Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Best Albums Of 2010 (So Far)

2010 is shaping up to be a rather nice year in terms of quality, so much so that I nearly forgot about some of the great albums that were released earlier this year.

Vampire Weekend? That's like so 1st Quarter!

What makes so many good albums so early is exactly that: it makes it hard to put them in proper perspective. You also get a vibe from an album that makes it hard to shake when a new season starts.

So while we're in the middle nineties here in Iowa right now, that aforementioned Vampire Weekend conjures up a time when snow was on the ground.

Not that any of this distracts from an album's overall greatness-which is precisely why I recently revisited some of the year's best records so far and came up with a halfway point Baker's Dozen list to gain some perspective.

The running order may change by the end of the year, just like the seasons themselves, and some of the titles may not even register as more titles come into view.

But so far, here's a half dozen records that have received ample amounts of plays and continue to amaze in a sea of impressive titles.

1.) Roky Erickson with Okkervil River - True Love Cast Out All Evil
More than a comeback, this record plays like an autobiography that ends up becoming a thing of triumph based on how great it actually is.

2.) Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise
Inspired by the sounds of nature, Black Noise tries hard to match the aural beauty of the planet we call home and it ends up sounding just as special as the source material that planted the album's creative seed.

3.) High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine
Oakland's High On Fire finally delivers the album that places them as one of the century's first truly great metal bands, something they only hinted at before.

4.) Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
Who knows if this legendary performer has finally put the demons behind him, but what we do know is that he's found a muse and a record label that have helped him deliver something that sounds even better than just a late game comeback.

5.) Vampire Weekend - Contra
I was not a fan before, but with album number two Vampire Weekend are beginning to come into their own and sound as good as the hype claimed they were. I hate being wrong, but I really like this album.

6.) Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
This is the one album that may suffer the most after repeated listens. It's got that feeling of intentionally being sloppy in all the right places with a bunch of words just spilling over into everything like gravy. But right now, I'm digging that gravy.

The list will more than likely change by year's end-and I'm already starting to doubt the choices listed above-but there you have it: a half dozen titles that are definitely worth checking out regardless of the season or year.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks


Where have all the rude boys gone?

They’re pounding the pavement, looking for work in our wi-fi layered neighborhoods, too busy trying to become a part of the system rather than rebel against it.

It’s called getting older, and while it’s something to fear for a few years in your twenties, you begin to realize that it’s inevitable. The least you can do is to hide just how much you’ve really sold out to your friends who are still holding on to their righteous ideology while perfecting their latte art instead of perfecting their resume.

Don’t worry. They’ll eventually sell out too and all of that progressive zeal will be replaced with complacency and compromise. Hell, even Ted Leo is beginning to get softer lyrically while cleverly revisiting the same blend of Attractions’ bash that made him such a vital voice during the Bush II administration.

Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of Leo’s lefty bent to appease even the most cynical undergrad, but there’s enough infectious rhythms happening within The Brutalist Bricks that even a Tea Party member may find their groove thing.

Because as Ted Leo approaches 40, he’s beginning to understand that more meaningful change may only come if he looks beyond the dives of those college towns. And maybe he’s starting to feel that his bark is just getting lost in the static of a country where people not only have an opinion of everything, they think they have a right to scream it in town hall meetings, government buildings, and in ALL CAPS on the internet.

Yes, the only complaint with The Brutalist Bricks may be with how utterly normal it seems now, and much of that is in no large fault of his own. It shows Leo and the Pharmacists wisely returning to their blueprint prior to Living With The Living, showing off just how tight this band can be in front of a few microphones and after a few months of nine-to-five rehearsing. Bricks has Leo and company patting us on the back rather than kicking us in the ass. To be sure, we needed it back then, just like we need a level-headed Leo right about now.

“I’m so sick of cynics and I want something to believe in” sings Ted Leo on “Ativan Eyes,” suggesting that maybe those pharmaceutical companies have created a nation of cloudy-eyed cynics, free from panic attacks but also from an ability to connect with one another.

