's Guitar - a hugely endearing off-kilter love-ode to Olson's future spouse Victoria Williams - leaving the largely allusory and veiled lyrics to subtly incise meanings into your subconscious, these songs can truly tear tears from the most arid trails without notice.
Post-split Louris charted an inconsistent course out of their earlier country by-ways into power-pop and straight-ahead West Coast American rock territory of the sort hinted at and, it appeared, perfected on 1995's Tomorrow The Green Grass. Pleasingly, though, Louris alone rarely strays into overly lush, stagnant and self-satisfied straits that suggests nor strife-fuelled self-despair. That they floundered somewhat with the double-blow of losing Olson and presumable label dictates is readily discernible, as over-long songs and cluttered production stifled either by guitar or orchestral sludge at times attest. Whether desperation through loss of direction or experimentation gone slightly too far there could be a case made that at least some of these elements were bitterly self-aware statements mocking himself, the industry and individuals, especially with a cache of stronger songs. Not that they were now entirely bereft of significant treasures, however. The ironic and acerbic stampede of Big Star resides resplendently amid the dysfunctional Sound Of Lies and Smile lathers you in the gloriously beguiling yet slightly tart as ever slice of sunny seventies lotion I'm Gonna Make You Love Me, brimful of the sort of stupified optimism even Mike Scott or Julian Cope would sneer cynically at, while Rainy Day Music harked back to the by now lightly browned green grass outside an old town hall, still as ever a display of Louris' distinctive melodic sense.
With the second rarities disc here hopefully just hinting at the stockpile Louris has at his disposal to plunder and disperse amongst further two-disc reissues (alternate Two Angels titled Old Woman From Red Clay, the dour-garbed doppelganger of I'm Gonna Make You Love Me in the guise of Someone Will and Stone Cold Mess with lyrics that turned up on Smile just a trio of prizes for fans of such artefacts) this is one band that were a scarcity in their own time and would be a rare thing once again in being worthy of a reunion show or two. For now, this serves supremely thankyou as both a perfect introduction to a mighty and arguably mite under-appreciated musical chapter aswell as a tantalising appetiser for what's to come on any repackaged classics. Simply, elegantly astounding.
Stu Gibson

Thursday, November 05, 2009

W.A.S.P. - Babylon
Demolition

Like an alternate, spurious universe's embodiment of Bonodonna, Blackie Lawless here humbly appoints hisself ambassador for marrying, or marring, ancient myths with their modern day mirrors, valiantly tackling the beastly spectre of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And despite, or because of maybe, it sounding like quite a colossal dose of classic WASP, with some latter day idol-besmirching concept clutter coerced into typical positions, then it is likewise quite good but not exactly far-reaching. However, as in the past so in the present, for these positions aren't exactly compromising or explicit as all content is covered by strict pre-screenings in WASP's staple theatrical metal tenets, before surgery begins. No longer simply intent to arouse outrage in moral majority territory, modern day WASP's masterplan is to enforce relations with their tried, much-jested about but easily digested attack formations and such timeworn yet eternal metal concerns of good and evil. Never as barren of brain as his guitarists might have made him seem by their being in his band, Lawless can still seemingly toss off and crimp out metallic-pop anthems from the immortal blueprint of early Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister and KISS albums like a priest dispensing hail mary's. Tis a crusade positively bulging with trademark incandescent energy - once again they keep their ages old chaotic NWOBHM spark - with many a height soared and field marshalled to say the least, as the Lawless way with a shameless 'n shapely melody meets little resistance. With that peculiarly unique and passionate raven squawk masking the faux-philosophical lyrics until the choruses swoop low to distract attention slightly from the actual titles he's charring with his petrol-coated larynx...either that or it's when the ladies touch their knees and no-one can hear anyway. For here exists quite possibly the most banal bundle of song titles lumped together on one back sleeve ever. Burn, Into The Fire, Thunder Red (mis-heard Springsteen??) and Babylon's Burning. Hell, why not just shove Number Of The Beast in there too? And Seas Of Fire must have been etched on the hairy back of at least three album sleeves in 1982 alone. Cheerily though, as can be discerned, this doesn't affect the music muchly. Nooo, tisn't like they've taken their carefully considered consternation-causing moniker in vain with a Damascean exchange for the shock tactic of taking the serious stance, nor can it be described as an imaginative stride to go a-roaming down new alleys, dabbling in industrial stuff ten years too late like some old L.A. lags of Blackie's time. Despite Blackie's ultra distinctive voice and indiscreet charisma, though, it's ultimately an ephemeral and easily forgotten session. Of course none of it is comparable - though the first trident strike arguably could make good ground - to their days of cod-piece backfiring; beastalike fuck service; pyrotechnics by way of accidental hair-torching; PMRC- feminist-law flouting aaah the simple pleasures of a life that was solely L.O.V.E. Machine (need) vs Doctor (don't need); sleeping in fires while blind in Texas; wanting to be somebody, presumably because being seen as a hellion wasn't good enough for the ambitious bunch, it seems), and judged against most of the toss relentlessly yet aimlessly seeping and slipping out of the running to ascend the colossal, shite-stained, suppurating, rotten tit of an industry, striving to within sun cycles distance of the summit just to suck a piece of the putrefaction from the holy and wholly, slowly oozing cesspit, this holds a candle to them then scolds their faces off. So they're no longer ravenous shock tactic junkies and titillation but a solid bromide WASP-sody with an arid lack of dramatic tension in the titular area will far suffice over quite some dimension of the current musical climate. The grand galloping, gallivanting cavort with the Wonder Woman-twirling riff from Wild Child introducing Crazy (incidentally Seas Of Fire enters with a riff not unlike 9-5 Nasty), supposedly dealing with much darker themes than the love song setting it occupies, hmmmm, is possessed by one of those irrepressibly strident choruses comparable to those that seemingly dropped out of Blackie's BBC-approved ass-less pants in the above heyday, a trait that Live To Die Another Day (title??) takes on and verily trounces. That this even and easily survives a descent into Ronnie Dio domains on Babylon's Burning (though, admittedly it is of Long Live Rock'n'Roll) speaks volumes, well at least one notch. At nine tracks it appears pretty short, though all songs check in at around the five minute or so mark. One of the couple of inconsequential ballads, Godless Run (notable mainly as Into The Fire could be the bastard son of the debut's Sleeping In The Fire), should be cast adrift. The diabolically jolly and gloriously devil may care plunge through Elvis Berry's Promised Land is - surely implausible as a song that couldn't be enjoyed while seas swell and skies fall - suggests a hopeful end to the saga. Time will tell. 'It's easy to mock', so goeth the saying. Yes, but it's also easier to rock. And the sight of Mr World Apocalypse Saving Preacher bringing the four horsemen to heel would rock even more. Even if it did cause some sort of continental collapse.
Stu Gibson

