Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 2009 Baker's Dozen

It’s that time of year again, the annual Baker’s Dozen Best Albums of 2009. The 13 best albums of the year-with an extra 13 Honorable Mentions that I couldn’t let go unnoticed.
The idea being that you should at least get hip to a new album every month and then try to nab another one from your friend’s cassette carrying case in his 1982 Subaru Brat.
Yeah, the entire notion of a year end list is laughable provided that 1.) people don’t actually buy records any more and 2.) the art form that is a long-player is quickly becoming obsolete.
But I’m taking a staunch view of the album in the sense that I will continue to support it as a necessary art form for music, if only for the fact that it is all I know. I’ve never lived during a time when albums didn’t exist. Maybe my folks can relate to an era of “singles only,” but a huge chunk of my life has been broken out in 30-45 minute intervals and I kind of like the notion of a band scrapping together ten or twelve songs in a package that says “Here’s a few tunes we’ve been working on this year!’
The collected tunes below are really good and deserve your attention. Find a way to check them out and consider them. There’s a brief blurb about the release and a link to a review if applicable. Observant readers may even notice that the list changes over the years in a futile attempt to look halfway relevant.
Seriously. Check out my list from 1989 and notice how the number one album went from White Lion Pride to Sonic Youth Daydream Nation.
For now, the following pleasured my earhole in 2009:

1.) Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion
Gingerly accessible while exposing an incredible array of complexities that only seem to reveal themselves after each subsequent listen. There’s a feeling that this album holds something very special and the joy is how it doesn’t present itself as such on first spin.

2.) The Flaming LipsEmbryonic
The Lips finally return to organic territory and make the album that longtime fans have been patiently waiting for. It’s a record that steers them away from their recent notoriety as festival closers and it brings them back towards the darker side of recreational drugs and humanity itself.

3.) Sonic YouthThe Eternal
S.Y. have released a lot of good albums since Daydream Nation but the argument can be made that they haven’t release and great albums since that landmark some twenty years ago. Until now; The Eternal is efficient, smart, and uniquely melodic. Jams run free, but here they’re branded with the band’s growth as musicians and reflect a maturation that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to change from ‘Sonic Youth’ to ‘Sonic Dad.’

4.) BaronessThe Blue Album
I have no idea what’s in the water around the Atlanta area, but its fueling one of the best metal scenes in some time. Baroness obviously are taking Mastodon’s lead and have managed to release their first great album in about the same amount of time as their homies. By incorporating metal with psychedelia and a hint of southern rock, Baroness is already on their way in mirroring their older brother’s creative statements and establishing their city as the new capitol of metal.

5.) PolvoIn Prism
It’s not just the fact that the band sounds like they haven’t missed a beat since their last album some 12 years ago, it’s the fact that it’s better than their last album some 12 years ago. In Prism is a big sounding record by Polvo’s standard and that newfound fidelity allows listeners to fully hear what they’ve been missing since these math rock pioneers carried Sonic Youth’s alternate tuning crown for the better part of the 90’s.

6.) Fever RayFever Ray
Recorded while Karin Andersson was gestating her own little one, all of those hormones helped create an album that’s quirky, lightly arranged, and strangely infectious. A near-perfect Nordic electronic album that reflects the tundra it was created on. I once drove in a snowstorm with this playing and had to shut it off because I kept thinking shit was jumping in front of the road.

7.) Blue RosesBlue Roses
Blue Roses’ debut is so eloquently arranged and surprisingly mature that it’s hard to believe that Laura Groves hasn’t been doing this for longer than what she has. The comparison to early Kate Bush isn’t a burden, it’s a responsibility. Laura Groves sounds up to the challenge and she’s come out of the gate with a debut that rivals The Kick Inside.

8.) JapandroidsPost Nothing
Look, there’s little that’s really new in Japandroids’ sound-how much can you do with a drum and a guitar-but what’s awesome is how that doesn’t seem to bother them as they belt out songs about girls. How much can you do with a drum and a guitar? Quite a bit if the mood fits and the motivation is real.

9.) MastodonCrack The Skye
We’re right around …And Justice For All era Mastodon and they’re still releasing more consistent albums with more complex performances and better arrangements. Mastodon is at a point where the only way down is if they record a blatantly commercial record geared for people with more accessible tastes. Crack The Skye doesn’t sound like they’re ready to do that.

10.) The XXXX
Mega infectious primitive electronic pop that sounds like it clandestinely recorded the thoughts of a young couple on the verge of parting. With everything slowed down and to a whisper, this band manages a rapt audience for a half and hour with almost an immediate need to hit repeat after the first play.

11.) SlayerWorld Painted Blood
The fact is, Slayer could have stopped caring about their releases and they’d still be a revered as ever. World Painted Blood sounds like they give a shit and it also points out how great they are when they really try. This is dryly recorded and drummer Dave Lambardo is back and way up front in the mix. Awesome stuff.

12.) The ChurchUntitled #23
The idea that The Church could produce an album this focused and well-executed at this stage in their career says a lot for the spirit of the band and for the power of what rock music can do to a few high school friends. They’re still at it, still better than most bands half their age, and still releasing albums that rank with their finest.

13.) The CleanMister Pop
Albums from The Clean don’t come around that often so when they do-even when the material seems a bit wary compared to other releases-it’s a celebrated thing. Why? Because they’re a band that’s influenced countless others, some of which may not even be aware of it. Mister Pop may be down a ways on the catalog relevance, but it sounds better than the imitators and has enough charm to warrant repeated listens.

Honorable Mentions (the other 13):

Them Crooked VulturesThem Crooked Vultures
WoodsSongs Of Shame
Tune YardsBird Brains
Black Moth Super RainbowEating Us
Allen ToussaintThe Bright Mississippi
William Elliot WhitmoreAnimals In The Dark
Golden SilversTrue Romance
Spiral StairsThe Real Feel
Richard HawleyTruelove’s Gutter
The Dead Weather - Horehound
Hope Sandoval & the Warm InventionsThrough The Devil Softly
Robyn HitchcockGoodnight Oslo
Heaven & HellThe Devil You Know

Quit rolling your eyes and talk back with your own list.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas From Glam-Racket!

We've been bringing you random Trapped In The Closet videos for Christmas on Glam-Racket since 2006 because nothing says the holidays like R. Kelly's modern-day opera.
This is Episode 9, the one with "I'm gonna heat this chicken." in it.
And chicken is close to the turkey which is what a lot of people eat for Christmas.
Surprisingly, pears aren't usually part of the menu.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Residents - Santa Dog '84

I think this is the 1984 version.
I only had the 1978 version.
Apparently, there's a 1972 version.
All behold the greatest Christmas song of all time.

"Ding ding ding
Dong dong dong
Effervescent eels"

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I, Ed Kowalczyk, Alone

Did you know there is trouble in the Live camp?
Did you even know the band Live is still around?
Me either, but I find the latest drama fascinating. Evidently, the band is still pretty big in a few places (other than America) and most recently they took their show over to Europe and even captured one of the more memorable shows on DVD.
Some other opportunities arose in Early 2009 and the band considered a few extra dates. Lead vocalist Ed Kowalczyk demanded an additional $100,000 before agreeing to the performance. In case you’re wondering if he was asking for the extra money on behalf of the band, the answer is “No.” This money was for “I Alone” apparently-a “lead vocalist fee” as it were.
And the rest of the band got pissed.
I vaguely remember that these guys had been performing together since high-school, so it must have been doublely shitty to learn that you’re “bro” and lead singer for the past couple of decades was, in fact, a douchebag.
I’m being a dick and have no reason to really do so. We played their songs at the radio station I was working at and I remember being surprised that there was a song in our playlist that contained the lyrics “Her placenta falls to the floor.” It’s not everyday where you get a little bit of afterbirth on radio.
In case you forgot, here’s a glimpse. Selling the drama, indeed.

