Tuesday, August 31, 2010



Why use lyrics and strings to orchestrate Doom when Earthride have arteries and veins? Dave Sherman has composed a circulatory symphony with his Maryland highway doomraiders on 'Something Wicked' thats igniting all sorts of underground hype and controversary that everyone and their housewives want in on. His abrasive, crass n roots vocal approach reminds me of a bloodhound vs convict manhunting chase that leads the men and blodshot hounds into a dark swamp, full of eeire sounds, tricky corners and adrenaline-rushing six-string stampede over a 9 track course. Two words describe the titled track, Something Wicked; thick and muggy. "Watch The Children Play" hits home in a heavy way. The sleeve insert graphics are thanks to the blood, sweat, tears and bones crushed throughout the past ten years using varous X-ray slides of the members body parts and donated organs. In profuse sweaty support of 'Something Wicked', Earthride drove their 2010 Maryland plates across the latitude and longitude grids of The United States to share what only comes natural to them; Doom logic, and nine tracks of it of it, which is precisely why Dave Sherman called Doom Metal Elder and Spirit Caravan comrad, Sir Wino to the testamonial altar to perfrom on the eigth track, "Supernatural Illusion". I see personal and professional growth in Earthride in a prolific way that really projects thier talent and you can't ask more out of release, whether you're playing music for personal or professional purposes. From his earlier works in Wretched and Pendulum, Sherman has stayed true to his homegrown origins in the birthplace of Doom in Maryland, outside of Washington, DC and where fear is force-fed by military officials who cant make their minds up and where War is what they breed. His grounds alone give him enough constitution to nominate him a forefounding Doombringer of the genre while he could stand to be the only Maryland resident, Doom veteran living their these days now that the earth's poles have shifted all band members elsewhere. It sounds like a simple solution to supporting the pollution which reflects on other songs on the album, such as, "Destruction Song" which expresses various depths and inside perception of the band's tar ridden, excess smoke-inhaled lungs. Earthide huff and puff, but 'Something Wicked' is extremely capable of blowing your minds.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Christian Mistress
Agony & Opium
20 Buck Spin

Deep in the heart of indie rock Mecca Olympia, Washington, lurks, oddly enough, a heavy metal band. Like most street metal outfits, Christian Mistress takes its inspiration from the rough, dirty side of Judas Priest, all hardcharging rhythms, minor-key anthems and dueling guitar solos. Frontchick Christine Davis’ gritty howl – she’s almost a dead ringer for Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano – can sound strident, as if she never smiles when there’s serious rocking to be done. She arguably works at odds with the big, dumb fun proffered by the band, but, then again, she’s probably appropriate for a line like Have I seen the catalyst/The rising corpse of tragic love (Home in the Sun). Still, Black Vigil and Riding On the Edges kick up the proper amount of dust behind the blazing Harley, and the just-set-up-and-go! production keeps even the gothic thrash of Omega Stone grounded in the dirt (road). Agony & Opium likely won’t go down in history as the flashpoint of a new Pacific Northwest metal movement, but it’s a promising start.

- Michael Toland

HeWhoCannotBeNamed - Sunday School Massacre

Sunday School Massacre
Greedy/MVD Audio

The occasionally dead guitarist for infamous shock rockers the Dwarves, HeWhoCannotBeNamed apparently harbors a sensitive soul under his Mexican wrestling mask. Sunday School Massacre, his debut solo album, has plenty of irreverence, as evidenced by psychocomic songs like Duct Tape Love, Daddy is Dead and Happy Suicide. But He also puts his sizzling licks to the service of tunes like Superhero, which expresses a hopeful, even uplifting point of view, and Toxine, which takes a sympathetic look at an addict who’s just looking for love. Particularly notable is Machine Boy, a brilliant track inspired by a patient in the facility for troubled youth at which He works when not splintering bones or flashing club crowds. Requiring body braces and a breathing apparatus due to enough physical disabilities to make even Rush Limbaugh feel a sympathetic pang, the poor kid spends his days reading superhero comics. Machine Boy is He’s tribute to the kind of superhero the boy might imagine himself to be, with lyrical assistance from the young man himself. If that’s not enough to tug at your heartstrings, you’re one cold motherfucker. Wielding melodic punk/hard rock tuneage that’s reminiscent of the Adolescents circa Balboa Fun*Zone and backed by his Dwarvian cohorts, He puts his heart on his sleeve right next to his dick on Sunday School Massacre.

- Michael Toland

Flash Metal Suicide: Spiritualized "Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space"

"Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space"
Arista/ BMG, 1997

I love albums that are titled well, as a mission statement. T-Rex's "Electric Warrior", with Marc standing in front of a stack of amps. The Stooges' "Raw Power". Chuck Berry's "The Great 28". All that. You know what you're in for. Similarly, in the canon of albums that describe exactly what you're getting into, Spiritualized's "Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space" stands as one of the best titled, and when you listen to it, it's apparent that you're in for exactly what the album describes. Not only that, but way more. I'm getting chills listening to it again for the 50 zillionth time, right as I type this.

I think that as the main genius of Spiritualized, one Jason "Spaceman" Pierce, this whole review is better suited to start describing how he ended up at a landmark masterpiece like "Ladies And Gentlemen...." in the first place. He was far from being a rookie, and by the time that 1997 rolled around, he was in about--depending on when you consider the criminally underrated Spacemen 3 to have formed--about 13, 14, 15 years into a vision of minimalist, drugged out narcoleptic sonic soundscapes. In Spacemen 3, he had honed--in tandem with Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember as co visionary--a sound that wasn't so much about specific songs as it was about overall mood and sound. Their songs often used no more than one chord progression, or in some cases, no more than two chords per song. I remember that when I when I started with Spiritualized with "Ladies And Gentlemen....", I still had no clue as to what Spacemen 3 were trying to do. Love 'em love 'em now, but yeah, you could say that I was bewildered at that time. Anyways, Jason had paid his dues with that whole minimalist thing, but not before releasing Spiritualized's first two albums, 1991's "Lazer Guided Melodies" (which was a more serene trip, stripping off the angry, fuzzed/ wah'd out Stooges protostomp....ie: "DD Catastrophe" is "TV Eye"...), and 1995's more built up transitional record with a separately different mix in each speaker, "Pure Phase".