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Go Katz - Not Fair
Raucous

(Adopt Mike Read / Casey Kasem tones for this opening bit). Aaaaaaaannnddddd here we have us a-whoooshing up the unofficial Top something or other chart of Billy-bent renditions of regular chart hits, this malevolent makeover of mellifluous pop fluff Lily Allen's recent Top 40 tap Not Fair, from label boss Howard and cohorts. You might think it something of a novelty but if so then be surprised how often it works perfectly. Like here the right tune can herald pleasant turn of events when bossed and booted about in a stripped down bop pill fashion. P'raps young Lily should take heed, eh? Maybe a duet could be on the horizon. If you're a-wondrin' if the world needs another flick over the old Sun cherub Domino then the answer is a menacingly growled yeesssss. As is the blast through The Green Door, another fifties classic respawned in The Cramps garage (like Domino, sadly not Lily Allen) that will largely be ever-linked with Shakin' Stevens. This second EP from the recently reappeared Katz rounds off with a similarly grit-chomping rib-tickling trot through Matchbox's Gunning For The Dog. And, yupahoo, it sounds off like it's got a pair. They may be doing it for a bash, just cos they can but some of their own stuff would be innarestin'.
Stu Gibson
I'm Dying Up Here - Heartbreak And High Times In Standup Comedy's Golden Era
William Knoedelseder
Public Affairs

Coming from the novice reporter who documented the unfolding developments at their early seventies inception, when the stand-up profession rose quite considerably in stature and allure, from niche underdogs to the new rock'n'roll, leading to the still colossal multi-media dominion of several characters here, this fairly brief but compelling account of the rise of long-standing, or sitting in some cases, household names like Letterman, Leno and, erm, Williams has elements of a morality play and farce as well as sombre asides from life's less starry side of the galaxy. No National Enquirer et al type tawdry trek through participants lifestyle litterbins for this keeps a respectful distance while allowing the story to unfold accordingly as our heroes arrive at the West Coast, collectively make venues like The Comedy Store and the Improv into the hottest tickets in Hollywood wherein the dream descends into disarray. The first half or so outlines the varying degrees of success that the largely male throng attained, outlining characters and comic styles, relationships and driving forces, before stomping in allowing no time for an interval comes the second half and the late seventies battle with Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore over her colossal earnings compared to the comics absolute zero. Shore used the argument of it being a showcase venue, thus weeding out those not good enough to step up to the next level and get paying gigs on the road or in Vegas as well as it bei ng her that started them all out. The coalition that formed to strike to ensure pay, especially for their junior comrades argued that it's the performer that brings the audience to the club. This tale and the debatable rights and wrongs will be familiar to many here, what with venues pulling similar and much worse for the higher money market of music but there's also the human element here of a group of friends or like-minded people in common cause being split, nay, rent, asunder by the encroaching spectre of fame and wealth that they all aspired to, with the possible attendant rampant egotism. In tragic Steve Lubetkin there's also the spectre that overshadows much in the field of striving for that break amidst the knock-backs, bad luck vs bad decisions and the age old hand of fate. A concise, effectively constructed and thought provoking look at a little heralded but ultimately important series of events in entertainment history, and one, thankfully, that doesn't attempt to jump in with a few jokes in keeping with its subject matter.
Stu Gibson
A Day In The Life - One Family, The Beautiful People & The End Of The Sixties
Robert Greenfield
Da Capo

