Saturday, September 29, 2012

Black Flag Rehearsal Footage

If you can endure the lousy sound quality, here’s an awesome video of a Black Flag rehearsal.

It’s dark, dingy, and I bet all that cheap soundproofing material that seems to be everywhere in the band’s cramped rehearsal space, just makes the entire place smell awful.

The band was known-scratch that-guitarist Greg Ginn was known for his endurance setting practice times, demanding that everyone in the band show up for rehearsals 6 days a week, usually in preparation for grueling tours that put the Melvin’s current “51 States in 51 Days” tour to shame.

What I didn’t expect was how Black Flag rehearsals appear to be as physically rigorous as the real thing. Rollins in dripping with sweat, drummer Bill Stevenson  faces Rollins with Ginn and Dukowski crammed on both sides of him, the band plays at full volume with Hank completely inaudible.

This is how it should be done, and young upstarts should take note.

How did Black Flag get to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium?

Practice. Practice. Practice. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

OFF - Off + Chuck Dukowski Sextet - Haunted

The importance of L.A.’s punk pioneers Black Flag cannot be understated. Even if history only confirms one album, Damaged, as the band’s crowning achievement, you have to consider the band beyond anything committed to magnetic tape. From their grueling tour schedule, to the D.I.Y. ethos of their label SST Records, to their dangerous encounters with the Los Angeles Police Department, Black Flag is a band that could never be duplicated in today’s world. Not that you’d want to, based on their numerous war stories.
Because of this, the members of Black Flag’s continual line-up changes deserve a bit of respect In their post Flag offerings, regardless of how important their career changes were.

For Black Flag’s first vocalist, Keith Morris, that respect was secured with the Circle Jerks, another prominent SoCal punk rock band that continues to inspire and be revered even in the new century.

For Black Flag’s original bassist and occasional wordsmith Chuck Dukowski, the ability to say something nice about his work after Flag becomes a bit of a stretch. After researching and re-listening to Duke’s work in such forgotten SST releases by SWA and October Faction, the best thing that can be said is to leave well enough alone.

It may surprise some that we can now consider both of these alumni members as legitimate members of the post-millennium music scene, not just card-carrying SST members looking to cash in on a bit of nostalgia, although both men have participated in at least some kind of reunion effort of their former glories.

Dukowski’s current gig centers around a band that bares his name: the Chuck Dukowski Sextet. The CD6 features Chuck’s wife Lora on vocals, an artist who not only delivers stunning visual pieces (check out the band’s album covers) but also a surprisingly awesome vocal take on the Dukowski penned Flag classic “My War” from the band’s debut album, Eat My Life.

They included the cover on a split 7” they did with Mike Watt’s Missingmen project last Spring. The effort was released on their new record label Org Records as a way to remind listeners of Dukowski’s lineage, a promotional tactic that must have worked since it certainly brought the CD6 on my radar.

Keith Morris’ latest band, OFF!, also took flight after a bit of reminiscing and the subsequent falling out between band members trying to revisit old tunes while trying to ignore old personality clashes.

When Morris’ Circle Jerks decided to give it another go, the members found a huge gulf between the idea to make the band just another nostalgia act or to take things a step further by incorporating new songs into the mix. When some members were unable to devote the time necessary to work on new material and when some voiced concern over producer Dimitri Coats’ own work demands, Morris put the Circle Jerks on hiatus and continued to work on the songs that he and Coats had started.

Off! just released their debut album over the summer, and it’s hard to find fault with Morris’ decision and with Coats work ethic either.

Off! screams by at barely a quarter-hour, with every second sounding like it’s the most important thing in the world, even when the subject matter obviously isn’t.

Don’t think that Off! Is riddled with greasy kid stuff, but there are moments where Morris is able to channel his younger angst. Most notable is “I Got News For You” where the Keith takes a haymaker towards Black Flag and SST founder Greg Ginn. Ginn is pretty notorious for questionable payment practices, and Morris may be the first SST alumni to publically call him out via a 45-second song, even one that hijacks a line or two from Flag’s “You Bet I’ve Got Something Against You.” “We trudged through sludge and piss/Were never paid for this!” he screams, while Coats does an incredible job of being able to alternate between Ginn’s free jazz chaos and punchy Stooge riffs.

Haunted is the latest offering from the Chuck Dukowski Sextet, and while it’s nowhere near the intensity level of Off’s pace, it’s closer to SST Record’s spirit with its unpredictable tangents.

As with the band’s previous records, the weakest link is vocalist Lora Norton who struggles with pitch, delivery, and a general sense of identity. Usually, she remains in a comfort range of a slow burn stoner, somewhat resembling Opal’s Kendra Smith, without the mystery or consistency.

It’s a family affair for the CD6, and thankfully Norton’s son Milo Gonzales has shaped up to be a pretty passionate guitarist, giving Haunted its moments of much needed power. With a bit more work and a bit more attention at figuring out exactly what kind of band they want to be, the CD6 remain in this weird purgatory of notable potential with some members clearly dragging their feet on the band’s overall forward movement.

Gonzales seems stifled with his mother on board as he conjures up visions of Witch Mountain with his axe and wah-wah pedal while Nora plays passive/aggressive with her delivery, stubbornly  keeping Haunted tethered to on the ground while the kid sounds like he’s ready to take off.

The worst offender is the eight-minute (that’s half of Off’s entire total time, if you’re keeping track) “A Thing,” which drags on and on like it’s trying to compete as some weak V.U. cover, complete with the obligatory drone viola.