So by 1997, Pierce, after having the motto of "less is more", swung the opposite way and went with the "more is more" ethos. The thing that I realized about "Ladies And Gentlemen..." is that there's almost always way too much going on in the mix--tons of things all creating this huge din of neo psych revival, damaged classic rock ("Come Together"), smacked out soul ("All Of My Thoughts"), space rock (the title track), swamp blues ("Cop Shoot Cop", with Na'wlins patron saint of boogie piano, Dr. John), avant free jazz ("The Individual", "No God, Only Religion"), proto punk ("Electricity"), gospel ("Cool Waves") and classical music ("Broken Heart"). It's a blend that--putting it in perspective and though he's tried valiantly with some top notch and certainly well crafted albums since--not even Pierce has been able to top since then, and this is 13 years since then.

Before I really knew about Spiritualized, I remember Pierce stating in an interview something to the effect of, "we aim incredibly high. So high that we take the time to get things right, we take as much time as we need. You hear about all these bands in hindsight and they say 'this was the record that we always wanted to make'. Well, why did we waste a bunch of quid spending money on something that was a warmup to you getting things right? And you're not gonna get an album as good as Al Green's by going to a studio that Al Green used". It wasn't word for word like that, but it was close.

I was instantly sold. Anyone that comes off like that had better be able to deliver the goods. And did he ever. Never were truer words spoken.

Starting off with the classical themed (it was based on a Pachelbel composition) title track, it segues into the Stones-y "Come Together", which hits it's chorus crescendos in a massive din of soul singers, harmonicas and guitar freakouts, but ironically, never loses control of it's chaos. That's tough to do. That's something that this album does well--even in the chaotic moments, it never quite careens over the edge to losing control of the overall vision. "I Think I'm In Love" takes drum loops and instrumental loops and utilizes Pierce's old method of repeating one progression into oblivion, but somehow never gets tiring or old--there's enough progression and evolution in the slow addition of horn sections and other instrumentation that keeps it interesting throughout. "All Of My Thoughts" pits mellow, calm verses versus chaotic free jazz sax skronk that wouldn't be out of place on the Stooges' "Funhouse" (likewise for the avant free jazz "The Individual" or "No God, Only Religion").

As a matter of fact, by this point if you haven't heard this album, you're probably wondering how many diverse sounds could work on one album. I often kind of wonder that, too, but when it just gels, why not run with it? I think that it's the fact that it creates so many different sounds that probably shouldn't work, that makes it so effective; the risks and genre bending that it does, as well as the pacing, the spacing and the flow of the album. There was a massive risk that Pierce took with this--he could do more of the same--relying on tremolos, vintage Farfisa organs, phasers, delays, wahs, and i'm certain that he must have truly offended and confused some long time fans--but he stepped into the oblivion and traded it for timpanis, strings, choirs, backup soul singers, autoharps, pianos, wild bluesy harmonicas, and more vocal harmonies.

What makes this record such an astounding accomplishment is that Jason can't read or write music, he plays into a dictaphone and then hands it to other musicians. He's a genius from a ground level, a fuck up like the rest of us (one of Spacemen 3's motto's was that they were "for all the fucked up children in this world"), but taking our insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams and throwing it all into music form, because he's Jason Pierce--he can do it and we can't, otherwise we'd be doing it.

As much as I have a bit of a gripe of all the post "Ladies And Gentlemen..." material almost being a little too pseudo religious or gospel at times, this album seemed to be when he got that formula right, while utilizing it to prove a point, but not overdoing it. Pierce's fight between the good and the evil, the Yin and the Yang is probably most perfectly exemplified in the album's true highlight for me: "Home Of The Brave", which starts out being peaceful, and then morphs into the evil and brooding "The Individual". There's always been that fight between god and the devil--Pierce has admittedly never been on either's side, though the gospel style at times and the mentions of God may mark it as closer to being some sort of pseudo Christian trip. Julian Cope had said in an interview once, In Guitar World (I think), that he used to like Spiritualized, but the music has since become "coffee table music for smackheads". Which is kinda funny, because it's sort of true in one way, but it's ultra ironic in Cope's case, since Cope's rock/ heavy psych side project, Brain Donor, also has two Spiritualized members in guitarist Doggen and drummer Kev Bales.

"Broken Heart" follows it up, and it's just Pierce, lyrics, and wind and string ensembles; it's stark, melancholy vibe pitted against our hero trying to find some peace and some solace and answers here on this messed up Earth. "No God, Only Religion" continues more in the free avant jazz territory, letting horn and trumpet and sax appeal dominate it, "Cool Waves" is a gospel song with gigantic choirs and worthy of it's own hymn.

But it's the conclusion that makes this so great. "Cop Shoot Cop", a 17+ minute swamp blues epic that really only uses one chord progression, as well as the aforementioned Dr. John delta piano playing to excellent effect. Using actual space and breathing room in the song, somehow this song manages to make sense and verify everything that Pierce has done, no matter how big nor stripped down it's been. When I didn't "get" the Spacemen 3 stuff, it was like, when the chaotic wah and piano and jazz bass finally kicks into the noisy chorus part, and THEN the chaotic free jazz middle part before it finally floats back down to reality with the slightly different piano/ bass part and pedal steel guitar, i'd finally figured it out. You know, it's like the Burning Bush right there. It's like it was all somehow a warmup to this, like he had this trump card in his hand that he was cleverly playing all along to lay down when we least expected it....and this late and far into his career. Like a great poker player, it's about knowing when to hold out to capitalize when people least expect you to, a steady but unrevealing hand, a stoic face (come to think of it, i've never seen Pierce smiling in photos...). All of that. I'm sure that when Pierce put this out, if he was playing a metaphorical game of poker, he'd win the big stakes hand and pull in everyone's chips and give a slight wink of the eye and a slight smile, and then be off to nail us again when we least expect it. Professional and business-like, too--you could easily hate him because he's so damn good, but then you have to admit that the guy IS good, and if you can't beat 'em, you'd better join 'em.

