Friday, May 29, 2009

Heaven & Hell Record Signing

Probably the best in-store appearance footage ever. A fat, middle aged dude nearly looses it at a recent record signing in San Bernadino, California featuring Heaven & Hell. While waiting in line, the guy begins screaming, clearly excited at the prospects of meeting his heroes. ("These guys are Gods! I'm gonna friggin' FAINT!")
This immediately draws attention. As a matter of fact, the guy with him was almost as annoying at first, but managed to collect his shit as they got closer for fear of being escorted out of the store His friend, however, can't contain himself and doesn't care who notices or hears him ("I'm gonna fuckin' pass out. Pardon my French!"). You will notice one of the security guys looking a bit anxious as he collects the dude's cd and hands it to Iommi.
The crazy dude gets his disc signed and even manages to get a handshake in at the end. It's obvious that both Geezer and Iommi are used to this kind of zaniness; they barely eye contact and only allow a brief handshake ("Gently! Gently!)
He's clearly coherent enough to know that he's making people nervous, offering a final "I'm leaving now!" as he gets his disc and makes his way to the exit, still yelling every step of the way.

In other news, the New York Post is reporting that Ozzy Osbourne-under mind control from the greedy succubus known as Sharon-is suing Tony Iommi for using the name Black Sabbath after he quit/got fired. He's asking for 50% interest of the name and a percentage of Iommi's profits for Sabbath material after 1980, probably because his piece of shit variety show got cancelled after-what-one fucking episode.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Motley Crue To Perform 'Dr. Feelgood' In Its Entirety During Crue Fest 2

The idea of a band performing one of their classic albums live and in its entirety is a novel one and something I enjoy immensely. I have two criteria though: if it’s a traditional album-something that’s under an hour in length-then the band better fill out the last part of their set with other songs from their repertoire. The other requirement is that the album must be certifiably worthy to be played in its entirety. This means that it should be something that universally acknowledged as a classic album, something that stands as the artist’s high-water mark or one that stands as a high-water mark for their particular genre.
More and more bands are doing these types of shows to give them an “event” type of feel. Some of the more obvious albums have been revisited: Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Todd Rundgren is going to do A Wizard, A True Star, and I just got word today that Steely Dan is going to do Aja, Goucho, and The Royal Scam on three consecutive nights in Chicago. All of these albums are recognized by fans and critics of their importance and all would surely excite fans interested in hearing the live interpretation.
Fans of metal and hard rock though are somewhat shortchanged by the “album performed in its entirety” phenomenon. Rush did it with 2112 and Judas Priest is planning on performing British Steel. Both are welcomed, but a few bands have decided to jump in the fun without a proper invitation and with albums that don’t immediately stand out as worthy for inclusion.
Ratt-not a band that stands out as groundbreaking or innovative-announced plans to perform Out Of The Cellar in its entirety during this summer’s Rocklohoma. I’ve got no problem with Ratt circa ’82-’90; later incarnation are pretty much a joke, but not as big a joke as Steven Pearcy’s voice deterioration. Nonetheless, if one was to ask “What’s the best album Ratt ever did?” the answer would be Out Of The Cellar and if you were to ask “Where would this album be appreciated the most?” well sir, I would submit the stage of Rocklahoma.
Personally? I wouldn’t drive too far to witness the show, but if that’s your bag, then so be it.
This brings us to a more pointed debate concerning one Motley Crue and their announcement that they will be performing Dr. Feelgood in its entirety. The Crue has managed to stay a nut hair above irrelevance even though they haven’t released anything remotely entertaining since John Corabi replaced Vince Neil and despite that their “heyday” was over twenty years ago. I’ve bashed them enough for their sins, but this is a band that just seems to aggravate me with each passing year that I cannot help but to rag on them every step of the way.
Dr. Feelgood may be the band’s highpoint in terms of commercial success, but it is by far the band’s critical apex. Maybe this is a point of argument among Crue fans, but I always felt that their true artistic merit ended after Shout At The Devil and even that is an album with plenty of flaws.
Admittedly, one doesn’t listen to Motley Crue for intellectual satisfaction or critical analysis, which is part of the reason why their decision to play Dr. Feelgood somewhat laughable.
I mean, if the band really wants to start thinking of themselves as a band that provided fans of hard rock with complete albums of artistic intent then they should have picked either Too Fast For Love or Shout At The Devil.
Everything beyond those two albums were either fodder for mainstream success or halfassed efforts that were stuffed with filler in between a few catchy tunes that could be pushed on radio.
Dr. Feelgood was rolled out as the band’s “return to form,” their moment of clarity thanks to newfound sobriety. The title and the bio sheet that came with it hinted at an almost thematic attempt-a concept album that addressed the perils of addiction and the glory of emerging from the depths of despair.
In fact, the album is essentially two songs that directly hint at addiction with a bunch of other radio-ready songs that have nothing to do with Dr. Feelgood’s supposed themes.
It bares the fingerprints of Bob Rock, a producer known for his desire for perfection and ear for melody. On both accounts, it succeeds; there’s barely a mistake on the album’s 11 tracks and it’s produced with a clear ear to mainstream approval. It contains none of the band’s notorious penchant for decadence and with the exception of a stupid track devoted to a cocksucking chick, there is hardly anything offensive at all.
It’s Slippery When Wet with umlauts.
Motley Crue is notorious for flinging shit around no one ever seems to complain of the stink. The idea that the band will perform this album in its entirety during Crue Fest 2 smells like horseshit to me. Sure, there’s the obligatory “20th anniversary” explaination, but since when is Motley Crue able to count and since when are we keeping track of when mediocre records we originally released?
Could it be that there’s enough pre-recorded material from the Feelgood sessions that this just makes the most sense to perform? We all know that Vince Neil barely sings a note on stage anymore, finding it more beneficial to charge you $50 for the luxury of seeing him while making you sing the majority of the set list for him. Maybe there’s nothing from the Too Fast For Love or Shout At The Devil sessions that they could pipe through the p.a., requiring Vince to actually having to sing.
Or maybe it’s just another one of those unexplainable things, like how this band was able to secure such longevity with such limited evidence of greatness. This is a band that’s taken fans for a ride for more years than they were actually a credible unit-and yet they’re still out there charging full price for the same 90 minute set that they were doing 20 years ago (present Feelgood set excluded…but not by much).
I have no idea why the Crue works me up to a lather. It’s probably because of the number of bands from that same era that can’t make ends meet even when they may have better material than what Motley Crue can provide while these nitwits continue to receive more compensation with no hint of gratitude and, most importantly, without the back catalog to justify it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deerhunter - Weird Era