For now, the CD6’s best work remains confined to that out-of-this world “My War” cover, which is unfortunately ironic as the band is clearly trying to branch out from Dukowski’s own past.

And maybe that’s the problem: the CD6 are simply thinking too hard at trying to find themselves, when all they need to do is to try and find the same kind of passion that Morris was clearly able to conjure up in short order with Off!

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Outlaws - It's About Pride

Sometimes, karma can be a real bitch.

Just ask The Outlaws.

Brief history: The Outlaws were one of the very first bands that I ever saw. They were part of a brief Iowa rock festival in the late 70’s/early 80’s called the Iowa Jam. I saw ‘em in ’81 and I had no idea who they were, except that they played Southern Rock music, and I kind of liked Southern Rock back in ’81.

Years later, as in just a few years ago, I heard their A.O.R. staple “Green Grass and High Tides” and was just blown away with the guitar work. Seriously, check that shit out if you’re like me and enjoy listening to some flat-out awesome soloing.

Part of those solos are courtesy of the Outlaws original guitarists Hughie Thomasson and Billy Jones. One played a Fender. The other played a Gibson. Both were awesome.

You won’t find either one of them on the first Outlaws album in 18 years, It’s About Pride. It’s because Thomasson and Jones are dead; Jones killed himself in 1995 and Thomasson died a few years ago from a heart attack.

Here’s where karma comes in: Thomasson had just jumpstarted an Outlaws reunion after serving as, are you ready for this, one of the guitarists in Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Now Lynyrd Skynyrd circa 2012 is in no way shape or form Lynyrd Skynyrd. Things are so bad over in the Skynyrd camp that the surviving members actually made an agreement stating that they would close up shop if it came down to only one surviving member. That oath worked all the way until there was one surviving member, who then decided to keep on going with the moniker. Some bullshit about carrying on the tradition, never mind that surviving widows were suing, reminding everyone about the “last man standing” clause.

So anyway, Hughie Thomasson was one of those replacement guitarists in Skynyrd, until one day he decides “I’m probably making as much with Skynyrd doing these county fair gigs as I would be if I re-lit The Outlaws and played county fairs with them! Plus, I don’t have to listen to Gary Rossington’s bullshit anymore!”

Hughie does exactly this, and then he has a heart attack at dies. So then Henry Paul, one of the vocalists and guitarists from the Outlaws decides to keep the band going, even though Hughie had the rights to the Outlaws name. So when Henry Paul decided to keep going as the Outlaws, Hughie’s widow gets all pissed and sues him.

She eventually loses the fight, because Henry Paul was working with Monte Yoho, the original drummer of the band, so the judge says “Sorry lady, but there’s two original members of the Outlaws left. Dismissed!”

Now all of this backstory…Oh wait, I forgot to mention that Henry Paul started a band called Blackfoot back in the early 90’s and they scored a couple of minor country hits.

Ok, still with me?

So Henry Paul joins up with the reconstituted Outlaws, then shanghai’s the entire name after Hughie croaks, and is now releasing the first Outlaws album in 18 years called It’s About Pride.

It’s About Pride is about as much of an Outlaws album as anything that Lynyrd Skynyrd releases these days, but it’s got this annoying country twang to it. The band tries to conjure up moments of their guitar prowess, but whenever Henry Paul steps up to belt out something, it sounds like Blackfoot, with more guitars.

He’s got such a grasp on everyone else’s throat, that when they step up with some new clich├ęd material, it’s mixed in such an Adult Country way that they are probably thinking the moronic video for “Hidin’ Out In Tennessee” is going to make them all country stars again.

Just for good measure, there’s the title track-a bit of lazy country rock history that name-checks Marshall Tucker and Charlie Daniels songs, thinking that all of this will somehow legitimize The Outlaws’ circa 2012, even when they’re sounding like Blackfoot circa ’92.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Steve Hackett Releases Solo Album Of Genesis Material

Hey listen, I'm kind of digging on Supertramp's Crime Of The Century album at the moment, so i'm not sure what to think anymore. You could get all cynical that former Genesis axe man is releasing an album of Genesis songs and one of the guest stars is not Phil Collins...but his son.

Or the entire reference to the "supergroup" GTR (who I vaguely remember).

Or you could just acknowledge that this whole thing is probably better than anything Phil Collins or Genesis has released in the past two decades.

(New York, NY) - More details have been revealed about Steve Hackett's forthcoming album Genesis Revisited II, which will be released on 22nd October via InsideOut Music. Reinterpreting Genesis classics from the period dearest to him, the "golden era" 1971-1977, Hackett is the first ex-member to re-record and tour that part of the band's material. While he made sure the spirit of the timeless originals stayed intact, he enlisted the help of 35 special guests to provide the songs with a new unique edge. The star-studded line-up includes respected vocalists Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Simon Collins (Phil Collins' son), Amanda Lehmann, Conrad Keely, Francis Dunnery, Neal Morse, John Wetton, Nad Sylvan and Nik Kershaw. Steve Rothery of Marillion and Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings and Transatlantic join in to share guitar duties, while Jeremy Stacey and Gary O'Toole are amongst the chosen drummers.

