Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide, The Weaklings

The Weaklings
Just The Way We Like It
Junk Records, 1999

I have fond memories of the whole late 90's rock n' roll explosion. The Supersuckers' "Evil Powers Of Rock n' Roll", Tricky Woo "Sometimes I Cry", Turbonegro's "Apocalypse Dudes", Man's Ruin, Gearhead, Estrus, In The Red and all the similar labels and bands on those imprints. Junk Records was putting out some great records too, and they may have been the most consistently sleazy and dirty label at the time--which says alot. Here at Sleazegrinder, I think that the consensus is that there's a belief that all of that stuff still rules supreme, despite all the attention towards all the next Hives wannabes and the Mooney Suzuki's major deal and whatnot that came around then, and the subsequent ignoring of the real true underbelly of the rock n' roll world.

Back then, I really thought that those bands had a shot at breaking through to the bigger mainstream audiences, maybe, just maybe the true rock n' roll, the spirit in the stuff that happened in the 40's and 50's, would actually crack through. Alas, it wasn't to be, but I really thought that whole movement was gonna be huge, and I really think that it should have because of the unifying power of rock n' roll--but most people's idea of good party music is a lame dance beat and something where you're not actually listening to the music. It's weird how it transpires that way. The big labels can't control the true rockers and rock n' roll bands, because they're
destined to self destruct. Though i'm a rookie here at Sleazegrinder, I relate to "my/our" era of music. It's tough to give up, and i'd never give it up anyways, but sometimes you question why you're doing something when people wonder when you're gonna get a "real" job.

That reminds me of the time that Bradly Wayne Shaver--vocalist of Portland's The Weaklings--told me that they'd went through a few drummers and a few van breakdowns on a tour. That's the shit that no one tells you about on a Guitar Hero game, where everyone's just entranced by the rock n' roll dream of millions of dollars and limos and babes and whatnot. That's not the reality for most bands. That stuff can kill bands dead right there--either aiming too high and not getting it, or just having crazy bad luck while you're trying to get to gigs to get out there to a wider audience.

"rock n' roll shows...
one night stands...
barely got enough money for our gas...

We're gonna drive all day....
we broke twenty seven laws in the town we just played...
we're gonna drive all day...
they tried to stop us with a roadblock but we got away..."

--"It's So Criminal"

My introduction to The Weaklings--perhaps one of the most underrated bands of the whole burgeoning rock n' roll movement at that time-- was through a disc in the used cd store. It was called "Just The Way We Like It", and it had a guy on the cover that looked like he had a bleeding chest, and came out in 1999 (somehow a magical year for underground rock records for me). I looked at the back of the cd, and it said "produced by Conrad Uno", and had song titles like "Hot Cars, Strip Bars, Rock n' Roll". It also said "Junk Records" on the back. Without hearing a note of the music, I took a risk on the cd without actually hearing it. I think it was 8 bucks or something like that. The Conrad Uno thing was a big factor, since he'd produced some Supersuckers and Mudhoney albums in the early 90's. See, that's what liner notes and cd covers can do--today's badly tagged MP3's can't compete with that, I think. It becomes a sound file without any perspective. But really, I don't think that I ever would have otherwise heard them.....maybe I would have read some reviews of the albums or their later albums in places (such as the review of "Rock n' Roll Owes Me" at Sleazegrinder), but whether they would have registered with me, I dunno. There were tons of those Stooges/ MC5/ AC/DC bands back then, so it got to be hard to hear every last one of them.

I wasn't disappointed and this was one hell of an album! Like, holy shit. There's very few albums that have knocked me out completely like this one does, due to the attitude, the catchiness, and the sheer swagger that they have. And it still does. They really live the music that they play, Bradly really does have a right to write a song like "Burnt Bridges and Broken Dreams", surviving in the shitty run down bars and living life perhaps a little too close to the edge, getting fired from another job for maybe partying too hard or whatever. He told me in a phone conversation a few years back--with the answering machine message as the opening bars of the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking"-- that a boss was reluctant to let Bradly indulge in too much of the nightly lifestyle, "...we both know that you won't show up for work, Bradly". Plus, the band name is so contradictory and self degrading, that you'd never suspect this band of being capable of this. When I say that this motherfucker lays down a trail of smashed beer bottles, swung microphones, blood and sweat and like almost none other, I mean it. I love the Dead Boys, I love the Stooges, I love the Who, but for sheer absolute punk rock power, merged with the 50's attitude (guitarist Mark Rhemrev makes no bones about his Chuck Berry worship), i'm not sure that this can be beat. There's no "Not Anymore", no "Gimme Danger", no "Miss X", the closest that these guys ever get to a slow song is a mid tempo boogie shuffler, but even that's far from being slow. It's all attitude in every possible moment, all energy and bluesy Iggy growls and hoots and hollers.

As a matter of fact, that's what makes this band this great--the economy of the playing and even the ferocity in a bluesy chug type of track. There's no filler and it all does it's damage from 1 and a half minute to 3 minutes per song, there's not alot of flash, but there's also alot of excellent musicianship of where to emphasize riffs or drum hits and whatnot to create good dynamic and good punch (i'll write more on this later on in this writeup). But when it slows the tempo down a few notches, it still has attitude, swing and groove. That's not always easy to do.

The album starts off with "Ain't Got No Skin Left", amidst a rock n' roll noise ending type of intro before the main riff comes in, a stop/ start thing that they do alot on this record. It's an excellent opener. Next up is "All The Way Everynight Every Day", another ode to the rock n' roll lifestyle. Like AC/DC and alot of my favorite bands, The Weaklings write songs about being in a band, because it's really all they know how to do. None of this deferred "We Will Rock You" or "There's Gonna Be Some Rocking" (ever notice most songs are about rocking someone in the future?), Bradly and the band are saying "we've rocked you, we're rocking you right now, and we most certainly will be rocking you in the future because it's all we fucking do". Like Sleazegrinder the man himself knows, the followup to this album, "Rock N' Roll Owes Me" (reviewed here years ago as previously mentioned) was a monster of a rock n' roll album. The band gets by on attitude, but it's not blind attitude: the music has got groove and swing--and catchiness--to match it's power. It's everything that I think that GG Allin wanted to be on record, whereas the Weaklings match both live performance night after night and the recordings to back it up. The gang vocals in the choruses on the record really help, too--Bradly's no master singer (mostly gruff boozy yelling and whooping it up), but he's helped out on the choruses for extra anthemic potential.

"That Gurl Of Mine" starts off with power chords rung out, accentuated by drum parts slamming in at the same time. They do this alot on the record and it makes it heavier without actually being heavy, sort of increasing the tension and power of the rhythm itself. Here our frontman says, "...I don't get jealous, I don't get mad, because i'm the best fuck that you ever had, I ain't bragging that's what you said, out of breath smoking a cigarette in my bed". And that's just a Monday night for him, we're not talking Saturday night here, either. "Elizabeth's Gone" has a Cramps-ish riff, and "Did Nothing Wrong" may be one of the best "band behind the band" lyrics that i've ever heard (and referring to The Weaklings' near Spinal Tap situation with drummers--I think they'd went through 20 drummers or something like that):

"all this gossip, all this shit...
too much rock n' roll made them quit...
49 members still singing the songs...
people don't know why I don't just move along....

this is drummer number 56...
he's so good at beating on his kit....
how long will it last, I don't know...
until it breaks we gotta go, go, go..."

You know, it's saying that the people around him are wondering when he's gonna give this rock n' roll thing up. He can't, it controls him, it forms the basis for who he is.

"It Ain't Gonna Happen Tonite" (a faster version than the version on "Rock N' Roll Owes Me") and" "Could've Told Ya" deal with the problems of being in a relationship, but ironically, Bradly sees maybe the futility in both romance and one night stands, even if he's maybe a romantic at heart. He knows "...you've got more to give than a sore crotch..." in "Could've Told Ya", but she's gonna play him anyways. And maybe he won't remain faithful either. But it's the courtship, I guess, the thrill of the catch.....but then he knows that this ideal situation "....it ain't gonna happen tonight". "Just Gettin' By" is my favorite song on the record, a Ramones-y/ Berry rocker that has probably the best chorus (the boogie 12 bar licks at high speed at this point still haven't stopped), and perhaps the most apt lyric on the record for maybe it's existence: "....got no reason baby don't know why, just tryin--tryin--just gettin' by". Hey, you don't always have to have a plan, sometimes you just need to do it.

"Burnt Bridges And Broken Dreams" gets into exactly what the title says:

"No more money, no more steam...
ain't nothin' left but the shattered pieces of a broken dream...
no more money, no more steam...
nothin' in this world means a goddamn thing..."