My copy of Deerhunter’s Microcastle came with a bonus disc, Weird Era Cont. I spun Microcastle a few times, fell in love with it, and in the heat of said passion wrote the review that I posted yesterday. Glorious Noise posted the review, but I never followed it up with a mention of Weird Era.
True story: I went months before I even remembered the disc was in there.
Can you blame me? We live in an era where bonus discs are a normal occurrence and an even rarer event is when said bonus discs are worth a damn.
Weird Era is not that kind of bonus disc. In fact, it rivals the legitimate release at some points. It’s an album-in the truest sense of the word-that I would have accepted as the actual follow-up to Cryptograms if it were released instead of Microcastle. Since it wasn’t, and since Microcastle is so good, you can only view Weird Era as the leftover disc, a collection of songs that may pale somewhat when compared to it’s more notorious brother but a collection of such decency that you’re actually shocked at how good it is and thankful that it was included in the package.
Trust me: for $15 (or whatever I paid for it) it’s a bargain and because I originally forgot that I had it for two months, discovering it made the value even more noticeable for me; it was like I just stumbled on to a new, awesome record and didn’t have to pay for it.
Less structured than Microcastle, Weird Era is a compendium of soundscapes, ranging from primitive, low-fi distortion to eerily beautiful ambient pieces. Vocals are a rare commodity, and when they’re present, the vocals are soaked in reverb or other treatments making them another element of the musical texture than as a focal point.
What we are witnessing with head hunter Bradford Cox is a creative peak that shows no sign of letting up or diminishing in value. It will at some point-of course-but when it does, the “throwaways” like the Fluorescent Grey e.p. and Weird Era will become more pronounced as shining moments in Deerhunter’s catalog when the band was releasing high points at a fantastically rapid rate.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Deerhunter - Microcastle