“Even Heroes Have To Die” is Leo’s best entry for Nick Lowe’s production reel while “Bottled In Cork” serves as his demo for Elvis Costello’s Spectacle consideration.

There are a few missteps: “One Polaroid A Day” is a breathy and preachy jab at people to turn off their computers and get outside to take pictures using the dead technology of a bankrupt brand. “Tuberculoids Arrive In Hop” is an acoustic number that finds Leo playing to a chorus of crickets and messing with a ridiculous Leslie speaker trick during the bridge, completely spoiling the mood of what is otherwise a forgetful two minute bathroom break.

Aside from two duds and a fairly weak Minutemen nod (“The Stick”), The Brutalist Bricks is another fine entry in Leo’s growing catalog, one that will surely grow in stature the moment he’s not around to preach to us from stage left or the moment he decides to change course, tempo, or political parties.

Until then, The Brutalist Bricks presents an older Ted Leo on a sturdy foundation, able to withstand anything that the rude boys might be considering at this moment.
Which is probably a well-deserved resume update.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Joan Jett Barbie

The other day I took the kids to Wal-Mart to get an air pump for an inflatable pool. This was after my wife offered to blow it up manually, which was funny if you saw the size of our inflatable pool.

Rather than torture her, which is only occasionally funny, I did the gentlemanly thing which was to get something to assist in inflation.

What I came away with was only marginally successful-that’s another story-but while I was there, I discovered something as I took the kids for a leisurely stroll through the toy section.

Barbie now has women in rock dolls.

I saw a Joan Jett doll, straight out of the Bad Reputation era, and it was awesome.

They also had a Debbie Harry one and Cyndy Lauper.

They're pricier than the regular Barbies and a limited edition.
But the Jett one is totally awesome and may end up under the tree for our little girl, and may end up with chewed feet like the other ones.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gary Numan Performs The Pleasure Principle Live In Its Entirety

It’s a song that has significant importance to me.

More on that later-or maybe another time.

Gary Numan “Cars” is a critical milestone song in my interaction with members of the opposite sex.

This fact alone makes “Cars” an important song, but it’s not the only reason why this song ranks as one of my favorite songs ever-maybe top 100.

“Cars” also opened up my ears to electronic music, and it’s a love that continues to this day. Numan’s space-age synthesizers give me this futuristic chill, and it remains with me whenever I find my channel surfing land on a rerun of The Next Generation or watching Blade Runner again.

It was also Gary Numan’s only entry into the American Top 40.

“Cars” came from the album The Pleasure Principle, a record which had him staring at a pyramid on the cover. Even though I liked “Cars” and was fond of the flip side “Metal,” it took many years for me to buy the album.

It’s really cool-and Numan has just announced a quick U.S. tour where he’ll perform the album in its entirety.

Of course, the closest he’s coming to me is a Chicago date and of course that date is on a weeknight.

Here’s the North American dates for this Fall, but if you’re in the area of one of these venues I’d make plans to check out this rare live offering. It’ll take about twenty to thirty minutes before “Cars” comes up in the playlist, but the road to Gary Numan’s most popular song is an enjoyable travel.

Here's footage of Numan singing "Cars" with Nine Inch Nails during one of the stops of their tour last year.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

High On Fire Gabe's Gig

There is a nasty rumor circulating that High On Fire will be playing at the legendary Gabe’s Oasis in what will more than likely be a hot ‘n sweaty sausage fest of metal. As reported earlier, Snakes For The Divine is so good that High On Fire should be playing in a large theatre or auditorium, we’ll take the intimacy of a small club, which will have us all smelling like a sweaty armpit.
But who’s going?
Raise your hand if you’re sure!

Meet Me In Saint Louis

It’s times like this when I hate being a homeowner.

You come back from a vacation only to find that your area had some heavy thunderstorms and during that time, the sump pump decides to fail.

The basement, the same area that houses the man-cave that also houses every shred of music related being to yours truly.