John Frusciante Leaves Red Hot Chili Peppers To Give Fans More Drug-Addled Solo Albums

OMG! There are reports that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist John Frusciante has left the band while Frusciante himself is stating that he left the band over a year ago, but the story is just now coming to light as the band has initiated the recording of their 10th album sans Frusciante.
We here at Glam-Racket are setting the record straight by reminding everyone that Frusciante left the Chili Peppers after Bloodsugarsexmagic in ’92, around the last time we even gave a shit about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What this all means is that we’ll have to endure another 18 months of the band trying out an endless parade of replacement guitarists before finally settling in on the guitarist for Jane’s Addicition once again or DJ Ashba.
Make up you mind dude, are you in or out? It’s not like you’re not going to get back together with them again and reminisce about all the good times you had walking around with a sock on your dick. And then you’ll remember all the money you made and the suddenly, that reunion tour doesn’t sound like a bad idea after all.
Do you get the sense that the rest of the dudes were waiting for over a year, anticipating Frusciante would come around again and change his mind? I also think that a band who stifles one another to not bring up “the John question” during interviews has lost sight of who their beholden to and put up a fucking statement on their website.
Frusciante’s already beaten them to the punch.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tears Are Falling: Cat Power-"Colors And The Kids"

Hey, whaddya know. Chan Marshall hints that the new Cat Power album will be more of a solo affair instead of a band effort. Either way, Chan, you could shit on some magnetic tape and I would buy the cd and DVD of the results.
As a matter of fact, I did; it was called Speaking With Trees.
But let’s go back to the amazing Moon Pix and a little ditty called “The Color & The Kids” that gets the tear glands agitated.
No seriously, there’s something in my eye.
It sounds like the two things in life that keeps Chan from staying in the garage with the car running are 1.) Colors, those visual hues that we see unless we’re unfortunately colorblind and 2.) little munchkins between the ages of 2 and 12 that test our patience, dirty our carpet, and require you to wipe their ass for a couple of years.
As a parent, I understand the appeal, but this record was released before I began spraying semen everywhere, with the hopes of impregnating a willing partner.
Wait, bad analogy.
But I think you get the idea, there’s something about those little shits that get your heartstrings chiming.
“Colors And The Kids” is a heart-wrenching tale about someone with “slender arms” and “slender fingers,” the kind of person that you want to be with because they make you a fucking better person.
“I could stay here,” she says, but her voice breaks during the next line “Become someone different/I could stay here/Become someone better.”
How many times have you been in a relationship where you promise yourself that you’ll be able to change only to find out that all of your faults and idiosyncrasies are fucking permanent.
Like your hair color, the records in your collection, the way in which you eat M&Ms, they’re part of your fucking dna.
And it breaks my heart when I hear Chan plead in desperation. Because when the love that you want to keep doesn’t feel the same way, it’s hard to see the full list of your reasons for living.
But colors and kids is a start.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cursive Live In Des Moines

The fag-rock band Cursive played in Des Moines a few days ago. A few folks showed up and felt the show was very enjoyable. A few others stayed home, certain that the band hadn’t released anything good since The Ugly Organ.
Besides, it was cold out and we were out of condoms.
For those of you not in the know, Cursive is a band from Omaha, Nebraska, but no one busts their chops for being in such a shitty state because they're on Saddle Creek.
Some of the members used to be in a band called Slowdown Virginia who were marginally better than Cursive.
The lead vocalist for Cursive got divorced and wrote the lyrics for the album Domestica.
When I got divorced, I moved to Iowa City.
The band did the album The Ugly Organ, released a couple of indulgent turds after that, and showed up in Des Moines this week, trying to hit on our women.

Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?
Dorothy At 40
From The Hips
Radiator Hums
Let Me Up
Gentleman Caller
A Red So Deep
Mama, I'm Swollen
Art Is Hard
What Have I Done?


Big Bang
Couldn't Love You
The Casualty
A Red Handed Sleight Of Hand

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul

My wife and I went to my company’s Christmas party last weekend where the theme was “rock and roll.” For dinner, they had food named after famous rock songs. For entertainment, they had a karaoke dj and in the main ballroom a cover band called Crazy Delicious. For table settings, they had real 45s and vinyl lps along with their corresponding album jackets.
The table my wife and I sat at for dinner had a real Beatles 45 with the swirly yellow and orange Capitol records label. When we went to the main ballroom of the Marriot, there was a copy of Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul album on the neighboring table.
It looked lightly scuffed, but surprisingly playable for an album nearly forty years old.
I took it home, having remembered that Hank Rollins thought the world of this album and having enjoyed what little I heard of the record beforehand.
Side one is totally awesome, with two songs including a twelve minute version of “Walk On By.” There’s the uber-funky “Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic” which closes out the first half with complete perfection.
The ballad “One Woman” which begins side two isn’t necessarily bad-it just doesn’t fit well with the rest of Hot Buttered Soul’s easy and rhythmic flow that organically weaves in and out of the record at the most perfect spots. The ballad slows down the record’s momentum and, ultimately, becomes the one stumbling block that keeps the album from truly being an essential piece of vinyl.
Essential or not, it’s the album’s epic track-the 18 minute closer “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” which makes Hot Buttered Soul a very worthy record. Hayes gives a love monologue for the first third of the song-turning it from Campbell’s simple tale of broken love into a novel of heartbreak.
The strings and wide arrangements found throughout the album are a unique touch, but what’s even better is how Hayes just lets the band The Bar-Kays just have their way with his record, sometimes allowing them to go off of extended jams and just work a groove to dead on other occasions.
Look, I caught a break with my copy of Hot Buttered Soul, but rest assured if the grooves wear out, I’d have no quarrels at digging in my pocket to fund a replacement copy.

The Broken West Perform With Jason Segel Tonight

Hey listen, normally I wouldn't ask you to watch that piece of shit Craig Ferguson but tonight is different. You see, Jason Segel will be a guest tonight on the Late Late Show and he'll be doing a live rendition of "Dracula's Lament" from the movie Forgetting Sara Marshall.
I believe you can also catch a glimpse of his penis in that movie.
Anyway, it's a funny bit at evidenced below but the real charmer is that our boys in The Broken West will be his backing band.
Since they're cool dudes and since the scene is a hoot, you may wish to consider catching the broadcast or setting your Betamax to capture the proceedings.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AC/DC 1974

I always thought that AC/DC circa 1974 sounded like, well, sounded like 74 Jailbreak, but evidently they sounded a lot like Sweet. Thanks to Cousin J for sending me a link to this crazy-ass AC/DC promo clip prior to Bon Scott, Phil Rudd, and Cliff Williams from even joining up.
Malcolm looks like he's about seventeen and Angus looks like he doesn't even hold a license yet. You'll notice that, even though this doesn't come close to the power that the Scott-era band unleashed, Angus still shuffles back and forth, keeping perfect time while playing.
That's Dave Evans on lead vocals, sporting a very glam look. But it's the music that really gets your attention. The band is past thirty-five years old now and they're know for exactly one style of rock and roll. For real, this band has deviated maybe a few inches throughout their entire career, and come to find out that in their earliest incarnations they did manage to examine another facet of the rock sound.
The song was originally written when Malcolm Young was in his band prior to AC/DC. The band was called The Velvet Underground, seemingly unaware that in America had pretty much sealed the deal on anyone ever being able to stake claim to the moniker.
It's kind of catchy, but they certainly wouldn't get thirty-five plus years of mileage out of it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rites Of Spring Live Performance