"It's a project of Wagnerian proportions!" Hackett commented. "For the most part I've followed the arrangements we had first time around, but each vocalist has added their own character." Genesis Revisited II will be available as a 2 disc digipak. An extensive world tour in support of the new album will be announced shortly. In 2010, Steve Hackett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame at The 25th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony alongside his Genesis bandmates from the classic line-up: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford. For more than three decades, Steve Hackett has been known for his innovative tone and extraordinary versatility as a guitarist and composer. He helped define Genesis' sound as lead guitarist in the classic line-up and went on to have a highly-successful career as a solo artist, and also as part of 80s supergroup GTR with Steve Howe.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Bob Dylan DVD "Down In The Flood"

I'm not so much against the notion of The Band's greatness, but I'm one of those realists that think their best work came early on, and maybe their ending was a blessing in disguise.

I'm also one of those guys who thinks Robbie Robertson's ego was frighteningly inflated and that Levon Helm was probably the band's spiritual center, and that he was incredibly important to their legitimacy.

All of this, we wouldn't even be arguing about things like this had the band never received that phone call from Bob Dylan, when he asked them "You guys feel like going on the road with me and get boo'ed?"

There's a new documentary out detailing Dylan's relationship with the band and how they were witness to Bobby's first of many transformations, one that transitioned him from a mere folk icon into someone who ended up changing the face of rock music.

Bob Dylan & The Band Down In The Flood
Comes to DVD on September 25

"In 1966 Bob Dylan began his first electric world tour. It was a landmark moment, both for Dylan and for the history of rock music, and it bitterly divided his audience. Backing Dylan on stage was an obscure group of Canadian musicians collectively known as The Hawks. In the months following the tour they would join Dylan during a lengthy convalescence in New York's Catskill Mountains; when both parties re-emerged, Dylan had undergone an artistic transformation that sent ripples across American music and The Hawks had become simply 'The Band', one of the most important recording groups of their generation.

This is the story of the relationship between Dylan and The Band, the legendary amateur recordings that they made together in Woodstock, their re-invention of American music and their continued albeit sporadic relationship during the 1970s. Featuring new interviews with Garth Hudson; Band producer John Simon; The Hawks' 66 tour drummer, Mickey Jones; the man who assembled and tutored the Hawks and from whom they took their name, Ronnie Hawkins; Dylan guitarist, Charlie McCoy; Band biographer Barney Hoskyns; Basement Tapes Archivist, Sid Griffin, Isis magazine's Derek Barker and Rolling Stone's Anthony De Curtis. Also features rare footage, archive interviews, seldom seen photographs and the music that changed the world, all at once making for the finest program on this element of Bob Dylan and The Band's respective and communal careers yet to emerge."


Monday, September 24, 2012

An Open Apology To Alex Body

I have no idea who Alex Body is, but I owe the guy an apology.

I take that back, I have an idea of who Alex Body is, and I know there is more that one of them. Google told me so. But I’m talking about the Alex Body who’s here in Iowa, who is a local musician, and who had the unfortunate distinction of opening for Mono on Sunday night, thereby receiving the wrath of my anger for reasons that weren’t entirely his.

A brief account of the events leading up to Mr. Body is found here, but this is the story of what happened after Gabe’s decided to let the paying patrons to Sunday evening’s show into the venue, about 90 minutes after they were scheduled to open.

There weren’t that many people, but my anger swelled to the strength of 10 men as I walked up the familiar stairs of Gabe’s and found an easy seat while some dude began to set up a table and various forms of electronic equipment just off center stage.

The man was wearing a cut-off sleeve shirt, which was strange as the night was chilly and Gabe’s has instituted a “no light” policy, which means the heat from any illuminated source will fail to generate any amount of substantial sweat.

This is the guy from Mono, and some wires.
Either the young man sported several tattoos, one of which may have been a knife or maybe it was just the Lorzepam and mixed ginger ale talkin’.

Suddenly, Mr. Body introduced a microphone. Beats started. Musical loops followed. And then Alex Body began to sing.

His voice was riddled with reverb and distortion-it seemed to be his intent-and he struggled over the perfectly manufactured music that he built from his electronics. I wouldn’t refer to them as instruments, as Alex didn’t actually play them. He would just push buttons to make them start, turn a button to add a certain effect, and then push the button to make it stop.

I began talking to myself. Uttering mean things. Ready to scream.

A song ended, and then Alex began speaking. His voice was still overpowered with reverb, so you couldn’t understand a thing.

“Go away!” I yelled, but the noise was loud enough that nobody heard me.

“What?!” I screamed whenever he started speaking, trying to clue him in that he was lost in understanding because he didn’t have the good sense to turn off the fucking reverb. I’m sure there was a button for that.

More noise.

I began to get angrier, knowing very well that it would be at least Midnight before I got out of Gabe’s, making for a very painful Monday at work.

Here I was, miserable at the notion that Alex Body was part of the problem. After all, if he would only stop what he was doing, then we could move on to the second act, Chris Brokaw, and then we could see the headliner, Mono.

And then we could all get to bed at a reasonable hour.

At that moment, Alex Body was preventing all of this for me. I though about walking behind him to mock dance, but I was getting too sleepy to move. I checked my phone incessantly, watching the minutes pass, wishing that I was home in bed with my wife, tucked warm under the sheets.

Then, the music stopped.

Like a man with tourettes, I yelled “O.K.! That’s enough!”

At this moment, Gabe’s became silent. Alex looked up from his electronic devices and said, without the aid of his microphone, “What? Who said that?”

I knew that I couldn’t just heckle and then be a pussy about it, so I clarified with “We’re good! We’ve got it!”

I don’t normally heckle any artist. I don’t want to be “that guy” and more importantly, it takes a lot of guts to get up on stage-or get in front of the stage, in Alex’s case-and perform your art.