For such a tabloid titillating title, this, perhaps expectedly by it's brawny boasts, is an incredibly slight tale from behind the scenes, tethered to the subject's eventual acquaintance with The Stones around their Exile period. The author was in attendance at Keef's famously dissolute garden of delights and despair on the French coast in summer 1972 and regaled us with that in his Exile On Main St : A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones book. This present trawl through the vapid wreckage of the ultra-privileged and proudly pointless appears to be summoned from a scrap of paper in an old forgotten chest-of-drawers, the last exhausted detail from notes and memory. Centred on the supposed star-crossed love of aristocratic heirs Tommy Weber and Susan 'Puss' Coriat (Puss, as in cat who got the cream) it starts by outlining the complex, but ultimately irrelevant, ancestry of the two ill-fated centre-stagers, in tedious though obviously much-enthralled manner (Weber's grandfather - 'A fabulous character of the first order' gushes Greenfield - mangles one of his 'four extraordinarily expensive' motors with a pesky lamppost only to angrily harumph that there shouldn't have been a lamppost there anyway. How dare they, the impertinent plebs) then narrates the schooling, growing up in rural English pastures with names like Chilton Foliat, and society soirees and engagements of the two til they meet, attempt domesticity (even the note about his sitting on the shitter dictating to his family doesn't come across as the quaint eccentricity surely intended), split up, go off the rails - one eventually favouring suicide following unfortunate doses of acid self-psychiatry, the other - Weber - who the author is clearly in several thousand throes of hero worship to, regarding him as a rulebreaker, risktaker, iconoclast and individual, as though he's an equal to a Keith of the Richards or Floyd genus - descending into unsavoury smack habits (one interesting anecdotal snippet is his on needle-nodding terms friendship with Spacemen 3 in Rugby!!) including taping a rather large amount of coke onto his seven year old son (oh, the Medium actor Jake Weber) to smuggle through customs and largely living in the garbage bags of his fall from grace as a fair number of those 'remarkable' families do, the remarkableness of being born into wealth and indulgence dissipating their spirit as much as that of a council estate crack-slag with seven starving kids and as many pipes to feed or a life-long labourer with a paltry, if any, pension. The text is also irritatingly littered with incidents or people being 'like from' followed by some classic literary reference, presumably to emphasise the author's rapturous theory that this is a story befitting Greek mythology, Romeo And Juliet, Waugh, Fitzgerald or some Victorian tragedy. There's nothing new or interesting about the sections when Weber hung out with The Stones, the account of the 'young policeman' who found Puss being in tearful hysterics at the death of the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen is just pitiful and it is really very difficult to elicit even the scarcest shred of sympathy for these spoilt aristocrats.
As far as tomes with links to The Stones go, this is probably below Spanish Tony Sanchez' I Was Keith Richards' Drug Dealer. 'A Rock'n'Roll Tender Is The Night' stated his sometime employers at Rolling Stone. A slender is the reason to write say the non-enjoyers. Diasppointing, to say the least.
Stu Gibson
Brian Olive - Brian Olive
Alive Naturalsound