I befriended a young guy at work who has remarkably sharp music tastes for someone his age. He’s infatuated with much of SST’s catalog and has a penchant for the Minutemen.
The other day he asked what cd he should buy and-knowing he had Raw Power and The Stooges the logical next step was Fun House.
Fun House qualified as one of the ten best rock albums ever in my book, and sure enough, the recommendation was a success.
He mentioned that he had found Rites of Spring and ordered their album.
Again, another winner.
Evidently, he noticed that there were a few posts of Rites of Spring up on You Tube. I distintly remember hearing about how great their shows were, but have not seen any real live footage.
Until now.
God bless You Tube.
Here’s the last song at a Rites of Spring gig at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. from 1985. Guy destroys his guitar and starts climbing the walls of the stage.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Tower, More Power

Well look who's a new Arbitron diary carrier!
At one point in time, this would have been big news to me, but now all I could think was "Damn, I really don't listen to radio that much."
Actually, that's not entirely true-I do catch a bit of NPR's All Things Considered and Morning Edition, but there are days that go by where I will not even listen to radio at all.
But now that I've been named as someone to keep track of my time with local radio stations, I think about all of the things that I'd like to comment on and give diary support to some of the more obscure stations. I'd like to tell KKRQ that it sucks how they let Brad Company go and how I don't listen to that station at all as a result. I'd like to let people know how annoying the afternoon guy "Shark" is on another rock radio station. I'd like to tell them how much I miss satellite radio every time I have to endure listening to a terrestrial station.
But why punch a bunch of dumbasses when they're down?
And more importantly, what good would it really do?
It's not like radio will ever get over the hump and return to profitability again. That media may not be dead, but it sure is becoming less and less relevant while old-school program directors scratch their balls as listeners figure out they don't have to deal with all of the static (ads, retarded DJs, limited playlists) when they listen to their iPod instead.
Remember when people paid radio stations to play records? Christ, you don't even bother nowadays because I don't think that anything's getting bought when radio says it's good.
Radio will more than likely continue to be a part of the telecommunications piece, but it certainly has fallen out of flavor which may explain why the sweet revenge with my Arbitron diary doesn't taste as good these days as it did before.

Blogstalking: David Wm. Sims

One more post on the Jesus Lizard.
After the show, I learned that bassist David Wm. Sims is a fairly consistent blogger. Most recently, the blogs have involved Lizard news and tour date information. There’s a bunch of cool posters for various shows and if you’re looking for Christmas ideas for me, nothing “I love you Todd” like a framed copy of the 11/28 poster from the Metro gig.
Actually, I like the 11/27 gig poster better and it sounds like I would have preferred the show too.
I also found a recent review of the Lizard’s reissue treatments on Paste Magazine’s website and another reference to the Jesus Lizard vs. Steve Albini falling out. Paste printed their take on the argument, Sims attempted to clarify and insulted Albini in the process. Albini replied to the comment and Sims replied to Albini.
Here’s some tidbits from their tit-for-tat:

Thanks for the kind review, Austin. You've got a few facts wrong here, though:
1. Duane, David, and I started the band in Austin before the three any of us
moved to Chicago.
2. "Pure" is combined with "Head" on the remastered CDs,
but is released as a separate EP on vinyl, as was the case with the original
3. There was a rift that developed between the band and Albini
around the time we signed to a major label, but it wasn't because we signed to a
major label. Think about it for a second: he's recorded albums for Bush,
Nirvana, and Helmet, and others, for major labels. The major label explanation
doesn't hold water. For a variety of reasons, we decided while recording "Down"
that we were going to use another producer on the next record. This was before
we had decided to leave Touch & Go. Some of the reasons had to do with the
way the last couple of records sounded, others were more personal. Albini,
master of self-promotion that he is, spun getting fired into the Brave Stand for
the Indie Kids. Gotta hand it to him, it was genius.
Again, thanks for the
Best regards,
David Wm. Sims
Then Albini responds:

Not to get all tit-for-tatty, but I haven't ever said to anyone, public or
private, that I stopped working with the Jesus Lizard because they left T&G.
David remembers the end of our working relationship accurately, though the bit
about me promoting myself can blow me. I basically didn't utter a word
pertaining to the Jesus Lizard for the next few years after they made the
corporate leap, which was just the consummation of a swing toward
"professionalism" or something like it the band had undertaken.
It was
evident from their dealings and the people they chose to work with that they
were changing teams. Though they might pretend they were never part of a
unified, cooperative underground culture, they certainly behaved like everyone
who was, and benefited from the structures and people who identified with it. It
isn't overstating it to say that when they turned that corner I was in a kind of
For the record, the resuscitated Jesus Lizard is just as good as
the regular old everyday one from the early 90s, and pretty much destroys any
other band working right now. They have been playing brilliantly and blowing
minds anew, and I hope they wring the sponge and get everything they can out of
this revival.

And a final reply from Sims:

There is no need for tit-for-for tat. Honestly, I meant the self-promotion crack
as a compliment. I didn't mean to give offense, and apologize for any taken.
As I'm sure you're aware, the assertion that you stopped working with the
Jesus Lizard because we signed to Capitol is one of the most repeated items
about the band out there. I haven't tried it, but I'd wager if you Google "jesus
lizard" and "steve albini" together, it will appear somewhere on almost all the
results. It has become the conventional wisdom, and I'm gratified that you've
set the record straight.
"Professionalism" made me laugh. Thanks!
haven't ever pretended that we weren't a part of the underground rock scene,
although the scene I remember was anything but unified. People helped us and we
helped people, and it was an amazing place and time to be. I feel sorry for kids
starting band today. We made our decisions for what we believed were the right
reasons, sometimes knowing the decisions were going to disappoint some people.
Life can be like that.
Thanks for all that about the resuscitated Jesus
Lizard. The shows have been a stone-cold gas. And thanks for your and Bob's
great work on the remasters.

So there it is, the real reason why Albini severed his relationship with the Jesus Lizard after the Down album.
Personally, I thought it was mainly because Down sucked and the band (rightly) needed to get someone else’s hand on their album sound, simply because Albini records and doesn’t produce.
The band needed a producer at this point in their career.
The general consensus was that Albini got pissed that the band signed with a major label to release Show. It was a one-off record, but it did pave the way for them to sign with Capitol. Albini did have a point: how many more records could a band like the Jesus Lizard really sell on a major and would they really be better off under Capitol’s umbrella.
The answer was obviously “No,” but it turns out that this was only part of the argument between the two.
What's cool about this is how Albini, even in the comment above, has nothing but good things to say about the band's musicianship. Even back in the day he would refer to his work with the band as one of his best works and praised their performances.

One of these days, I’ll get around to reviewing some of those old Jesus Lizard albums, but for now I’m spent.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Jesus Lizard Live