The running gag may be the notion that Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox is somehow recoiling from the “fame” that all of the critical praise that was bestowed on Cryptograms. There’s additional evidence of the need to step away from the spotlight as early as song number two on the band’s third release, Microcastle. In it, Cox sheepishly dreams of being held in a room (“I want only to see/Four walls made of concrete/Six by six enclosed/See me on videos”-“Agoraphobia”) seeming hinting at a seclusion to which some have concluded is a result of all of the attention his band has received.
Make no mistake, that aforementioned attention is totally deserved…and will deservedly grow more with Microcastle…but we’re not talking about a band that gets name checked in everyday conversations and I would be shocked if Cryptograms sold more than 10,000 copies after all of the written hullaballoo (including here).
In fact, I bet at least half of you reading this right now are confusing this Atlanta quartet with Deerhoof.
My guess is that Cox is gunning for more limelight. He regularly dons dresses on stage, just finished a high profile support act for Nine Inch Nails’ most recent tour, posted pictures of his own shit on the band’s blog (admittedly, that’s not a good example) and has toned down the heroic atmospheres that made Cryptograms an important album as well as a divisive one.
Yes, Microcastle is definitely more accessible, but it hardly qualifies Deerhunter for the mainstream. For every step forward towards mass appeal there’s equal time given to feedback, electronic blips, and distorted vocals that give way to Cox’s dictionary of ailments, entendres, and pop-culture references. When Deerhunter isn’t amassing squalor, they’re deconstructing it, allowing Microcastle…particularly the album’s middle section…to be softly spun with pianos, tremolo, and layers of reverb soaked guitars.
This album is not as eye opening as its predecessor, but it’s a clear move forward (with the e.p. Florescent Grey now demonstrating itself to be more of a transition piece that a quick stopgap) and a better record to boot.
In fact, with each subsequent listen it feels like Deerhunter has created their first undisputed masterpiece even though it may take years before it’s acknowledged as such.
Cox again portends ambivalence to the whole matter during Microcastle’s highpoint, “Nothing Ever Happened.” Cox sounds positively dreary over the course of the song’s five minutes, whining like an impatient teenager that he’s “Waiting for something…For nothing.” The band then spends the second half of the song working out a tight rhythmic jam of interweaving guitars and arcing tones. It’s clear from it that Microcastle is not only something, it’s something that should provide him the attention he’s secretly craving.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Jay Bennett R.I.P.

Jay Bennett certainly was not very flattering in I Am Going To Break Your Heart. The constant bitching, ill advised comments (“easy rockers” remains my favorite), and obvious attempts at asserting control of the band just didn’t present itself well in the documentary.
You get the impression that the person most surprised when he eventually got sacked from Wilco was Jay himself. The rest of the band and everyone watching the movie could see it coming and, at some points, welcomed the event when it eventually happened.
Yet lately, there are some Wilco fans that began to consider the band’s output sans Jay and making their feelings known that they would like him back in the fold. The argument? That everything since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has not been up to that album’s lofty heights, therefore, his presence-as divisive as it was-is needed if the band every is to return to the brilliance they once had.
It’s an interesting thought and one that I have agreed with.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked A Ghost Is Born-particularly what it stood for-and I thought Sky Blue Sky was a smart, subtle record. As good as those albums were, they weren’t great like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summer Teeth were. Those two releases challenged the listener, often not revealing their appeal until after repeated listens. And after two brilliant albums in a row, you began to miss those moments after two good albums in a row.
Yes, I would cite Jay as a big reason why those records came out so fantastic.
Recently, Jay sued Jeff Tweedy claiming unpaid royalties during his tenure, an event that surely would erase any possibility of a reunion just yet. In realistic terms, that lawsuit probably put the notion of a reconciliation years away.
Sadly, Jay Bennett passed away today, making any news of a reconciliation or reunion an impossibility. He was 45.
Bennett stated that he needed those royalty funds to assist with paying for hip replacement surgery. Evidently, he had been living in pain for several years and was looking forward to a life without it after the surgery was completed. I don't know if the surgery created complications that cut his life short.
His passing may have indeed presented him with an opportunity to be pain free-admittedly not in the manner that he was seeking-but for many fans, the pain is just now beginning as a result of this tragic news.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Punch Drunk: More Info On Brent Hinds Head Injury

I only post this because, until Cousin J forwarded me the article, I assumed that Brent Hinds’ head injury was the result of drunken shenanigans and at the hands by the bass player of System of a Down.
It turns out that it was the result of drunken shenanigans at the hands of one of the entourage members of the Wu Tang Clan, Rev.William Burke aka William Hudson aka the dude you never heard of because he’s collaborating with the bass player of System of a Down.
As badass as that getting the shit kick out of you by a member of the Wu Tang Clan may sound-I mean, if you’re going to have your ass handed to you, why not have it done by a dude that rolls with the Wu-the reality of the incident is much more uncool. Namely because nobody’s heard of this dude. Translated: a little pussy with lesser talent than Brent Hinds sucker punched the guitarist because he hit him with a fucking shirt. Sure, Hinds is notorious for drinking too much and being a little too quick with the fists, but as far as I know, he’s never nearly destroyed someone else’s livelihood with a sucker punch. For real: what kind of pussy sucker punches a drunken dude just because the shirt they’re spinning around accidently hits them?