As Oliver Henry in The Soledad Brothers, Olive variously squatted at and straddled the Southern rock stomp Stax-sealed with a Stonesy swagger n' sway end of the garage-blues spectrum of the century's turn, or thereabouts. Here in this current manifestation he trades in some of that for some just as loose - loose as Iggy on quaaludes - psych-swaddled country-folk-funk like late seventies Alex Chilton in New Orleans, Syd Barrett leading the Memphis Horns on a merry jaunt under seventies Austin starry skies, even T-Rex and Todd Rundgren taking a freeform Greyhound trip chauffered by Skip Spence from San Francisco to jam with the Greenwich Village folkies as they're serenaded by Sly Stone. And it isn't a simple, lame-ass lama excuse to slide into 'hey, I took some mushrooms, check out my ragas' toe-contemplating of many second division and beyond no-marks. This is nothing short of a seemingly diffident but quietly resounding success. Not least as a step aside to slighter, slower, less stompy surfaces doesn't mean an aimless meander into sun-dappled, dope-addled Beatles, Bob, Grateful dreary Dead and bloody Neil Young terrain like many less-immersed in the still waters of song-smiting who take the style and forget, if they can even acknowledge, the soul as this multi-instrumentalist maverick.
Stu Gibson

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Sons of Hercules - A Different Kind of Ugly


The Sons of Hercules
A Different Kind of Ugly
Saustex

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when nobody’s looking. Texas’ Sons of Hercules have been plugging away for almost two decades with little notoriety beyond its Austin/San Antonio homebase, but the band is as lean and mean as ever, hammering out an ass-kicking punk rock record (that’s punk in both the 60s and 70s senses) every few years that reminds you why you dug ‘em in the first place. A Different Kind of Ugly is, well, not that different – it’s the band’s usual mix of firebreathing Britpunk energy with Flower Power-era garage riffs, topped by frontdude Frank Pugliese’s sneering twang. (Pugliese comes by his punk roots through experience: his old band the Vamps opened for the Sex Pistols in 1978 at the infamous Randy’s Rodeo “All you cowboys are faggots!” gig.) You want to frug and pogo at the same time? You could do worse that drop the needle on Too Much Fun, Startin’ to Slip or the title track. The 12-string laced Your Salvation gives you a brilliant power pop breather, and tunes borrowed from the Saints, the Lazy Cowgirls and the Mystery Dates (another of Pugliese’s long-gone historical combos) fit in like the band wrote ‘em themselves. Sure, the Sons have refused to evolve, but so what? No attention, no pressure, no muss, no fuss – just titanium-solid rawk & roll.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hank Snow - When Tragedy Struck
Righteous

Christ almighty, the title of this little cherub is surely one of the most succinct examples of country music's well-tilled traditional stoicism for tragedy doesn't simply strike but bludgeon every inch of the already beaten to a blubbering n' bloody pulp with an emotional mini-gun, but that's just ploughing the field for battles anew. It is however, possessed of much macabre enchantment, as such things usually are, dark drama's cradled with sorrow that never descend into the mawkishness that maketh mirth outta cow'n'tree wonky tonkin' music, with the rawhide rough-hewn humility and pathos as though grimaced out by Josey Wales to a soft-step backing of honky-tonk hymnals. A Drunkard's Child is classic tear-rimmed balladry as is the father / son tale of Don't Make Me Go To Bed And I'll Be Good, The Convict And The Rose like an older sister of Merle Haggard's Sing Me Back Home. This album also has, hell it had to have it on, surely, Old Shep on it that Elvis had brought to torrential national tear-fest a few years earlier, and later on another farewell to four paws on Little Buddy. As a forbear of Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt this cheerful chapter shouldn't be discarded in a little plot on it's lonesome, being a worthy historical document from a time when babies grew up to be cowboys not crybabys. It even ends with a surprising twist, at the wake perhaps, on the sprightly jig of I'm Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail.
Stu Gibson
MOB - The Greatest Enemy
MOB

Oooh eck, a seventh slop of sub-'87 Saxon out-takes lathered in classic euro melodicism anyone? Disappointingly shoddy fare from the mightily molten rock lava-lands of Sweden, beyond trite lyrics and telegraphed guitar to boot plus unlimited edition extra portions of being almost totally devoid of personality. As Fredrik Notling himself notes, with rare gusto, perhaps appropriately, on Life - 'Have you ever considered something / You might be throwing your life away / Do you really seize the moments / Are they wasted or gone astray'. Unsatisfied us both then matey, you've trawled through seven albums and about a decade and a half and I've just squandered about twenty minutes having a break from reading and waiting for my beans n' rice to coagulate and one of us might get paid for it. Bon chance!
Stu Gibson
Last Stop China Town - Into The Volcano
Fool's Paradise

