Thursday, October 29, 2009

Go Katz - Not Fair

(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

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

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

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

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...

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


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

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, 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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

House of Broken Promises - Using the Useless

House of Broken Promises
Using the Useless
Small Stone

Featuring guitarist/producer Arthur Seay, who notably slung his ax in John Garcia’s Unida, House of Broken Promises lays down the beer-basted bombast with barely baked boogie fever on Using the Useless. As one might expect from a band with connections to the desert rock camp, HoBP has some Kyuss groove in its gas tank, gurgling with rolling thunder. But the trio knows the value of a big-ass hook and the virtues of slashing what you’ve got to say then shutting up. Tunes like Torn, Highway Grit and Obey the Snake roll on riffs and rage rather than on jamming; Walk On By even has a singalong chorus. Bassist Eddie Plascencia is no Garcia (who is?), but he makes up in power what he lacks in finesse, and the rest of the combo roars right along with him. Using the Useless is no-bullshit hard rock, as fresh and classic as a brand-new Les Paul.

- Michael Toland

The Shimmys - Brunettes On the Rocks

The Shimmys
Brunettes On the Rocks
Off the Hip

Armed with striped shirts, cheap instruments, miniskirts and the Nuggets albums, Australia’s Shimmys bash and crash their way into the hardest heart with Brunettes On the Rocks. The distaff trio (or co-ed quintet, if you count the auxiliary members on organ and lead guitar) embody the tough-but-cute chick syndrome with sweet smiles, grungy riffs and snarling singalongs – cf. Thanks For Nothing, Don’t Give Me Lip (no, ma’am!) and Walkin’ Out On You. And while I’m not sure what My Fastback and Two Pot Screamer are about, I’m sure it has something to do with sex, sin or rejection of guff. The band also attempts to put its stamp on other folks’ songs, with mixed results: the Small FacesWhatcha Gonna Do About It bops along with perfect joie de verve, the SonicsPsycho zooms by in an almost ephemeral blur, Roky Erickson’s Don’t Slander Me tumbles into anemia - a not uncommon occurrence when it comes to covers of Erickson songs, so no harm/no foul. The Shimmys’ strengths lie with their own tunes, and they’re happy to play kittens with whips in your living room, leaving lipstick on every collar in the process.

- Michael Toland
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