But in the heat of the moment, I wasn’t buying this as art. I was viewing Alex Body with contempt because he was just pushing buttons, singing incoherently and preventing Mono from getting on stage in a timely manner.

Mr. Body brought the microphone back up to his lips, which meant that any response directed at me came out as “Mmmffffooooecho, mmmfroommmmmayyeeeeowowowo!” I didn’t feel like much of an asshole at that moment, I just felt that Alex Body was fucking with me and my sleep patterns with his pretend art and music that sounded poorly mixed and barely rehearsed.

Finally realizing that things were only going to get worse for me, I got up and went outside where my car was sitting in its most awesome spot directly in front of the club.

I hopped inside and contemplated leaving. But it was the $12 cover that made me stay, that and the fact that I started to nod off in the front seat. I woke up in time to make the last two songs of Chris Brokaw’s solo set, but I didn’t see Mr. Body for the rest of the night.

I don’t know if I would have apologized then, because I was still pretty pissed about the whole thing. It wasn’t until the next day as I sleepwalked through work, a bike ride, and a surprise visit from my Mother-In-Law when I began feeling bad for taking such a mouthbreather approach.

So Alex, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. Your performance that night still sucked, but you did not deserve to be hassled about it. You became the lightening rod for something that wasn’t your fault and it was wrong of me to call you out. I will listen to the first Suicide album in your honor (I’m guessing you’re familiar with their work) and I promise not to disrupt another one of your shows while you’re pushing buttons.

It wasn’t you that was pushing my buttons on Sunday evening. It was just another example that I may be getting too old for this shit, or that my taste in venues is discovering that old haunts simply don’t have the same allure to them when they struggle to find decent artists to book for what seems to be diminishing returns.
 Here's a video of another Alex Body performance, or you can buy his shit over at Bandcamp.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mono - Live In Iowa City

Now with the band's newest member, a can of Miller High Life

On the way down to see Mono in Iowa City on Sunday night, I returned a call to my parents. They were leaving Iowa for several weeks to fly down to their home in Arizona, where the majority of my immediate family has begun to establish roots.

They told me that one of their cats died unexpectedly on Friday. My Mom is a big cat lover, but now three of her four cats have died in as many years and she gets distraught about things like that.

The point of all this-as if there is one-was to bring up a conversation with my father while we talked on the phone. I explained that I was driving to Iowa City to check out the band Mono. This lead to telling him who the band “Mono” was, and this inevitably led to a discussion of their country of origin (Japan).

Then came the “What kind of music do they play?” question, to which I began to tell my Dad, a man who just turned 66 a few weeks ago, all about the “post-rock” genre and how the most notable of those bands ended up scoring the music to the television show Friday Night Lights.

I could have reminded him that they are similar to a band I saw a few years ago called Godspeed You Black Emperor!, but that would be as pointless as him trying to tell me how good Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise album was.

Finally, I left it as “It’s not very often that a rock band from Japan ends up playing in Iowa” and he seemed pretty satisfied with that explanation, leaving my discussion of the entire “post-rock” genre as a piece of ancient history.

I’ll spare you the discussion too, even though this is probably a more appropriate venue for it, but let me quickly set up the night as a much-needed stress-relief evening where Mono were supposed to come into town and beat all of my real-world dramas into sonic submission.

And the great thing about it was that the doors opened at 7:00pm.

Yes, early shows are the way to go for working stiffs with a family like yours truly, but I have a feeling that the real reason was the exact opposite: it was a method into tapping into the “19-21” crowd, thereby bringing the patron total up a bit for this early evening, Sunday night show.

I arrive a little later, we’ll call it 7:15pm, where I buy my ticket and people watch until they let the dozen or so devotees upstairs to the stage area. The ticket guy tells me they’re still finishing up soundcheck, of which I can hear the sounds of layered guitars making its way down the stairs along with an unmistakable sound of a timpani.

How this Japanese quartet lugged up a timpani up those stairs in back is beyond me, but I’m excited at the prospect and casually eavesdrop on some of the conversations surrounding me.
There’s the chick in the Mono shirt who incredulously asks another “So you’ve never seen them live?” There’s the dude who drove four hours by himself to see the band, I believe from Illinois. There’s the boyfriend who asks his girlfriend, “Are you ready to get your mind blown?”

Then there’s me who wonders “When the fuck are they going to let us in?”  It’s obvious that there won’t be a big crowd for the show, so who really cares if we get to see the man (and woman) behind the curtain? We’re already hearing it, so let us in!

The story goes that the band arrived late, to which I don’t understand in the days when GPS devices are as common as a smart phone and the fact that Iowa City isn’t that big of a town.

One couple, the one where the Mono t-shirt wearing chick is a part of, tells the story of how they came early, went upstairs because there was no one working the door, only to find the band bringing in their gear while a staff member shoo’ed them back downstairs.

Maybe it was a problem with the van, but all I know was that it was at least an hour before they finally let the crowd of a dozen or so up the stairs so that we could endure a pair of opening sets by Alex Body and Chris Brokaw. I had no idea who Alex Body was, but Brokaw I recognized through the bands Come and the totally underrated Consonant, the project with Clint Conley created before Mission of Burma got started again.

Regardless, this “early show” was turning into a “much later show,” and the idea of going to work the next day exhausted was not sitting well with me. The stage was already full of gear, so imagine my surprise when someone starts setting up a table full of electronic equipment directly in front of the stage.

Ladies and gentlemen, this must be our opener, Alex Body.