And so it came to pass that not all metal of the new breed verily broadswording it's merry way out of Britain's bulging bile ducts numbered beast-slayers and lightning-riders in the traditions of the revered old guard. Maybe tis to be expected for the wayside is full of errant wanderers who easily strayed from the narrow paths of righteous volcanic riff venom. As one all for the re-emergence of good old anthemic boy's own metal rising against the nu-metal then emo hordes this is, disappointingly, far too unimaginative for all it's guts n' grit. While there are some pounding passages from Mechanical Sunrise's impressive starting-block disintegration onwards, this never raises the temperature and is a workman-like slug up a hillside, but more the Halesowen cribbage society's monthly hike to the chippy than a Hamburger Hill. If it was simply battle-ready bravado we were measuring this gets bogged down in marshy terrain leaving itself stranded as sitting targets for sniping practice. This bunch of Midland's marauders never venture beyond the mid-eighties mid-league of Maiden and early Metallica cannon-fodder. It could be a pastiche if it weren't so clear they're really striving though valiant efforts count for nothing when you've an army beleagured by trench-foot and lack of ammunition, even at times the wrong calibre for the weapons they do possess in working order. A perfect example of the ages old aphorism about sweat and inspiration and a salutary lesson showing how difficult effective thrash is to, like, totally execute. There's been a comment or two about their name in contrast to the defiantly trademark thrash symbolism of the rest of their branding, but as a moniker that could be listed in the Racing Post at the 4.15 at an all dayer in Halifax then this bunch are clear also-rans. Alas, not even close enough to catch a glimpse of the pearl-handled pistols never mind catch a whiff of the cigar.
Stu Gibson

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lydia Lunch - Big Sexy Noise
Sartorial

In which Ms Lunch again rallies some grinder men of her own by tempting a coterie of Gallon Drunketeers from their various rackets, soliciting the baddest, seediest secretions to coagulate then hawking up these twelve outstanding steps to a maliciously entrancing enmity fetish. Summoning the aura of a fetid, inner city dystopia like a leisure park of depravity from Ballard or Burroughs this dark, seething, sordid soiree delves into lairs of urban blues dredged from steaming sewers of monolithic Stooges thunder-drones, freeform granite-crunching funk-clank and gargantuan slabs of swaggering mantras in swirling maelstroms stampeded and strafed by scattershot shards of saxoskronk and sheets of Hammond - opener Gospel Singer is surely the closest a quartet can ever come to resembling a blitzkrieg, with piercing Stuka sax and pulverising Panzer rhythms. Amid the tempest, El Lydia berates, taunts, lectures, teases and tempts, spitting out vitriolic ripostes and sarcastic adieus alongside sinister subterranean narratives of grimy southern gothic, warped religion and skewed psychiatry of Slydell, Diggin The Hole and that opening onslaught. Those serrated kiss-offs come in the slinky though ferociously scorned forms of Another Man Comin (while the bed is still warm) and Your Love Don't Pay My Rent that both recall Marianne Faithfull's Why D'ya Do It? and with the egregiously glorious stomach-mushing sludge of Doughboy, get the immediate repeat prescription form. Occasional sections get stuck in the quagmire like near detour into indie-dance straits on Dark Eyes and Charles Manson-themed God Is A Bullet and if the short n' sultry horny moll lament Bad For Bobby (a slight taste, or light lunch perhaps, of Morphine) or the menacingly churning grind of ecstatic hip-swivel turning into grimacing limb-trimming of Baby Faced Killer seem to slide past with no cause for concern, care not. This is a noisy and sexy, yes, but also succinct and sardonically successful colliding grind of the GD brigade's musical armoury as chartered by LL's scabrous personality all channelled through what is now her rasp of acerbic, cantankerous disdain making her some sort of scary grotmother of Royal Trux / RTX's Jennifer Heartmurmer. (And talking of Royal Trux, incidentally the scab-pick over Skynyrd's That Smell - re-christened Smell Of Death here), joins das Trux Deluxe duo's salt-wound of Theme From M*A*S*H and Money For Nothing in the uncrowded closet of classic cover versions.) Cataclysmic, apolcalyptic, coruscating, corrupting and, hopefully, quite possibly, not, considering the steaming cauldrons of still scarcely contained malice here, climactic.
Stu Gibson

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Mojo Gurus - Let's Get Lit With...
Linus