As a matter of fact, "Cop Shoot Cop" sounds exactly like the soundtrack to some card game in a backwoods New Orleans delta juke joint--dirty, run down, but playing to win. And then the chorus--the high card holder--nails you when you just thought that you knew what was around the bend, card-wise. Those gambles could also mirror the gamble that I had previously mentioned with Pierce's own audience, who definetely didn't expect this album of this type of magnitude; it's a Phil Spector wall of different variations of noise and texture, loud to soft, good to evil, light to dark.

And it's not like the phasers or tremolos or delays or wahs or Farfisas aren't there....they're just used a bit more sparingly, instead allowing the other musicians on this record to work their magic around Jason's relatively simple and straightforward arrangements. If you look at the liner notes (which read like a prescription to take drugs to, with the instructions and "ingredients"...a very neat touch in itself), there's 20 musicians if you factor in the 4 piece band, probably way more if you factor in whoever was actually in the London Community Choir. And to be quite honest, that brings me to my next point: Spiritualized have never made a better album than this, simply because in my own opinion, Pierce allowed more people to shine in his band. Because let's face it, it's HIS band. And he's a genius and doesn't need a whole pile of help, but I miss the days where a whole bunch of musicians and sounds and personalities added to a bigger greater whole.

When Spacemen 3 disintegrated amidst the "Recurring" album, wherein Sonic and Pierce recorded their songs separately as they were that sick of each other, Jason had formed Spiritualized with the premise that it wasn't to be like Sonic's dictatorship--a democracy instead of a totalitarian grip. Unfortunately, Spiritualized ended up reverting to the Spacemen 3 way-- he fired his band after this record, and although they went on to Lupine Howl and it was decent--coupled with the "freedom" that Pierce may have had with band members wanting more writing credits or contributions and maybe whatever shackles fans may have thought that those members had on him, it wasn't the revolution that fans of both parties were looking for, myself included.

In the end, though, in this current world of music that's just meant to be as accessible as possible, it's refreshing to know that music, at one time, aimed for end to end albums by those who sought out more from their records, and that guys like Jason Pierce truly get what the experience means to the listener, as well.

--Ryan Settee

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vermillion Sands - Vermillion Sands
Alien Snatch

'I wish I could live in a room on the outskirts of town with no-one around...'

Come come all ye comely creeps into this deceptively cramped cabin carpeted with wondrously desiccated frantic acid-folk and serrated salt-water swirls and furnished & coated in slide, rollicksome bass under-over-sideways 'round roiling drums festooned with farfisa frolics and occasional flourishes of surf-scowling guitar sinistrations so seasoned a thousand fringes would be granted free therapy, as anyone exposed in any local barren store and crumbling coastlines of recorded delights to the monstrous storm of Movie Star Junkie's mellifluous MELVILLE marvelpiece - two of whom's helmsmen's loiter in these shadows - will whoop-a-holler about. Fearsomely foxy fairytales dripping in ethereal yet direct prickly insinuations and haughty purrs, however off kilter. Anna's enchanting twang is like the disembodied air in Kat Bjelland dark lantern stare that could idly disembowel you with a furtive hither ye come oh simpering sap. Sure, the psych-country goth-skiffle approach may beach Holly Golightly (or Gothlightly as the cheat sheet info delightfully says - LOOK, EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS RECORD IS PRETTY BARSTADLY DELIGHTFUL) - into still waters all the better for sinking through - like the fragillically epic Monsoon Blues, a waltz indeed above & beyond yours stuly's fetishistic warmth for the form, beckoning Bow-waves), by itself no small salt-shakers but it's shape-shifting, unaffectedly kooky charms conjures Voice of the Beehive, Warm Up with it's strains of California Dreamin', the Floyd-fucked by The Fish (or thrice vice versa) closer Ghost Song to Fabien Delsol's coquettish girl spy-pop (Wake Me When I Die) or and any other continental chick you keep in your lockets. Quite sweetly astonishing and quietly gargantuan. Damn, I do love Germans.
General Stulysses S Damned

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Black Sleep of Kali - Our Slow Decay

Our Slow Decay
Small Stone

I never would have imagined that American postpunk would be an influence on today’s underground metal bands, but there it is. (Considering that the DC scene that spawned American postpunk back in the 80s also hosted stoner rock innovator the Obsessed, I shouldn’t be surprised. Ian MacKaye worshipped Obsessed leader Wino and J. Robbins of Jawbox produces stoner and heavy rock bands all the time.) On Our Slow Decay, the debut full-length from Denver’s Black Sleep of Kali, strains of Fugazi and Jawbox run as deep as those of Cathedral and Neurosis. Like all of the bands just mentioned, BSoK keeps a firm grip on melody, even if it’s just to hold it down while giving it a good pummeling. Frontbeast Taylor Williams can shout and roar with the best of ‘em, but keeps his vocal exhortations within the realm of articulation. Big Sky, The Crow and the Snake and Eulogy bash and crash, crunch and munch, but always with an eye toward accessibility, or at least as close to it as a band whose name invokes the Hindu goddess of eternal energy can be. Harsh, dissonant, imaginative and strangely catchy, Black Sleep of Kali could easily be the face of contemporary metal.

- Michael Toland

Monday, August 16, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: The Headstones

The Headstones,
Picture Of Health
MCA, 1993

Location, location, location. It's an old real estate saying, but it's applicable to music, too. I've long thought that Canadian bands get the short end of the shaft, if you're talking worldwide exposure--the worst bands seem to be a parody of the bullshit that's already succeeded and approved of elsewhere. Think about it. Nickelback is to Creed as what Saga is to Yes; Celine Dion is to Mariah Carey, complete with creepy manager advisor dude turned "love interest", and the best stuff seems to have trouble passing the 49th parallel or past the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean. Here in Canada, we've been ridiculously rich with great acts that have done their own thing. I could list you a zillion bands from here that you should have heard about, but it's usually a lack of money and/ or time to tour other regions adequately.