Aside from the IPod, which provided some awesome shuffle moments, by the way.
The water level was only enough to dampen the carpet, but it was enough to warrant sucking up all the water on the night before you prepare to return to reality.

Luckily, the guitars were house and there was no significant water to get into the cases.

The drums are stored rims down, so there will probably be some corrosion, but I hate those Tamas, anyway.

A few guitar pedals were stored in a stupid cardboard box instead of a waterproof bag like they should have been in-and were in the soak, limp bottom of the box. I don’t think any water made it into the guts of the pedals, but I need to test this stuff out. There’s an awesome Ibanez analog-delay pedal that is awesome; it’s already a bit touchy since it’s about thirty years old, and it’s the one thing that I’m the most worried about.

There were a few albums sitting on the floor, so now I have about a dozen albums with virtually no monetary value now because of the water-damaged cover. The only one I can think had any significant collectability was that live Butthole Surfers album that only had about 10,000 copies pressed.

But I hate those Buttholes, anyway.

You’re asking, “Don’t you have insurance?” but the first thing you need to understand is that you need a special “Sump Pump rider” added on to your insurance to cover claims that are caused by a malfunctioning sump pump.

You’re asking, “Don’t you have that sump pump rider?” and…yes, I actually do.
But even with a rusty floor tom, a waterlogged Butthole Surfers album, and a soaked carpet, there’s realistically not enough damage to meet the deductable. Sure, I could start creating a list of all the potentially damaged things, but again, how much is out of pocket and how much is State Farm.

Saint Louis proved to be firmly placed in 1995-thankfully-but enjoyable as always.

The Arch didn’t have the same impact on my kids as it did with me or my wife. Within 10 minutes, they were ready to go back down, ignoring my retort of “But we’re at the top of a huge arch!”

The Magic House was totally awesome and it would be easy to spend a day there with your kids, provided they’re focused enough to find something to do with a little bit of imagination. What prompted us to leave wasn’t necessarily that there was nothing left to do, but the reality that some three-year old girl stayed up late the night before, got up early, and decided to forgo a nap that afternoon.

Saint Francisville, Missouri-population 18-gave me one last chance to stop and buy some fireworks before returning to a stay which doesn't allow me to set off fireworks. There's something about being in a large warehouse full of black powder and nonsensical packaging that causes you to spend a half a weeks worth of groceries on fireworks

I mean, there's a firework called "American Heroes" which features a picture of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States. At least I guess he was the seventh president, that's what the Chinese worker that came up with the design, claims.

We did some other family things that have nothing to do with this blog, so thanks for staying tuned while I get some things in order and figure out where to situate the digital meanderings.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine


High On Fire has been amassing a catalog of good metal albums-each one getting better than the last one-but there was a growing concern that maybe the band didn’t have that great album in them. It has been three years since the band’s last effort-Death Is This Communion-and for a band that makes their bread and butter on the road like High On Fire, I began to wonder just what the band was doing with their seclusion.

The answer is secretly creating their first truly great album.

Snakes For The Divine was totally worth the wait, and it only takes seconds into the first track-an eight-minute long title track, no less-before you realize it. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Pike has used the time off the road to streamline High On Fire’s already enviable approach to metal onto an aural pallet that should appeal to long-time supporters and novice metalheads.

Producer Greg Fidelman-yes, the same guy that turned Death Magnetic into a migraine-inducing ball of compression-is the man responsible for helping High On Fire achieve what Steve Albini and Jack Endino could not do: capturing the band at the height of their aggression in the studio. He worked similar magic with Slayer’s World Painted Blood, but Snakes For the Divine may be the more impressive handiwork for Mr. Fidelman. With Slayer (and even Metallica), there were royal achievements to strive for. With High On Fire, he has pushed them to a category where you can now place the band in the same breath as those legendary acts without enduring eye-rolling glances from metal purists or the inevitable lift from the hot air blown out of indie elitists.