It's probably the heaviest, most menacing sounding song on the record, but it falls into the
category of the slow boogie songs that still kick much ass--if not more--at half the
speed of the punkier ones. Credit drummer Steve "The Kid" Mickelson, who is much more than just another in The Weaklings' never ending drum throne changes--he hits behind the beat, giving the songs more space to groove, and he's always doing some fills or stops and starts here and there, and tom breaks and things like that, which add some dimension to what the more casual listener would say, "hey, these songs all sound the same!". Plus, bassist Casey J Maxwell is clearly no hack, either--all the bass lines are melodic and compliment the songs
well and are skilled, without turning into overkill. As Mark often doubles up the guitar parts, the solos are often left intentionally without a rhythm track behind them. Iommi did this alot in Sabbath, he'd double track the leads, instead of putting a rhythm guitar part behind them. In that sense, Maxwell steps up ably--the bass lines are fat and fill in that slight space that's missing during lead breaks in a one guitarist band. How about the quieter parts in "All The Way
Everynight All Day"? Where they take it down to a gentle shuffle with bass and drums, and then build it back up again? You don't hear that type of stuff on most similar records, and it's easy to overlook that stuff, because the band does it so well that they can do that and bring it down and then bring it back up again.

But that also gives the record it's excellent live feel--you get the impression that this band is set up live, and it really does sound like they're recording live (you can hear them play the intro to "Did Nothin' Wrong" in the outro fadeout to "That Gurl Of Mine", so it was like they'd played songs continuously live in the studio with maybe just vocals and second guitar being overdubbed). This is a band that is skilled enough to create something beyond your average garage rock punk, but also never flashy enough to be too showy. I speculate that's exactly why they didn't do too well even in the rock n' roll resurgence in that era--they were garagey and simplistic but they also were enough cock rock to alienate themselves from the garage purists (trust me, there were tons--if you didn't sport a mod cut and record on crappy equipment they hated you), and maybe they weren't cock rock enough and too primitive, too punk rock for the buttrock crowd.

Finishing out the album is "Hot Cars, Strip Bars, Rock n' Roll", a truly smoking track. And if you name a song like this, you'd better not be half assed.... and there's no way that this is half assed. Based on a rockabilly drum shuffle, Bradly sings "rim jobs, blow jobs Impalas and Cadillacs....shoot my searing load right down your trap....turn up the Stones on the radio,
'Stop Breakin' Down' my number one, baby, don't you know....aooww". What I like is how Mickelson goes from the shuffle to a powerful, ballsy and energetic 4/4 drum part in the chorus, giving it some dynamic and variance.

Lastly, Conrad Uno's production here is truly awesome. For an underground record that no one much heard of, it has the sound of a big major production. It sounds just about as good as "Back In Black", mix-wise. This completes my triumvirate of "songs/ execution/ production". The result is a record where I can truly say that you need to turn it up loud....and on a great stereo where you can hear the bass drum and bass guitar well. It sounds good still on a bad stereo, but it really opens up on a great stereo, it's one of those few records where the sounds and tones have such musicality to them.

Like Junk Records themselves who went under (Bradly told me that only the Dragons and The Weaklings were touring their albums on Junk...I think that Nitro pulled their distro/ funding and that was that), i'm not really sure what's up with The Weaklings these days, if they even exist at all. Photos of the band are pretty rare--I scrounged all of these ones up from their MySpace site (which hasn't been logged into in over a year...), and I know for a fact that there was an awesome photo of Bradly bleeding at the Las Vegas Shakedown, but that one seems to have disappeared from the internet, completely.

But ultimately, this album still lives on and really, you can't kill rock n' roll anyways no matter how much you kick it around. Even 10 years later. This is still in my top rock n' roll albums of all time; when you think of pure rock n' roll power, few can beat this one.

-Ry Crooder

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ufomammut - Eve

Supernatural Cat

Eve, the latest slab from Italian supernaut Ufomammut, consists of a single track divided into five movements, dedicated to the first hot chick on Earth. (Unless you count Lilith, of course). It’s admittedly difficult to connect rock with movements about a Biblical figure, but if anyone can get away with it, it’s this international paragon of cosmic doom. Huge riffs ebb and flow like tides, washing up sound effects and, occasionally, vocal roars that could be in Martian as easily as Italian (or English). Repetition works in the album’s favor, making the music a massive mantra in which it’s easy to misplace one’s melting mind. Hardly a Sunday school lesson, Eve is instead a lysergic journey into the holy center of the almighty riff.

- Michael Toland

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: Antix

Get Up, Get Happy
Enigma, 1984

Goddamn Antix. If ever there was a band that was handed their shot at success on a fuckin' platter and simply could NOT live up to the challenge, it was Antix. Their sole proof-of-life, the wretchedly-titled "Get Up Get Happy" EP from 1984, is proof positive that trying as hard as you possibly can to sound like as many popular bands as 5 tracks will allow is pretty much a one-way ticket to a Flash Metal Suicide. If 1983 was heavy metal's most seminal year- and it was, really- with either debut or career-defining albums from bleeding-edge bands like Metallica, Manowar, Slayer, WASP, Mercyful Fate, Anthrax, Anvil, Venom, and Raven all being released in a flurry of fire and fury and wild new sounds that had never even been heard before, then 1984 was it's LEAST impressive year, when all the runner-ups spewed-up their second-hand jive just to keep the commerce flowin'. In (and around) LA, Motley Crue, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Dokken, and Great White were all riding the flash metal wave, and, hip young thangs that they all were, most of 'em fancied themselves instant talent scouts, with suddenly deep pockets. Since it was less work for them to just sign and/or produce a band that sounded just like them than to actually go ahead and make another record themselves, there were TONS of bands like Antix releasing half-assed 2nd generation flash metal.

Vocalist Greg Clewley and guitarist Jace White were both LA flash metal dudes doin' time in a scruffy band called Jailbait when they decided to take a stab at the big time, splitting from JB and teaming up with the drummer and bass player of another LA metal band, Pax. Their accessible pop-metal sound drew the puffball ears of Don Dokken, who offered to produce their debut record with Dokken guitarist Jeff Pilson. Great White manager Jeff Gordon signed them on as clients, and negotiated a one-off deal with Enigma, who pretty much flooded the market with copies of "Get Up Get Happy" in 1984.

You could not haunt a metal-centric rekkid store in '84 without seeing this goofy album on the shelves, that much is for certain. However, I can't imagine who the fuck would have bought it. If ever there was album who's cover fairly screamed "Warning - this band blows!" it was "Get Up, Get Happy". Briefly, lets us explore why.

The title. Some sample heavy metal album titles from the same era: "Violence and Force" (Exciter), "War and Pain" (Voivod), "Into Glory Ride" (Manowar), "Filth Hounds of Hades" (Tank), "Friends of Hell" (Witchfinder General). "Get Up, Get Happy"? Are you fuckin' KIDDING me, man?

On the back cover, they list the band line-up and what they play, and then they add dumb 'inside' jokes. Greg Clewely is on "lead vocals, background vocals, and screwiness" (my italics, but you get the idea.) Guitarist Jace White also does "Impressions". Bassist BJ Norris is also on "Cartoons", whatever that means. I'm sure they got a chuckle out of it, but it made me wanna snap the record in half.

The hideously designed cover is framed in turquoise blue. Their logo is a court jester, rendered with all the skill of a drunken jailhouse tattoo artist. Their actual photo is too dark. Oh, and what a photo it is.

Antix wore parachute pants. Now, I realize that everybody in America wore parachute pants in the early 80's, but that shit was for mall-trolling dopes. Guys in fuckin' rock bands were supposed to have clothes that were cooler then the jerks who bought their records, ya know?

They also wrapped themselves in one-row studded belts, which were not rock n' roll accessories, they were for new wave girls. They all wore bandanas around their necks and around their thighs, and they wore pixie boots, even their Rick James lookin' bass player. In the photo, they are posing, arm in arm, down by the railroad tracks, while a gaggle of high-haired mall chicks stare longingly at them in the background.

On the back cover, they are shrugging and scratching their heads, cuz said chicks are walkin' off with some homeless-lookin' dude in a trucker hat. Here's a lesson far all your fledgling rockers out there- don't portray yourselves as losers on your own record cover. If you do, we will accept you as such, ya know. And that won't get you anywhere. Just ask Antix.

Oh, and the music? Well, there's 5 songs here, and they all sound like an even more lightweight Dokken, 'cept for the choruses, which are falsetto-ridden Sweet rip-offs. The songs aren't nearly sleazy or energetic enough to be considered "party metal", and not heavy enough, really, to be Flash Metal, either. Can you imagine bein' a Teen Sleaze and plunking your dough down on this here "metal" rekkid, and getting something that sounds like a hellish cross between Dokken and Loverboy? Heresy, I say! Not surprisingly, this album tanked, and Antix were no more soon after. Vocalist Clewley re-surfaced years later in Darling Cruel, and the rest of 'em, I dunno. Maybe they fell into a well, or something.

