Monday, March 30, 2009

Henry's Funeral Shoe - Everything's For Sale

Henry’s Funeral Shoe
Everything’s For Sale

Is Henry’s Funeral Shoe the Welsh answer to the White Stripes? Or to the Black Keys? How about both at once? The duo certainly plows the same guitar/drum blues duo earth as those acts, but is less pop-oriented than the former and less obsessed with Led Zeppelin than the latter. Aled Clifford is a manly but versatile vocalist whose hero seems to be Steve Marriott, rather than Robert Plant, and he’s a fine slide/boogie guitarist. His brother Brenning keeps the cans a-rockin’ and a-groovin’. With a pronounced bent towards the John Lee Hooker side of the blues fence, the Shoes have an entirely different feel than their more famous brethren, lighter of foot and heavier of tone, as heard in Second Hand Prayer and It’s a Long Way. Mary’s Tune ends the record on a folky and rather sweet note, just to show that the guys can pitch woo as well as make whoopy.

- Michael Toland
The Drones
People are a waste of food
Don't bother learning Chinese
Thou shalt find oneself perturbed
By less verbose calamities
Just get some Heinz baked beans,
A 12 gauge, bandolier and tinned dog food
We'll eat your dog, bury our dead
Or eat them instead
That's entirely up to you
’ – Oh My

Where some dread music is castigated as being for those who don’t like music and may snap up an album or, whisper it, two while in the gasping rush of the Sunday shop, The Drones could almost be savagely plaudited for making Neil Young and Crazy Horses’s campfire one all the more worth cantering round inquisitively rather than marauding through. Glib, maybe but it may well be so. It’s an oft featured remark (the likeness, not the verbiage, that’s all me, baby) but their arid, desolate sense of beauty (as with the preceding Gala Mill, this was written and recorded in solitary) as they proffer you pewter tankards to drain these dolorous dirges, wondrous, lumbering funk and jallopian blues set to enticing narratives certainly does, as the cover indicates, incur images of reclining amidst the stars with nary a log cabin for company and some long, drawn out nights for comfort, and vice versa. The viscously liquid guitars, scowling, straining at their lead before spiralling out into dizzying descents and squalling arpeggios of white heat leaving cordite traces and mirroring Gareth Liddiard’s lacerated lungs like they’re scorched with the burning oilfields of the ravaged earths they walk make them more than just the most intriguing lyricist of many a year (probably since Spencer Moody of the Murder City Devils, cos of course you wanna know). Pirouetting incandescently around Liddiards’ simmering, apoplectic, smoked creosote and crystal-dissolving snarl they match, express accentuate and elucidate the confusion and non-plussed ire along with the more usual senses of foreboding and dislocation, with catastrophic perfection on the grimy glam scuffed-suede of Oh My. That they’ve retained the supernova turkey shoot sounds with a new guitarist in tow (Dan Liscombe, come on down) is relegated to a footnote under the wonderfully oppressive weight of the whole, where with most bands it’d be one of the few things to mention – and even then it’s only mentioned to strive for some semblance of normalcy in these suburban charades.
Deep, if not trenchant, elegant, eloquent, extravagant, esoteric, earthy, engaging and disquietingly exciting, again maybe it’s a glib and easy hitch but they along with Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, Big Star’s Third and pirate Idahoans Hillfolk Noir are one of few acts to fully harness the realms of fervently euphoric melancholia. Another statuesque piece of art. A rare occurrence and one to behold. Stop reading and go listen and embrace it with open qualms. Run, be it's congregation, for here be litanies for your desparation.
Stu Gibson
Thin Lizzy
Still Dangerous
Thin Lizzy Productions