“It was a cheap shot and if I would’ve seen it coming, it never would’ve
happened,” says Hinds, pauses lengthening between words. “He’s a coward and
complete asshole. He hides in the shadows and punches people out of nowhere,
which is the most little girl thing I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s like,
‘Dude, grow some balls and fuckin’ face me, and I guarantee you’ll be going
down, not me.’” Hinds was hospitalized with severe head trauma. At first, his
brain was so swollen that his doctor called his relatives and suggested they fly
to Vegas in case he didn’t wake up from his coma.

And where the fuck was this Shavo Odadjian? Why is he hanging with such a pussy? If Hinds was being a douche, why not call it a night, grab your lady Wu puppydog, and retreat for a sober, less threatening environment? Admittedly, I wasn’t there and there’s a bunch on conflicting stories (even Hinds’-who admittedly was near a fucking coma-seems to change the events every time he speaks about it), but I’ll be damned if I know of any thirty year olds that allow themselves to be put into situations in which an felony is in the plans for the evening. Keep in mind, Shavo is a dude that’s directed a Bad Brains video, and if anyone can direct something with HR in it, that person can handle the most unpredictable of personalities.
There’s the risk now that Hinds will seek some kind of retaliation; never mind that if I were ever punched into a coma, I’d be retiring from the fisticuffs entirely.

"He sucker punched me out of nowhere and almost ended my life," Hinds says. "If I ever see that dude, I will have to spend some time in prison."
-Rolling Stone

Which leads me to the question: Did the law ever get involved with this incident? It seems that if someone dropped someone to the point of near-death and the person responsible for it is known and caught on camera, isn’t that person picked up by the black and white and has to make some kind of explanation? I remember moving a bunch of safety cones to block a street in the city park, getting busted for it, and having to go down to the station for at least a twenty minute interrogation. Are we at a day and age where dropping someone to the point where they suffer brain damage is not an investigative issue.
Part of me hopes for a little retaliatory revenge, but a larger part of me hopes the whole thing is dropped while both Shavo and Hudson’s career get their own reminder of how livelihood is a precious thing. Karma, as we all know, usually is the best form of justice around.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

OCD Chronicles: Aerosmith-"Uncle Salty"

For you younger fans of rock ‘n roll this may be hard to believe, but at one time Aerosmith was a very, very, good band. In fact, between ’74 and ’77 the very well may have been the best American hard rock band around. Starting with Get Your Wings and ending with Rocks, the band released three start-to-finish classics and appeared poised to be America’s true answer to the Rolling Stones.
I was too young to appreciate this at the time, having just a few of Aerosmith’s singles to spin. A friend and I would often play various singles and act out the songs trying to make each other laugh. One of my most successful versions was the flip side to Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” The “b/w” track was “Uncle Salty,” a laid-back song that, like “Walk This Way,” was found on the Toys In Attic album.
I have no idea what the song is really about, but in my “performance,” I imagined that Uncle Salty was an old dude that walked with a cane, occasionally peaking out of the curtains to see the “sunny day outside my window.” It garnished many a chuckle from my 5th grade friend. An interesting side note was that he was a Mormon. When we first met, he told me that he couldn’t drink pop because his religion prevented him from taking caffeine. By the time he moved away to another town the following year, I had him drinking Mountain Dew, buying sex novelties from the gas station across the street from our elementary school, and stealing weed from his black-sheep older brother who left the church when he figured out that the Mormons were a pretty wacky group. I have no idea if my friend continued down the road of sin or if he succumbed to the church doctrine after the few years of shenanigans that he experienced with me.
Those memories came back after a recent spin of “Uncle Salty.” The other tracks on Toys seem to carry their own stories-all related to a girl that had an affection towards Aerosmith, unfortunately both the classic and late 80’s commercial zenith-but “Uncle Salty” carries with it a weird story of two kids trying to overcome boredom on a rainy day. It also reminds me that, with enough time, Aerosmith and peer pressure, you can totally convert a Mormon kid into a Coke drinking delinquent.
After all, the pushers and the shovers is the life to lead.
BTW: I tried to find some video footage of Aerosmith performing “Uncle Salty,” but apparently, You Tube has turned into a receptacle for nothing more than Guitar Hero fans uploading their goddamn videos of them getting a high score playing “Uncle Salty” on expert mode. Bit of advice, unless you’re a cute four year old that can manage to get a high score playing it, don’t bother uploading your shit because nobody wants to watch you playing a video game. Do everyone a favor: learn how to play a guitar, nail some Joe Perry riffs and upload your performance of that instead.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Vanilla Fudge - Vanilla Fudge