"Get Up, Get Happy" probably isn't even all that bad if you're not expecting Flash Metal, and that's the problem, because that's exactly what yr expecting. The only thing worse than bad heavy metal is phony heavy metal, ya know? I wouldn't even care one way or the other, since I certainly did not get swindled by these puffballs in 1984, except that I spent $8 scoring a copy of this from some dealer somewhere just so I could write this story, and that's money that coulda been more wisely spent building a rocketship to the Moon, or maybe feeding the chick magnet homeless guy on the back cover.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Solace - A.D.

Small Stone

If you’ve heard Solace’s past work, ain’t no way you’d ever accuse the band of being wimpy. But somewhere between Solace’s last album 13 (a mere seven years ago) and its latest these Jersey boys testosteroned up even further. A.D. is an out-and-out metal album, not stoner rock or doom or whatever subgenre you want to call it. That’s not to say that acid-drenched sludge isn’t still the meat and potatoes of Solace’s sound, but the condiments include some thrash metal guitar accents, larynx-shredding screams and enough bile to choke a Fox News talk show host. This is all a good thing – a lot of the band’s early work sounded like there was a headbanging monster snarling to burst out, skin and organs a-flying; now that it has, Solace has truly come into its own. Guitarists Tommy Southard and Justin Daniels keep the riffs flowing while maintaining structure, the rhythm section pounds when it should and swings when it needs to, and frontdude Jason gives a tour de force performance, shrieking, crooning, moaning, growling and intoning as if he’s finally found his voice. Down South Dog, The Immortal, the Dead and the Nothing and the massive epic From Below smash and bash, but with a grace that comes from tight musicianship and attention to craft. It may be indulging in a cliché to say so, but A.D. is the album to which Solace has been building up for its entire career.

- Michael Toland

Vintage Sleaze: Electric Hellfire Club - Interview

Originally published 2002. Electric Hellfire Club broke up soon after. They reformed in 2009.
Hail Satan!

The Electric Hellfire Club is the ultimate combination of hardcore sin and forked-tongue-in-cheek shtick, and industrial metal band that you can dance, bang your head, or sacrifice virgins to; part Slayer, part 'Twitch' era Ministry, all blood on the dance floor. Their ruling infernal majesty is the Right Reverend (in the Church of Satan, naturally) Thomas Thorn, perhaps the most openly blasphemous rock and roll super villain south of Heaven. After leaving slinky serial killer death disco outfit Thrill Kill Kult a decade ago for "Not being Satanic enough"- which, by the way, is the greatest reason I've ever heard for quitting a job- he forged together this hoary new clan of digital terrorists. Over the years, they've gone from a spooky but primitive skeleton dance outfit to their current incarnation, a whirlwind of slashing metal and thunderous industrial rhythms, a sound they quite appropriately call "Electro Evil". Hot on the hooves of a new opus, the narcotically black metallic "Electronomicon", the Hellfire Club is embarking on a Devil-may-care, brimstone fueled campaign to raise literal Hell in smoking pits of rock across the country. As a blood moon bloomed over the night skies, Thomas called me from a phone booth somewhere near the 7th concentric ring of Hades to deliver his dark edicts.

God Don't Like It 
"Honestly speaking, it's true", Thomas tells me when I ask him about his infamous departure from the Thrill Kill Kult. "We were sitting around one day, and the rest of them were going, 'You know, I think the devil thing has gotten kind of played out, and we want to write a record about sex, and about sleaze.' For me, it just wasn't going to be fun anymore. I always enjoyed being the guy who was the 'real' Satanist in the band. I've always said that someday, someone will write an article about me that says I was "The man who took the Kill out of Thrill Kill Kult". Thomas laughs, something he does a lot. More imp than demon, this character. "I don't begrudge anybody anything, and I'm glad they're doing well, but I was just more interested in sounding like Judas Priest than Technotronic, you know?" Part of his concept for putting the new band together was that it was going to be a truly Satanic band, for once, free from the trappings of teenage dirtball devil worship, as well as the more clinical sneering from the bedeviled intelligentsia. "You've got organizations like the Church of Satan that are these armchair intellectuals that think Satanism is about sitting home and writing essays, being a stern individual and hating mankind, and you know, I'm not interested in those people anymore than I am the kids that think Satanism is about killing cats", Thomas chuckles. "The thing with the Hellfire Club is that we walk a very narrow line, but the people that are smart enough to realize what's going on can see the tongue in cheek aspect of it."

Wired In Blood
"It's a legend of a mystical book, you know, the Necronomicon. And the concept behind it was biomechanical- a living, electronic book of the dead." Thomas is talking about the new album, and it's sinister origins. "Part of the reason that we're called the Electric Hellfire Club is because I equate spiritual energy with electricity. There's stereotypical examples of that, like on a night when evil takes place, there's always lightning, or like in Frankenstein, when electricity brings the monster to life. That's a theme that runs through our stuff. So that's the concept, you know, it's a book that's 'wired in blood'." Searching for the perfect environment to conjure the digital demons necessary to turn "Electronomicon' from a mere metal record to some kind of Satanic force of nature, Thomas decided to bring the band straight into the belly of the beast- Sweden's infamous Studio Abyss, home of only the blackest metal hearts. "It's pretty weird", he says of Abyss. "Peter Tagtren, who owns the place with his brother, he took money from his band Hypocrisy and said, 'Well, I want a studio, and I want a place to live', so he pretty much bought a whole village that was sort of deserted. It was where the old mental institution was. There's a building there, it's the size of a small apartment building. They don't even use that one, but that was the site of the actual nuthouse. And they've got all these outer buildings, and where the Abyss Studio is, that was formerly the infirmary and the morgue. The other thing is, it's like 23 miles from the nearest city, and we were there for 33 days. We were out walking in the woods, and I tell you, Scandinavia is a strange place. You can see why bands like Mortiis come from there, it just has this feeling like there really are trolls there. It's just pure and untouched, and there's a spiritual energy there that's like nothing else anywhere."

Satan's Slaves
"I'm just a magnet for shit, man."

Being the red right hand of the devil isn't all black lipstick blowjobs, free cocaine, and vacations in Sweden. Keep singing Lucifer's praises, and sooner or later, some very unhinged souls are going to join the chanting. "Yeah, there's always something interesting going on in this band", Thomas sighs. "You know the Philadelphia story?"

Well, citizen, you're about to hear it. Anybody that dismisses the idea of rock and roll being dangerous can just stop reading now. "We're playing in Philly, and this guy comes to the show, and he looks pretty deranged. He's sort of this dumb fat kid, and he's got these scratch marks on his face, and I'm looking at Shane and saying, 'You know, those look like the scratch marks that people on TV who just raped somebody have.' Anyhow, this guy's parents had owned a children's clothing store in a mall. You know how, if you've ever worked retail, the last person's still in the store when you're closing up, so you just lock them in so nobody else can get in?" Yeah, unfortunately, I do. "So what this guy did, is, he killed the woman and the kid, then he raped their corpses, stuffed them in the car, went and dumped them in some field, and then came to our fuckin' show. And what he said to us, was, 'Can you help me?' And I thought it was just some guy who was whacked out on some serious drugs, so I said, 'I don't know, what kind of help do you need?' and he said, 'Well, I'm trying to form a more personal relationship with Satan. I've tried the Satanic rituals, and I've tried the Electronomicon, and I've tried everything, and it's just not working'. I was like, 'Whoa.' What he neglected to mention was that the last thing he tried was ritual sacrifice."

Although certainly an extreme example, this is the life of a rockn'roll Super Satanist, and Thomas has learned to just roll with it. "It's funny, you know, when people say, 'Oh, Thomas Thorn isn't a real Satanist, he doesn't really believe in those things that he sings about", Thorn sighs. "I say, 'No, I don't believe it, man. I just live it, on a daily basis." Ahem. I believe an 'Amen' is in order, brothers and sisters.

- Sleazegrinder

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: Danzig

1988, American

"You said I was a born loser, cos losing is all I've ever done..." (-Hanoi Rocks)

"All my best wishes are just lies..." (-Manic Street Preachers)

"You are depressed, but you're remarkably dressed, is it real?" (-Morrissey)

"Where can I turn when my fairweather friends cop out?" (-Beach Boys)

"The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen, but that's just because he doesn't want to turn into some machine..." (-Bob Dylan)


In 1988, I'd finally found a near-perfect drummer, I thought, for our grebo-biker-glam-self destruction blues-band. He looked a bit like Larry Mullen Jr., and was the first cousin of a girl I'd spent my entire adolescence just slavishly enamored with. I'd seen him go through all these typical, suburbanite youth culture phases in an astonishingly short period of time. From junior high band geek Morrissey fan, to (upper middle) "working class" skinhead bootboy, and power pop, suit and tied Jam mod. He did have a fairly adult work ethic at the stained glass shop that hired all us arty derelicts back then-at least compared to me and a cuppla my other loafing oaf whiskey henchmen. He was probably just a real good kid, but I couldn't ever fully connect with him, because growing up, he'd been a part of this Catholic school fratboy sporto middle class that ruled the corner of the whitebread neighborhood and his older brother's friends had tortured and bullied me throughout my unfortunate school years. Plus - not long after we'd invited him to join our band, he plunged right into yet another incarnation-his Minor Threat/Fugazi/D.C. militant straight edge phase, which was a larf because he seemed to love knockin' back the hootch with our little tribe of hellions who blared loud Circus Of Power records all night long, at our little ranch on the outskirts of town. He'd also been known to suck back many gallons of beer with his preppie friends, but all of a sudden, he'd decided he was Ian McKaye while the rest of our gang guzzled fool fire water all day everyday, throwing all these raucous band parties for the death rock kids, heavy metal girls, and hippie bikers at our band house. The rest of us were scuzzy, scrounge-y, angry trash rockers, but he showed up for shows (!!!) wearing khaki shorts (!!!!) I mean, shorts are a cardinal sin unless yer Rick Allen from Def Leppard, and even then, no khakis!