I think it’s safe to say that in all of the live rock shows that I’ve seen, at least two of the top ten of “best shows” would be reserved for the Jesus Lizard.
Prior to the penultimate performance that I saw on Saturday night, I’d seen them a total of three times, one for each of their best Touch & Go studio albums: Goat, Liar, and Down.
On the first show, I was close to the stage and suddenly found myself holding up David Yow over my head. By the end of the show, I’d gotten intimately close to his genitalia and found an efficient way to pass a small, sweaty man overhead. During the times he was on stage, I had time to breathe and watch three incredible musicians pounding out a menacing arrangement for their most recent album.
David called some dude “Shitmouth”
The second show was in the same venue. On the way up, a loud metallic jackhammer sound came from the engine compartment over the blaring of Goat on my factory cassette player. It was a hideous sound, and I understood the engine of my Ford Ranger pick-up truck was in grave danger.
I continued driving.
As long as I maintained a steady speed, the truck was tolerable. But the moment I accelerated-particularly when going up a hill-the sound returned.
The good news was that the truck was under three years old and still had time on its factory warranty. If I ruined the engine, I was damn sure going to make the Ford Motor Company paid for the repairs.
When I got to the club, I snuck it a small airline bottle of vodka. I made my way towards the front of the stage and stuck through the endless ebb and flow of bodies, capturing the smell of beer, cigarettes, and sweat in the process. I handed Yow the small bottle. He looked at it and considered it for a few verses. He then opened the bottle with his free hand and sprayed it over a few lucky souls being smushed in the front row.
I guess he didn’t like Absolut.
David yelled “Hey shitmout!” at someone during the set.
The third show was at First Avenue in Minneapolis after the release of Down. The main room is a great venue; it’s still a trip to consider how Purple Rain was filmed there. Anyway, that particular night was all about the Lizard. My girlfriend and I circled around the back of the club looking for a place to sit-there weren’t any.
Right as we’re walking downstairs from the balcony, the band begins playing. The first few bars of the song are dished out and within the first twenty seconds of the song, Yow had run full speed from the back of the stage and clears about half a dozen rows when he jumps into the crowd.
At one point, David responds to an overzealous fan “Shitmouth, I love you.”
And then there’s the fourth show, the reunion gig that was originally going to be the last show, but then they added a New Years Eve show and….you know the rest.
A full accounting of the show is over at Glorious Noise, but there’s always room for additional bitching.
Firstly, a kind “fuck you” to The Metro for a shitty “pre-party” that served no purpose and fucked me from getting a good view.
They gave away shit-like a reserved table upstairs-but you had to have a ticket to participate. Even though my wife and I were literally the fourth and fifth persons in the door, we got no ticket for showing up, on time, like the venue’s email monkey suggested.
More critically, the email hinted that you’d be able to get into the venue without having to wait outside in the cold, but no one seemed too concerned to actually tell us that THEY BEGAN LETTING PEOPLE INSIDE WHILE WE CONTINUED TO BUY DRINKS TO PASS THE TIME IN THE SHITTY SMARTBAR. By the time I’d hear T-Rex’s “Jeepster” for the second time (seriously, they put in a mix cd when we walked in, pressed play and pushed the repeat button). Ironically, “Jeepster” had already played on my IPod during the trip over to Chicago as we played all of the sequential song titles beginning with the J section.
It was hell when we went through a bunch of reggae songs that all began with the word “Jah.”
When we finally went upstairs and noticed people walking up to the main room, we found the only visual spot we could. We were slightly behind a fairly clean grad student couple and in between a couple of silly longhairs in their early 30’s. I reminded myself of the time I approached thirty with long hair and recognized the moment when I finally cut if off. Some people may think that it had something to do with my advancing age or desire to better mesh with the corporate culture. The reality is that it was my Grandma fault. She noticed the top of my hair thinning once as she walked downstairs and felt the need to mention my growing bald spot out loud.
She should have the same talk with the dude next to me at the JL show.
My wife hated it (more so because of the longhaired dude and the fact that she had to stand the entire time) and I was a tad disappointed.
The opening band Triclops had a few flashes of cleverness, but the lead singer used a dorky pitch shifter on his mic and would jump down into the security row in front of the stage for dramatic effect.
Then Yow was in a chair for the entire night and drank bottled water.
At one point, Yow screamed, “Shitmouth, I love you. Will you marry me?”
It's great that the band is back together, albeit for a short while, but there is no doubt that the prime era to see the Jesus Lizard was back when they were a hungry, working unit. Today, they're merely a glimpse into the kind of danger that occurred each night when they took the stage.
Today, I would have definitely stopped the truck and called AAA.

Poster by Diana Sudyka

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jesus Lizard Penultimate Performance

I have no idea what the Jesus Lizard were doing on ABC's Amplified a few months ago and I have no idea what Amplified even is. But I do know that it's totally hilarious to me that there's an obligatory sound bite newsroom edit job on the piece they did on the band. And I do know that I'll be at the penultimate performance this evening. I also know I'll be ordering room service tomorrow morning.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blue Roses - Blue Roses

Too often, when an up-and-coming artist tries to mine Kate Bush territory, they focus on those big, panoramic records like Never For Ever and beyond. Never mind that those albums were adventurous even for Kate herself. It would make more sense to step back to examine some of her earlier work, when she was still a precocious teenager finding her voice (literally) and finding her place among a growing muse.
Blue Roses, the creative moniker for Laura Groves, is an organically derived debut that sounds more homespun than The Kick Inside, but it wonderfully shares that album’s obvious sense of exploration even when there’s no clear map to follow. It could easily be considered as the true offspring of that album since it shares so much of its unfettered vision and, on occasion, similar styles in arrangements. With one listen, you begin to ponder if Groves herself is about to embark on a journey of comparable success or, in a more cynical view, are we in a commercial market where we no longer allow the time and kid gloves to let such artists grow.
Blue Roses was built from Groves’ own blueprint, but it took a bunch of local generosity to really get off the ground. From the friends and acquaintances that contribute their own voice and instruments to the project, to the locales in which the album was recorded, this is an album of honest collaboration and admirable friendships. There’s the story of the wealthy owner of a Steinway concert piano who agreed-solely based on hearing Groves’ work-to allow her to use the expensive instrument for the recording of Blue Roses before being able to use it for themselves. Think of it this way: would you let the instrument of your dreams be played before you got your own hands on it? I certainly wouldn’t.
Then again, I haven’t been blessed with coming across someone with such inherent talent as Laura Groves. Lyrically, Blue Roses is full of wide-eyed songs of places yet visited, of relationships dreamed, and images built from imagination rather than experience. But musically, Groves shows an old soul at work, weaving complex piano arrangements over double-tracked harmonies that eerily evoke those first few Kate Bush albums. When other instruments are introduced, they’re of the acoustic variety, lending Blue Roses a rural feel where true escape comes in the form of learning a few chords from antique shop discoveries.
“I wish that I could photograph my moods/Show them to you” Laura sings on the album’s vast centerpiece “I Wish I,” but there’s enough imagery throughout the song’s six-and-a-half minute running time to put together a cohesive picture of what makes Laura Groves tick. More importantly, it points to the possibility that Blue Roses may be the beginning of a very worthy career, provided that she doesn’t stray from those beautiful visions in her head.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Church - Untitled #23

Admit it. You’ve totally neglected The Church’s post-Arista records output and the fact that they’re closing in on nearly two dozen records surprises you. I’m not sure what prompts a band to stay together as long as the Church, but I do know their chemistry is as such that they probably haven’t released a bad record in all that time and with their most recent-Untitled #23-they sound even better than just being consistent. Indeed, it’s an album that finds them curiously inspired, exploring the nether regions of seductive guitar textures and layers of high-altitude chill.
Above everything is Steve Kilbey’s unmistakable voice-slight, comforting, and eerily ageless. What’s curious is how his understated delivery belies a pretty capable lyricist. As a matter of fact, nearly everything about Untitled #23 is pretty understated, and it’s easy to let its greatness get overlooked.
Yes, it’s a grower. And yes, with each spin you move a little more towards the heaven that these purveyors of psychedelia keep reaching for.
On “Space Savior,” Kilbey actually allows his voice to break a bit. The thing only utilizes two chords for over six minutes, yet the band’s repetitiveness is almost trance-like, with Steve spewing out stream-of-consciousness, only giving us the line “And I gotta get up! And I gotta get off!” to serve as a makeshift chorus.
The lead-off single “Pangaea” is as least as dreamy and infectious as the band’s most famous song “Under The Milky Way,” but it’s also clear that The Church hasn’t been spending the time since then wallowing in nostalgia, trying to recreate the same song. While the voice may not be demonstrating the ravishes of time, his words are now born from life experiences. Gone are those dreamy layers of love’s optimism. They now have hints of regret and mistrust while still remaining as aurally infectious as ever.
The album’s defining moment may be “Anchorage” which may explain why the band continues to dish out record after record, more recently in near anonymity. Through years of failed relationships, declining record sales, and a fickle public, The Church has found common ground and reliable kinship with each other. “Darkness/Returning/My torch keeps on burning” as it’s written in the track’s chorus, yet the band uses the spark of one another to light a path ahead.
It took twenty-two steps before Untitled #23 to get to this point, and the road to it was obviously filled with its share of up and downs, twists and turns. In the end though, it sounds like the band has come to turns with it and will continue to forge ahead with rewarding material regardless of how many of us check out where they’re at on the map.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bebe Buell Seems Promiscuous

At some point in her life, the following men’s penises have been inside her.