Hard to believe, but for a while Vanilla Fudge’s debut was one of Atco Records biggest selling albums until people put down the bong long enough to figure out that Vanilla Fudge was a fucking cover band.
They were probably more adept than your local cover band, but nonetheless, they did nothing but cover famous songs of the day and s l o w t h e m d o w n to the point where one might think that the Summer of Love was fueled by downers.
There in lies the ruse: that Vanilla Fudge was some kind of psychedelic band. They were, in fact, a bunch of Beatle-loving young adults with no originality (and no songwriters, apparently) that were bankrolled by shady “music men” with mob connections who viewed young music fans with opportunistic intent.
One day in 1967, they were called The Pigeons. The next, they were called Vanilla Fudge. And on the third day, they were signed to Atco Records. It wasn’t too much longer until the power of payola got their shitty version of “You Just Keep Me Hanging On” on the radio and their full length into every pseudo-hippy dorm room across the country. It was all a calculated event, and one only needs to look at the amateurish cover to see how woefully clueless they were in an era that truly pushed the envelope of popular music. Vanilla Fudge is the soundtrack of middle-age leg-breakers puppeteering a young cover band into believing they were actually relevant.
They weren’t and in a few short years, they were nothing more than a footnote. Forty years later, they’re less than that; Vanilla Fudge is a step up from the band that played at your prom that happened to be managed by some intimidating thugs. Thanks to that, they scored a few hits before those in charge figured out that you could make more money from selling drugs than selling the soundtracks to taking them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Genesis - Duke

Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where Phil Collins' presence became more apparent.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

You're Gonna Love My Nuts

When he’s not beating whores who bite his tongue, Vince Offer, better known as the Sham Wow! dude, is pitching products in both his native English and in Spanish. Check out the Slap Chop toss that goes in for three on the English version while dismantling the set in the Spanish version.

There are a couple of things about Vince that I don’t know about:
1.) What’s the deal with his face-even pre-tongue biting incident-that causes it to lean towards the right?
2.) Did he look at the chick before forking over $1,000 for sex? Seriously, that doesn’t look like a thousand dollar prostitute for me and for that money, what’s wrong with a little kiss?
3.) Who knew that Vince was one of the “masterminds” behind The Underground Comedy Movie? More importantly, has anyone seen it?
4.) He has ties with Scientology. No shit.

Friday, May 8, 2009

And The Drummer's, He's So Shattered, Trying To Keep Uptime

Paul Lamere is a badass who is much smarter than me and who runs a nifty website about music technology called Music Machinery. One of his most entertaining posts recently was on the topic of “the loudness war,” or “how compression is killing the sonic glory of rock music” (an actual quote…from me). Anyway, he studied a few tracks from various artists and compiled the results to see how the dynamic range is pathetic, particularly with the new Metallica album.
It’s true; repeated listening of that album will give you audio fatigue and cause you to physically harm other people.
But I already knew about this from other stories about Death Magnetic and how the dude who mastered it would like his name removed from the brittle piece of shit. But the real discover that Mr. Lamere made was in providing computer evidence that The Stooges Raw Power placed them as the loudest band of all time (in terms of dynamic range, anyway) while Brian Eno may be the quietist.
Full story here.
Another great find that Lamere did was from a few months ago, when he created a computer program that is able to decipher when drummers utilize a click track.
For those not familiar with what a click track is, it is essentially an electronic metronome that many drummers use during recording. The idea is that they are able to create a near-perfect tempo by using this tool. The weird thing is-and maybe this is a male, penis thing-that some drummers consider using a click track “cheating,” stating that if you’re not able to keep a perfect tempo at all times then you’re some kind of pussy.
Personally, you’re making a record; make it as pristine and perfect as you want. I’ve got no problem with drummers that use a click track and totally admire the ones that don’t, particularly when you don’t notice a difference. On many of the recordings that I did, I totally used the metronome feature when drumming. Mostly because I was always speeding up and fucking the entire thing up. And when you have wasted an entire afternoon because you can keep time for four minutes, you tend to use whatever tools are available.
But knowing how hard it was made hearing a comment that Phil Rudd made several years ago stand out even more. When you listen to his work-particularly his drumming on Highway To Hell and Back In Black- you can’t help but notice how near-perfect it is. The dude is completely in the pocket and does not deviate. Rudd claimed that these recordings were done without the aid of a click track. Both of these albums were produced by Robert “Mutt” Lange, a notorious perfectionist and a vocal supporter of click tracks. Lange is an introverted wealthy weirdo, so we don’t have his remembrance on if Rudd performed to a click track.
That’s where Lamere comes in (the actual track was plotted by Arren Lex).
I asked him to consider hooking up a Rudd fueled AC/DC track and see if the drummer was a liar or not. From the test, it appears that Phil Rudd is being honest when he states that he does not play with a click track.
Of surprising note: Neil Peart does.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Mike Watt Tour Spiel

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the death of Ron Asheton hasn’t slowed down Mike Watt. The bassist is in the van once again, testing the waters with his third-count ‘em-third opera. This one hasn’t been released yet and, according to his tour blog, he’s learning the parts while on the road.