I’ll write more about him later, but I have experienced this same kind of set up in previous gigs and all of them have had nothing but dismal results. Why Gabe’s does this is beyond me, but it’s amateurish and a complete momentum killer. I don’t want to see some last minute local act if you’re not going to provide them with some respect so that they have some time to set up beforehand and to at least allow them to perform on stage like a real artist. If it doesn’t fit, then don’t book it.

My blood began to boil. I wanted a refund. I wanted to go home. I went out to my car and took a quick nap.

Take that, Alex Body!
When I returned, Chris Brokaw was finishing his set, but at least I was calm and rested for the headliners. Brokaw was on stage with only an electric guitar and a microphone, which I’m guessing is his bag now, so I can’t say that I was really that bummed that I missed his set.

I grabbed another ginger ale, which they totally make at the bar at Gabe’s, and began hearing entrance music. This was strange as the attendees now numbered only around a few dozen, so it was without any effort that I cozied up to the stage for an immediate view.

Off to the side of the stage is a dark hallway that leads to an outside door. This is where the bands load their gear in, but as the music on the p.a. continued to play, I saw four Japanese people standing together at the end of the hall by the doorway.

It was Mono, silently waiting for the obligatory moment in their opening music to walk up the stage. It was a bit off-putting, watching them stand in silence and in the dark, only to begin to briskly walk behind the crowd so that they could walk up to the stage, when all they really needed to do was to walk in front of me and a couple of other runts just to reach the stage quicker.

But whatever; within moments the gentle strums of guitars and the slow-paced drums signaled another lesson in dynamics as things were about to go from soft to loud for the rest of the night.

Guitarists Takaakira Goto and Hideki “Yoda” Suematsu kept things ebbing and flowing all night, coming up with some memorable endings that sometimes found Goto wailing his guitar strings and lying on the floor, fucking with the myriad of pedals he had in front of them.

Bassist Tamaki Kunishi played a bitchin’ Gibson bass and occasionally headed over to some keyboards for the evening’s more delicate moments. Drummer Yasunori Takada had a Ludwig kit and a big fucking gong for the evening’s less delicate moments.

Was it all worth the wait? Probably, but thanks to an incredible amount of anger, generated by something beyond my control in a venue that I should have come to expect, my experience was less than ideal. Mono played no part in it (except for the being late part, Christ, they were only in Minneapolis the night before) and in fact, they made the late evening somewhat worthwhile.
Good night, Iowa Citay!!

Yes, I was exhausted the next day and yes I will continue to have second doubts about any future Gabe’s show as it’s turned into this shithole of amateur excuses and you wonder if they could even pull off a big show if it fell into their lap.

You’re competing for bands that hit other venues now, but more discouraging, you’re competing for the attention of the fickle youth who have tons of other things to capture their attention.

And it’s immediate too, so if you’re scheduling an early evening show, you’d better be prepared to make sure it’s on schedule, or be prepared to cut out an opener to get back within the time designated.

Because you know what happens when you make old people like me wait.

We get cranky, post-anything.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mono - Hymn To The Immortal Wind

I now have a few records on the Temporary Residence label and every one of them sounds similar in some respects-with the roster’s love of dynamics and the label’s love of anything with a post-rock moniker.

Mono, despite possessing one of the greatest “Duh, Why didn’t I think of that?” names of all time, create music that’s perfect for the T.R. label, but they do it so exquisitely that it probably deserves a better title than the pretentious “post-rock” moniker.

Let’s call it what it really is: progressive instrumental rock music. And while they take their own sweet time gearing up to the glacial collapse that seems to come with every ending, we need to acknowledge that they’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and violins into that epic earthquake.

Hymn To The Immortal Wind is exactly that, because it provides guitarists Takaakira Goto and Yoda Suematsu work together as if they’re sharing one guitar cord, creating beautiful countermelodies before they smash on another pedal lying on the floor like they’re hitting a detonation box.

And then there’s those aforementioned strings which pop up throughout Hymn, taking the album beyond the soundtrack motif that Explosions In The Sky now seem to have a monopoly on. Instead, there’s a clear intent that Mono have created this record out of the love of their craft.

The chamber orchestra is something else, but it’s Steve Albini’s documentation of these instruments that makes it all work. This might be the most beautiful record he has ever recorded, so bully to the band itself for allowing that distinction to fall upon his studio.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Announce New Long-winded Triple Album

Neil Young has been trying your patience in him for well over a decade now, and with the latest album he's done with Crazy Horse, he appears to be trying your attention as well.

Check out the song lengths for Psychedelic Pill, in what's sure to be another major disappointment from an artist that is beginning to make me think that maybe David Geffen had it right all along when he sued him in the early 80's.

For Immediate Release:


September 11, 2012 - (Burbank, CA) - On the heels of their well-received summer release Americana, NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE have announced that they will release another album, entitled Psychedelic Pill, on October 30th. Produced by Neil Young with John Hanlon and Mark Humphreys, Psychedelic Pill was recorded right after Americana at Audio Casablanca and features eight tracks, plus a bonus track. The double-CD is available for pre-order here. The triple-vinyl, which will be available on Nov. 23, is also available for pre-order here

Due to the lengths of many of the songs, some of which were previewed during Crazy Horse's live performances in August, Psychedelic Pill will be released as a double-CD and as a triple-LP vinyl edition. In the spirit of Americana's release, full-length videos for each of the songs will be available for viewing and purchase. A recommended high-resolution 24/192 full-fidelity version of Psychedelic Pill will be released on Blu-ray and will include all the videos. Crazy Horse, which is Young, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina, and Poncho Sampredo, will hit the road for a North American tour beginning October 1st and continuing on for two months. The tour will visit cities from coast to coast, including stops at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York City. In addition, Young's annual Bridge School benefit will take place on October 20th and 21st at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. This year's line-up includes performances by Neil Young & Crazy Horse and label mates The Flaming Lips and Gary Clark Jr., as well as Jack White, Guns N' Roses and more. 