  • Todd Rundgren

  • Iggy Pop

  • David Bowie

  • Mick Jagger

  • Jimmy Page

  • Steven Tyler

  • Rod Stewart

  • Elvis Costello

  • Stiv Bators

  • Jack Nicholson

  • John Taylor

  • Coyote Shivers

Fun Fact! She’s now married to Das Damen’s guitarist Jim Wallerstein. Did I stutter? Das Fucking Damen! That psycedelic rock band that recorded for Twin/Tone and SST in the 80’s!.Point is, there’s a big step between nearly everyone on that list who didn’t play in Duran Duran or have the first name of a member of the canine family. Now, as she approaches 60, she’s down to the dude from Das Damen and making a statement by snagging a younger dude
If it were me, I’d totally be intimidated by the fact that the lust for life in Iggy Pop’s once resided in Buell’s vagina. Not only would the dude who helped create Fun House been a member of Bebe’s vagjayjay club, he probably would have left the place a mess.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Starting Our Christmas Lists

Excuse the drool, but I'm completely hankering for another pointless reissue, if only for the fact that it's a great record.
Oh, and the packaging sounds totally awesome.
Check it:

Artist: Spiritualized
Title: Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space Collectors Edition
Label: ATP Recordings
Cat No: ATPRCD36
Format: Collectors Edition CD Box set
Pre Sale Date: Monday 23rd November 2009
Release Date: Wednesday 16th December 2009
Label: ATP Recordings / Spaceman
Catalogue No: ATPRCD36
Format: Collectors Box Set / Strictly Limited Edition of 1000
Boxset Contains:

  • 12 x 3" Prescription Pack CD’s packaged in a foil tray
  • 2 x 5" CD’s containing 35 unreleased versions & outtakes
  • Digital Download Code for the original album
  • Individual Prescription Cards signed by J.Spaceman
  • Strictly Limited Edition of 1000
  • Brand New Artwork by the original designers Farrow & Spaceman
ATP Recordings / Spaceman are pleased to be able to offer the very limited collectors edition. This includes 12 x 3" Mini CD’s of the complete album track-by-track, a homage to the original release. This will be accompanied by 2 bonus discs.
For those who don’t wish to open the blister pack, each unit will come with a code to download the original album in MP3 format._
Limited to just 1000 units, each collectors edition will come with a prescription numbered out of 1000 and signed by J Spaceman.
Anyone who pre-orders the collectors edition before November 30th can have their own name, or name of their choosing printed on the prescription.
The Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space Collectors edition, will be sent out from the UK on December 16th. If you do not wish to pay postage and handling, there will be an option to pick it up from the Barbican shows on December 16th or 17th.
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space Collectors edition is available for £125 + postage and handling.

O.K. So if I do my pounds to dollars conversion that makes this box set a cool $206.
And that's before shipping and handling.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in a recession.
For that kind of bread, Spaceman should smoke a joint with me in my basement too while personally giving me song-by-song commentary as we listen to it.

They performed the album in its entirety last month at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Here's a nice audience shot video of "I Think I'm In Love" from that show. I've seen this band about three times and they've blown me away each time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grant Hart In Des Moines

My money was on Grant Hart after Husker Du broke up. He wrote some of the Husker’s best songs and may have even been a bit more consistent than campadre Bob Mould.
And then-within months, it seemed-he released the acoustic song “2541,” as in 2541 Nicolette Avenue, Minneapolis. As in the Husker’s rehearsal space. And it seemed a heartbreaking account of the band breaking up under the guise of a couple moving out of an apartment and moving away from each other. The line “things are so much different now/I guess the situation’s reversed/And it will probably not be the last time I have to be out by the 1st” ranks as good as anything that Mould ever wrote, but it’s Bob that gets all the critical accolades.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Bob too. In fact, I remember a fight I had with my ex-wife once after she called Mould a “sellout” upon learning that he was writing story episodes for WCW wrestling.
But Hart was completely off the radar; there were no verbal volleys about him, because he seemed to drop off the face of the Earth after Nova Mob’s The Last Days Of Pompeii.
I remember occasionally hearing stories about him, how he looked like he was struggling with addiction.
And there was little music to counteract those rumors.
Grant Hart recently made his way back to Iowa and visited Des Moines with a set. Our man in the D.M. reports, “He played my requests of “2541” and “Sorry Somehow.” That was cool.”
But damn if the dude don’t look haggard. And you would think the hipsters in the Twin Cities could add a buck to a fishbowl and chip in to buy him a leather jacket.
What’s with the getup? Did Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9” inspire it? Someone needs to call Robyn Hitchcock and tell him that we’ve found the jacket from his Fegmania tour.
For real, those All Tomorrow’s Parties folks need to waive a shitload of money in front of Mould and Hart and get Husker Du back together for a reunion show.
If Greg Norton plays hardball, just threaten his food joint with endless surprise visits from the health inspector or something.
And he had better still have that handlebar mustache too.
Getting back to Grant: he has a new record called Hot Wax, which will probably sell as many copies as the Husker’s first single.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Cars '78

Two great albums in a row (The Cars and Candy O), arguably three (I loves me some Panorama), The Cars were one of my favorite bands of the late 70's. I loved everything about them-the drums, the keyboard shit, those bad-assed guitars-but mostly I loved their sound.
Check out that awesome Dean guitar Ric Ocasek is sportin'. And it looks like he hasn't rocked a shampoo in a while.
I love how he just kicks back, chews a piece of gum, and mumbles aloud "Don't kid yourself. This is my band!"
And check out those electronic drum toms by the side of David Robinson's Singerland drum kit. I remember seeing those things at a guitar shop in Keokuk.
Then there's guitarist Elliot Easton, a lefty, standing next to Ben Orr. Ben's sporting an awesome Vox bass guitar and looks great standing next to Easton.
But the revelation here is how good they sounded live. They must have rehearsed the shit out of the first two albums to the point where they could nail it in their sleep.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Japandroids - Post Nothing

On would think that the rock and roll duo is creatively tapped out. From the Everly Brothers to the Carpenters, from the White Stripes to Hella, it seems that every nuance should be explored by now, every conceivable idea exploited.
I suppose that you could probably break bands with only two members down further into two distinctive categories: duos that are so talented that they really don’t need any additional member because they’re already awesome enough and duos that are just so excited to play as soon as they can that they couldn’t be bother with bass player auditions.
Japandroids fit in the latter category, with such infectious enthusiasm that you can understand why they laid down a few tracks and said, “I think we’re good here,” thereby keeping the door take at an even fifty/fifty.
They’ve also figured out how bands manage to continue to foster with such numeric limitations on their creative input: bash out some high-spirited rock ‘n’ roll and have fun while doing it.
Post-Nothing sounds like it was a blast to conceive, record, and one can only imagine that the two put on a nice high-energy live set. Drummer David Prowse obviously is working without a net or a metronome while guitarist/vocalists Brian King manages to find devices to overdrive both his guitar and his vocals. None of these strategies are anything new, but under the context of Japandroids’ keen sense of melody and fueled by a never-ending sense of enthusiasm.
Girls seem to be motivating this pair of Canadians, which, in turn, makes for some awesome summer-appropriate anthems. “I don’t want to worry about dying/I just wanna worry about sunshine girls” King yells, suggesting that maybe the youth have their priorities right after all.
The rest of Post-Nothing finds similar inspiration lodged firmly in the centric world of youthful ambivalence, and it’s a joyous reminder for the rest of us trapped in cubicles and relationships of monotonous routine.
It’s a blast listening to these two pound out an energetic half-hour of unbridled fun. There’s nothing new going on-which makes the album’s already clever title even more so-but the pair’s total disregard for pretention elevates Post-Nothing to one of the freshest rock albums you’ll hear all summer.
Japandroids may be working at a disadvantage when it comes to band members, but Post-Nothing demonstrates that King and Prowse have their business well under control and that all available positions have been filled by a pair of very capable young men.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Pledge Pin?! On Your Uniform?!