A moving passage from the man as he travels to his first gig in Tucson.

there's traff in downtown l.a. so I'm an hour late getting tom and peak but get
them we do. we go east on I-10 towards arizona where tuscson. it's smaller than
phoenix but it's older. I got us a garmin nuvi265t gps navigation system for
pretty econo and I guess I trust in enough to only check up sometimes in the
atlas to make sure things are cool. it's 501 miles from pedro to tucson and the
drive is beautiful cuz I love the desert and the weather very mild. we do pass
the place where d. boon was killed twentyfour years ago in arizona but I don't
know exactly cuz I only looked at the pictures d. boon's pop showed and wouldn't
take them - too freaked out... but I did accept the two guitars and in fact
wrote this whole "hyphenated-man" third opera on one of them, the black
telecaster. I don't play guitar very good but I wanted to work it this way
whatever….I think about d. boon, I think about ronnie - I think about my pop...
three men in my life I have to learn to live w/out.

God Bless Mike Watt.

Foto courtesy of The Hoot Page.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Over The Edge

Happy Anniversary baby.
Got you on my….Mind.
Saw Over The Edge this weekend. First time in, like, twenty-eight years. I suppose I should let my wife watch it, but I don’t think she’d appreciate it as she was ONE when it was originally released. They aired it all the time on HBO back then, when meant it was permanently embedded into my brain for all of these years. Watching it alone made me feel like I was alone, age thirteen, watching the movie in my parents’ living room while they slept upstairs. It has a great soundtrack; the scene where they’re all going to this party and “You Really Got Me” is playing in the background as they go down to the basement is the reason why I bought Van Halen’s first record.
Actually, my Grandmother bought it for me at an electronics store in Bedford, Iowa and it was on cassette.

There’s a full accounting of the Mastodon show coming in Glorious Noise, but the overall consensus was that it was epic and completely amazing. The crowd was spotted with music geek types, most of whom stood agape as the band completely worked over a brutal two-hour set of Crack The Skye in its entirety and a transgressing set from the rest of their catalog. The Blood Mountain material was superb. I’m still a little pissed that they didn’t do “Blood & Thunder” but…what can you do.
Parking was a real pain thanks to an evening game between the Cubs and Great White, but we were advised to drive up an alley a few blocks from Wrigley Field and go see a guy named “Ziggy.”
Apparently, Ziggy has some parking space in the area and he plays guitar.
“We’re all doing a shit right when Mastodon goes on.” Advised the inked bartender at the Metro to her other co-workers. It was in preparation to get their head’s blown off from pure metal. Seriously, I stood right in front of the stage-right speakers and had to move after a few songs because it was making me queasy even with adequate ear protection.
There was a sign that advised how all stage diving and mosh pitting would not be allowed because of insurance reasons. Come to think of it, it’s been well over ten years since I’ve witnessed head-trauma inducing stage diving of any source. Thanks Progressive lady!
A dude in a wheelchair was selling bootleg t-shirts after the show for $10. They looked like they were made by a dude in a wheelchair with a red and black Sharpie.
A cute girl and her boyfriend were fighting in front of the Gingerman. He wanted to take her picture, supposedly to “document” her meltdown. She called him an “abuser.” A dude seeing that a weeping girl was somehow code for “Make a pass” asked with halfway concern if she was ok. She ignored him, and Mr. Concerned went home and beat-off.
After a mile jaunt, we found the car and went trippin’ on LSD.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sooner Or Later, We All Sleep Alone