Well, fuckaluckadingdong and hick the hell up to haywire on high people for here we be having us a right old time with this gut-bucket, bar-braising, blow-snorkelling glam-bang trough of toe-tapping, thigh-slapping, thirst-slaking hip-shakin' shack-disintegratin'. Wooah yeah n' a why aye. Forget any falsely-lauded retro rectal redolences that the music business bluster passes onto those forlornly cringing beings that convention says must be called citizens, that should be rictussed not rectified for this is the stuff that should always be resurrected, nay whiffs of Zeppelin or late sixties soggy spliff ploddy, stodgy guff-rock with all the gumption of a Great White in captivity, or maybe just the eponymous band captivated by a rack-mounted plectrum holder, here. Nawp, here's the whiskey-sodden shoes shuffling round the dancefloors of booze-bruised bedevilment with the well-revered ghosts of Skynyrd jousting with Hank Jr, slipping Berry of the Chuck variety on the decks n' of the Cran variety in drinks, right on up to puttin' on a ritzy smile on ol' Dan Baird's face considerably larger than Rod n' the two Ronnies ever did, with the tooth-licking, enamel-eliminating glint n' glimmer of Spike sniggering at some urchin's jest from Darrel Bath. Sway while slayed, ya'll stay all night stay a little longer. P'raps aside from You Didn't Have To Do Me (Like That) sounding too close for comfort to Achy Breaky Heart (tho then again more like The Faces vs Quireboys Havin' Me A Real Good Time / Misled - yee haww line dance to this, fuckers) this could make a Quireboy out of any cat, a Crybaby outta any car-jack. They go further into country on Better Of The Bottle and Nuthin' But A Thang than Jagger's commercial considerations would ever allow Keith to venture, almost as equal as his business acumen may be undercover of it all, and thusly they encroach more onto the orchard where The Crybaby's conjure up some compass-point crashing cider under the protectorate of Country Bob & The Blood Farmers with hungover echoes of what Springsteen coulda washed up as had he been stranded on Southern shores in '79 or so and served in The Scorchers' swamp-squadron. And lest it be insinuated these guys are a descent into some skittish pastiche then let it be known they ascend from Florida just like Van Zant and the Skynyrd boys, though my journalistic nostrils haven't discerned yet if that's as perfectly as to have gone to Robert E Lee high school but what the fuck, put some Jack in yer cold tea and celebrate for, as this could saunter sorta somewhere abouts the shoulder height through Salvation and seven seas of sin with The Georgee Satellites, it's thuus just about what a stupendously shit Saturrrghday in the slumberburbs is for. Goin' to hell on a haybale, if you should need to ask.
Stu Gibson
Arty Hill & The Long Gone Daddys - Back On The Rail
Cow Island

'...whatever's on sale,
Don't matter who made it, just add ginger ale' - Back On The Rail

Another superlative set of shot-sinking, slot-playing, sequin-scorning honky-tonkin' perilous paeans to love's labours lost and lusts favours gained from this exquisitely adorned label, kinda like the country compadre to the squadrons scrambling 'cross the oceans the other way for the Swiss Voodoo Rhythm label. Anyhop, on this reissue of 2005's debut (follow up Bar Of Gold was out last year, the Hank Sr tribute Montgomery On My Mind is out now n' awaiting review) Hill and his two-man assembley line plough out the sparsely-attended, softly-hewn but hard-bitten songs of heavy heft and sharp reckoning of the stripe usually associated with the Texan poets of parlous states like Guy Clark or Rodney Crowell and beyond into the deep canyons of classic country-honkin' tonic. A large feat it is, but Hill's lyrics and compositions are at a similar level as those rightly lauded eloquenteers, though not on such an epic scale. Fine lines of allusion and humour at once wink knowingly at tradition then twist its brim down over it's eyes - such as the Close Up The Honky Tonks theme of Drifting In, the deftly delineated convention-clanging relationship rancours on Me & My Glass Jaw (try 'Her right hand takes my wallet, and her left hand makes me fall' or 'She only reaches out for me after I get paid' for size) or 'She said I'm a free damn woman, and you ain't the king / Better learn to fry chicken while I hock this ring' on It Ain't Working.
As such, this trio can both shake your hips (independently of each other, suitably, as on the sunny swing through life's hard shoulder on a stage salute Living On The Road Again, the playfully suggestive appraisal of a lady and her larder on Jackson Shake, the lurching, leering Big Daddy's Rye and on upto the Sunbilly speed-fuelled truck-drivin', tyre screechin' I Ate Through The Jail), raise a few raucous chuckles and then cause your heart to drip (the gentle, folkier, subtly devastating narrative Tammerlane, When The Sparks Come Falling Down and I Left Highlandtown, which coulda been tailor-made for a Nanci Griffiths duet with Townes Van Zandt, and stay just the right side of the anti-saccharine border patrols). Meanwhile, back in dire straits, whole towns of hats should also be tossed into and shot out of the sky in honour of Dave Chappell's steak-scorching Telecaster-testifying. Whether summoning slivers of starkly moonlit succour on the bereft barhound dogged to hell title-track, abetting the hero in the slammer with some (jail)breaks to whisk 'em past prison gates or rattling out ripostes to errant, feral females it's tasteful and discreet yet succinctly conspicuous, not needing to overstep the mark to underscore a point already made perfectly well. Similarly Hill's voice dusts itself down from the higher class labels of the liquor cabinet, a smooth and softly effective matter of fact measure with a warm, rare, genial tone. With whispers of George Jones, Merle Haggard and a less sombre Townes he never strains or opts for ostentatious techniques too many use to denote emotion but really indicate a case of going through the motions - something this is definitely the polar opposite of. And furthermore, if it helps push this rekkid into the real world, then note that Jason 'Scorcher' Ringenberg is a fan and endorsee of this artfully bountiful branch of hillbilly brio and balladry. A classic from the far side of the basement bar drenched in wry, though not ironic, depictions of life's li'l ol' slinky intricacies, irritations and tribulations.
I don't know if Mr Hill is a quiet kinda guy. It wouldn't be a surprise if he is, and one who speaks sparingly at that, and, moreover, one who people should listen to.
Stu Gibson