I bought the drummer his first car-it was a souped up '74 Super-Nova with a racing engine my friend at the muscle-parts store helped me purchase on the cheap. Our brilliant artist guitar player spraypainted silver and black, longhaired skulls and iron crosses on top of an acid-green base. It was the shit. Until his muskrat-like dorky girlfriend painted his name on the side of it in dorky clown orange. We all dutifully showed up to deliver it to him at his graduation party, and his conservative family were appalled by our noserings and leather jackets. I think the thing I always liked best about that kid was his sense of humour and ridiculous Scooby Doo impersonations. The Doc Martins and hardcore t-shirts grated on my nerves, cos I wanted him to make an effort to be a part of our band in a more committed way, help present a united front. I just don't think we really shared the same values, or outlook on life. At heart, he was a shiny, happy R.E.M. kid, not a battered, black leathered, outcast, screaming for vengeance. As much as he sometimes enjoyed associating with the older punk crowd and being empowered to adopt the mere cosmetic tokens of this week's fad rebellion, it was just too ingrained in his-all the basketball hoop, Colgate privileges, economic opportunity, and false sense of moral superiority of the grasping upward middle class. He kinda looked up to the guitarist-a seventies punk, ten years older, but he seemed to kinda scorn the rest of us who he perceived as illiterate, potentially dangerous, low-life white trash.
I generously introduced him to a phony goth chick who'd tried unsuck-cessfully to seduce me in the cemetery, and he dumped the muskrat, and promptly started dating this little Vampirilla whose idea of gothic subculture was the Lost Boys soundtrack, God love her. soonafter, he flaked-off and quit showing up for band practices. I was a hypocrite to complain, though, cos taking girls to hotel rooms was my first priority back then, when it should have been songwriting and band promotion. We didn't strike while the iron was hot. It was a shame the group started disintegrating, cos people loved us even when we sucked. The drummer was decent on the cans, and had a rich, bellowing baritone that really came shining through, on his backing vocals, especially on the Misfits covers we performed, at first. We were all totally enthralled with the devil-locked New Jersey horror punks, in spite of their dumbass jock streaks, and "Walk Among Us" was one of the records that actually did seem to unite our ragtag group of weirdos. It always hurt, that the drummer kid, had such little respect for me as a human being. I tried to be a righteous big brother to him. Thing is, he didn't need a righteous big brother-he already had brothers who owned recording studios and bought him shit. Because of where we both came from, he couldn't help himself but be distant from me-I must've seemed like a crazy hillbilly. At the end of the day, that's how his cousin, my beloved, ultimately came to see me, too. Maybe they were right, but Einstein or Frankenstein, we trudge onwards, y'know?


While the preppie drummer was trying on his many different hats all the time-straight edger, keg party elitist, English hardcore street punk, etc., the rest of us were all diggin' the Quireboys, Hangmen, Sea Hags, Guns N Roses, and the Cult. Good old fashioned rock'nroll, babies. One of our guitarists was obsessed with Andy McCoy, while the other had grown up on the Damned and Cooper. The thug guitarist/roadie who rented out our front porch was all AC/DC. I was into Mother Love Bone and Dogs D'Amour. The most played albums at Paradise Lost were the Cult's "Electric", and Danzig's first
He was incredible-a debbil-worshipping Elvis on steroids. What a fucking perfect band. The Doors & AC/DC. Amazing songs--"She Rides", "Soul On Fire", Twist Of Cain", "Mother", etc.,etc. He had thee best band in the whole world back then-John Christ, Eerie Von, and Chuck Biscuits. Only the Four Horsemen really held a candle. The silly Anton LaVey/wrasslin' connection shtick grew thin after awhile, and the ongoing animosity between the former Misfits has resulted in nearly as much embarrasing, ridiculously inept out-put as Van Halen without Roth, Creedence minus Fogerty, or Dead Kennedys post-Jello. It ain't the same band no more-just a brand name, with the magic all gone. Danzig was one of the best hard rock belters ever, in my book, and Chuck Biscuits is probably still the best heavy drummer who sucks air. AC/DC, the Cramps, Joan Jett, Motorhead...and Danzig. These bands can't fail really, year after year, they always deliver. His first albums probably still my favorite.

-Pepsi Sheen ( who hopes to own the Misfits and Alice Cooper boxsets when he grows up)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vintage Sleaze: Thor Live in Boston, 2005

*NOTE* - Thor is still alive, well, and touring. Check out Thor Central for info. 

Live, Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline, MA.

There was a long line of slightly creaky, 30-something punters in leather jackets and faded Venom t-shirts shuffling their feet and chattering incessantly about 1986 like it was fucking yesterday when Stacey and I arrived at the Coolidge Corner Theater tonight. What were all these faded glories doing out on a sleepy Wednesday evening? Waitin' for Thor, dude.
Eventually, a smattering of punk rock kids showed up too, but unlike Thor's grand old days of male stripperdom in the mid-70's, the only chicks in attendance were wives or girlfriends. But no matter. I mean, who needs the distraction? Thor's here! And so, the minutes ticked on, the sausage party continued, and the anticipation grew.

There was a skinny, Harry Potter-ish kid running around with a video camera, grilling people in line about Thor, Rock Warrior, while we waited.
Kid with camera: "How long have you been a Thor fan?"
Dude walking by: "About 20 minutes."

Turns out the lively lad was the director of "The Intercessor", the "sequel" (I say thee nay!) to Thor's 1987 blasterpiece of goofy, dimestore metal-trash cinema, "Rock N' Roll Nightmare". Tonight was the world premiere of the movie (well, the DVD, really), so he wanted to shoot lucky-us to get our reactions on this very special night. If you end up with a copy of the DVD and you look close at the 'premiere' footage, you'll see a scowling Sleazegrinder and an eye-rolling Stacey, directly behind the maniac with the mullet who calls himself Rodney the Invader, and who tells Harry Potter with no irony whatsoever that Rock N' Roll Nightmare is the "greatest piece of cinema I have ever witnessed".

It was at this point that I walked over to the ticket office, to make sure we were on 'the list'. We were. While I was getting the comp tickets, I run into Seth Putnam, from disgusto-grindcore legends Anal Cunt. I don't think Seth remembers my name, but he points at me and says, "Screaming Gore Guts", because that's the name of the fake-band he and I were in when we were 15. Significantly, Seth always leaves that one off his resume.
Seth recently suffered some serious, and much publicized, health problems.Luckily, he pulled through, mostly.
Me: "So, when you woke up out of the coma, what's the first thing you thought of?"
Seth: "I thought, 'I need a beer'."
Then all kindsa freeloaders showed up, so I split and got back into the line. Eventually, they let us in. Stacey and I snagged some bitchin' aisle seats in the balcony and waited for coming of the Intercessor.

Eventually, Benn Mcguire, the director of "Intercessor: Another Rock N' Roll Nightmare", bounded onto the stage. Benn's probably about 25, which would put him at about toddler's age when the first RN'R Nightmare was released in 1987. So, obviously, he's the guy for the job. I don't know if you've seen the original, but it was directed by John Fasano (who who serves as "associate producer" on Another Rock N' Roll Nightmare), and it involves Thor and his glam metal band, the Tritonz, fighting off a demon puppet on stilts and rubber starfish. It features a shower scene with Thor (!), a "rock" manager in an Archies jacket, a 'drummer' doing a really, really bad Australian accent, and a bunch of "Ghoulies" type creatures who show up for no reason at all every few scenes. It is lame-brained, hallucinatory, shamefully shoddy, and loony beyond all reason, and yet it is possessing of a certain goofball charm that makes you think it's actually worth seeing again. It's really not, but it's cult still endures.

The semi-sequel riffs on the final stick puppet devil fight in the original. See, Thor is some sort of emissary of the Gods, who "intercesses" on behalf of mankind, battling demons whenever they sneak onto Earth to steal a pure soul or two. If there is a plot, that's it. But good luck following the story, because "Intercessor" is a childish mish-mash of amateur hour geekery, so woeful in execution that they are gonna have to redefine the whole concept of "Bad Movie" after this one gets out there.

