Sunday, July 22, 2007

Axe - Offering

During my early forays of trying to beat friends in getting new music, I would incorporate such methods as going down to the local newsstand and skimming through the local Billboard magazine. In one such trip, I notice a band receiving airplay in the publication’s A.O.R. charts that I’d never heard of before: Axe. If their name wasn’t badassed enough, the song receiving radio play was enough to make any red-blooded American fifteen year-old boy march directly to the record store and buy the album. The song was “Rock ‘N Roll Party In The Streets” and the album it was found on was called Offering.
It’s important to remember that I had never actually heard “Rock ‘N Roll Party In The Streets” before buying that Axe record. I mean, what fifteen year old doesn’t like rock ‘n roll or partying, and if both are indeed taking place in the streets, well, that must be one hell of a party.
So imagine my surprise after I purchased Offering to find out that the track starts with a fucking piano. Unless you’re pounding out some boogie woogie, there’s little about a piano that screams “Party!” and with the gentle tinkle-winkle of the intro to “Rock ‘N Roll Party In The Streets,” the listener is set up for an initial disappointment.
Finally, a few power chords come in, and I’m feeling a little better about my first experience with Florida’s Axe.
At the same time, you get the feeling throughout Offering that the band is faced with a serious identity crisis. During some moments, their geography is in fine form, particularly with the Southern bar-band stomp of “Burn The City Down” and their awesome cover of Montrose’s “I Got The Fire.” On other moments, they fall completely short of their radio aspirations with the awful ballad “Jennifer” and the ridiculous technological warnings of “Video Inspiration.”
And then there’s a curious side-step toward new wave, with the second single “Now Or Never” that, again, makes a blatant attempt towards crossover airplay and, I’ll be Goddamned, comes fairly close to succeeding.
Of course, it sounds hopelessly out of place on Offering and that’s the album’s underlying downfall; Axe is obviously a band of adequate musicianship and worthy ambitions, but to package a hodgepodge of music simulations before establishing themselves at any one of the genre’s examined, makes it hard to figure out what the hell kind of band they are.
Nonetheless, I still have some crazy affection for this band, even though Offering is an album that I can’t recommend. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed at the fact that, not only did I make that initial purchase of Offering; I later sold it back to a used record store and then bought it again a few years ago on cd only to realize after spinning it again why I sold it in the first place.
Part of the appeal is because I have an idea as to what the band might have been able to accomplished with the introduction of a strong-willed producer or, perhaps, a strong-willed manager that forced them to pick a side (read: music style), work it to perfection and then examine the possibilities of other directions. My own perception of Axe was enhanced when I saw them live, during the tour for their follow-up album Nemesis. In a live setting, the band absolutely rocked with ferocious guitar solos and a fairly entertaining Hammond organ solo that harked back to equal parts Jon Lord and Viv Savage. The band had some awesome concert t-shirt declaring the performance to be part of the “Yo Mama” tour; I wish I would have bought one.
Supposedly, Nemesis is a much better album but I wouldn’t know because I was completely full of Axe after their, ahem, initial Offering. The band would never really get to completely find their voice as guitarist Mike Osbourne was killed in a car wreck in 1984. Leader Bobby Barth disbanded Axe shortly afterward and then re-grouped the moniker in 2000 when Wounded Bird records brought Offering and Nemesis back after being out-of-print for over a decade. Both releases are available now, but like the original issues, take my advice and listen before you spend.

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