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rock City Angels

Use Once and Destroy
Buy it on CD Baby

I'll tell ya why the Durango Kid should have been a big star. He's the kind of born entertainer who can just effortlessly CONNECT to all kinds of people. Like his fellow native Floridian, Tom Petty, who could sell new wave, power-pop, politically-astute sixties protest music, or tear-jerk break-up songs to rednecks, soldiers, and secretaries, Durango speaks the language of the common people. He could sell a downtrodden, drop-out, crusty-punk rock song to a misguided Joe-The-Plumber, tea-party, "Tool-Time" type, who somehow really believes he'll sponge up some rich person's power, vicariously, by just randomly, blindly, sucking-up to authority. He could sell a truck-stop hillbilly ballad to a black clad anarchist, who's furious with Wall Street and the whole ongoing Evil Dick police state. He's just got that Elvis appeal. The hawks love him, the doves love him, he's a boss entertainer, he can dance a little, kind of like a cross between Mellencamp and Tyler. He understands the authentic rock'n'roll subculture. He can identify with the evicted, the addicted, the down-sized, and ripped-off. He never sold his soul. He's a good songwriter, and in spite of a long and storied past, you can tell he really loves rock'n'roll, he ain't just tryin' to make-a-buck, and get over, on anybody. He still cares about other people. He works hard to stimulate, entertain, educate, and console his fan base. He puts his heart into the music, the live shows, even in to the D.I.Y. band promotion. He has sincerity, as Iggy Pop once sang.

Not to mention his secret weapon. JIMMY JAMES is an absolute dynamo punk raunch guitar genius. Reuniting with Jimmy James might be the wisest move Bobby Durango ever made. Jimmy brings so much emotion to his playing, he's really like an illustrator. The Hangmen, Coma-Tones, and Rock City Angels are three of the Greatest Sleazy, Streetwise Punk'n'roll Bands Ever, in large part, to his amazing ability, to musically, bring Bryan Small, Giovanni Vitanza, or Bobby Durango's hard-scrub stories to life, without ever over-playing, or resorting to empty, show-boat wankery, like so many guitar players. He really is a servant of the song. What a gift. He's among the best there is. He's like Spencer P. Jones, and Kim Salmon. He doesn't merely get it, he IS IT.

You can tell Bobby's in to Noir, grubby fiction, true crime, and the shattered romance of the no longer so beautiful, and the dispossessed. He finds the nobility, the dignity, of the drinking classes. He's a glammy punk rocker, but with an empathetic, observant, hard-country soul. Jason And The Scorchers? Meet The Joneses. Bukowski, Black Flag, William S. Burroughs, James Ellroy, the Rolling Stones...he pours it all in to his catchy, lyrical songs that have substance, craft, and commercial accessibility. As nasty as Fat Nancy, or Circus Of Power, as elegant and bluesy as the Quireboys, or Black Crowes. "Use Once And Destroy" has something for everybody. Hear it, at once, if you still love rock'n'roll. You'll be testifying, just like me. We DESERVE rock'n'roll to be this good. I'm hoping to bring you folks an in-depth interview, as soon as the Durango Kid can find the time. It might take him awhile. I sent him LOTS of questions.

-Pepsi Sheen

Monday, October 19, 2009

Los Hories - Don't Bother Us


Los Hories
Don’t Bother Us
Off the Hip

We forget sometimes, but garages exist in other countries besides the U.S., Spain and that area of England around Toe Rag Studios. For example: Auckland, New Zealand obviously has some nice carport domiciles, as evidenced by the presence of trio Los Hories. The five songs on Don’t Bother Us all sound like they were recorded in a concrete square surrounded by tool shelves and junk boxes. Tunes like Guilty and the title track are essentially pop songs, with the usual horny angst sublimated beneath hooks and listener-friendly melodies. That’s all for the better – the frustration inherent in the concept of young men whacking their instruments off becomes subversive rather than obvious, and shows off these dudes’ talent better than an exciting but unfocused blare. Los Hories have real songwriting chops, sounding more like 70s power poppers on a budget than 60s revivalists, and that’s going to take ‘em farther than any carbon-copy Nuggets-worship ever could.