There’s a mystery in my house that no one seems to understand but myself. You see, I’m the only fan of the band The Fall in my house, therefore, I would be the only person interested in Fall-related merchandise.
With that being said, aside from an occasional t-shirt, I don’t have a lot of promotional material that would lend itself to actually promoting a band. Well, my man cave is full of concert posters, artwork, etc., but that’s nothing that I can necessarily walk around for others to notice.
So I was surprised earlier this week when I came across the item in the blurry photo: a Fall pin. You know, those pins that everyone wore in the 80’s. The more the merrier. It gave you a chance to display to anyone who’d notice who your favorite band was.
Realistically, I had a few of these, but they weren’t a part of my wardrobe by any means.
And a button of the Fall wasn’t a part of my pin collection.
I opened up the cabinet that holds our Tupperware assortments, looking for something to use for my sack lunch. In the cabinet, intentionally tucked off to the side like it was being hid was a pin celebrating The Fall.
How it got there is beyond me.
How I even got it is a mystery.
I will proudly find an item for this surprise, letting the citizens of Cedar Rapids, Iowa that I love the Fall.
I saw a girl-late 20’s-walking into Wal-Mart wearing a Smiths The Queen Is Dead t-shirt the other day. I would have said something, but I’m not a big fan of the general public.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charlie

I find Charlie Manson fascinating. When you take a look at the Family, Death Valley 1969, it’s stunning how this small, mentally ill man was able to convince intelligent teenagers that it was a good idea to murder.
Charlie turns 75 today, which blows my mind since now the impish character is now old enough to begin losing some of his intimidation factor.
I mean what are you going to do, dude?
Become incontinent on me?
As a kid, I watched Helter Skelter mini-series when it came out. It freaked my shit, but not as much as Bugliosi’s book of the same name. In the picture section, there was a picture of one of the Family members, dead, with the eyes obviously drawn in on the body.
Every time I see a copy of that book, I always turn to that creepy picture.
After the mini-series, I read how Squeaky Fromme tried to kill President Ford. Do you understand what kind of impact news stories like this has on a young child? I had a vision of zombies wandering around in America, waiting for secret messages from Charlie to go and perform a political assassination.
“And swing by Dennis Wilson’s place and break his arm. That fucker never got me a record deal.”
Remember when Squeaky escaped in the 80’s and tried to go visit Charlie? I mean, she barely got out of the same county that she was institutionalized in, but give the girl credit. That’s some major devotion to a dude that doesn’t top 5’.
I made a cassette mixtape years ago that had dialogue from the Helter Skelter movie in between a few songs.
I miss that type of shit.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Letterman Circa 1985

Letterman fucked the help and I could really give a shit. There are moments of old Letterman every now and then, but it hasn't been the same since the old NBC show. I know, call it nostalgic, but it's true. There were moments watching Letterman at 11:30 CST where I questioned how his show could even be on the air.
It was awesome.
Take this clip from '85, when Dave forgoes having a show in front of studio audience and instead decides to have the show taped in his office. And what do you do when Teri Garr stops by? You try to get her to take a shower.
What do you do when Terri Gibbs stops by?
You make believe its still in front of a studio audience
Three of you probably got that reference.
I remember watching this the night it aired and it's ingrained in my TV cortex.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jesus Lizard Announce New Year's Eve Show

So hey, what was going to be a chance to see the very last Jesus Lizard show has now turned into a chance to see the penultimate performance.
I’m a little pissed about it.
You see, I knew both Thanksgiving weekend performances would sell out.
And they rightly did.
And then they announced a New Year’s Eve show, the real final show.
That’s going to sell out too.
I’m having second thoughts inviting my wife along. I don’t think she’s fully appreciative of what is about to occur this month.
Regardless of the last show or second to last one, it’s going to be awesome.

Lou Reed - Sally Can't Dance

Lou Reed publicly voiced his displeasure of Sally Can’t Dance, but then again, Lou Reed is an asshole, so it’s best to taper his comments with a dose of reality. As a matter of fact, Lou Reed as an asshole is found throughout Sally Can’t Dance so maybe his criticism of it was part of the Lou Circa ’74 character.
His criticism of the album is one of the reasons I love it: the production. It’s slick, polished, and everything glistens. That’s not to suggest there aren’t some dirty moments throughout the album’s brief 8 song cycle, there’s a lot of it, actually, both figuratively and musically. But every instrument is distinguishable and there are moments where Lou’s voice-a relatively limited and weak instrument-is processed with studio gimmicks that it sounds awesome.
“Kill Your Sons,” a song about Lou’s electroshock therapy treatments as a teen, remains as one of his fiercest songs ever.
“NY Stars” finds Reed dismissing his hometown imitators with a deadpanned “Help the New York stars.” That same, intentional deadpan is used throughout Sally Can’t Dance (the “Alimony” bit in “Ennui,” the “then war broke out…a he had to go” line in “Billy”) and it never tires.
Upbeat Lou even stops by for a laugh or two, with mixed results. The descriptive title track that details where Sally “used to ball folk singers” (a line that I like to use on my wife when we visit her hometown on the holidays. You know, we’ll pass a grain elevator and I’ll ask her if “that’s where you used to ball folk singers?”).
It falls flat on the downright awful “Animal Language,” a song so embarrassing that I’ll let it play through and dramatically sing the lyrics like a Vegas crooner. You really haven’t lived until you’ve heard me belt out “they took the dude’s sweat and shot it up between the two” like Robert Goulet.
Sally Can’t Dance became Lou’s highest charting album, leading him to exclaim that if he relinquished total control on his albums to someone else that he would surely find himself with a number 1 record. Given the artist’s cantankerous nature, noncommercial subject matters and penchant for subversive behavior, it seems highly unlikely that this could really happen. But Sally Can’t Dance at least promotes how Lou should have entertained the idea of letting someone man the controls behind the boards a little more frequently.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

There was a time when I would buy Sonic Youth albums without even hearing a note. For me, they were a band that deserved this kind of positive reinforcement, an epitome of how bands with major label should act, progress, and influence.
A pair of albums-A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts & Flowers- abruptly ended that blind adulation. It seemed that one of my favorite bands had simply run their course and run out of ideas in the process. They had become pretentious and boring, oblivious to the fact that rock music should contain a bit of humor, or at least a wink towards it. Sonic Youth appeared to have grown up, no longer deserving their ageless band name.
Around this time I purchased Murray Street only out of Trade Center guilt and I skipped Sonic Nurse altogether.
I got a chance to see them in Ohio during the Rather Ripped tour-twenty years after I’d first seen them in a small club in Iowa supporting Sister tour-and was pleasantly surprised. Lee assaulted his guitar, Thurston dry humped his amp stack, and Kim jumped around like she was honestly overtaken by the amplified onslaught. And Steve Shelly? As usual, he was his awesome dependable self, keeping all of the chaos neatly contained in measured rhythms.
The album they were promoting-Rather Ripped-was a high energy affair, complete with efficient song structures and what appeared to be an attempt to win back fans that had fallen by the wayside, like me.
Sonic Youth’s latest, The Eternal, is curiously being promoted as the band’s first independent release in years (like that accounts for anything in this day and age and, to be honest, I never really considered Matador to be an “indie” label to begin with) when it should be promoted as their best work since Washing Machine.
They’re continuing with Ripped’s fast-tempo tendencies and they’re expertly tiptoeing between streamlined guitar rock and their groundbreaking experimentation. It’s an album that manages to straddle a variety of different elements from their past while sounding amazingly fresh. An impressive feat for a band that’s approaching their thirtieth anniversary.
The obvious attraction is the guitar interplay between Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. They’ve proven to be ample warriors within the alterna-tuning freakouts and have even poked around some areas that could be fodder for jam-band fans. But The Eternal finds the pair consolidating their interplay into short, sweet bursts. Their performances are deceiving-one has to listen closely for their complexity-but when they do go off on extended tangents (“Anti-Orgasm” the wonderful “Antenna” and the closer “Massage The History”) it makes the impact that much stronger. The two are so good that they even make a mundane Kim Gordon track, “Malibu Gas Station,” into a track that you don’t dare skip.
Because many of the complexities are brief, efficient and expertly positioned, you can expect The Eternal to grow a bit after a few listens. Trust me, this review looked a bit different after the first spin. But now after double-digit listens, it’s now apparent that I’m enjoying a new Sonic Youth album more than I have in years. More importantly, The Eternal has me looking forward to the next few Sonic Youth albums before they’ve even been contemplated.
Seems like old times.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Naked Lunch Turns 50