To give a slight bit more of context for this tribute before I get into the details further down, when I first asked the almighty Sleaze if I could write here, I had to ask myself what I could contribute that wasn't exactly like the other well tributes that i'd read here over the years. I thought that I want to have a pretty healthy focus from Canadian bands that went under the radar (expect something like a Slow/ Tankhog tribute sometime in the near future). But what I really wanted to make the most of, is to do a real official writeup on the Headstones' "Picture Of Health"--a record that I still think is vastly underrated. And it's something that I have from a long time ago when it was first released in 1993, where I felt like I really was there from the start and then saw how the band had progressed and then played out their career (the band isn't together anymore). There's a certain amount of time that elapses, where I think that your own perspective about the world changes, but certain things are always constants. You can go back to them, and they still make you feel the exact same way about 'em later on. I think that's pretty important. I like change, but I also like some things where I know every curve around the bend. Maybe i'm biased in what i'm writing here, but hell, we're all creatures of favouritism. We all end up reverting to what we like. I like writing about things that I like, and I like reading writers that write about what they like. Sometimes I think that objectivity is just an excuse to remain impartial while you really, really hate your job.

Anyways, while I wouldn't call the Headstones' formula original, i've also heard few debuts like "Picture Of Health" that come out swinging with as much flamethrower attitude and fully realized confidence. The cover has a picture of singer Hugh Dillon, smoking. A picture of health, indeed. They tell you not to judge a book by it's cover, but fuck it--it just about sums up the exact attitude of this record. This was a band that sort of seemingly came out of nowhere with this album--their major label debut-- obviously with something that even won over the most jaded of record execs over at MCA. But then again, in this MySpace/ Facebook groomed "music industry" these days, we're talking about a day where rock musicians lived the actual music that they played. Dead ends, squat houses and the luck that you escaped last night's barroom brawl or whatever. Forget having your whole life to make your first album, maybe you're lucky that you just survived to tell about it at all. Dead men tell no tales, as they say.

"That's the thing about livin'.... when you get there you take what you're given...."

--Headstones, "Three Angels"

Frontman Hugh Dillon was an addict that had made a few too many enemies in his junkie and alcoholic days; on the run from too many debts, too many burnt bridges. And without knowing too much about his back story other than what he's said in interviews, he's the perfect guy to front a rock n' roll band. He'd also played the lead character, Joe Dick, in a movie called Hardcore Logo--a great film about a fictitious punk band. These days, he does more acting than music; something about tiring of the rigors of the road and the lifestyle. And not surprisingly, he's a great actor, because he's given characters that he can relate to (thug in Dance Me Outside, the aforementioned Hardcore Logo role, etc). But in the heyday of the Headstones, I think that what made him such a great frontman and singer, is that despite his limited vocal range (mostly sung in a lower, menacing almost speak/ sing voice) he just sounds like a regular guy that just happened to spend a little too much time on the wrong side of the tracks. Like that one dude that you thought was a pretty straight up guy in a bad crowd in school. What he lacks in technicalities as a singer, he more than makes up for it in personality.

Musically, the Headstones fall right in between Motorhead and the Ramones on their debut, with a bit of classic rock (Stones, AC/DC) thrown in there too. They never stray too much from the three or four chord power chord formula, but they have enough twists in there to change it up over the course of an album to prevent it from getting stale. The obvious classic on the album is "Cemetery". Rock n' roll isn't exactly a difficult genre to play, but contrary to what it's naysayers have wrote (including "rock n' roll is dead" for maybe the 5 millionth time), the great rock n' roll has always been in short supply and takes a surprisingly high amount of skill to do well. Of course, Sleazegrinder readers are of a different pedigree, but it's amazing, really, how few bands actually get it right when they re-arrange three chords. "Cemetery" starts out with tribal drum patterns, then has a rockabilly type riff in the verse, and then launches into a massive Ramones styled singalong chant type chorus. "Went down to the cemetary looking for love.....got there and my baby was buried, I had to dig her up". Necrophilia and all, that's hands down one of the best fucking rock lyrics, ever. Even stuff like Alice Cooper's "I Love The Dead" sounds a bit more humorous; the lyrics here waste no time with imagery or metaphor:

"I got a gal who lives on the wrong side of town...
I know what I like and man you know I sure know how.... it's the other side, another place...
I like it there, no accounting for taste...
I can't think of nothing when i'm with her....
but the rain and the wind and the cemetary dirt....

went down to the cemetary looking for love...
got there and my baby was buried, I had to dig her up....

18,000 miles across nowhere land...
i'm scratching and i'm spitting there ain't nobody listening and things are kind of getting out of hand...

there's only one point that i'd like to make....
these kinds of things deteriorate...

it's the gospel truth, man...

she's embalmed in love juice..."

There's few songs that I think just distill everything great about the whole history of rock n' roll; this one does it in exactly three minutes. There's no other volume for "Cemetery", but loud. And to put it in perspective, "Cemetary" is the last track on "Picture Of Health". Usually I start off the writeups of these album tributes in the running order that they're in, but "Cemetary" just completely represents everything that this album is about, and it's the fucking album closer. Imagine that.

I remember when the album came out in 1993, i'd heard the first single "It's All Over" on the radio before it's release, and had picked it up on the first day. Loved it--it hooked me in right from the start. I still have that cassette--it's still going strong. I just listened to it the other day before doing this tribute. Maybe that's symbolic of this release. But what I thought was great about it then was that it didn't cater to any trends. It just didn't give a damn, and that's why I think that this album has aged incredibly well 17 years on since I wrote this in 2010. It was just straight up leather jacket three chord rock n' roll with a healthy dose of punk and metal to give it the energy that alot of similar minded rock bands had lacked. I guess that the overall atmosphere of the grunge/ alternative guitar rock era had sort of given a bit of appropriate context for the record for it's dirtiness, but there weren't any flannel shirts, no obvious catering to trends. I remember thinking that the band may have had a tougher road ahead of them because of being more of a straight up rock band, but they bridged that gap between the 80's rock (ie: huge guitar solos in every song) and grunge type stuff, because they just did their own thing. People sympathetically moved up to the front of the bar to pump a fist.....that's what the best rock n' roll does. You don't look around to see if anyone else likes it, you're just drawn in. Plus, I think that the Headstones added a much needed dose of fun to that whole era. It was okay to listen to music because it was fun and maybe didn't make you think too much (okay, i'm thinking too much here, but that's because of nostalgia....).