The track-listing for Psychedelic Pill is as follows:

Disc One: 
1.) Driftin' Back (27:36)
2.) Psychedelic Pill (3:26)
3.) Ramada Inn (16:49)
4.) Born In Ontario (3:49)

Disc Two:
1.) Twisted Road (3:28)
2.) She's Always Dancing (8:33)
3.) For The Love Of Man (4:13)
4.) Walk Like A Giant (16:27)
Bonus Track: 5 Psychedelic Pill (Alternate Mix)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse's upcoming tour dates are as follows:

Oct 3 Windsor, ONT WFCU Centre
Oct 5 Kingston, ONT K ROCK Centre
Oct 6 London, ONT John Labatt Centre
Oct 8 Cleveland, OH Wolstein Center
Oct 9 Pittsburgh, PA Petersen Events Center
Oct 11 Chicago, IL United Center
Oct 13 Austin, TX Zilker Park / Austin City Limits Fest.
Oct 14 Tulsa, OK Tulsa Convention Center Arena
Oct 17 Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl
Oct 20-21 Mountain View, CA Shoreline Amphitheater
Oct 25 Tuscaloosa, AL Tuscaloosa Amphitheater
Oct 26 New Orleans, LA Voodoo Fest
Nov 10 Seattle, WA Key Arena
Nov 11 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena
Nov 13 Calgary, AB Scotiabank Saddledome
Nov 14 Saskatoon, SK Credit Union Centre
Nov 16 Winnipeg, MB MTS Centre
Nov 19 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
Nov 20 Kitchener, ON Memorial Auditorium
Nov 23 Montreal, QC Bell Centre
Nov 24 Ottawa, ON Scotiabank Place
Nov 26 Boston, MA TD Garden
Nov 27 New York, NY Madison Square Garden
Nov 29 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center
Nov 30 Fairfax, VA Patriot Center
Dec 3 Brooklyn, NY Barclays Center
Dec 4 Bridgeport, CT Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard

Friday, September 14, 2012

King Tuff - King Tuff

Surely, after Witch, Happy Birthday, and now King Tuff, one of Kyle Thomas’ projects will take hold a turn him into Sub Pop’s latest hot commodity. Lord knows they seem to release every single fart that this guy lets go of and they leave it to me to pin the tail on the moniker.

King Tuff may be the first Kyle Thomas project that actually contributes to his billing as a scuzz rock royalty, as his self-titled sophomore effort seems to suggest. Suddenly, all of the concerns of his white underbelly schtick get overlooked under a barrage of memorable power chords and the occasional Bolan Boogie.

He’s hinted at all of this before, but King Tuff actually overcomes all of the complaints that I had with Thomas’ Happy Birthday and with his catalog in general. With King Tuff, Thomas seems like he’s put in long hours working on nearly every aspect of the songs. From those aforementioned guitar highlights, to the intriguing lyrical perspective, and down to the scrapped together mix job which turned an abandoned school into what sounds like an inviting sonic Pepperland.

“Someone told me long ago/Baby, just break the rules” he declares on “Baby Just Break,” and the press release for King Tuff likes to refer to that freak flag quite often. But King Tuff shows us that Thomas cleans up nicely, making the story of how he’s been living out of his shoes a bit more palatable and, more importantly, believable. This record sounds as though he’s putting forth a greater effort in getting out of his squatter motif, heading to a point where his music actually may provide enough bread to devote all of his energy into making more songs as memorable as he has here.

“Hangin’ with my crew/At Loser’s Wall” tells the story of the social outcast’s turf, eerily mirroring my own reality growing up in a small Iowa river town.

Cruising Main Street was the norm on Saturday night, but there was a spot called “The Wall” where the carless, the rideless, and sometimes the friendless would congregate. It was a cement wall in front of a shuttered Buick dealership where the weekend crew would sit, and the outcasts would endure the shouts of passerbyers, safe in their Daddy’s cars with some of the more cruel passengers armed with water balloons for added emphasis.

Occasionally, a car would stop a pick someone up from the Wall, and they would suddenly be transformed from “losers” to people actually in motion.

King Tuff is where Thomas catches a lift, but it’s good enough that he actually steers the vehicle somewhere beyond the endless asphalt circle. He drags us down to the “Swamp of Love,” deeper to the “Unusual World” and even past the old drive-in where the creature-feature infection of “Bad Thing” blasts like a bit of transistor garage rock.

Ultimately, all of King Tuff represents some kind of sound from our past, but it maintains the optimism that most of us tend to lose by our early twenties. It is nice to be reminded of that forgotten optimism, and King Tuff provides it within its forty minutes, without irony, and without a hint of regret.

None of it may be life-changing, but it’s certainly life-affirming, prompting King Tuff to be the first itchy chigger bite of this summer that you’ll want to keep scratching all season long.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lindsey Buckingham - Seeds We Sow

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been reminded of Lindsey Buckingham, I understand completely. He’s someone that we tend to take for granted, and then something comes around to remind you. It may be that lost classic “Trouble,” from Law & Order that you hear out of nowhere, only to remember how awesome it is. Maybe it’s a spin of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk where you discover how much the man emulated Brian Wilson, to the point where you understand the risks that were involved with that album, particularly after the success of Rumors.