This is metal achieved the old-fashioned way: double-kick drums (a first for HOF), a bass guitar sound that can crush concrete, Pike’s larynx raping vocals, and tunes about motherfucking samurais.

For real: when I first saw the track listing for Snakes For The Divine, I chuckled at the title “Bastard Samurai,” but as soon as I heard Pike slow burn to the chorus of “sunnavabitch should bleed awhiiiillle!!” I knew this shit was as real as it gets.

There’s more too: “Holy Flames Of The Fire Spitter” comes with a gnarly “Hoo Ha!” chant, “Frost Hammer” proves that you can never have too many songs about Vikings, and then there’s the obligatory religious swipe of “How Dark We Pray.” It’s all here, it’s all great, and it comes packaged inside some totally killer album art.

With Pike approaching forty, Snakes For The Divine almost sounds like he’s just now beginning to focus his attention on the legacy he wants to leave for the world of metal. That makes all of the aforementioned clich├ęs so inviting, because even as his head is clearly looking for new ways to clear-cut a path to metal infamy, his heart is still tied to the genre’s history of escapism.

But what probably is my favorite aspect of Snakes For The Divine is that it really isn’t that different from the approach that the band has been taking all along, it’s just a lot better. While bands like Baroness and Mastodon have a virtual chokehold on technical, progressive-infused metal, High On Fire finally proves that you can achieve similar brilliance with three simple words: loud fast rules.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Fuzztones - "Blackout Of Gretley"

Ok, now that you've seen/heard the original "Blackout Of Gretely," check out the Fuzztone's cover which is almost as awesome.

Unlike me, the Fuzztones appear to be hip to Gonn while living in the 1980's. They look like LA Guns, but their sound is pure respect for garage. I mean, check out all those Vox guitars lining the stage.

And check out that handmade stage catwalk that looks it was built by the Industrial Arts kids at the local high school.

Gettin' Real Gonn In Keokuk, Iowa

I’ve timed this so that the post occurs around the time when we will be passing through my hometown of Keokuk, Iowa.

Actually, that’s a lie-since my parents no longer live in K-town, I don’t think that I can technically call it my hometown any longer. Oh, and because they built this sweet bypass about twenty miles away from Keokuk called “The Avenue of the Saints” (it connects Saint Louis, Missouri to Saint Paul, Minnesota…get it?) that I don’t even need to go through town if I don’t want to.

And since we’re heading to Saint Louis on “The Avenue of the Saints,” cutting a half hour or so on the drive sounds like a better plan than driving down a few streets of nostalgia.

I’ll make it there again soon enough, I suppose.

And when I do, I still have a savings account at a local bank with a few hundred bucks, so I can buy a few drinks at Harrington’s or the Tee Pee Lounge.
Provided they’re still there.

K-town is weird. It’s a crumbling beauty-like a lot of river town’s-but there is so much ambivalence there that it’s overtaking any former sense of attractiveness.
One of the cool things about the town is it’s history, and part of it includes Keokuk’s only claim to rock and roll glory.

The band is called Gonn.



If you own the Nuggets box set, you’ll find their “Blackout of Gretely” on disc four, track twenty-eight.

I was blown away by Nuggets, to the point where I almost only exclusively listened to garage rock for a half-year after it was released. On the first listen, I read through the liner-notes like they were the Holy Word.

And then I came across the notes to “Blackout of Gretely.”

Glue sniffing. Nazi memorabilia. Keokuk, Iowa.

How did I live my entire life in that town and never once heard the band name Gonn.
I had heard of Greg Ginn’s Gone, but not one based in my backyard with a double-n at the end.

I called my old man, but he had never heard of them either.

He told me to call another guy that I vaguely knew. He was a lifelong resident of K-town since forever and he helped set up the local blues festival. I gave him a call, and he knew exactly who I was talking about.

He explained that Craig Moore, the main guy that speaks in the interview video below, owned a record store in Peoria and occasionally did a Gonn reunion with all of the original members. In fact, there was one about a year before their Nuggets inclusion.