More Lizzy live you cry? Yes, indeed, cry little sister. As if to answer the thirty years of sniping, however right it remains, over Live and Dangerous’ stifling studio add-ons (or total re-recording depending what you read and whose ears you believe) this ’77 set is live as it aired, right in the moment and re-mixed outta necessity, having fallen out of a lock-up somewhere on the lonesome plains of Lizzy memorabilia. Proffering slugs from the already classic Jailbreak and just released Bad Reputation albums it shows as if it were needed that such post-production snipping n’ pasting is inexcusable, especially for a band of their calibre. Anyways, amongst the always glorious Cowboy Song and at least one third of the basis of Iron Maiden’s entire career that is Massacre (one other being a much missed Emerald – the other??) alongside (of course) Boys Are Back In Town and the exquisite saunters of Dancing In The Moonlight and Don’t Believe A Word maybe it’d be churlish to bemoan the lack of That Woman’s Gonna Break Your Heart or even Dear Lord that’d sit nicely with Opium Train and Soldier Of Fortune as the new cuts on the racks. Well, I'm nuthin if not a cantankerous old cuckooing cove. It’s debateable, and easily deniable to these well-defined ears, that it really is the ‘real’ Live and Dangerous, as is being widely proclaimed, for, you see, that won’t happen till they go back and deconstruct those original tapes, or unearth a whole set rather than this rather paltry ten-tracker. Somewhere between the twain lies the real uncut merchandise. As it is almost any Lizzy is a pleasure, and besides those gripes this is an exhilarating addition. Not many bands of whatever stature can keep retrieving things from the lost and found and them being ever better. This being the first release on the newly established Thin Lizzy Productions perhaps that won’t be such a lamented proposition by the time the year’s out. Still Dangerous? Did he and his legacies ever lie?
Stu Gibson

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shadow's Mignon
Midnight Sky Masquerade

Whether pastiche or paltry tribute this reconstruction of metal’s early-mid eighties glory years pillages, ransacks but largely elevates rather than desecrates the spangtastically tongue in cheek ridiculousness of the whole charade shebang and sheltering from storms in skyclad nooks and crannies. Exceeding the current glut of self-conscious stances at reimagining the past like an unfunny Flight of the Conchords sketch this is full of the fist ‘pon table proclamations and harbinging guitars as heralds clank armour, drink heavily and spew anthems such as A Dragon Shall Come, A Slave To Metal (about being, erm, brothers of the fist…), Kingdom Of The Battle Gods and Spirit Of The Elves. Much of it will make you laugh aloud, and even wince at the purposefully painful Marillion-style balladry of Goodnight Boston - check the song titles and write your own references on your (chain-mail and studded with patches and tippex-ed band names) anorak but you’ll find all manner of biker chug that Quiet Riot, Motley Crue, W.A.S.P. etc sawed off Rose Tattoo’s tough stems, the twin guitar pincers of Maiden and Lizzy are effectively appropriated into the general genial madness that launched Jake E. Lee-era Ozzy into Bark At The Moon. So, intro’s with tom-toms like Satan’s coxswain has taken the hotseat while the guitars gallivant over the deck, pushing the existing crew into seven seas of rye and increasingly risky visits to outfitting businesses? – check! Drop-outs with cowbells for ‘audience participation’? – cheeeeck! I bet they have a really vast roadie too! Check shirts? NevEERRRRR! More than an arch, knowing, parodic, patronising take on the genre, the surge of pure enjoyment filters from it, however much it’s intellectualised and is largely a gargantuan piss-take of Dio and Manowar. As mainman Henny Paul readily admits, die-hard metallers aren’t going to like the fact that it generally is a pile of bullshit (perhaps especially not by some jumped up prog-tech prissy smart-arse) yet it’s fun, as is this stupidly-titled project is – though nowhere near as good as last year’s Dead Child album - besides the cringing ballads so if you scowl at it then may a pestilence of pederastic priests beat a path to your door and pour out of, or into, your every crevice and blow your…house down. Raise your fist and yell (at least) indeed. Stu Gibson
Skeletons Domination