And as good as the Headstones were on record, live, they were just something else. They never disappointed. They'd toured every cockroach and rat infested shithole across Canada at least two or three times (including the Junkyard here in Winnipeg--I forget who it was, but they'd said that their first and most lasting of the Junkyard was "....some dude passed out in his own vomit" right outside of the building). In some ways, they were a bit like Canada's version of AC/DC--in their fans, you could find a smattering of a bunch of different types of rockers; some who didn't even much like rock n' roll at all, but found something special in the band. And I know that the Unband were highly touted (and still are!) in the Sleazegrinder camps. Who did the Headstones have on tour with 'em in 2000? The Unband, in support of their "Retarder" album. I nearly forgot that. I think that the first, last and only time that The Unband came through here was with the Headstones. There was a giant two horned metal finger that The Unband had as a stage prop, as I remember. Good times.

As far as the punk/ metal thing is concerned when the band was at top flight and full throttle, "Losing Control" is aptly titled--it's one of the best Motorhead songs that Motorhead never did. "Oh My God" starts with bludgeoning noise and killer riffs; Dillon gasping "...oh my god i'm gonna die..." at the start of the track before he ends the song off with "...oh my god, i'm gonna live..."--perhaps a scarier thought than he may have imagined, especially for a guy that lived as close to the edge as he did at one point. "Heart Of Darkness" parades out the thoughts that some people think that they don't have the balls to say.

"....I just can't believe what a stinking horrible motherfucking web I weave...
around myself, I look to my friends seduced by the bottle and the syringe....

.....like a con who goes down for 20 years....
remembers the faces of the judge and the jurors...

...god loves me, god loves you....
god loves Hitler man, and them six million jews...

must be a con...
who won't come down from the mount...

we do a death dance, he does a body count into his...

heart of darkness...."

And with Hugh's matter of fact delivery, I can't think of any other guy to deliver that with as much tell it like it is streetwise bravado. In other singers/ lyricists' hands, that would be a political statement or maybe even jockeying for sloganeering, but in Dillon's world, that's just the way it is, man. It's not politics, it's just reality. All the guy has ever done is party and front a rock n' roll band.

The fun of writing out his lyrics, is that like in print where there's commas right in the middle of the lyrical line, it really sounds like Dillon is just speaking out a story in rock n' roll form. You need those spaces, those pauses put into print. That sounds pretty overblown for rock lyrics, but somehow Dillon really comes across as a storyteller without being overly sentimental or cheesy; odes to the working class and the forgotten and disenfranchised. And best of all, it's memorable. Some songs i've heard ten million times, but I always forget the verse lyrics, whereas I usually find myself unconsciously remembering most of the Headstones' lyrics. It's easy to dismiss him as some dumb rocker dude or whatever, but the finer details are what makes the truly great ones who and what they are. Hell, Mike Ness has been trying to do it for +3 decades now, and as cool as it is telling the story exactly like people say it, is that while it's something that the average person can relate to, the end result is that stuff like that gets pretty rote pretty fast. Dillon has a way with a lyric where it feels lived in, but it's not trite. And that's incredibly tougher to do than it sounds. It's stuff that you wish you'd thought of because it says it exactly the way that it is and gets to the point, but finds the words to say it better than we ever could. That's what great writers do.

"When Something Stands For Nothing" was a pretty big single when the album started to gain a little more momentum a little while after it's release. Key line: "...and this one's for nothin'....this one's for fun....and this one's about rock n' roll and comic books and bubblegum" (a mission statement and a one line sentence that I could otherwise chisel this whole tribute down to) featuring stripped down arrangements and acoustic guitars in the verses and fast power chording, super catchy "ooh ooh ooh"'s in the chorus with some harmonica playing by Dillon (curveball: the eerie, spacy middle bridge/ verse which has always--oddly enough--fit into the song so well that I never really realized until lately how it moves the song into a different more sombre place without losing the feel of the party atmosphere of the rest of the tune). A cover of The Travelling Wilbury's "Tweeter And The Monkey Man" here sounds nothing like the folky original; tapping into the underlying menace in the original by upping the speed and anger and infusing that punk/ metal thing again with some thrashier muted palming in the verses from guitarist Trent Carr. And even in the albums' lightest moments--the ballads, if you will--there's still a sense of urgency and no bullshit style in the Stones-y "Three Angels", like how Billy Idol still sounded tough and cool no matter if it was a slower song or a faster one:

"new suit, cufflinks and a new tie... real nice service for me when I die..."

Side 2 has an equivalent to that in "Won't Wait Again". I'm really surprised that this wasn't a single, and being the third last song on the record, much like how the album ends off with the best song in "Cemetary", even with slower songs, the album never lets down or lets up as much as it simply never gives up. Amidst the album's tales of miscreants, thieves and ne'er do wells, it's difficult to tell what's first person from third person in Dillon's world, but it's safe to say that when it's not a first person account, the stories still ring true (ie: "Tweeter And The Monkey Man"---"....Tweeter and the Monkey Man were hard up for cash, stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash..."). There's not alot of deviation from the straight up rock thing, but there's a few detours as previously mentioned; one of them being the pretty near psychedelia in the intro of "Where Does It Go?", which comes back a couple of times in the song, but not before the rocking and attitude kick in (Trent Carr REALLY likes the phase pedal, as you can tell by later Headstones albums).