And I missed it.

Understanding the significance of having a song on Nuggets-one of rock’s greatest albums of all time-I knew that I had to write Mr. Moore to let him know how proud I was of his and the rest of the band’s accomplishments.

He wrote me back-on tie-died paper with the record store’s logo-and thanked me on the kind words, and like a good salesman, he included his record store’s current catalog.

I think his store-Younger Than Yesterday-is still around and breathing in this non-brick and mortal music world.
I did eventually visit it and it was more of a hippie revival merchant than what I was expecting. But whatever pays the bills.

Gonn may not have paid many bills, but it did get them into a recording studio with one overhead microphone, which ended up capturing a raw piece of fuzzed-out menace.

What’s cool is how even some forty years after the fact, they’re still able to catch that feeling and sound.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ewan Dobson Is The New Acoustic Yngwie

A friend sent me a link on this guy who is so good on guitar that I couldn't pass it up.

This was the first I'd heard about him, and although it's nothing good enough for me to go and seek out, it's good enough to watch him perform. I'd totally see this dude live, but it sounds like much of his U.S. gigwork entails contests and clinics and the stuff that never really goes beyond the gearheads.

Maybe I'm wrong-maybe the dude is a touring machine. Or maybe he's with a band where he occasionally goes it alone to strut his stuff. Like I said, I don't know anything about him other than he's Canadian, he won second place in some acoustic finger-picking contest in Kansas, he has a love of oriental clothing, and his video budget allowed for him to play in front of a green screen and he chose a never ending movement of clouds, lightning, and awesome sky visuals.

Who wouldn't?!

So if you can admit to yourself that the production value is awesome and admit that this dude is better than half of the guitarists on your personal "Best Guitarist of All Time" list, then you'll realize that Ewan Dobson has the most awesome video on You Tube right now.

Prepared to be blown away.

Seriously.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Various Artists - The Cosimo Matassa Story


I recently made a comment that I’ve been infatuated with New Orleans soul music, blues, jazz, or whatever you want to call it. I got The Cosimo Matassa Story box set for Christmas last year-it’s a bargain if you have to fund for it yourself-which highlights a nice chunk of the New Orleans sound, as documented by one Cosimo Matassa.

Think of Cosimo like the Sam Phillips of New Orleans; anyone that you can think of in Nawlins’ music spent some time in back of the Matassa family grocery story and let Cosimo twiddle the knobs.

Jake over at Glorious Noise thought I should pick 21 favorites for a compilation or an iPod playlist. But let me say that going old school is probably the most economical way here. That Cosimo Matassa box set goes for around $25 with free shipping and it features 120 songs and there ain’t a dud in the mix.

Little Richard, Fats Domino, Guitar Slim, Professor Longhair, and a cast of other recognizable performers and songs are packed in this compilation.

Matassa was recently recognized for his outstanding contributions by his hometown of New Orleans, but my feeling is that this recognition may need to be widened in scope to a more national level. The natural suggestion would be membership into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since Cosimo did manage to capture one of the first rock and roll songs of all time.

You’d think entry would be logical, but the Hall has proven to be anything but logical.
Matassa still resides in the Crescent City, but time is a precious commodity for someone born in 1925.

If pressed, I could probably come up with my 21 favorite New Orleans song from that big bag, but again, I’d start with picking up the entire package.