Surpassing the boundaries of progressive / power / pylon-wilting metal with a mast-high cast-iron harness of the possibilities of positive thinking, this Brazilian quintet broadsword their way brazenly about your consciousness on this second album. Tis a soul-stirring voyage of spirituality and epicurean feast for the cerebral on great banqueting tables constructed from frantic riff rampages and strafes of sheet lightning vocals like a giant rodent swinging Bruce Dickinson around like the Union Jack on The Trooper, some of the most joyfully ludicrous guitar squalls - yes, like fire-breathing dragons providing air support for the squadrons of melodies ascending and swooping on soaring eagle flight paths - but also impish inquisitiveness (check the guitar solo on Surrender and tell me it doesn’t appriase you like the little raptor that kills the chunky computer nerd when he falls out of his car in Jurassic Park) that manages to be a whole armada of fun and upliftingment, firing broadside salvoes of hopeful armbands amidst it’s possible ponderous, chin-stroking topics. Swat away the lily-larynxed harbingers who carp at such escapades being colossal tapestries of misdirected testosterone, sub-Maiden nerdery or Ritchie Blackmore’s ham-fisted puppets, behind the dextrous duelling arcane scales that would bring deliverance to it’s flippers, back to front knees and assorted placing of ears is a real and genuine warmth clearly omnipresent on Spiritual Path, Leave Me Alone, Phoenix Tales and Cancer, which has a spiralling riff of such laser-intense density it surely should eradicate the disease, in both it’s actual form as well as it’s metaphorical mental malaise - but then you have to make the next album at least a double to spike the thorny issue of how then do you deplete the over-populating of the parlous planet? Skeletal Dominations is a glorious march, a purely beneficent dictatorship (on the rolletariat? Oh, come, now!) much deserving of a sprawling Alexandrian empire that never gets preachy or spreads a reek of patchouli through your speakers - even the insanely abysmal power bollock Bad Dreams is rescued, almost inevitably, by the adorably lovely vocals of Raquel Fortes - that visibly tightens yer trousers and may even stick patches on your back, whilst the closing brace of instrumental Regret and Forever And Ever shrink them to lederhosen with some additional spurges of Bavarian accordion spring dancing, as though they’re welcoming Keith Floyd in on his bicycle jaunt from some Etruscan hillside cooking expo. Spread the word, spread your wings, smell the corfee and fertilise your brain stems and combine to move mountains, even ones of your own creation.
Stu Gibson

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hackman - Enterprises

Small Stone

Led by guitarist Darryl Sheppard, late of Boston’s Milligram and currently a utility guitarist in Roadsaw, Hackman pays homage to the almighty Riff. (Hence the band’s MySpace handle being “hackmanriffs.”) With few vocals to get in the way, Sheppard and his rhythm section just let fly with crunchy, fudgy guitar licks – even solos are few and far between. On the one hand, it’s refreshing to hear this kind of hard rock boiled down to its essence – it’s the riffs we tune in to this stuff to hear, after all, and Sheppard plays ‘em like he was born to do it. On the other hand, several of these songs sound more like sketches, meant to be fleshed out later on, and in that sense I don’t know if stoner rock really needs its own Guided By Voices. But this album has given the world Bludge, as fine an example of what makes stoner rock endure as anything, and it’s sure to be a favorite of woodshedders everywhere. (Yes, kids, there was interactivity before CD-ROMs).

- Michael Toland

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade

Wolves in the Throne Room
Black Cascade
Southern Lord

Black metal will always be associated with the frozen climes of Norway and other Scandinavian locales, thanks not only to the presence of so many seminal bands, but also the assorted church burnings, murders, empty corpse paint tubes, etc. scattered about the region. But there are plenty of quality U.S. black metal (or USBM – I bet the second graders have a field day with that one) bands, of which Wolves in the Throne Room is one of the best. The Wolves hail from the Pacific Northwest, home to its own desolate-but-beautiful vistas and gloomy, somehow comforting weather patterns, and Black Cascade sounds it. The fog-encrusted panorama of Ex Cathedra sits next to the deathly space travel of Ahrimanic Trance; the violence of Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog bookends with the blackened drift of Crystal Ammunition. Melancholy atmosphere entwines with harsh blast beats; melody fellates brutality. Classic black metal, in other words.

- Michael Toland

Sons of Otis - Exiled

Sons of Otis
Small Stone

When sitting around pondering the vagaries of heavy metal history, I often wonder what Black Sabbath would’ve sounded like had Ozzy been dropping acid instead of imbibing furniture varnish. Sons of Otis makes that fantasy come true on Exiled, the Canadian power trio’s sixth album. Tunes like Lost Soul, Haters and Tales of Otis sound like Hawkwind records slowed down to 16 rpm, or the first Sabbath album if it was recorded in the Crab Nebulae instead of some Midlands castle full of surly ghosts. Spacey guitars pound, wandering bass pounds and the drums, hell, you already know. The vocals are a weak point, but there’s so few of them it hardly matters. What does count is the stoned cosmic groove, cleaning out your ear canals like lava flowing from a crack in a downed meteor. Tripped-out doom glaze for armchair cosmonauts.