Somehow, the band--although they put out some great records later on--never quite matched the full on intensity of this one. The records after that tend to be more crafted and utilize the studio more--better budgets or having more time to make records, I suppose--I seem to remember Hugh saying in an interview that there was something like 50 guitar tracks on "Cubically Contained". The records and songs after this were occasionally more pop-influenced ("Blonde and Blue"), or a bit more grinding and modern rock influenced at times. They're all great, really. But you just can't beat a debut that has everything just so perfectly in place, whether that be "High Voltage", "Here Are The Sonics" or "Young, Loud and Snotty". While there's a few people that know about 'em outside of Canada, in a perfect world, the legacy of the Headstones would rank significantly higher than it does in a worldwide capacity.

--Ryan Settee

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Naked Coast to Coast by Andrew Einhorn

Naked Coast to Coast
By Andrew Einhorn
Einhorn Enterprises

The proprietor of the book, TV show and website Naked Happy Girls, photographer Andrew Einhorn has a philosophy he lays out, in the “Pose” section of his website, thusly: …a celebration of beauty through the idea that a smile is sexier than a pouty face. Laughter more of a turn on then moaning. That arching your back while balancing on sharp rocks looks really uncomfortable. Or, more succinctly, where NAKEDNESS, LAUGHTER and ART intersect. In other words, Einhorn’s vision of sexy, skyclad women doesn’t jibe much with, say, Larry Flynt’s. Instead of silicone-enhanced professionals with elastic bones and cynical come-hither expressions, Naked Coast to Coast – the sequel to Naked Happy Girls, natch – features “real” women from New York and San Francisco. These women are lawyers, painters, dancers, musicians and other ladies without a professional interest in selling sex, and they’re more likely to be rolling around in the grass, playing with their pets, running down the beach or, as on the cover, posing in front of the Statue of Liberty than inserting digits in nether regions. Veteran sleazebeasts might find this boring – after all, the Playboy aesthetic long ago became as mainstream as gangsta rap. The closest to unsavory Einhorn gets here are the bongs that sometimes crop up and the occasional shot indicating a foot fetish.

But the big difference between Einhorn’s erotica and that of more down-and-dirty photographers’ – or Playboy, for that matter – is what makes Naked Coast to Coast something more than one more art book attempting to be sexy. The smiles on these women’s faces are sincere. That whole laughter-being-a-turn-on thing isn’t just a glib marketing line – it really is how Einhorn thinks, and the way these girls look as if they’re having a blast running around naked gives his pictures a freshness and charm very, very few other projects like this have. It’s what makes Kate more than just another blonde ex-cheerleader, Lisa more than just another cute rich girl, Rubina more than just another chocolate goddess and Jamie more than just a piece of indie rock crumpet. The good vibes obviously flowing between professional nudie photographer and amateur model are infectious. And wouldn’t the picture of a buxom redhead who can barely hold back her laughter as her robe falls open present a more genuine erotic buzz than a hardcore actress spreading her labia with a vacant look in her eye? Einhorn isn’t selling the fantasy of a constantly horny bitch who can’t keep her hands off herself or anyone else – he’s presenting an unvarnished view of everyday women who go naked for the sheer fun of it. How can anyone resist that?

- Michael Toland

King Giant - Southern Darkness

King Giant
Southern Darkness

The band’s name is King Giant and the album is called Southern Darkness. If you guessed this Virginia quintet trucks in heavy doom/stoner/grunge metal, you’d be shooting at an easy target. King Giant isn’t doing anything here that Down hasn’t done already, but you know what? Who gives a shit? When the groove of Potter’s Field grabs you by the gonads and shakes you ‘til you’re sore, the rage of Machine Gun Mantra sends you hiding behind the kitchen door with a butcher knife, the riffs of Shindig rip out your entrails and stuff them in your pockets and the bad vibes of Mississippi River haunt your waking dreams, questions of originality just don’t matter a damn. Frontdude Hammerly has a voice somewhere between the whiskey-scarred growl of Phil Anselmo and the manly bellow of Glenn Danzig, and his charisma carries the tracks on the occasions when the sounds verge on the generic. Southern Darkness may owe a debt to the teeth-gnashing doom that came before it, but it stands proudly shoulder to shoulder with its inspirations. Plus 13 To begins with a banjo before crashing into the swamp with amps cranked to 21. That’s just fucking cool.

- Michael Toland

Friday, August 06, 2010

Neurosis - Enemy of the Sun

Enemy of the Sun

Originally released in 1993, Enemy of the Sun was/is the fourth album from crusty weirdoes Neurosis. This is the record that solidified the quintet’s distinctive style: slow, rumbling streams of sperm whale-heavy grunge wrestling with squid tentacles of samples-frosted shimmer, while a pissed-off drill sergeant, a mournful emo kid and a steroid-addicted grizzly bear trade lines about how one should mistrust to survive, avoid being burned alive. Drums pound unrelentingly, guitars slice like sheets of razors, synths moan and hum, tempos shift like Central Texas weather and dudes scream and yell like UFC fans whose cable has been cut off. It’s like Swans buttfucking Black Sabbath while Ian MacKaye eggs them on. In other words, it ain’t exactly party music, especially not when saddled with ungainly labels like "atmospheric hardcore." (I don’t know what that means, either.) But out of the grisly orgy comes a lot of today’s postmodern metal, and as good, even great, as a lot of that stuff is (cf. Isis and its various spinoffs), there’s nothing like tapping the original source. Raze the Stray, Takeahnase (demo version) and the beastly Cleanse (which ends with a multi-drum solo worthy of a Chinese kodo street gang) set standards for graceful brutality that few would even attempt to maintain. Enemy of the Sun is all about pain, defiance and imagination – the perfect soundtrack for those days when you need to pull your pathetic self up by your bootstraps and make your enemies suffer.

- Michael Toland


"We Sick"/"Holy Man" 7"
Yeah Right!