Briefly, there's a crippled kid named Harry (Brad Pope, who looks, and acts, exactly like a panicky teenage Iggy Pop hopelessly trapped inside a Thor movie) who wiles away his time in his aunt's basement crying and drawing crude comic books.

Eventually, the comic book creatures come to life and steal his girl, so he straps on a football helmet (emblazoned with the Tritonz logo!) and goes off the fight Thomas Thorne, or whoever the fat goth demon-priest is.

There's also Mephisto, the Four Horsemen, a buncha bank secretaries playing "The Elements" (fire, water, etc), some little kid who may or may not be dreaming all this shit, and, very eventually, Thor, who tosses around the bad guys at the end. But no Rock n' Roll. Unless, of course, you count the soundtrack, which blares loud rock music constantly, enough so that it steps on all the dialogue. This is not very helpful, since much of said dialogue is spoken in echo-heavy 'demon voices', which are already difficult to understand. There's also plenty of cheap-jack, in-camera 'special effects', which wouldn't have looked all that special in 1985, never mind 2005. Come to think of it, the whole thing looks sort of like Thor's '85 video for "Knock 'Em Down", only without the big-breasted demon girl. Or any kind of girl, really.

But hey, "Intercessor" is billed as a comedy, so maybe it's all on purpose. Maybe. On the positive side, the film does feature Canuck street metal champs Goathorn in a cameo as egg-throwing stoners, and things do liven up considerably whenever Thor shows up, so it's not a total loss. But in an age when even videogames are 'X' rated, it just seems kinda silly not to have any exploitive elements in an exploitation film, and personally, I'd treat a rock legend like Thor with more respect then this film does. I mean, if you've got a 20 year old girl playing somebody's elderly aunt, you've pretty much blown your mission.
Anyway, a prequel is in the works, so what do I know?

After this epic of a metal-movie, there was a ten minute intermission (an intercession?), so I trundled out into the hallway to buy one of those bitchin' "Keep the Dogs Away" t-shirts. They were sold out of XL's, tho. Not just in that design, but all of 'em.
Lady selling t-shirts: "Do you want a medium instead?"
Me: "I seriously don't think so."
Note to Thor's merch people: when 80% of your audience is over 30, seriously, you're gonna need more Extra Large t-shirts. Trust me.

So no shirt, but dude, I picked up a copy of the AnThorlogy DVD, directed (well, compiled, really) by Frank Meyer, Mr. Streetwalkin' Cheetah himself. The DVD features vintage Thor clips from the mid-70's to the mid-80's, including a jaw-dropping segment from the Merv Griffin show in 1976, where Thor strips down to his underwear while singing a lounge version of the Sweet's "Action"! Obviously, this is an essential purchase. But I digress. After a few tense minutes, Thor's drummer (I forget his name, but it's the same dude he used on the "Unchained" album back in the 80's) walks onto the stage. He's got like a big wrestling belt over his paunch, and he's wearing some sort of Rumplestilskin boots. He looks like a cross between Gary Glitter and Mortiis. He's fuckin' awesome.

Dude behind Stacey: "That's GOT to be the roadie."

Joke's on you pal, he's the drummer. So, he sits down and the smoke machine kicks in. There's some short-haired punk kid on bass, and an aging flash metal shredder from Florida on guitar. They start jammin' on "The Coming of Thor", and in a puff of smoke - that's right - Thor comes. He's wearing a chest plate and swinging a sword, and when he sings (well, bellows, really), he keeps changing masks and helmets, some of which hang comically askew off his head. I think back to the first time I interviewed him a couple years ago, when he told me that "They love it when I wear the hideous masks", because here he is, wearing 'em, and goddamn it, I love it. Seriously, I haven't seen a performer pour it on like this since Dee Snider - Thor is in this 100%, Jack.

The band bangs through that Tritonz song, "We like to Rock", or whatever it's called from the original movie, getting everybody to sing along. Then, when it's time to play "Invader", Thor brings the mullet guy, Rodney The Invader", onstage. He says, "This guy named himself after this song", which makes you think he's gonna play a song called "Rodney", but no. Later on Thor brings Seth Putnam onstage, too. He grabs Seth's cane and says, "Maybe this will be my new hammer!" He asks Seth to "Do a number" with him, but then abandons Seth once the song starts. That was a little weird. Seth limped off stage and sat back down, and Thor launched into "Strange Lantern" while swinging around a purple lantern - the kind that kills bugs, I think - and pretending to look around for stuff. I forget it if it was during that song or the next ("Thunderhawk"), but at some point a bunch of zombies stormed the stage and Thor bounced 'em off his belly. Then he wrapped the mic stand around the neck of one of the zombie/merch dudes.

And so it continued. Thor brought out the steel bar. "I'm going to bend this, but do you know WHERE?" he asked, suggestively. The crowd yelled stuff, as crowds do. "My ass?" Thor yelled, hopefully joking. "My balls?!" No, Jesus. "How about...." Thor points to his teeth, and everyone applauds.
I don't wanna give away the ending, but the feats of strength went on, as did the searing rock n' roll. The band did a furious encore of "Knock 'Em Down", and Thor suddenly sped off the stage. Thirty seconds later, he was out in the hallway, signing autographs and answering inane questions about the starfish in Rock N' Roll Nightmare. But he suffered the fools lightly, like a true rock hero does.

Ok, so I really could have done without the Intercessor jive (the trailer would have been plenty), but Thor's performance was worth the wait. The guy gives his all, every time, and it's almost impossible not to get caught up in his gleefully loopy cartoon world of muscles, metal, and masks. Everybody needs a hero, right?


-Sleazegrinder, also a Rock Warrior of some renown.

Ben Wild And The Wild Band

My Baby Say No
American Music Connection

Rockabilly's venerable tradition (of sorts) of shaking out storm-tossed renditions from the book of popular song, such as Number Nine's un-surmountable Hey Joe, The Hot Rod Gang's stainless Tainted Love (also included here) or The Tailshakers spare no-one wipeout of Ever Fallen In Love?, is taken a shimmying step further by this German combo. Nestled amidst the seven headed monster of their fine and far superior, composition are covers of preposterous pop parade fodder, though prepare to be surprised. Overhauling the sagging undercarriages of Prince's Kiss, Kylie's Can't Get You Out Of My Head (indeed one original is 'Ode To Kylie Minogue') and, somewhat lesserly, Britney's ...Baby One More Time mutates them into seductive mambo's with serious shake appeal. Tongue-in-cheek finger-poppin' fun is a dandy bop, especially with a title track that could rival the king of cut-throat smut ol' Chuck his-very-self but how many times you'll return to 'billy-bullying jaunts through Smells Like Teen Spirit mixed with theJames Bond theme or Wonderwall, despite Wild's laudable larynx and his cohorts dextrous spirals of Luther Perkins picking and Bigsby shine, er...God only knows?

- Stu Gibson

Bruce Dickinson - Flashing Metal With Iron Maiden And Flying Solo

Joe Shooman
Independent Music Press

With a CV that reads like an advert for a renaissance man of runway and rapiers as well as rigor mortis-inducing touring schedules, legendary metal maverick and live wire flight lieutenant Dickinson is definitely not a fence-sitter. Whilst still being something of an awestruck hagiography, 'tis a sprightly tale told in a pally fashion like a collection of anecdotes and asides from the bar, and being unauthorised at least means Shooman scurries around the obstructive stage scenery of the earlier "Run To The Hills" band biog prior to soundcheck and rakes up some bad blood congealed in a thin crust of dirt and ill-feeling behind the famously, and admirably, staunch walls of castle Maiden. Tedious tales of debauchery are laudably left as mere filler to concentrate on the music but, while our valiant author indulges inexplicable bouts wherein he flippantly exercises the privilege of a scribes' prerogative - i.e. "Piece Of Mind" is superior to "The Number Of The Beast"!"£$%^&* - it does read at times like the very thing Dickinson (or Paul Bruce Dickinson as Shooman persists in referring to him as in chapter-end round ups) left Maiden for - that of new year / album / tour with the odd bit of free-time activity thrown in. So disregard the slight back-of-tour-bus air of a This Is Your Life back-slapping session, as an overview of the drive as well as the talent needed to attain even half the dizzying heights of the subject this is a worthwhile book that even a cynic can walk away from with renewed respect for the diminutive dynamo above and beyond his almost self-caricature of impudent public schoolboy brat. Scream for 'im Reverb.