- Michael Toland

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Reno Brothers
90 Miles To Reno
Tis a tale of two-tonne truckin’ in a nifty forty-five minute frolic from the Netherlands for more than the highway kind n' a rockin’ twang-tangled hunk o’ hot-blooded honky-tonkin’ that mixes covers and originals from the pen of leader Rogier Hermans and is one garrulous and good-natured affair as it leaps, bounds, bops and barrelhouses along blacktops, somersaults truck-stop café’s, rattle trains, shake snakes and bakes fields, unfurling desert vistas and grins just as wide across your unsuspecting state lines. With Hermans’ slightly parodic though plenty pleasing and unstintingly smile-savouring baritone hard wired into this finely tuned engine and ensemble this sweeps your hair back and puts a rhinestone twinkle slap bang in your eye, with any tongue-in-cheek tomfoolery tempered by string-tingling torrential enough to braise a whole herd of Texas beef. It’s slick and polished, sure, but classic chrome, not saccharin sap, laden with almost ludicrous lashings of the saucy rollicking spirit of James Burton and band, be they goofin’ with the King on the rehearsal footage of That’s The Way It Is, stacking up the soul on the late sixties Memphis sessions, spinning wheels with Gram Parsons on casino boogies such as Ooh Las Vegas or downtrodden but devil-may-care with Emmylou on Feelin’ Single, Seeing Double along with the feeling of Merle Haggard really let loose with a young Rodney Crowell or Dwight Yoakham in all too willing tow. If titles like Rollin’ Roadhouse, Hotrod Saturday Night, 90 Miles, Rollin’ Ramblin’ Man along with Dale Watson’s Truckin’ Man and an entirely apt and effervescently superlative, however much-covered, take on East Bound & Down strike chords, pluck strings and paint pictures, uncover the petrol cap, however metaphorically, and cop some miles with this veritable slew of supertruckin’ dashboard delights and a whole loada fun shall ensue. Splendorous.
Stu Gibson

Female-fronted melodic/melancholic gloom metal from Finland ring any bells for you? Lo, lest ya be thinking like yer errant scribe here of Lacuna Coil and turgid Evanesence and other bands that scarcely skim across your consciousness on the odd occasion you flick through Kerrang! while yer mate pays for their shopping, this is more worthy and displays much more promise than pitiful pouts. The metal element is met by chugging guitars that seem there to keep the boys busy – note the potentially pulveristic riff-pillars on Destiny Of Yours and Amortization that end up squashed and emasculated, deprived of their ability to let loose under faceless chasms of processed sound pillows and so sneak about the edges of industrial wastelands like curious children on their first time out in the big city without parental guidance. The graceful keyboards and string-synths provide a lustrous sweep, thankfully largely adding an alluring poise not a horrendous prat-fall into eighties atrocities of Asia and Magnum, that you could ice-skate to but then, like Torvill and Dean, it becomes somewhat sexless, especially sections such as Experimenters Farewell that conjure Ray Of Light where that Madonna invented EBM, or occasionally even T’Pau’s Carol Decker, no mean feat given her voluminous warble. Overall it ends up becoming a bit formless though without shape-shifting and is bereft of a vital presence. Putting the guitars to the stake would be an interesting experiment, a stripped-down candle-lit session of macabre frolics sorta like Stevie Nicks covering The Sisters Of Murky’s 1959 (not that she sounds like Ms Nicks but it’s a nice vision for one’s peripheral planes though that Jennifer Charles lass from Elysian Fields would be more like it, maybe wreathed in Stevie’s shawl) or a duet with Rob Vitacca from Lacrimas Profundere, as sections that really combine and combust to hint at transformations like segments of Haunted and Half Alive where Jemina Pitkala’s vocals suggest the ethereal nursery rhyme coo of Curve’s Toni Halliday, invoke visions of future banquets erupting into more sumptuous and sinicious feasts. As it is though, its striving for icy grandeur remains more soporific, more sullen than seductive, however pleasingly it stares at times. Stu Gibson