Happy birthday, Naked Lunch.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ace Frehley - Anomaly

My cousin quipped that the reason I didn’t get Anomaly as a promo was because it sucked and the record company was afraid that people would find out about it sooner. Judging by the song titles and ridiculous cover art, the signs were pointing to the possibility that he was indeed correct.
There is a song on the album called “Space Bear.”
How good can the album be with a song called “Space Bear.”
There’s also a song called “I Come From Outer Space” which features a chorus of “I thought I told you I came from outer space” repeated over a fairly innocuous guitar riff.
Sure enough, a few hours after I heard the song, I began telling people-or merely talking to myself-“I thought I told you I came from outer space.” I’d do it with different inflections, just to make it sound different.
Ace has his way with a hook.
The issue isn’t if Anomaly bad-it really isn’t-the issue is that it took Ace twenty years to record a new solo album, and this is the best he could come up with?
Christ, Ace has run ragged in Kiss, releasing a couple of albums a year, and was then forced to whip out a solo album in no time. And what came of it? The best of the four Kiss solo albums and the most popular.
We’ve given Ace twenty years to return and what does he bring to the table? Another song about the perils of drinking. Wasn’t there another song twenty years ago about the perils of drinking? Did Ace fall off the wagon, or is his recovery from alcoholism the most lengthy in recorded history?
“Foxy And Free” is a decent opener, with its neat Hendrix references and metal Ace dishing out some aggro riffs, it’s heavier than what one would expect from a 57-year-old man. Or is it 60? Who the hell knows? The point is, Ace is old now and is still releasing hard rock damage of someone half his age.
There are some fine moments, there are more silly ones, and there is a couple where you think, “If these two Ace songs were tacked on to the new Kiss album and the replacement band’s songs removed, you’d have a really good Kiss album.
Instead, you have one barely good Kiss album a slightly average-yet surprisingly consistent and heavy-Ace Frehley solo album.
But you’d still hold it against him for taking so long to come up with something this uneventful.
After all, the fucker came from outer space.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kiss - Sonic Boom

Against all odds, against any rational thought, Kiss founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have put together a scab band, pissed off nearly every remaining Kiss Army member by their unquenchable desire of money and managed to release the best album in almost three decades.
Why should you trust me? Because I hate Kiss. I’m on a mission to review every Kiss album in their bloated catalog in the hopes of finding some logical explanation as to why they are so revered and-without spoiling too much of my quest-I am having a tough time of it.
I went into this Wal-Mart only album fully expecting to hate it only to walk away with my jaw opened at how decent it was.
There was the embarrassment of the reunion album about eleven years ago and then the unexplainable decision to take the image that former founding members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss created and allow a pair of Johnny-come-lately members don the outfits and act as if nothing ever happened. The decision was so moronic that even local television stations made fun of them live an on camera.
Kiss was never a band of much respect, but now they were a bona fide joke. So excuse me for really…REALLY…wanting Sonic Boom to suck so much shit that I could come up with a few hundred words to bash them.
But something’s happening here. Aside from all of the hype concerning the cover art (the same dude that inked Rock And Roll Over did Sonic Boom) and Paul’s endless yapping that the new album was a return to their classic 70’s sound, even Vegas odds makers had the new album as another late-career embarrassment.
Maybe Paul-the obvious motivator on this one-was getting tired of the jokes at his disposal. Maybe they noticed AC/DC’s own late career marketing deal and decent album and decide that they were actually going to put some effort into this one. Or maybe they can finally taste the opportunity of getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and want to go in with a good album under their belt.
You can already hear Gene’s smug and ungrateful speech right now, but even that asshole knows that there would be at least a couple less eye-rolling audience members if his band could walk in with their heads high off a new album instead of one that was released in 1979.
Of course, nobody but the faithful are going to give a shit about this one as nobody but the Kiss Army wants to hear anything new by these guys. Hell, even Gene thinks records are a waste of time, as they don’t pocket him with nearly the cash that he feels he’s entitled to.
As a result, his songs on Sonic Boom continue down the embarrassing road of getting’ pussy and I’m pretty such I’ve heard his double-entendres here some place before.
Paul’s material is top notch and it sounds like he actually gives a shit about this project. His song’s are catchy, anthemic, and contain some good riffs. Admittedly, some of the riffs sound suspiciously similar to older ones, but after such shit like Psycho Circus, Hot In The Shade, and The Elder, this ain’t a bad thing.
One thing that is a bad thing is letting new(er) Kiss Members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer have their own tunes, giving the false pretense that they are somehow part of the band. They are hired guns-we all know it-so don’t insult our intelligence and dash their hopes that they’re somehow part of the organization by letting them have a couple of spots on your “comeback” album. Besides, they suck and are even shittier than Gene’s songs.
But I will give Thayer for laying down some decent solos (I’m sure the main riff’s are Paul’s) and suggesting that he may indeed be the best Kiss guitarist since Ace.
There’s absolutely nothing new to Sonic Boom, but that seems to be the point. It’s just a little raunchier than their material has been since Love Gun. It begs the question: What took you guys so long? Had they released Sonic Boom immediately after Love Gun who knows, we may have already been introducing this greedy fucks into the Hall already. Instead, we’re questioning why it’s come so late in the game and trying to figure out their ulterior motives.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know

One of my biggest fears in writing this review is the perception that I am the site’s lone Ronnie James Dio and that role puts me in a category of irrelevance. Kind of like the irrelevance that Dio himself faced about ten years ago when he was playing the shtick in clubs and secondary markets. Only the faithful showed up then and I would probably count myself as one of those vocal naysayers, laughing at every one of those few hundred patrons coming to get a glimpse at this tiny old man.
Tenacious D may have resurrected Dio to a pop culture joke, but it was a re-examination of his work with Black Sabbath in the early 80’s that resurrected him to a credible and influential voice in metal.
The reunion shows were supposed to be a swan song, a final glimpse at a band that was on its own deathbed at the time of conception. But there were reports during the tour that the band-now named Heaven & Hell thanks to the endless meddling of Sharon Osbourne-was preparing to record a new album together, the second reunion of this line-up.
Initially, I found myself as a naysayer, rolling my eyes at the notion of a disc of new material, envisioning a slow death of decreasing popularity and smaller venues. The fellas seemed intention on exiting the metal arena in embarrassing fashion, too old to know when it’s time to put away the gargoyles and call it a day.
The Devil You Know should be the sad remnants of that union, the document that tells us that the moment ended decades ago and, while reminiscing among the old farts is fine, the idea that they can translate it into credible new material is silly.
Well Holy Diver, the joke is squarely on me as Heaven & Hell deliver their heaviest recordings closer to the age of seventy than they did at twenty-one. It’s an effort that provides them with a reason to exist-albeit under a new name-and it should provide an inspiring reference point to anyone considering what the shelf life of a metal band should be.
Dio, who’s voice is still impressive at his advanced age, has moved from an egotistical bellower to one that has transitioned his talents into an ominous howl. The end of days is written all over this record, and Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler work each riff like it will be their last with Vinny Appice plodding along at a snails pace. Seriously: the album is more than half over before the band kicks it into second gear with “Eating The Cannibals.” All of this dirge and slow motion head banging begins to sound the same by the end of the album, and repeated listening had me reaching for the remote so that I could program only the best songs on the album.
One of those is “Bible Black.” It begins as a forlorn acoustic number until the ninety-second mark. At which time the band unleashes into a menacing refute of Christianity. “Let me go!/I’ve seen religion, but the light has left me blind!” Dio roars while Iommi delivers another worthy riff underneath the sacrilege.
While not as noteworthy as Heaven & Hell or The Mob Rules, the fourth installment of this Sabbath line-up is most surprising for its consistency. Not even I imagined that these four old-timers would have been album to create an album that matches the releases that are already available, particularly since it’s been over fifteen years since the last installment. It also annihilates practically everything that Sabbath’s more notorious frontman has released during that time. Which begs the question: shouldn’t Sharon be doing more to make sure her husband is contributing to his own legacy than worrying about what his former bandmates are doing? Because, judging from The Devil You Know, Heaven & Hell are doing more to retain Sabbath’s lofty stature than he is.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Eating Us