1.) Little Richard “Rip It Up”
2.) Fats Domino “Walkin’ To New Orleans”*
3.) Professor Longhair “Tipitina”
4.) Clarence “Frogman” Henry “Ain’t Got No Home”
5.) Guitar Slim “The Things That I Used To Do”
6.) Lloyd Price “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”
7.) Bobby Charles “See You Later, Alligator”
8.) Smiley Lewis “I Hear You Knocking”
9.) Little Richard “Long Tall Sally”
10.) Jimmy Beasley “Little Coquette”
11.) Shirley & Lee “Let The Good Times Roll”
12.) The Spiders “21 (3x7=21)”
13.) H.A.W.K. “I Yi”
14.) Clarence Garlow “New Bon Ton Roulay”
15.) Ray “Baldhead” Byrd “Rockin’ With Fes”
16.) James Wayne “Agreeable Women”
17.) Dave Bartholomew “Who Drank My Beer (While I Was In The Rear)”
18.) Sugar Boy snd the Cane Cutters -"Joc-a-mo"
19.) Allen Toussaint “Soul Sister”*
20.) Smiley Lewis “Down Yonder (We Go Ballin’)”

* Selections not on The Cosimo Matassa Story.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The OCD Chronicles: Iggy Pop - "Funtime"

It’s not even my favorite Iggy solo album and I’m going to admit that it took me over a year to warm to it, but there are moments when The Idiot is an awesome mood compliment.

The deadpan of Mr. Osterberg on “Funtime,” particularly the line “Everybody we like your lips. Baby baby we like your pants” fit better than a pair of business casual khakis as I make my way out of the car to walk into work.

You see, I’m in dire need of a vacation, even during a time when the company is going out of their way to make me feel appreciated, inside there a moments when any small ailment makes me feel like calling in sick.

I press forward. Counting the days to my vacation, which officially begins in 3 days and 20 hours from now.

But who’s counting?

I’m in a robot right now, spewing out phony enthusiasm just like the off-kilter chorus of “All aboard for fun time.”

I can walk from my car in the parking lot to my cubicle in the span of “Funtime.”
I can drive from my driveway and reach my parking lot all in the span of The Idiot.

By the way, I can do the same thing with Devo’s Q: Are Wee Not Men? A: We Are Devo! too, so it’s not that unique.

Here's a version of "Funtime" that's ten-times better than the one on The Idiot.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Kids Under 14 Get In Free To Kiss Shows In North America

Speaking of Kiss, the band now looks ready to unleash the Alive 35 Tour into North America, half-assed supporting the Sonic Boom album. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you should catch up to speed by knowing that Kiss today only consists of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. There are two other dudes, but they’re just hired guns dressed up to look like Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, so it’s not important to really know their names.

It’s bullshit and it’s carved a river of discontent in the Kiss Army, and I think it’s why the band has treaded lightly in America while this ruse is in play.

But now they’re back, touring and releasing records in a completely different environment than during their heyday. It seemed that Gene was right when he stated that he hoped the band would stop recording because kids don’t buy music-they illegally download it.

I’ll give it to whoever managing this band is getting as much life out of this irrelevant unit as they can, to secure a deal with Wal-Mart was pretty cool.

But I didn’t see the Kiss section around as long as The Eagles or AC/DC.

The record may have flopped, but Gene and Paul know they’ve got to get the beast on the road again because they haven’t learned to budget accordingly for the day when it’s time to cut the power to that giant Kiss light behind the drum riser.

So Alive 35 gotten the two co-founders looking at a retirement fund, but with record sales in the toilet and a fan-base that’s had it up to here with the band’s total disrespect to the Kiss legacy, how to you fill the seats in the arena?

You let every kid 14 and under in for free.

Does Gene know about this?

According to his Twitter feed, yes.


Hey, if you're 14 years old or under, you can attend any KISS concert in the
upcoming N. American Tour (check out KISSONLINE.COM) for FREE. 5:15 PM Jun 3rd via
web


Simmons had a public debate with Bob Lefsez last year, in which he seemed like a stuck in the mud to anything different to his view of the music paradigm. In that respect, and also because Gene is a notoriously greedy individual, you have to wonder how excited he is about letting a big part of the gate in for free.


That's spelled F-R-E-E. Yep. It's on us. 5:15 PM Jun 3rd via
web


When you think about it, it’s genius. Not as many people buy their shit anymore, a bunch of their songs are left unheard, and without a visual spectical, the very notion of Kiss becomes a passing thing without a eyewitness account.