Through Painful Lanes

Conjuring this second album over a three year period proves a fruitful quest indeed for these French power metallers. From the bell-tolling somewhere opening, through acoustic prog-interludes, maypole dancing medieval buffoonery and gallops against time ‘cross cliff edges and thro’ thick-set forests these parables for the mordant modern ages are drenched in the totems of glory metal that’ll make you assume they’re saddling up to conquer its traditional German heartland helmed by the likes of Helloween (whose classic Eagle Fly Free they hoist anew like a maiden’s colours at a joust) and UK veterans DragonForce. Battle-ready with valiant anthems to slay their way into the annals of war-hymns and swathed in chivalric allegories of kingdoms, illusions and dragons like a séance with old Nostradamus they may be but as the title indicates, the crest on these troopers shields is forged from rather more arduous endeavours than some. Gallant guitar scimitars hoist Icarus aloft from his pathetic perch, hurling him sun-ward getting a nice Eddie style tan before sweeping generals and entire armies friend or foe easily aside on scything odes of hope and valour. Tech-freaks will froth and fulminate for evermore over the precise musical intricacies, intelligent design and Ramon Messina’s de-hymenising shriek n’ soaring vocals but the common foot soldier will pledge several allegiances in drunken revelries at the surging splendour and commanding presence. It’s preposterous and absurd as you want but enthralling and passionate and cute and heroic. An epic work of true artisans. Stu Gibson

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nashville Pussy - From Hell to Texas

Nashville Pussy
From Hell to Texas

There’s a new Nashville Pussy album in town, and it’s gone all the way From Hell to Texas and back. OK, that’s a pretty fucking lame intro, but it’s the Pussy – there’s not a heck of a lot new to say, other than that this album (their fifth) was recorded in Willie Nelson’s studio and is the first to be on the same label for two records in a row. I’m not trying to be down on the Pussy here, but let’s face facts. If you’ve heard any of their last three albums, you know exactly what to expect: a sneering combo of Southern rock and Rose Tattoo’s bar fight metal, with song titles like Dead Men Can’t Get Drunk and Give Me a Hit Before I Go. Every Pussy album boasts a couple of classic hard rockers to add to the canon, and this one’s no exception, thanks to Lazy Jesus, Why Why Why and the title tune. But alleged bad-boy anthems like I’m So High (on which singer Blaine Cartwright duets with…someone) and Drunk Driving Man are starting to sound a little shopworn. Time for that double-live album, methinks, whilst the batteries recharge.

- Michael Toland

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Arkanes
3 song EP

Sometimes while I'm browsing myspace, I come across some stuff that I like to refer to as "not shit." As I'm sure you'll agree, not shit stuff is pretty rare these days, when anyone with a computer and an old Fisher Price sing-along cassette recorder can create a band profile and get an iPod commercial.

So there I was, surfing merrily along, when I came across The Arkanes, who sound like the Sex Slaves crashing a party hosted by Juliette and the Licks, with maybe those kids from The Subways hanging out in a corner, hoping someone will pass them a beer to share. Ah, I thought, here's some not shit! and a few weeks later, this arrived in the mail. (Talk about your advanced copy. Nice penmanship, though.) Sharpshooter opens with a super-slick guitar riff, some cowbell, a grunt, and a guy "lying facedown in a bloodbath," so you know it's gonna be good. Just Can't Help Myself has lots of yowling and crashing cymbals and a beat that makes me shimmy, while Schizophonic's sexy bassline makes me shimmy even harder. These shaggy-haired British lads just need a few more years of touring shit-hole bars in broken-down vans, living off unfiltered cigarettes, shots of Jack Daniel's, and pints of beer, in order to realize their true sleaze potential. Now where did I put that tape player? I've got music to make...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears - Tell 'em What Your Name Is!

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears
Tell ‘em What Your Name Is!
Lost Highway

Ever thought that the only things missing from those classic James Brown records are terse blues guitar solos? Austin’s Black Joe Lewis apparently pondered this question intently, and the result is his first major label album Tell ‘em What Your Name Is! (Don’t ask me how a guy whose biggest local hit is called Bitch I Love You – not included here – managed to land on a subsidiary of Universal.) That’s admittedly a facile description, and believe me, it ain’t meant as a dismissal. Essentially the testosterone-laden counterpart to the great Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Lewis is a soul shouter in the classic mode and a fine six-stringer, and his young partners in crime are as tight and funky a backup group as any R&B revivalist could want. Between the high steppin’ dance-offs (Sugarfoot, Boogie), the slow burning mash notes (Please Pt. Two, Big Booty Woman) and the sanity-challenged rants (Master Sold My Baby, the hilarious Get Yo Shit), the band has all the bases covered in glittery vests and tight striped pants. Spoon’s Jim Eno produced with an absolute minimum of fuss – it sounds like he just punched the record button and let the guys get on with it. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears worship Chess Records as much as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