Originally released in February as a free download from Buddyhead, these two scorching singles from L.A. scuzz rockers The Icarus Line are now available on a pretty urine-yellow (or "clear green fuzz") slab of vinyl. Reeking of sweat and sex, "We Sick" pulses like thunder in the distance on a blistering August afternoon, guitar licks charged with electricity and the promise of release. "Feel the heat push its way out from the ghettos/All the hopeless fuckers dried up for the summer" oozes lead singer Joe Cardamone, as I suck drops of water from a rapidly-melting ice cube. If "We Sick" is the smoldering tension in the air before the storm hits, "Holy Man" is the storm, all searing psych guitars and thunderclap drumbeats. "Maybe we were just on the scene/Maybe we were just glittering/Here comes your Holy Man" raves Joe, as the storm rages on. This band is headed straight for the sun. I hope the wax doesn't melt.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Valkyrie - Man of Two Visions

Man of Two Visions

The publicity hook for Valkyrie is that Baroness guitarist Pete Adams is a member. But the Virginia quartet existed before those acclaimed metallurgists arrived on the scene, and continue today. Pete shares git-fiddle duties with his brother Jake (who also sings, in the usual Ozzy-influenced yowl), and their sibling six-string harmonies give the NWOBHM-infused doom majesty of Man of Two Visions a lush, almost painterly backdrop – cf. the extended coda of the title track. But the driving force here is melody – few metal bands of this stripe make music that’s so damn pleasurable to hear. There’s nothing you’d call pop music, mind you, but the band’s sharp ear and easy fluency make False Dreams, Apocalypse Unsealed and the instrumental Green Highlander a lot catchier than you’d ever guess. Bonus: The Gorge, an acoustic instrumental that would make Leo Kottke proud.

- Michael Toland

Monday, August 02, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: The Dead Boys

The Dead Boys
We Have Come For Your Children

Sire Records,

Talk about living up to a name. But first, we need some context.

The punk scene didn't really last that long in the late 70's. By the time that the Pistols self destructed, Thunders got deeper into addiction and became more unreliable and when it became evident that most punk albums didn't really sell that well, I think that the big major industry realized that the whole thing was a sinking ship. Perhaps overestimating the youth's investment in a genre that was supposed to be all about being down with the man, the whole thing was a dubious thing to begin with. Maybe the nation's youth bought into the rebellion, and then realized that with a big, huge commercial juggernaut behind those bands, that maybe the motives became a little more clouded. It turned out that alot of the musicians and bands really wanted to be big stars, which was at odds with the tenets of what punk was supposed to be about. Most of the bands morphed into something quite commercial. Johnny and the Self Abusers became Simple Minds. The Damned became goth lite. Stiv Bators formed the decidedly less punk Lords of the New Church.

And you can't really blame those guys, because after reading books like Please Kill Me, most of 'em were broke and didn't have much money. So for some of those guys, plan B in the industry meant toning down the angst and watering down the message. For some, it was a necessity--there was no future in punk rock...unless it meant holing up in squat houses and sharing dirty needles and whatnot (read John Armstrong's "Guilty Of Everything" about the late 70's/ early 80's Vancouver punk scene). The same thing happened to hippies in the late 60's and early 70's--it's easy to say that you're not gonna cave in to the big machine, but when it came down to cutting your hair and donning a suit and tie to be able to support yourself, tons of those guys made that decision without even having to think twice about it. Maybe you figure that your scene is a dead end, that the only people left are a hollow shell of what they once were. Thunders certainly became a shadow of his former self. When that happens, things have to change, or it's the end anyways.

"Ain't It Fun"

"ain't it fun when your friends despise what you've become....
ain't it fun when you get so high that you, well you just can't come...

ain't it fun when you know that you're gonna die young....it's such fun

......I punched my fist right through the glass, and I didn't even feel it but it happened so fast.....
such fun....."

Delivered in it's original incarnation in Rocket From The Tombs, it takes on a "fuck you, live and let live" tone. But delivered in The Dead Boys towards the end of their career, it sounds more like a warning and an epitaph. Based alot on what I think was "Open Up And Bleed" by the Stooges, it has a similar structure and message; you may open up and bleed every night for the fans and audiences and for the show, but eventually it'll take it's toll. Rock n' roll sometimes will bleed you dry, and at that, Stiv had a penchant for cutting himself onstage; that crimson red wasn't fake like KISS'....that was the real thing. And as much as it seems like you're winning one moment, it won't remember you for a second when you're losing. There's always someone younger, prettier, more malleable. Maybe the fans will remember, but only you have to live with yourself. As the casualties mounted (especially around the year 1991) for the true punks--Rob Tyner, Thunders, Fred Smith-- songs like the Replacements' "Johnny's Gonna Die" and even Stiv's own delivery in "Ain't It Fun" became more true and prescient with each passing year.

The Dead Boys formed out of the ashes of Rocket From The Tombs and moved to New York from the confines of Cleveland where they felt there was little support and future for their brand of raw, back to basics rock n' roll. So off to New York it was--the big city, big lights, big dreams. But there was a penalty. Drummer Johnny "Blitz" Madansky was stabbed in a streetfight, and as the band became more ensconced in the New York CBGB's scene, the more that they stagnated and ended up descending into bad drug and alcohol addictions. Stiv ended up singing off key for the live contractual obligation album for Sire, because he was that pissed at them. As punk became yesterday's trend, The Dead Boys were--as many punks had been-- being pressured to change their sound and make it more commercial, just like in the mid 90's, when bands were instructed to cut their hair and change their image from grunge or alternative to "respectable". One day, the rocker look sells, and then the next day it doesn't. One day, some kid has "Kurt Cobain 4ever" written on their binder, and then it's ________ (insert new favorite artist here). That's the thing about trends, you can't base it on what some kid likes, because that kid is usually gonna trade you in or up towards whoever's selling the most records this year.

Belushi dug The Dead Boys and tried to get the word out, but Belushi fared the same eventual fate as the band.

But before The Dead Boys officially called it quits, they'd put out "We Have Come For Your Children", which despite the acclaim towards the first album "Young, Loud and Snotty", is also a great album and tends to be sort of forgotten or dismissed. I'm not sure why--I think that's just the way that history has transpired, and the popular consensus becomes just to assume that what they're told is correct because, you know, that's just the way that it was.