Check it if you don’t believe me, but Black Moth Super Rainbow’s “Forever Heavy” is one of my most spun tracks according to Last FM. The song, from their last effort Dandelion Gum, is a trippy and memorable blend of old school analog synths and a weird
“Born On The Day The Sun Didn’t Rise” is similar to “Forever Heavy” in the sense that it too is the lead off track to their full length-this time it’s their latest entitled Eating Us-and it’s infectiously similar to that ’07 gem.
I have a feeling that it too will become a popular track and show similar high numbers to my spin totals, particularly after this summer is over.
In fact, much of Eating Us resembles the same acid-laden landscapes that precede it, with one very noticeable difference: the production quality. BMSR opened for the Flaming Lips last year, and the OKC pranksters must have put in the good word to producer Dave Fridmann. He uses his trademark big drum sound, puts a lot more audible detail in the mix and might have had a hand in streamlining every song to economical time lengths. Unlike the sound stamp that he placed on the last Tapes ‘n Tapes album, his work with BMSR is a breath of fresh air and provides new dimensions to their sound.
All of the retro keyboards make an appearance again, and the vocoder that was used somewhat sparingly in Dandelion Gum is used to the fullest here. Fridmann also pushes more stringed instruments here, including a beautiful string section at the end of “Gold Splatter.”
Eating Us is a much more mainstream endeavor, with its terse running time and focus on melody, and there are certainly more than a few tracks that could garnish widespread attention. BMSR always seemed to be a band that was destined to become merely an enjoyable curio, referenced as one of those underground bands who delivered a few great songs before disappearing into the psilocybin landscape. Their latest shows that perhaps the band has bigger things in mind and that they’re not quite content with becoming an underground footnote. A lot of forethought went into the making of Eating Us; whether or not it’s the work of Dave Fridmann or the members of BMSR will be seen with future releases. But for the time being Eating Us leaves you feeling full and very satisfied.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Dandelion Gum

Hailing from rural Pennsylvania and sporting one of the weirdest band names since The Flaming Lips (a band they’re opening for this fall), Black Moth Super Rainbow have quietly made a few retro-minded instrumental albums over the past five years. Dandelion Gun, their latest offering, continues with their psychedelic soundscapes while managing to make a more lasting impression than the last few Air albums combined.
Their secret is two-fold: memorable melodies created on instruments (and recording studios, for that matter) that are no less than a quarter-century old. The instrument of choice ends up being a variety of pawn-shop synthesizers underneath a dated vocoder. This strategy makes deciphering the vocals (when they’re present) nearly impossible and, because it’s used so frequently, there’s a chance that a listener can grow fatigued of the gimmick while sober and/or long periods of listening.
But when Dandelion Gum is taken in small sittings, and one of the best methods is to throw in an individual track on a mix-tape, the results are enormously rewarding. For the past month, I’ve been enamored with the opening track “Forever Heavy,” going as far as to include it on my own commute mix and add it as a song profile to my own MySpace page (they’ve since deleted the track).
That song, as you’ll discover throughout most of the album, eloquently balances a low-fi economics (here’s hoping B.M.S.R. never get a proper recording budget) with lysergic-fueled visions (apparently, Dandelion Gum is “Hansel & Gretel” themed concept album that probably makes sense after a few tabs of acid) to create a spacious, and sometimes creepy, album.
As hokey as their stage names are (the band members are referred to as Tobacco, Iffernaut, Father Hummingbird, Power Pill Fist, and The Seven Fields of Aphelion) and as limiting as their antiquated equipment may be, Black Moth Super Rainbow are deserving of a wider audience, which is hopefully what will happen after a high-profile tour with their fellow Oklahoma zanies. At the same time, with Dandelion Gum being just a few tracks short of long lasting flavor (get it?), they’re well on their way to getting that wider audience completely on their own.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bob Dylan - Together Through Life

It’s quite possible that the worst Bob Dylan album of all time is the one in which he joined up with the Grateful Dead for the Dylan & the Dead release. Twenty years after that disastrous merging, Dylan again looks to the Dead camp and calls up lyricist Robert Hunter to help out with album 33, and not just on a few cuts, but nearly every single one on Together Through Life. It’s an album that may not challenge Dylan & the Dead in terms of sheer blandness, but it comes close and it certainly knocks the wind out of Dylan’s late career winning streak.
Aside from a few unique forays into “Tex-Mex,” there’s little intrigue to be had at all, with everything sounding very much the age of Dylan himself and with none of the lyrics providing any insight to Zimmy’s mindset as he approaches 70. Instead, everything sounds like it was put together in haste with Dylan’s words taking shape as an afterthought.
I get the idea that Dylan makes the records that he wants to and that there’s no reason why he needs to consider what any of us should think the next step should be. But this seems like a patchwork, cobbled together from mundane musing on love and half-baked songs born out of movie soundtrack compositions instead of real inspiration. It is the sound of Dylan going though the motions with a very competent band who make each song sound like a dust-worn border town.
And then there’s the matter of Dylan’s voice, so wrecked at this point that you’ll cringe at the sight of Bob lighting up on the inside sleeve photograph. As wasted as it sounds, his voice may be the only truly intriguing thing that Bob contributes in Together. Everything else-either by pen or by phrasing-is just too cozy for its own good.
Even the arrangements sound congenial, like their true inspiration came from a couple of podcasts of his radio show instead of Dylan or Hunter’s prose. There’s no complaint about the performances mind you-they’re all nicely executed, well suited and completely forgettable-but when you’ve got Bobby phoning it in under the pretense of laid-back spontaneity, for fucks sake have someone spike the punch a get shit going. As talented as the musicians might actually be, they all sound like they’re sitting on their ass, working out after-hours Tex-Mex run-throughs and a few nods to the Chicago blues. It sounds like everyone had a swell time playing-hell, even Dylan busts out with a laugh on “My Wife’s Hometown,” but the thing about “after-hours” is that not all of us are invited to the show. The bar is closed, the doors locked, and we’re left outside, pining for a glimpse of greatness from a man with a well-documented past. You listen for those hints of greatness before realizing that the man is not the slightest bit concerned with it.
Because-and this is key-we understand that time is a precious commodity here. There’s a disservice to both himself and to those of us who love him when we see him spinning his wheels like with Together Through Life. We’re wanting every moment and every album to count from here on out, and we remember those years when Bobby’s releases were disappointing affairs. The slightest hint of a slowdown, particularly after coming off a few very good efforts, only gets me even more worried about album 34.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.