Isolation this weekend. I got back around 8:00pm Friday night after the Chicago gig (more on that later) and basically brought my bag up to the bedroom and crashed. By crashed I don’t mean sleep-it’s crazy what sleeping next to someone does to you when you’re alone-I just mean that I put my bags down, laid on the bed and watched Todd Phillips’ Hated: The G.G. Allin Story. After that, I started watching an episode of The Trailer Park Boys before I finally fell asleep. I must have hit the “sleep” button because everything was off the next morning.
I was awaken by the neighbor’s Guinea bird. There was lots of lawn activity, so it made the thing very vocal. I feel sad when it calls out, perhaps waiting for a response from its own order, only to hear nothing in return. Sometimes the kids and eye will mimic its all when we’re out back to make it feel less lonely.
The movie, in case you’re wondering, it’s very unremarkable. I suppose if you were to stumble on to G.G. Allin through this movie then maybe it would be very shocking to see him poop on stage for the first time, or when he punches people in the face. If you’re already hip to Allin’s antics though, it just becomes another glimpse into his retarded dogma. Very little is said on explaining why he acts the way he does and even less is said on why he’s even relevant.
At the end of the day a guy like me, someone who feels his actions and music are worthless contributions, isn’t provided with a lot of examples of why our negative view of the man should be compromised. He’s just a sad victim of child abuse by crazy religious parents who wanted to be a rock star, didn’t have the talent, so he relied on every shred of attention that he could muster. It’s the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum with the difference being that a few people think that tantrum qualified as art.
The film does provide a fan who begins to explain how we could all live vicariously through G.G.’s actions, but then he gets sidetracked about how proud he was that he found a girl who was willing to pee in G.G.’s mouth especially for the birthday party he was throwing him. Then there’s footage of that event.
Then there’s footage of G.G. playing live, only to have the power cut after he starts pooping and hitting people. G.G. gets mad, can’t understand why they won’t let him play, and then he decides to go score some dope with some fans.
It’s the kind of movie I’m sure my wife wouldn’t have appreciated anyway, so what better way to enjoy the solitude.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War

The story goes that when Marvin Gaye was making What’s Going On, Barry Gordy sent Smokey Robinson to check up on him to see how the artist was progressing. Smokey became one of Gaye’s staunchest supporters after hearing the results, an ally for Gaye who faced all out fight with Gordy who wanted nothing to do with the album, feeling it was uncommercial and wouldn’t find support at radio. Of course, Gordy found out how wrong he really was as What’s Going On was not only a hit for Marvin, but also a statement for the times and a creative highpoint.
Gaye told Robinson, “The album wasn’t done by me…It was done by God.”
I wonder if Erykah Badu faced similar concerns and criticism when she presented her fourth album, New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War to Motown. Record sales are woefully down and Badu hasn’t had a major hit in years, so it would come as no surprise if some of Universal’s executives were left scratching their heads when they heard the final product. It’s a challenging listening, often feeling unfinished and inconsistent. There are moments where arrangements trainwreck into one another, when songs feel out of sequence, and when Badu herself feels like she’s holding back. All of this may lead you to believe that New Amerykah is a flawed effort, and to some extent it is, but it also stands as one of the best albums of this year and one of the greatest soul albums in quite some time. It may not be on the same level as What’s Going On, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the two albums were certainly channeled from the same source.
The title implies some kind of grandiose theme and even a “part two” to consider later. There is some talk that the second part was supposed to be wrapped up by now and it appears that the follow-up is on some kind of hiatus, presumably as Badu takes time with a new addition to her family. So we’re forced to examine part one as an isolate piece and, even if there isn’t anything else to compliment it, the holes within it…the unfinished business if you will…lend an enormous sense of humanity to a record that is a very spiritual endeavor.
It’s a soundtrack of the end of George W. Bush’s tenure, a temperature of his damaging legacy and the people that his presidency callously left behind. Badu provides no quarter with her lyrics, dumping nearly every socio-political topic from today’s headlines within the album’s hour-long running time. It’s easy to insist that they all will resonate deeper within the black community but the fact is…particularly as this country has slid deeper down into uncertainty since the album was first released…this is an album that should resonate with any American, regardless of race.
While What’s Going On is adorned with beautiful arrangements. Badu decorates hers with minor keys, electronic blips, chants and repeated phrases, jazz arrangements, and just about anything else that would qualify as commercial suicide. The music alone will make your neck stiff after enduring all of the left turns New Amerykah throws at you.
The real divider is the arrangements themselves, as they provide equal footing to both arguments that they’re either half-baked or half-finished.
Because of this, your perspective will change often. Since it was released over ten months ago, I’ve alternated from one side to the other frequently. I’ve finally reached my own conclusion that it is indeed a major piece of work, that Badu isn’t merely entertaining her own indulgences, but instead, heeding to a higher power that’s either telling her the record is finished or that it needed to get out quickly so that people could digest its themes at their own pace.
What brought me to praise it was the recent economic turmoil, the presidential elections, and the general feeling that we are at a point where the only place to go next is up. New Amerykah documents this low ebb, just as What’s Going On documented the social ills of America in the early 70’s, and as a result, it may take years before we fully understand the legacy that Badu’s album presents.
Also, she has thrown so many themes here that to try and perfect it would be next to impossible. There’s no way that anyone, including Marvin Gaye, could wrangle the topics and nuances that Badu is gunning for within New Ameryka and knowing this, one must admire her for how close she comes to getting it right.
It starts to sink in with the album’s last two (proper) tracks, “That Hump” and “Telephone.” The first begins over a slow repetitious beat, on par with the same drudgery your face every day. Tired, sluggish, and damn near defeated, Badu musters a laundry list of daily mountains that she (us) has to climb. And how does she cope? With a little bit of weed that slowly turns into a little bit more. The vicious cycle of this isn’t lost on her: while the herb may be playing havoc with her ability to get motivated, the idea of leaving it to face the reality of her surroundings with a clear mind is even more daunting. In the end, she resolves nothing other than to tackle her crutch the moment her brother moves off of her floor and into his own place, the moment she starts living beyond paycheck to paycheck, the moment she can save enough to stop paying rent and get her own house…the moment she gets over that hump.
“Telephone” is Badu’s memorial to J. Dilla, inspired by the phone call that she received from the producer’s mother after he passed. It’s uplifting at moments (“Just fly away to Heaven brother/Save a place for me”) but the emotional delivery of her performance makes even the most celebratory intentions dimmed by the weight of the subject matter. At the end of it, Badu is so clearly moved by the song that you can audibly hear her exhale and shiver after thanking the other musicians. One of them is so touched by the proceedings that he waits until the last note vanishes, puts his drums sticks on top of the floor tom and says, “I don’t know if I can take this…That was scary.”
It’s obvious that there was something more in that room during the recording session.
There are more examples of the unexplained found throughout New Ameryka, choices, decisions, and those aforementioned forays that seem queer, silly, or curiously unfinished. But when you provide Badu with the faith that obviously fueled New Ameryka you may reach the heavenly bliss that she’s given us here. And while Marvin may have sweetened his arrangements to make What’s Going On palatable to even the most deep seeded atheist, Badu purposefully makes her own artistic statement a difficult endeavor. Therefore, how you perceive New Amerika may rest upon in how much faith you have inside of yourself.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Plasmatics - Metal Priestess