- Stu Gibson

Spear Of Destiny

Grapes Of Wrath

Originating in London's squalid post-punk squat scene from the ashes of many lost legacies, most notably main-man Kirk Brandon's Theatre Of Hate, this particular Spear brooded beneath lacquered fringes rather than the pierced sides of religious icons. Splicing through the great pop / goth divide as The Mission would do a few years hence, these would-be epic takes of portentous possibilities and malingering longing certainly contain a panoramic spaghetti-western sweep - saxophones to the fore on isolated salients of splendour, tremoring tom-toms rebounded from The Cure's colossalPORNOGRAPHY, and spiney guitar lines like cobwebs fluttering in the wake of a ghostly presence. It may be coincidence that this Spear Of Destiny Mk.1 featured their ex-drummer but it does come across like The Thompson Twins' dour doppelgangers at times, which, on majestic opuses like Flying Scotsman and The Wheel is no bad thing, as Mike Scott wafts on the wind and waves, amidst Bryan Ferry's mystic pouting circa AVALON (Aria) and Ian Raspberry's histrionic Death Cult tribal dramas like The Preacher. Alas, the 80's soft-core production lets things down a bit and brooding can too often be mis-read as plodding. However, for a fence-sitting finale, 'tis a handsome deville of a reissue indeed, what with eight whole, if not entirely wholesome for the musical soul, extra tracks making up the entire recorded hymnal of Brandon's first step into a destiny still doing the (ghost)dance, though one he discarded almost as quickly as it arose, gathering a new clan for their second album...grapes of wrath indeed.

- Stu Gibson

W. Axl Rose The Unauthorised Biography

Mick Wall

Whence on Guns N'Roses' rise to world if not solar-system conquering superstardom on the way to the frontman's weary resignation prior to the disillusioned reclusion, author Wall had the ear of the diminutive and vituperative Rose by any other name. Having experienced at first hand the evil goblin's paranoiac wrath, childish conspiracies and all-encompassing desire for ultimate control over the arbitrary and asinine, Wall delves deep into the shadows of this elusive wraith's psyche, thus illuminating an involving, suitably sprawling, story sympathetically though decidedly, and laudably, not all-forgivingly told. Isolated by deep-seated insecurities and issues stemming from an abusive, repressive childhood, that only stagnated under the spotlight of success before exploding into some astral seizure like a Phil Spector or Michael Jackson of rawk, Rose's really is a story that demands to be told and indeed almost tells itself if not screams itself hoarse, and is one Wall's exhaustive research and use of his own unpublished interviews can but broaden.

Thankfully never descending into crass amateur psychology nor tabloid make-believing frenzy the reader can discern their own theories about this folly of the quest for truth and sanity that seems to be the main metaphor of the entire Chinese democracy debacle.

- Stu Gibson

Skeletal Family

Futile Combat

So being forlornly forgotten in the general scheme of things may be oh so achingly GOTH, what? as is hailing from West Yorkshire. However, this rather less sinister than some other families that may spring to mind on a speed-drilled bass-line, are all this and more. Sweep the obvious, but patently flawed, comparisons to early eighties Siouxsieinto a pile of sackcloth and ashes, helpfully provided by your friendly porter, looking remarkably like the shadow that inhabited one Andrew Eldritch circa 1985, when this debut was released. Sinewy guitar slime dripping from cathedral ruins, taut Achilles tendon basses bulging under paisley shirts, icily strident Iceni battle-cry vocals atop frantic drumming surges through soaring verses culminating in out-of-body choruses that put any accusations of fey, goth arpeggio-pastoralism to the funeral pyre. Yeah, they had a female frontispiece-person, but in staring-out Bauhaus' In Fear Of Fear in the sax-stakes onHands On The Clock and Move and managing to stay steadfastly in trench-slime without getting wrapped up in eighties production falsehoods, whilst unleashing a disco apocalypso rush pretty much throughout, snapping at patron Eldritch's Sisters Of Murky's purse stings like Alice and Body Electric...and, in What Happened?, providing possibly the most bizarre turn-around in recent recorded history, it being a chirpy pop ditty of the type Colonel Bob Smith is most-noted for, other than the utterly bizarre rendition of Stand By Me, one of four bonus tracks here, begging and pleading in it's spoiled underwear for twinkling Top of the Pops baubles and balloons. And all before the whole goth subterranea got overly swamped n' shrouded with paler than the pale beyond imitations of The Sisters too, still occasionally clogging up Camden and cradles of wilted survivors cocooned elsewhere too. Suitably cold and clammy it may be but forgo the ritual denial of goth's lesser lights and forge a shiver through yer bones. Forthwith.

- Stu Gibson

The Cranes

Wings Of Joy Forever
Cherry Red

Named for the not-so eloquent cranes littering the mid-eighties skyline of their native Portsmouth, siblings Jim and Alison Shaw created a bleak but intensely beautiful tapestry of enchanting song of a like literally not heard before, since or ever again. Ranging from piano-led watercolours to ugly fragments of torn and terrifying cerebral canvasses like the accused Jack The Ripper artist Walter Sickert and deftly defying categorisation, Alison's indecipherable whisps of lisped lyrics and shards of anguish shimmying through the dervish dirges like sirens luring you beneath gilded lilies caused as much bemused malice as they did fervent admiration upon their initial release. No doubt these reissues will do likewise but these are swirling waters worth plunging into, drowning in even, to find the stillness at the other side. Guitars scrape, maybe mirroring the mechanical creak of those cranes, but actually seem to be extracting aural DNA from your marrow and reconstructing the structures of your soul, pianos may ripple but any real tranquillity is subsumed in their tendril-like clasp.   Oddly medieval at times in atmosphere, far more sinister than maudlin or morose despite sometimes sounding like aural unravellings and descents into despair, cathartic trance-dances, seances and witch-trials spring forth like from the unlawful opening of a sacred ancient text wrapped in the billowing folds of a peasant girls garb, while an unholy dread tension holds sway in every pounding beat, resembling the wretched heartbreak of a bereaved Victorian heroine or the tremulous step along unhallowed hallways, whether of silent film or sadistic psychosis.

Both come with a veritable slew n' slurry of bonus tracks from non-album releases, and are both transcendental, completely captivating and in full debut WINGS...an essential-ness of a rare (dis)order by virtue of having the unutterably stunning singlesTomorrow's Tears and Adoration along with the absolutely freefalling death drive torment of Sixth Of May. FOREVER, being slightly less sprawling, with an eastern, desert wind feel to it shows a discernible, though not detrimental, influence of their time touring as support to The Cure (see adorable single Jewel), following that debut. No one's saying you have to swim the same deep waters but this is truly music from somewhere beneath the air, as Yeats and Blake may have had it.

- Stu Gibson

The Generators

The Great Divide
People Like You

Glory be! This sixth shooter from these L.A. street rollin' punks sure is one classy chassis set to dazzle as it drifts by, cocksure, caustic and encroaching welcomingly that personal space close to your heart while crunching out cartilage-crinkling coruscating cavalcades of adult angst. Though still proudly displaying influences such as Social Distortion and Bad Religion they're now at the apex of their own self-appointed style. For those aren't lightly acknowledged inspirations. Doug Dagger and his equally deftly / daftly monikered platoon voraciously plunder once more the eternal streams of strife and struggle and these tracks pack huge maelstroms of undiluted emotional resonance. Tough times related without lecturing, the truth evident in the passion pounding through this album that is far more like Mike Ness in defiance and faith than comparisons with Dagger's vocals. My Best Regards and I Stand In Doubtstrident with scarred but not screwed dark edges like if thePsychedelic Furs had kept their avant-punk roots but evolved into a rock'n'roll beast not kimono and slipper wearing MTV parodies. Not sure we need another punk-a-long-a version ofPaint It Black as literally every song, particularly the country-tinged A Turn For The Worse, ska-knees up What I've Becomeand closing rebel-rouser I'm Still Believing, is a genuine stand-up classic, broad-shouldered and ready to be counted out for punk record of last year.

- Stu Gibson

Matt Woods

Attack Of The Killer Twat
Winston Records

For those who've had their fair fill of winsome singer-songwriters this twenty-two year-old scatological troubadour of bad-taste and new-variant Tourette's diatribes would have the over-earnest, or just plain earnest, over-easy on this frantic, fifteen-minute campfire of sardonic, skiffly, acrid folk songs splodged out with the spongiform mindset of absurdo-metallers GWAR orAnal Cunt and the delicious ludicrousness of The Toy Dolls. Playing all instruments (Woods drums for Manchester squat-punk legends External Menace, and features in some form or other in various bands, including label-owners Barnyard Masturbator, of which this mini-album is the debut release), including kazoo and banjo, to lather lambasts against TV adverts (Waiting For Corrie), inadvertent superstars (Peter Andre Is A Twat, Jeff Buckley), and students (Smell Of Cool). Easy targets perhaps, but for all its totally un-pc, tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness - being simultaneously stupid and sublime withBilly Connolly's cutting edge eye for detail and Hammell On Trial's ire - it's also unutterably lovely and as daft as the proverbial brush. It's also very funny with an un-reigned frenetic genius at heart, not least closing George Clinton funk-rap Ninja Ronald. Sure to divide - depending on your sensibilities, you'll either be splitting your sides, or dying inside.