By letting in the youth, their young minds will be sufficiently blown to where they’ll become die-hard Kiss Army freaks.

They won’t even care that Peter and Ace aren’t on stage.

How long Gene will agree to this is a matter yet to be seen, but I’d entertain the idea with my own son. He’s aware of them-thanks to the make-up-but he has no idea of anything they sing. I think it’d be a trip to bring him to a show and get his reaction to all the nonsense.

And I don’t see the Wiggles letting kids in for free.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kiss - Revenge


I’m very aware that I should despise Revenge, Kiss’ umpteenth attempt at reinvention, an attempt which borders on pandering if you’re ever lucky enough to watch some of the promotional clips during this time.

Let’s be honest here, Revenge is an album that completely contradicts itself and utterly puts Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in the back seat-behind the Kiss image-and puts the music ahead of everything else.

Firstly, it was the era of grunge. You can probably find dozens of clips of Gene and Paul badmouthing grunge and the flannel-clad brethren, deeming them as awful showmen who not only didn’t bother getting dressed for the show, but didn’t even bother getting the show together before getting on stage.

These were the bands that Kiss were talking about on a nightly basis, the kind of bands that Paul would go on and on about with his “The next time you give your hard earned money to a band and you don’t get the show you paid for, you let them know about it! Because we do, people! We want to give you the greatest rock show in the world because you deserve it!” spiel.

You know, that kind of bullshit.

And then there is Gene, the ultimate rationalizer, the one who would have you believe that the music actually ranked lower than the spectacle, the merchandise, and the groupies.

So here’s Revenge, the album that finds Gene biting his tounge and Paul clenching his anus because they actually had to rehearse, get their chops back up, and become heavy again. It was only one album prior to Revenge where they’d call up their buddy Michael Fucking Bolton to pen a song, or have Desmond Fucking Child crap out some piece of shit ballad for them.

They understood that by calling Desmond Child, Michael Bolton, or any other butt nugget ex-member of the band Blackjack would be paramount to career suicide.
Instead, they grew their hair out (Gene even sported a beard around this time), called up the same producer who twiddled the knobs during the same era that grunge fans could relate to, and worked on a set of songs that ended up becoming the heaviest material since the late 70’s.

Here’s what blows my mind: to get to this point, the band ended up calling their arch-enemy, Vinnie Vincent, the same guy who was around at their last reinvention. What makes this amazing to me is that Vincent is a complete hack who did time with Dan Hartman before falling into Paul Stanley’s good graces before turning out to possess just as big of an ego as Gene and Paul.

Needless to say, he didn’t last very long in the Kiss camp, and neither did the Vinnie Vincent Invasion which pissed away so much of Chrysalis Record’s money that they took it away from Vinnie and gave it to Mark Slaughter, who then gave it to bassist Dana Strum, who then concocted the atrocious Slaughter, which was just the Vinnie Vincent Invasion without the weird looking old dude on guitar.

It goes without saying that Kiss, particularly Gene, hated Vinnie Vincent. So for them to even be in the same room together around this time means that Kiss was completely without any principles at this point and, more telling, completely out of ideas. They were scared, broke, and near extension.

Which makes why I tolerate Revenge puzzling.

Not as puzzling as how I’m able to recite all of this useless Kiss trivia straight from the dome, but I’m a weird guy and my head is full of ridiculously pointless trivia like this.

And again I declare: the only Kiss album that I own is Gene Simmons’ solo record from ’78 because the cover is hilarious and it was only two bucks used.

I brought Revenge home from the radio station at the time it was released. Mercury Records was pushing “Domino” as the lead-off track, and nobody expected the song or album to do anything. That’s just a nice way of saying that I had no intention of adding Revenge to the station’s playlist and wanted to listen to the album at home for a good laugh.

Admittedly, they looked pretty silly as grunge godfathers, all decked out in leather and jeans, so I was expecting an album worth of comedy gold with Revenge.
Talk to most Kiss fans and they’ll agree that Revenge is not a good Kiss album and is usually cited as a misstep.