The band had toned down it's image somewhat from dog collars and ripped clothing to more normal attire; on the back of the cd, Stiv has a formal jacket on, and guitarist Jimmy Zero sports a tie. But the songs, themselves, are still high energy and raw, aside from the production. Apparently producer Felix Pappalardi didn't understand or even really like The Dead Boys. Guitarist Cheetah Chrome had once said something like, "here we were in Florida with dog collars on, with a producer that didn't understand us at all". Allegedly, names such as Lou Reed and James Williamson were supposed to produce the album, but i'm wondering if Sire was against another one of the "punks" to produce an album that they were trying to get their investment back out of. But ultimately, the truest, most distilled form of punk was still far too rough, too unpolished for saleability. The Dead Boys realized that even with a slightly toned down album, it was way too rock, way too intimidating for the average listener...especially for the aging baby boomer generation that had virtually locked up the major radio airwaves and touring circuits; people whose icons of rebelliousness in the 60's--Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, etc, were all appropriately toning down sympathetically with their maturing audiences.

The album starts off with "3rd Generation Nation"--not quite supplying it's equivalent of album opener power that was seen in "Sonic Reducer", but still a killer rocker. "There ain't no future and there ain't no past....there's just a graveyard and it's coming fast....well we want the truth, we're the modern youth history warned 'ya of....and we're down to kill". "I Won't Look Back" displays a surprisingly keen sense of melody and songwriting, really well done. "I Don't Wanna Be No Catholic Boy" is an anti-religion rant, but done in more of a sense of how a punk would do it--"....I wanna beat my meat right in the street....", with backing vocals from Joey and Dee Dee Ramone. Coincedentally, if this song had been released recently, it would likely take on a different connotation--sexual abuse from priests on alterboys and whatnot.

"Flame Thrower Love" seems like it borrows the riff from the MC5's "Over And Over", and has some cool drum fills, a really melodic lead bass line, and stop/ start rhythms. Jeff Magnum's bass playing is better than Bob Clearmountain's (Clearmountain--super producer to eventually be-- had played bass on the recording of "Young Loud and Snotty", but Jeff Magnum was listed instead). "Son Of Sam" has a muted opening intro, upping the suspense and tension and the creepy mood until the killer gets you--"look over your shoulder some dark rainy night......a dull pain will hit you, the sharp canine bite"--seemingly inside the mind of Davey "Son of Sam" Berkowitz, who asserted that his dog told him to kill people.

The next few songs are decent--a Stones cover in "Tell Me"; "Big City", "Calling On You" (which could have been a big radio single, had the radio airwaves been a tad less stuffy); "Dead And Alive"--a rocker that keeps the attitude high. But arguably the best song on the record is "Ain't It Fun" (as previously mentioned); a slower, moodier song that's much in the vein of "Not Anymore"--quiet and brooding until the buildup and crescendo at the choruses. By the time of the album's release in 1978, the song had already become somewhat of a classic in underground circles that had followed it since it's original Rocket From The Tombs version. The band has since been dismissed by some serious players as "not being able to play", but "Ain't It Fun"--what it lacks in technical ability, they make up for it in style and also prove that they didn't just do fast and attitude; they also did slow and excellent, too. Cheetah Chrome's lead guitar playing is excellent; there's not tons of lead playing on this album, but his restrained, bluesy playing works to great effect; re-imagining James Williamson's playing and what "Open Up And Bleed" might sound like with an update; done in a way where it was given an additional kick of attitude from the punk generation.

To me, The Dead Boys were really the epitome of punk rock. I think that they really nailed the youthful boredom and restlessness, and as well, they had the lineage back into the protopunk days with Rocket From The Tombs. There's other punk albums before this that represented punk better--namely the bands' own "Young, Loud and Snotty". There were also many punk albums that were released after this, leading up to the revival in the early 80's (SST, Dischord, etc). But for some reason--other than maybe the Ramones' "End Of The Century" album, which tanked commercially (and Johnny didn't even particularly like that album)-- this album represents the true last gasp of the commercial viability of an underground trend that had originally started out with near Bohemian ideals. I mean, if you really think about it, for all the punks and hippies' hatred towards each other, neither were of solid hygienics and neither party particularly cared to work a day job....and if you look at pictures of The Dead Boys in their initial Frankenstein phase, they were a buncha longhairs, before the short and spiked hairdos.

But some bands were never really destined to stay around for a helluva long time, and The Dead Boys were one of 'em. And sometimes it's better that way, considering how far that some bands stray from their core sound. The Dead Boys still live on.

--Ryan Settee

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Brian Johnson - Rockers And Rollers

'Rock'n'rollers have been writing about cars since cars started looking like rock'n'roll'

A refreshingly, what what, unique take on the tireder than a Clapton guitar solo band trout book template of the struggle-signed-success-tour-repeat-to-tears-of- tedium from the AC/DC frontman's 'automotive autobiography'. None of that here. Not even considered. Short anecdotal chapters or excerpts from a life on many roads & stages, you'll find yerself stifling sniggers no matter what scenario you're reading in then not caring and indiscriminately issuing grade 1 listed guffaws. There's still poignancy in the humour and vice versa but from car mishaps, tributes to musical compadres such as Donald 'Duck' Dunn, his current DC'ers, old Geordie cohorts, myriad cars, and, erm, Jimmy Nail, to weird roadcrew (or weird-ER); exploding haggis dilemmas (not the guy from Zodiac & The Cult - that'd be odd, like); his own piss-off-the-natives to rival Ozzy vs The Alamo (basically relieving the eponymous Johnson upon Sputnik in front of heavily armed Russian military chaps) this is an entertaining guide through an arsenal of one-liners ('these cars make my arse feel like a breakway republic...' 'she had a laugh like a hyena getting its balls chewed off by a not very hungry lion'). As you may - and should, surely by now - expect, Jonna comes across as one of the few rock stars left who say what the hell they want but also remains not a huge deal different from an old geezer sat in the corner of a pub with cheese & onion sanger. He's aware he's a lucky bugger, but he's also plucky as well as a walking Viz (beyond geographical similarities) & you'll come away full of back-slapping why aye he deserves it. And he does. And you deserve this. So off ye gan, and tip a cap or two.

'I'm a lucky lad. I've never believed in God as such, but if there has to be one, then let it be the one who looked after me. He's cool'.

Stu Gibson
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