Or maybe it’s that moment when you first heard Lindsey’s version of the awful Fleetwood Mac song, “Big Love,” when you discovered that underneath all of that embarrassing 80’s crud was a song of incredible beauty, provoked only by an acoustic guitar and Buckingham’s lightening fast finger picking style.

It had been years since I was reminded of this, probably as long as that version of “Big Love” became famous, prompting guitarists to drool and your parents to say, “I told you so.”

A few years ago, some friends checked out Lindsey in Des Moines at a snug little ballroom. His prowess was repeated, and I was envious of it. So when I received word that he was coming through the area again, I promised myself that I would not ignore it and I even promised my wife a ticket, to which she asked, “Who is Lindsey Buckingham?”

Don’t beat her up too much; a woman my age asked the same thing when I told her and I could have easily avoided both moments by saying “The guitarist from Fleetwood Mac.”

Fleetwood Mac doesn’t mean that much to me anymore. I still get a kick out of Tusk and Rumors was on my parent’s stereo for two solid years before it ever came off, so I’m quite aware of its greatness. I remember buying a copy for myself in college, only to give it to a girlfriend because I discovered that I was still sick of it. It wasn’t until the deluxe reissue came out with all of its nifty demos and studio outtakes that I warmed up to it, thereby reminding myself, “Gee, I wonder what Lindsey’s been up to.”

On a whim, I found his latest Seeds We Sow-my first Buckingham album since Out Of The Cradle-stomaching the cover art that screamed, “He’s in a mellow mood.”

But cover art is for record loyalists and old luddites, the shit that was being beamed to me in ones and zeros proved to be some revelatory stuff. The first spin found Buckingham alternating between impressive wordplay and straight up weird pop music, some of it very familiar to 1981’s Law & Order with ultimately no chance at commercial accessibility.

Not that it matters much to Lindsey, and that’s the beauty of it. Seeds We Sow fluctuates from folk social commentary (“Seeds We Sow”) to spastic new wave political pop (“One Take”) to a telling, frenetic piece of dreamy fingerpicking (“Stars Are Crazy”). Whatever the direction, it’s unmistakably Lindsey and it’s an unfortunate oversight to anyone who may have missed this left-field pop gem, penned by a man now in his early sixties but who continues to create with youthful exuberance.

It’s only during the dramatically beautiful penultimate track “End Of Time” where the topic of mortality finally comes up. It’s a plaintive plea for reprieve-of which, he’ll never get, of course-but it’s a gripping moment where Buckingham tempers his unfettered nature and delivers the most mature moment on the record.

Ignore the adult contemporary cover; within the grooves of Seeds We Sow is a lush display of someone continues to approach music like a kid in a candy store. Within that ageless performance is a man who has reached the heights of popularity and come away from it with the kind of integrity that you’d hope all of those classic rock heroes would someday find.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lindsey Buckingham Live In Des Moines

Lindsey Buckingham
Live At Hoyt Sherman Place
Des Moines, Iowa, September  2, 2012

“Look at all of those dudes up by the stage taking pictures of Lindsey’s guitar rack.” I pointed out to my wife as we made our way to our seats at Lindsey Buckingham’s solo performance in Des Moines last Saturday night. “That’s hilarious!” I added as we both sat down.

“Don’t laugh.” She replied. “You know you want to go up there and do the same thing.”

I paused for a moment before admitting, “I do want to go up there.”
It would have been hilarious if they were all BC Rich.

Like my wife predicted, I was up out of my seat, making my way to the front of the stage just so I could seize a few shots of Buckingham’s wares before the lights went down.

Not a Marshall in sight. Didn't need 'em.
There were two things that I immediately discovering during An Intimate Evening with Lindsey Buckingham, an intimate one-man performance of the Fleetwood Mac legend. The first is that all of the male audience members seemed to have show up to ogle at his incredible guitar picking skills.  And just because there was an ample amount of Ovation acoustic guitars standing on that rack, it doesn’t mean that Lindsey didn’t hit a pedal, transforming a hollow body into a ballsy lead instrument, complete with distortion, tone, and testosterone.

The other thing was that Buckingham’s crowd probably found more women in attendance. The majority of them were middle-aged, but all of them seemed to view Lindsey with the kind of glance that is only reserved for lustful admiration. The man is as lean as ever, sporting thin denim jeans, a v-neck t-shirt and expensive leather jacket for the occasion, all of which prompted more than one shout of “I love you Lindsey!” from his female admirers.

The set pulled from equal parts solo material and Fleetwood Mac cuts, which he referred to as “the big machine.” Whatever the source, the intimate setting created a perfect backdrop for a lot of his overproduced material in the same way that “Big Love” got a new lease on life the moment Buckingham focused on turning it into an incredible reminder of his talent on the six string.

For tonight, it was “Go Insane” that got the “better than the original” nod. Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to overtake the outdated production of the title track from his 1984 solo record. But Lindsey manages to bring out the original diagnosis, but slowing down the arrangement and turning it into an eerie, creepy crawl.

All the songs receive similar changes in arrangements and nuances, and each one required a new guitar, mindfully handed over by his guitar tech while the devoted crowd gave standing ovations after every tune.