Maybe that’s why I don’t mind it; it doesn’t sound like Kiss that much. The funny thing is, it sounded like the way Kiss should have sounded to me, if that makes any sense. Bob Ezrin punched the entire goddamn performance way up, so the thing is loud, annoying, and completely boisterous. That’s what I thought Kiss should have sounded like from day one, so when I began this dumb idea of reviewing every Kiss album ever made and found that most of their shit-particularly their early stuff-it blew my mind that a band so over-the-top managed to release some of the most tepid shit ever known to hard rock.

The drums are punched way up in the mix and the guitars have a bunch of bite. Stanley is still the most annoying fuck ever, but at least when everything else has balls, you can tolerate his nonsense like “Wave your panties in the air/Lick your lips and shake your hair.”

Ironically, Gene Simmons-usually the gold standard for stupid Kiss songs-ends up shining a bit on Revenge. The aforementioned “Domino” has a total AC/DC rip for a guitar lick and even showcases Simmons doing a raunchy vocal take. He repeats it again on “Thou Shalt Not” and the first song that finds him doing a little vocal scatting, “Spit.”

I didn’t say Revenge was smart or groundbreaking, I’m merely suggesting that it’s ok as far as big, dumb hard rock goes and it’s actually good in terms of Kiss’ normal fodder of all bark and no bite.

Aside from the embarrassing grunge imagredy, Revenge also suffers from that 90’s problem of being too long for its own good. There’s no reason that “Carr Jam ’81,” a pointless drum solo by the (then) recently departed drummer Eric Carr, needs tacked on to the end of the album. And at the risk of sounding heartless, the solo itself isn’t that good.

Then there’s “God Gave Rock & Roll To You,” the closest thing to a hit on Revenge, thanks to its placement on the Bill & Ted movie from that same year. It doesn’t have the same bite as the rest of the album and was obviously included to get buyers on the fence to shell out their $15 bucks on a Kiss album.

Which is exactly what Gene and Paul wanted people to do with this album, but when the initial success of Revenge proved to be very short lived, the pair shitcanned the Revenge hired guns and brought back Peter and Ace for a real money-making reunion.

Because playing rock and roll like Kiss briefly did on Revenge must have proven to be too much work for them to handle.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Big Pink - A Brief History Of Love


A better title would be “A Brief History Of Shoegaze” but because not a lot of bands today are doing this type of music with such stunning accuracy, we’ll give The Big Pink a pass.

Let’s clarify a bit: A Brief History Of Love is nowhere on the same level as Psycho Candy or Loveless, but it could fit in nicely beside any Catherine Wheel record and is infinitely more hooky than anything Ride ever released. It is a pop record at its core-fueled by specific sections of a record store that stocks every Creation Record ever released on the merits of the label itself.

As a duo, The Big Pink do a great service by letting a dated drum machine keep time while they fiddle with the knobs of their industrial guitar tones and synthesizer hypnotics. Vocalist Robbie Furze sounds positively detached as he musters up enough anthemic deadpans to make Peter Haynes a tad jealous while being young enough to not cause Jason Pierce to lose any sleep. Give him some time, though, and he-along with second member Milo Cordell, could prove to be capable villains to any well-established artists.

Because A Brief History Of Love sounds like a debut album, complete with a flat mix and ever-present echo on the vocals. Strangely enough, it’s part of what makes the album so endearing; not only does it compete with many of those second-tier shoegaze albums, it sounds like it was recorded just weeks apart from them.

The exception would be “Dominoes,” so obviously the album’s single that they’ve tidied it up so that it probably sounds awesome blasting from the p.a. of a club.
While it may indeed be a debut, as derivative as all get out, it holds a tremendous amount of promise. It hints at a band that could very well ease their way into more industrial territories or play the pop card a bit further and come up with some incredibly infectious singles in the years to come. In either case, it doesn’t sound like The Big Pink should worry that their own history will be brief at all.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.