- Stu Gibson

Total Chaos

Avoid All Sides
People Like You

First new release in a air few years for these Cali-punks still strictly adhering to their street level retro-gutteric that's so for many a right reason. Formed at the cusp of the nineties in the face of the then ascending commercialisation of the genre they spout bitter social and political invective over rudimentary blizzards of sharp-tongued trashcan punk rock right from an early-eighties pit. Straight to the point barrages levelling accusations that politicians areProfessional Liars may be easily shrugged off in our apathetic age in a frenzy ior 'really' like Slayer telling us that religions suck and anti-war anthems (Send The Boys Home) said to be simplistic and sloganeering rants like Fuck The C.H.P. quaintly 'rebellious' but for an authentic punk-pit ruck this admirable rather than essential record'll see you just about right, especially on Dancing On Your Grave, No Loyalty and Don't Care Anymore.

- Stu Gibson


It's A Treat To Be Alive

Stage-shuffling Quireboys frontman Spike knocked out a few solo records in the years between their mid-nineties demise and their reformation a few years back, but perhaps none as complete as this. As with the 'boys output since their 3/4 length masterpiece of a debut there's some workaday jam-a-thons elevated above by the man's ever astonishing rasp. Forget age-old, charity shop bargain basement comparisons to Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker, it's a voice more agile and soulful that can imbue fresh feeling and meaning into occasionally trite and clichéd lyrics, as the best vocalists can, and those two once did so well.

For the odd pub-rock plod like Rise Above there's wonderful bleary-eyed gritty grouse-abouts like Wins, Ties and Losses andWon't Ya Stick Around, and, acefully, where the Quireboys raucous bar-room swagger undeniably holds sway to The Faces, the late night, last chance balladry here on Have A Drink With Me, Without You and When I'm Away From You recalls more the heart laid bare elegance of Ronnie Lane than Rod's laddish posturing, and summed up on So Far So Good, all shot through with the hard-knocked humour belied by the word 'treat' in the title. I mean, you can almost replace it with 'champion'. Likewise in a humourous though heartfelt aside on True Friends he goes into What Happened To You?- the theme from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads - in a lovely, lilting nod to his North-East roots.

-Stu Gibson

The Hicksville Bombers

The Prettiest Girl In The World

Like the blues, honky-tonk and classic rock, in fact any style that's carved its own Grand Canyon size niche in music's core, rockabilly is always going to be crafted in approximation of the well chiselled cheekbones of silver screen icons by sharply dressed desperados. Currently enjoying another resurgence of popularity The Hicksville Bombers are one reason why this music will keep seducing new blood and causing unsuspecting pulses to pound with a V8 thrum.

Denigrators may carp that such retro attention to detail should be left in the fifties but play the Hicksvilles and any of their near contemporaries like The Crawdads, The Rhythmaires or The Tennessee Trio in comparison to a set like Proper's recent Classic Rockabilly and quickly disabuse them of such trite ideas. Originating around the Lincoln area and rarely venturing away from the Rockin' circuit this trio are a primo deluxe proposition straddling the bonnet-bucking bop-beat, country swing and midnight blues in fine voice and Brilliantined slinky strings.
While drawing indelibly on the Sun sound such sad-eyed, self-penned titles as Weather Baby, Don't Let Me Face The Rain andWithin These Four Walls show the superficiality and fallacy of simple likenesses. Easily standing collar to collar, if not tower over, classic I've Changed My Mind, these are articulate laments in best Buddy Holly or Felice and Boudleaux Bryant manner that smoulder like Rick Nelson (indeed, Get Out Of My House could be a cold kiss-off to Hello Marylou), while some brazen fuel-consumption boogie breaks bail on Hey Judge, drinking I've Got A Problem, Moonshine Mama and comic-strip caper of jack the lad cool cat Johnny Valentine.

Well worth blazing a trail to a hick town of your own shaking, stirring full-house slamming on table causing drinks to spill invention.

- Stu Gibson

Fabienne DelSol

Between You And Me
Damaged Goods

Don't let the fact that this French national hopped over to the UK in 1996 so be-smitten was she with the musical climate of the time put you off sniffing out this absolutely lovely record. Sure, you may work hard to compress this into a country metre never mind mile, yet its acoustic driven strides have a folksy, country strum at their lovelorn heart. They're just filtered through a sixties swirl, such as the keyboard kazoo sounds on the otherwise wistful waltz of Leave Her For Me, the suitably spy-theme surf-shanty of Mr Mystery, the heavy hemp-smoke honky-tonker Pas Gentille and quirky ditties mired with garage dirt Loot and Bluebirds Over The Mountain.  However the French language Le Roi Des Fourmis is a wondrous creation, Merseybeat meets Motown stomp drinking with the Stones on downtime during the AFTERMATH sessions, and the title track surmounts even that seismic peak. Both vouc for the entire album itself, which is no disparagement to any of the rest, as it is assuredly not a reflection of the sixties by being mere filler. As it is it's all topped off with a sultry coo and curious otherworldly charm to rival the 'real' Holly Golightly.

- Stu Gibson

Built 4 Speed

Minor Part 2

Considering the current kinda colossal craving for psychobilly and splatter-punk in some quarters it's all the more pleasing to behold that this debut full-length release from this German four piece (Part 1 being a seven song EP), co-opts traditional rockabilly and even a few cuts of classic rock rhythms with minimal coercion into a gothic, though not especially Goth, midnight ride through those furtive fantasies that always buy another round every time you make the move homeward. Back Again, So Cooland Six Feet Under demonstrate that applying a punk-y edge to proceedings doesn't necessarily mean suffering the usual squall of power-chords and terrace-gang choruses. Floating on a dreamy, evocative atmosphere of shimmering, supernatural vibrato, the ethereal air is mixed with earthy reality, especially on outstanding ballads Judgement Day and Suicide Girl that owe as much to Billy Fury as early Nekromantix. With mainman Johnny Don Vincenzo's voice like a man who's been locked out by his other half and stumbled into a lock-in, MINOR PART 2cruises it's own strip of eternal full moons with the sweet stench of petrol, cigars and red wine.

- Stu Gibson

The Peacocks

Touch And Go
People Like You

Appropriately enough The Peacocks know they're good. There's walking the walk and talkin' the talk but this Swiss trio stalk the balk line like bulldogs dosed non-stop on pep pills, pop skills and torn-up bills. Hell, even when they were tossing off the roughshod but ramrod early recordings they knew. But this isn't the idle swagger of your average indie rock amoeba or haughty art-rock suffering recluse but the intolerant gaze of a band that have toughed it out and have the talent to wrap some witticisms and battle-weary but beat-ready scars into their tales. Belief borne out of the blues, albeit buttressed and bound to the mast with the bubonic rock ballast. For The Peacocks are a union of classic rockabilly line-up with punk attitude and personable idiosyncracies (e.g. Kind Word Don't Butter No Spuds) with pop nous without being either lightweight nor a Green Day / The Living End - which makes them a proposition wholly worthwhile bearing witness to their fans-spreading.  

- Stu Gibson

Mad Marge And The Stonecutters

People Like You

What's that you say - another ghastly ghost-train trip through the horror-punk theme park, hot-footing it after The Horrorpops and The Creepshow? That's as may be but where the cynic could pick holes in the script a la theScream franchise, the comely Mad Marge and her cohorts do hew a hefty wedge of hoodoo-pop from the quarry of rock out there in Southern California, and neatly sidestep many a grating ghoul-rock stock clichés (the nearest they come is Dial Z For Zombie). On the surface they could, in another cinematic allegory, be likened to the spate of teen-horror flicks with their glossy magazine production and perfectly streamlined, if not airbrushed, song construction. There is, however, enough substance on stand-outs Issues (sure to be adopted as an anthem by hoodie-wearing teen-girls) Hardest Thing and Don't Put Up A Fight to provide sustenance for any ensuing epidemic, with putrefying double-bass priming the assault with the force of the 'rage' of28 Days Later rather than the aimless shuffle of Romero's flesh-hungry hordes, and Marge's voice almost ensures vital signs remain vibrant alone.

- Stu Gibson

Levi Dexter and Magic

The Kings Of Cat Street

If there's ever such a thing as an authentic Rockabilly revivalist, this, lurgys and germs, is the real raw deal. Hurtling fleet of foot with moves that made him a rockabilly James Brown out of London in the late seventies in line-ups like The Rockats and The Ripchords, with Shakin' Stevens and The Stray Catsbetween each twitching knee, Levi successfully straddled both the punk and new-wave worlds, as well as the snootier, exclusive environs of the rockin' scene in later years. Here the neo-rockabilly lynchpin is teamed with Japan's primo Rockabeat (as that nation termed it) band Magicon a sinew-fraying and intemperate tendon-tear through classics of Rock'n'Roll's eternally energising slipstreams such as Wayne Walker's All I Can Do Is Cry and on back to Dexter's initial influence, Elvis, on Rip It Up and Baby Let's Play House. Originally released in 1993 this is a superbly realised set of slinky-fingers and nimble knees ideal for neophyte and old neo alike.