- Michael Toland

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Dukes of Stratosphear - reissues

The Dukes of Stratosphear
25 O’Clock
Psonic Psunspot
Ape House

As is well documented by now, 80s psychedelic revivalists the Dukes of Stratosphear were XTC in disguise. Considering the huge influence the music explored by this side project would have on XTC opuses like Skylarking and Oranges & Lemons it’s pretty freakin’ obvious, but at the time the band denied having anything to do with the Dukes and the main band sounded little like them. Now XTC is proud to claim them, as evidenced by these remastered reissues on leader Andy Partridge’s label.

25 O’Clock borders on fetishism, with an almost ridiculous loyalty to the sounds of 1967. Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd is the overriding influence, particularly on Bike Ride to the Moon and Your Gold Dress, but the title track is an obvious rewrite of I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night. The songwriting acumen of Sir John Johns (AKA Partridge) and the Red Curtain (AKA Colin Moulding) puts this relentlessly entertaining record several steps above the folks riding the train of Nuggets-worship, but 25 O’Clock could be in the dictionary under the word “pastiche.” This edition contains demos for most of the tracks, which well illustrate the evolution undergone by the production. There are also some strong unreleased tunes, including Susan Revolving, a nice Moulding acid folk ditty, The Toy Clockwork Train and Open a Can of Human Beans, which would easily slot into Oranges & Lemons, and the deliriously and deliberately overstuffed Black Jewelled Serpent of Sound.

Psonic Psunspot, which came out between Skylarking and Oranges, worries less about the fine details and more about good songs, which makes it sound more like a contemporaneous XTC album than a 60s-besotted side project. While the band certainly indulges its flower-power fetish here, these tracks come off as more inline with the so-called Paisley Underground, updating 60s melodies and production sounds to (then) modern times. Filtered through the tunesmithing/arranging genius of the main band, the Beatles, Syd Barrett, the Byrds and the Left Banke sound like influences instead of sources. Thus great tracks like Collideascope, Braniac’s Daughter, You’re My Drug, Little Lighthouse and Vanishing Girl pay homage to the 60s without ripping them off. This also helps more deliberate tributes like You’re a Good Man Albert Brown (Curse You Red Barrel), which tips a hat to Paul McCartney’s surrealist side, and Pale and Precious, an obvious nod to Brian Wilson’s Smile-era work, sound fresh instead of microwaved. Psonic Psunspot is as good as any better-known 80s psych classic you’d care to name. This edition includes a scoop of stripped-down demos, including No One at Home, which is Vanishing Girl with different lyrics.

- Michael Toland

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cradle of Filth/Satyricon/Septic Flesh (live review)

"Nothing is more revolting than the majority; for it consists of few vigorous predecessors, of knaves who accommodate themselves, of weak people who assimilate themselves, and the mass that toddles after them without knowing in the least what it wants"

- Jonathon Wolfgang von Goethe

Before arriving in Norfolk, Virginia, I had been shuffled around from airport to airport in order to attend Satryicon and Cradle of Filth's second-to-last show at the tail end of February 2009. Airports are a lonely portal stuffed with those who simply exist; people with temporary destinations and complicated itineraries to follow. Rarely do you see anybody conversing with anybody, but in retrospect, patrons should take this opportunity to meet their neighboring citizens, to learn about where they came from, and to share where they are going. Instead, you experience a brisk, uninviting atmosphere, where people keep their conversations as short and tight as the collared shirts choking their necklines. I must have passed every stiff and emotionless American crammed in Chicago's Midway airport, while they kept their bitter, hardened thoughts reserved behind their wandering eyes. You won't tap into any friendly coffee shop vibe and bullshit jive waiting in any U.S. airport. Only hurried hustlers and cramp corporate rustlers wade here. Airports are a pit stop full of pricey peddlers, food courts and interactive, internet meddlers living their lives on standby. Plus, how could I form much more of an opinion than this? I too, took the notion not to speak, unless spoken too. It's not my most memorial experience, but in order for the real sin to begin, it's temporarily manageable.