- Michael Toland

ARCTIC

ARCTIC
Unbeliever EP
ARCTIC frontman Marcus Martin spent his childhood in Canada's Northwest Territories. (In case you don't have an atlas handy, that is far fucking north, friends. A land of ice and snow, the way you southerners picture Canada if you have never crossed the border into Windsor to hit the casino.) And I gotta come clean up front: there is nothing particularly sleazy about this Vancouver band. The four songs on this EP are lush and layered and, yeah, kind of ambient and icy, like The Bends-era Radiohead. They won't leap across the bar with a broken beer bottle and stab you in the throat; rather, they will slip under your skin with the ease of a skilled anaesthetist and leave you swaying rhythmically back and forth, thinking about how cool your hand looks when you move it in front of your face. (They are also really great live, so if they are playing in your area and you are more in the mood for a sociable high than a bar brawl, you should check 'em out.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Darlings of Chelsea

Darlings of Chelsea
The Mimico Sessions
http://www.myspace.com/darlingsofchelsea

Like all the best rock ‘n’ roll interviews, my interview with the newly-crowned winner of Toronto’s Indie Week 2009, Darlings of Chelsea, took place when all involved parties were completely shitfaced. The band had just finished a slick ‘n’ sleazy Friday-night set at Call The Office in my hometown of London, Ontario, and, inspired by the muse, Rum, and her sister, Coke, and undeterred by the pesky migraine that had been plaguing me all week, I decided that I would ask the Darlings to pop my Sleazegrinder interview cherry. Being the gentlemen that they are, they were happy to oblige. The following is a more or less accurate account of our conversation (heavy on the less, since I have the memory of a sieve and only a two-inch piece of register tape to refer to, upon which I scribbled my drunken notes):

Holly: So, Jay, I understand that you are a doctor of sorts. What are your qualifications, and what do you recommend to get rid of a week-long headache?

Jay Millette (guitar, ex-The Black Halos): You can call me Jay Millette, Bar Doctor M.D. My qualifications? Well, I rule the best, I’m single, and I like both kinds of musics, guns and roses. I recommend another rum and coke to help you with that headache. And if that doesn’t work, a shot of jagermeister followed by another couple rum and cokes.

H [after taking the prescribed medication]: I’m sure that remedy will kick in shortly, thanks. Hey, congrats on the Indie Week win. Are you excited about the trip to Ireland?

Sean Robertson (vocals), interrupting in his sexy British accent, and to noone in particular: You smell like gay. [General laughter, followed by a short pause as we consider the implications of this comment. We come to the mutual conclusion that to smell like gay is pretty good.] You know what’s great about Ireland? The Guinness. Fucking great. Guinness is shit here.

H: I’m not a beer drinker, myself, so I’ll trust your cosmopolitan sensibilities on that issue.

SR: Cheers, man! [We all drink.]

Paul Thompson (guitar, ex-Parkas): [Paul and I actually had a pretty decent conversation about fuck only remembers what before I decided on doing the interview. During the actual interview, this charming ginger-haired fellow played the strong silent type, much to his credit, given the quality of my interviewing skills.]

Chris Nova (drums, ex-Kill Cheerleader), running his hands through my hair: I like your bangs. Your hair is soft. Is this a wig?

H: Um, no, it’s real, just dyed. But thanks. So, Rob, do you have anything you’d like to add about, um, anything?

Robby Ruckus (bass, ex-Robin Black): No. But do you wanna come back with us and play Wii?

H: Ah fuck, dude, it’s 2:30 in the morning, my head is killing me, I’m beginning to seriously question Jay’s credentials as a physician, and I hate technology, but thanks for the invitation. Next time, I promise. [almost falling off her barstool] Thanks for the interview, guys! Bye, band! Bye! [clutching her precious scrap of paper and stumbling drunkenly out into the night]

And that was that. I thought it went pretty well. Unsurprisingly, when I woke up the next afternoon, my head still hurt…

Darlings of Chelsea’s six-song EP of catchy balls-out sleaze rock ‘n’ roll, The Mimico Sessions, is available from iTunes, Amazon, and eMusic.com, and you can catch them live in and around Toronto until next spring, when they will be drinking excessive amounts of Guinness, charming the Wii-playing panties off the local girls, and rocking the shit out of Ireland.
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