If you were a fan of rock and roll in the early 80’s, you at least heard about The Plasmatics. It was hard to avoid them, as the band’s subversive behavior provided them with a large amount of press in both rock mags and the mainstream press. If you were curious enough, the stunts (chainsaws, car explosion, electrical tape strategically placed over nipples) prompted you to take a listen.
The moment you gave The Plasmatics a spin, you realized that they were all about shtick, not songs. The gangly mowawked Richie Stotts looked the part of a punk rock guitarist, but he had little regard for innovation or memorable hooks. Had the band been able to translate their visual appeal into actual material, the band would be more revered today than it currently is.
They were able to swindle the notoriety into a record deal with Capitol after their first two albums New Hope For The Wretched and Beyond The Valley of 1984. The band hooked up with Dan “Instant Replay” Hartman who was convinced that they would be the next big thing. The man who voiced “Free Ride” offered to produce their major label offering and the skinny among Plasmatics fans is that the resulting material is great. Apparently, the label didn’t think so and Capitol ordered the band back into the studio with another producer to re-record the material.
Obviously, this all created delays in getting the Plasmatics into Middle America, so the label pieced together an e.p., Metal Priestess, to introduce their newly acquired act into the malls and chains across the country.
Metal Priestess shows the band beginning to abandon their punk origins in favor for a more metal (ha!) direction. It actually works in their favor as Stotts was able to trade in his weak speed playing in for a more aggressive power chord structure.
While the change benefited Stotts, nothing could hide the fact that Wendy O Williams wasn’t much of a vocalists and even worse at songwriting. The e.p. features a tasty jug-jug-jug riff that’s ultimately neutered by Williams’ cornball prose. She barks and spits throughout the e.p., but when you listen to what she’s yelling about you tend to get the idea that the whole thing is an act and that there’s not much substance to her angst. Initially, it was the old tried-and-true bash against consumerism. With Metal Priestess, you find her dipping into the clich├ęd world of S&M and the occult. Credit Hartman and Stotts for helping to bring some grit to the proceedings, but there’s little in Williams' words to make us believe that she felt comfortable with the new role as a metal poet.
Which pretty much makes their first few albums irrelevant, if you think about it. After bitching about consumerism, the Plasmatics began to pine for it. Williams was always a great student of art, but to see her forgo it is more painful than a beating by the Milwauke police department. Someone failed to tell her that she could still respect her original vision without having to resort to force out some nonsensical interpretation of what a metal song should be about.
Metal Priestess is the first sign of it. Before too long, she would be hanging out with Gene Simmons and retiring the Plasmatic name for an easy to digest W.O.W. This e.p. serves as the first notice of the change the band would undertake, the potential the direction could provide, and the limitations that Wendy O had when faced with finding the motivation for her art. The moment she (and them) began considering the input of others outside of the band was the moment in which they started to become irrelevant.