The Norva is located in downtown Norfolk,Virginia, pronounced, "Nahfick" to the locals. It's a waterlogged, port city surrounded by rivers and channels of it's neighboring city Portsmouth, while residing on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. It's the sister city of Norway, which made all the more sense for the black Norwegian, industrialized metal entourage, Satyricon, to temporarily stake out their concert. Satyr impaled the audience with his pitch fork microphone, with songs like "Now, Diabolical" and black hymns off their new album, "The Age of Nero". Now, several have argued that Satyricon haven't earned their Black Metal wings yet, but this source usually comes from some trivial fan boy, with nothing better to do than exhaust you with their irrelevant metal philosophy. On the other horns, Satyricon was the one standing on the heightened stage at horned-salutation in front of five hundred lost goth souls who paid $25.00 each to watch Dani Filth chirp like an fiddle out of tune. Suffice to say, Satyricon announced their headlining tour for fall 2009.

Beforehand, we were blessed by opening guests, Septic Flesh from Athens, Greece, who reached into the pit of their guttural vocal cords to bring us ripened, flesh, writhing death-driven lyrics. Hands and horns down, Septic Flesh and Satyricon obliterated Cradle off the stage. At one point and time, I might have admitted to being a COF fan in my life, but those days are as outdated as those baggy Hot Topics pants I pitched in the burn barrel after my eighteenth birthday. Anymore, I wouldn't be caught dead listening to Cradle Of Filth, while their stage production was a bigger let down than the much anticipated return of Siegfried and Roy. I was practically pulse-less as a stomached the first song or two, but eventually made off with my own disappearing act and wound up meeting Frost back at the merch table.

Over-all I couldn't help but possessing that same hollowed feeling that overcame me back at the airport, but this time surrounded by meaningless, lost goth souls with nowhere else to go, but HELL, and just as the entertainers before them have in store.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sailors & Swine - All Hail the Drunken Liar

Sailors & Swine
All Hail the Drunken Liar

Rock geeks talk all the time about the influence of (the admittedly awesome) Radio Birdman on Australian rock culture, but it could be argued that the Birthday Party had an equal impact, if not a bigger one. Sailors & Swine is the latest in a long line of adherents (King Snake Roost, the Wreckery, Feedtime) to the BP’s angry avant blues style. All Hail the Drunken Liar goes heavy on the hallmarks – mutated blues rock riffs, a lethally pounding rhythm section, unhinged ranting. Preacher Billy McCabe’s tales of misery and woe often have a nautical theme running through them, a la Holy Shark, Black Tom and Ships in the Night. But there’s plenty of bile to go around via Pig Machine, Rotten Night and The Birds – even when the band settles down (with acoustic guitars even!) on Miner’s Bride and The Boiling Sea the menacing undercurrent dominates. Sure, this is all pretty derivative of Nick Cave and the boys, but it’s so very, very well done that I ain’t complainin’.

- Michael Toland

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Johnny Cash - Original Sun Singles '55-'58

Johnny Cash
Original Sun Singles ’55-‘58

Folsom Prison Blues, I Walk the Line, Big River, Cry Cry Cry, Ballad of a Teenage Queen, Get Rhythm, Luther Played the Boogie, Give My Love to Rose - admittedly, these songs have been anthologized a gazillion times before. Johnny Cash comps are as common as churches in small Southern towns, after all. But a lot of care has gone into Original Sun Singles ’55-‘58, from the nice audio and brace of lesser-known classics (Guess Things Happen That Way, Katy Too, I Just Thought You’d Like to Know, Next in Line) to the informative liner notes and cool cover. Besides, when you’re taking a spin in the hardtop, are you really gonna rummage through the box sets, or do you want to just grab a single disk of essential early Man in Black and ride on? Plus, this is a handy way to introduce a newbie (I can’t imagine who hasn’t heard Cash by now – some newborn, I guess) to the glory that was and is the 50s Cash. The stripped-to-the-bone arrangements (notwithstanding some gang vocals later on), the great songs (almost all of them originals, but some excellent Charlie Rich tunes as well), the deep baritone in its prime, before speed took its toll – this is the primo shit, not only in Cash’s career but in American music in general. If you want to mainline the Cash legacy prior to his long (and often brilliant) stint at Columbia and American, this is the way to do it.