- Stu Gibson

Stiff Little Fingers

Still Burning (DVD)
Fremantle Home Entertainment

Celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the hugely influential Northern Ireland punks, this film, written and directed by film-maker and punk flame-holder Don Letts, charts their history from pre-punk Troubles, to the success of first single Suspect Device (after sending it to a certain John Peel in a similar manner to near-neighbours The Undertones), through label-wrangling, disillusion and indifference right up to their current status as top-draws on the punk circuit, against the backdrop of a performance of the entire Inflammable Materialdebut (in full as a special feature along with extended interviews). Lacking vintage footage - besides an awesome clip of Gotta Getaway - which would broaden its appeal to the casual observer, it does dig behind the scenes of a band on the skids as they lingered in limbo between the punk 'rules' and new-romantics of the early eighties as well as proving that hitting the comeback trail isn't always the easy option it seems. As one of the original bands to reform SLF had to recharge batteries, belief systems and bite tongues and figurative bullets to reap their deserved rewards, which they discuss with admirable honesty and no trace of starry artifice.

- Stu Gibson

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man

Party In The Van!
TNS Records

Second release from one of the most ridiculously hard-working bands around in the trenches and the underground, and one of the best quids (if that!) you can spend for a night out at a gig, Manchester's Revenge Of...play the sort of E-number overload of avidly-social hyperactive anarchic disorder punk that makes free-boarding down a vertical cliff face on your hands a frightfully good idea worthy of a Terry Thomas chuckle. With a thicker, grittier production giving more muscle to their inherent mongrel-mangling melodies than debut releaseSHITTY ZOMBIES these six tracks show them still on rampant form trying to run rings around each other with laces tied together. Sure, from their name to the CD title to songs Magic Monkey Juice, No Sleep Till Guildford and the new national anthem Fuckers England don't expect sermons of sociological discourses, but neither should you expect to be told to shut the door upon entering the van.

- Stu Gibson

The Caravans

The Caravans
Smashed And Stripped Bare

Recorded mainly in 2002 following the near-fatal car crash that all but derailed them, this supreme set of acoustic-led rockabilly finally sees the full light of day, fleshed out with a couple of tracks recorded earlier this year. Replacing amplification with a banzai barrage of adrenalin this is played, as is their righteous wont, with the frenetic fervour that has always made them amenable to the psychobilly hordes, despite not pandering to the horrorpunk themes more prevalent in that culture. However, it be Head honcho Mark Penington that really sets them aside from the slicker end of neo-rockabilly and psycho-piffle. His sharp-eyed lyrics of lovelorn woe and women's whimsies are rivalled possibly only by The Rhythmaires' Stu Warburton for shooting the hat off the mordant humour of old honky-tonkin' classics and turning them back on their head for a ride through haunted parks well after dark. Along with galloping from the gallows pole covers of bluegrass traditional Baby Blue Eyes and Violent Femmes' Kiss Off SMASHED AND STRIPPED BARE should be a certainty this winter for rockin reelers n' sleazers of every community.

- Stu Gibson

The Sadies

New Seasons

The Sadies Cosmic Americanadia (more prosaically-titled 'psychedelic country') is a fringe-flowing, flower-wilting, reckless frolic with plenty of punk-tinged paisley undergroundings among the shimmers and quivers that the harmonies and brilliant but quite cartoon-like guitar-ing elicits (see What's Left Behind) - from timeworn yet never threadbare melodies bolting the stable of The Byrds' Chestnut Mare (Yours To Discover) into expansive 13th Floor Elevatorsfields where the sound just seems to flobble across the airwaves, straddling at least as many dimensions as there are frequencies, to a trashy tenderness (My Heart Of Wood). Always on the move - as is their wont - with the stealth of seasoned banditos, not least as a result of their impressively incestuous extra-curricular schedules, this is a natural process, rather than just a set of stoners frantically reassembling their scrambled talents in time to make an album. Not when it's one of such ridiculously beatific sea shanties from bucks riding mustangs as though mere rocking horses, nursery rhymes filtering fantastical, surreal images through your slumber-heavy shoulders and outlaw laments like The Trial. Disregard the hints of other songs and revel in a roughshod ride through a masterclass of artful crafting.

- Stu Gibson

The Gourds

Noble Creatures
Yep roc

'Stewing in my own perfume, lonely as a weather balloon' - How Will You Shine?

Warning: Initially listening to this in the barren midst of crashing headlong into the caustically spiked crash-barriers of heartache can bring on iridescent bouts of rage and rabid desires to shave their scraggy beards off with thirteen blunt chainsaws for chirruping like Van Morrison moondancing in the meadows onHow Will You Shine? and the sunnySpringsteen freeze-out funk of Kicks In The Sun. It's thus actually quite heart-warming to know that the band feared and despised this move away from their almost tongue-in-cheek approach to trucker hats and tractor DUI's too but braved the ride and came out stronger, as you the listener shall. For it shall be good, and you will be blown away by Promenade, thinkDion's Born To Be With You and Ronnie Lane's Done This One Before, that'll wrench your heart right out and soothe it with wreathes of self-realisation bought dearly at a final stand andLast Letter that has the emotional landfilling ache of Skynyrd'sTuesday's Gone. When Kevin Russell wails - in the righteous sense, not the whimpering one - about grief and feeling like the only one you know where the man's at, but boy, could you stand there and sing that? Sure, with The Gyroscopic, Red Letter Day and Cajun dance-off Cranky Mulatto they haven't hitched up the wagon and rode out into new-found lands of haunted ballads, just merely, merely, added new textures. It's just that they're the size of their home state that is so staggering. Once again I doff my ducktails Texas-ward and proffer mere shrugs at any simple, instant disdain.  

- Stu Gibson

Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life And Times Of Doc Pomus

Alex Halberstadt
Jonathan Cape

I'm no way exactly sure why, maybe it's the Elvis connection or the previous lack of illumination on their lives, but when considering songwriting duos Pomus and Shuman and maybe Leiber and Stoller it's hard to conceive of a story such as this. Though read in conjunction with, or remembering, the songs brings on home the harrowing trauma wrapped up as sweet sorrow in almost throw away songs like Elvis' (Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame or Save The Last Dance For Me(indeed, being a writer of such jukebox classics would tragically plague Pomus' sense of worth). Writ more as a fable with Doc born lowly Jerome Felder, before being hit lower by polio at a young age, and struggling through fallow years as a singer on his way to seeing the American Dream open before him like the yawning chasm of the Grand Canyon as a songwriter, with a huge house in the 'burbs, model wife and almost more money than needed to block out the Manhattan skyline, it all soon crumbles as he loses his fractious partner Mort Shuman, his wife and home, so wallows in desperate poverty for a couple of decades surrounded by mobsters, crooks and junkies, running gambling rackets and vaguely trying to get back into the songwriting game, in the face of dwindling royalty cheques. With a happy ending, of sorts (of course) this colossal book, constructed on Doc's own journals and approved by friends and family, is one awesomely essential music book that belies as well as lives up to its title, presenting a seriously flawed, as ever, but, much rarer, a sympathetic and identifiable-with character that emerges with pride and respect, and also provides glimpses into the stories behind those songs that'll scar perspectives and pierce hearts, scarcer even still in music biographies.

- Stu Gibson

Bonny Collyde

Deckchairs And Whiskey Bottles

Rising from the ashes slept in and the dregs drained one drunken night in 2002 stride, stagger and stumble these basement blues from hombres DD Dynamite and Trashtown Thrillers / Koma Katz head-hoss Craigey Swagger / Cragnet Bastard, who pulled on several slugs of only the most nefarious nectar and adopted a suitably trolleyed banner. Split about half n' half betwixt the two, these sixteen songs can be swilled in one fluid, almost interchangeable measure, kinda likeThe Jacobites, and the home recording doesn't make them cheap Lidl fizz, more a mournful mariachi's campfire of stately disrepair, where no flame melts these regrets into chewily digestible marshmallow chunks, but where chords cast crooked glances askance at anyone who gets too close from beneath their hat-brim. Well-versed, if not reared from birth, in the troubadours taverns and highwaymen's hovels, the grainy, red-rimmed n' dirty-eyed sandpaper scrapings lend a real authentic hazy hue to these horizon-less vistas stared into while impaled on a hangover something like being crucified 'pon a cactus, whether you're hearing them in Portsmouth (where they were recorded) or drifting on whatever high plains the morrow found ye on, or above. So there's tons of minesweeping and rounds' cadged but there's also some great guitar playing and songs that serve as a scrapbook of tattered hearts and odes to wrong turns that merit many a nicotine stained thumb-print through. While the soused n' sluiced nature of the recording may chafe a few ears amidst some inevitably too sloppy for slurs moments there's treasure in this 'ere chest for those walking on crooked heels with collars high, wearing some long-gone lady's colours along lonesome trails forged by her waltz of disregard.
- Stu Gibson
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