- Michael Toland

Jerry Lee Lewis - Original Sun Singles '56-'60

Jerry Lee Lewis
Original Sun Singles ’56-'60

Along with Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis was one of the original wild men of rock & roll. Not the safe, easily packaged/sanitized version presented by Elvis Presley, whose allegedly potent sexuality comes across more as naughty than actually lewd, but a guy you really wouldn’t want to leave alone with your daughter. I do my little boogie-woogie every day, he leers in Lewis Boogie – whatever it means, it sounds unsavory. And that’s the Jerry Lee captured on Original Sun Singles ’56-'60, which is just what it’s billed. Mixing his great rockabilly masterpieces (Great Balls of Fire, Breathless, Big Blon’ Baby, the immortal Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On) with glimpses of his future as a country star (You Win Again, Crazy Arms, I Could Never Be Ashamed of You), this disk collects the work that permanently enshrined Lewis and his pumping piano in the rock & roll firmament. Creeping Nashville production on Baby, Baby, Bye Bye and an oddly anemic take on Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie start to sap his strength near the end, but he rallies for an almost deranged run through Chuck WillisHang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes. Even though he loudly proclaims he don’t wanna hang up them shoes, he did not long after (thanks to his bad habit of marrying 13-year-old cousins and Middle America’s rejection of same) and settled into a long career as a C&W iconoclast. That a whole 'nother story, and it's a pretty good one, but the tale told here is the one that ultimately counts.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Metal Machine Music:

Nine Inch Nails and the Industrial Uprising
Produced and edited by Alec Lindsell

First of all, the title is too long. I'm already exhausted just typing it. It does explain what you're in for, though: two and half hours' worth of stock footage and nerdy dudes from Revolver and wherever (plus one proud Scotsman from my very own magazine!), yapping about Trent Reznor's importance to a musical genre that he really had very little to do with.

There is little argument that Nine Inch Nails created some of the bleakest, noisiest, and most disaffected sounds of the 1990's, and that Reznor is an accomplished artist and musical visionary, but his genre lies somewhere between disco-metal and synth-pop, not industrial. They were calling all kinds of crazy shit industrial in the 1990's. Rob Zombie, even. Authentic industrial music is an ear-battering din created by misanthropic maniacs. Industrial is Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Whitehouse, Non, Test Dept, stuff like that. Everything else that got tagged industrial over the years (and in this documentary), bands like Skinny Puppy, Front 242, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Frontline Assembly, Ministry, Chemlab,'s all disco, man. Some of it is pretty bitchin' - Chemlab is one of my favorite bands ever, of all time - it's still just dance music.

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but if you're looking for a reasonable history of the industrial movement here, you're mostly out of luck, because as far as this doc is concerned, every other industrial artist just curled up and fuckin' died once Pretty Hate Machine hit the streets. It does, at least, open up with an overview of Throbbing Gristle, including some interview snippets with Genesis P Orridge, who looks terrifying with tits. So that was fun.

The rest is a steady blow-by-blow of Trent's career, and for the casual NIN fan, it should prove illuminating. I have not actively listened to NIN since 1992-ish, so watching his evolution from Rockstar God to video-game weirdo was pretty interesting stuff. I especially enjoyed the hilarious scans of flyers and album covers from his pre-Nails career as a low-level synthpop heartthrob.

However, for a doc that follows the career of one man for over two hours, there's very little info about the Trent as a person. What was he like in high school? Does his mother love him? What's his favorite movie? Does he like his peanut butter chunky or creamy? Be nice if they answered a few of those, because without any personal info, this just feels like an extravagant resume. Also, I don't believe there's even a shot of a woman anywhere in here. Industrial is already kinda gay, so that doesn't help.

Still, I watched the whole thing, and was pretty entertained. I might even listen to some Foetus, records later. Speaking of which, no one e even mentioned Jim Thirwell in this. Not once.

Metal Machine Music is available now on DVD.

Bonus: Sleazegrinder's Top Five Faux Industrial Hits!


Sleaze's Track of the Day Pick: Underride

Check it out on the Classic Rock Magazine website!

Classic Rock » Blog Archive » Track Of The Day: Underride

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