Don't get weird on me, babe.
By the time he got to the familiar opening of “Go Your Own Way,” the decorum of the immaculate Hoyt Sherman Place venue finally turned into a traditional rock show. Dozens of middle-aged women began leaving their seats to march up to the front of the stage, getting a bird’s eyes view of their graying idol as he navigated both sides of the crowd for optimal exposure.

Even in this intimate setting, Lindsey brought out his best showman poses, pouting his lips with eyes-closed during extended solos, pursing loud/soft dynamics with his vocals to achieve maximum vulnerability, and holding his hand over his heart with each appreciative applause.

To dismiss this package as just an atypical unplugged outing would be an injustice to the many years this man honed his craft in packed arenas with Fleetwood Mac. But the beauty of it all is how the intimacy perfectly translated this man’s genius on his instrument. It’s a craft that was obviously built from even more years of refining his relationship with the guitar, probably alone and probably going beyond what was even needed with Mac.

Yet he continued his progression, honoring the band’s tradition of featuring some pretty awesome guitarists and securing his own place in that heritage.

With Fleetwood Mac, he was just one of many guitarists that filled that spot, but on that special Saturday night in Des Moines, he was the only guitarist we wanted to hear in that role.


Cast Away Dreams
Bleed To Love Her
Not Too Late
Shut Us Down
Go Insane
Never Going Back Again
Big Love
I’m So Afraid
Go Your Own Way


Down On Rodeo
Seeds We Sow

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Iggy Pop Bobblehead Announced

We may have a contender for the second Bobblehead in Totale's collection. 

Let me first share a glance at my J. Mascis bobblehead that's currently guarding over my small collection of muscle car Matchbox cars (still in their packaging, because I'm an idiot) and a larger scale version of The Dukes Of Hazard General Lee car, which was going for around $75 at last glance on Ebay.

J.'s not much of a security guard, which makes Iggy a prime candidate for the job.

Drastic Plastic Collectibles and Impact Merchandising Present: Iggy Pop, the second of their limited edition bobbleheads.

Since his raucous proto-punk, peanut butter smearing days with The Stooges, few "street walking cheetahs" have mastered the maniacal with as much grit, gusto and flair as Iggy Pop. This rare figure is hand-numbered and limited to 1000 pieces. It stands 7-inches high and is made of durable polyresin. Get yours today as they are sure to go fast..  

Pre-order here:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Night Ranger Jumps On The Unplugged Bandwagon Two Decades After The Fact

Like I said before, the time that I met Night Ranger backstage prior to a small town festival gig, they proved to be swell dudes. Of course, that yub-yub Republican Jack Blades wasn't part of the line-up then (he was too busy going over G.O.P. talking-points with Ted Nugent in Damn Yankees at that point) so I only got to talk to Kelly Keagy and guitarist Brad Gillis, so let me clarify by saying that Kelly and Brad of Night Ranger appear to be swell dudes while the others, particularly Alan "Fitz" Fitzgerald, were complete assholes.

I kid, I kid!

But isn't it strange that the moment that "Fitz" departs to go play keyboards behind stage for Van Halen concerts, Night Ranger's popularity takes a nosedive?

Coincidence? I think not!

And here's a bit of wild trivia that nobody gives a shit about: Jack Blades teamed up with former-Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw to form Damn Yankees, while former Night Ranger guitarist Jeff Watson now plays the role of Tommy Shaw during Dennis DeYoung solo tours.

To the twenty-eight people reading this that were already knew about that exciting Night Ranger trivia, I give you the press release announcing a new Night Ranger album, which again, points out that "Sister Christian" was used in the movie Boogie Nights even though that movie's been out for over 15 years now.

(New York, NY) - As a celebration of the 30th anniversary of their debut album, Dawn Patrol, and hot on the heels of their 10th studio album, Somewhere In California, Night Ranger will release a very special newly-recorded live "greatest hits" CD/DVD package: 24 Strings & A Drummer - Live & Acoustic is due out on October 22nd in North America via Frontiers Records.  The album and DVD were recorded live in an intimate, all-acoustic setting with a select number of fans at TRI Studios in San Rafael, CA in May, 2012 and features some of their greatest hits such as "(You Can Still) Rock In America" and "Sister Christian" with refreshing new acoustic arrangements.  The result is a testament to Night Ranger's stellar live show and the strength of their songwriting abilities.  

Night Ranger's profile has been particularly high of late, with the band recently appearing on an episode of ABC's Bachelor Pad during the final challenge and Night Ranger frontman Jack Blades performing live during the Republican National Convention.  Night Ranger's legendary hits "Sister Christian," "(You Can Still) Rock in America," and "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" are songs that have each significantly impacted popular culture and expanded their ever-growing fanbase since the band's inception thirty years ago. Over the years, the band's music has made notable contributions to and been featured in many different areas of media and popular culture.  Night Ranger's songs can be heard in the Rock Band and Guitar Hero video games; Rock of Ages hit Broadway musical and film; the Oscar-nominated film Boogie Nights; FOX's hit TV Show American Dad; JBL's "Hear The Truth" campaign; and many more! To date, Night Ranger has sold 17 million units worldwide and boasts several platinum- and gold-certified albums.  Night Ranger is Jack Blades (bass guitar, vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums, vocals), Brad Gillis (lead & rhythm guitars), Joel Hoekstra (lead & rhythm guitars) and Eric Levy (keyboards).

24 STRINGS & A DRUMMER - LIVE & ACOUSTIC CD track listing:
1.    This Boy Needs To Rock
2.    When You Close Your Eyes
3.    Sing Me Away
4.    Growin' Up In California
5.    The Secret Of My Success
6.    Sentimental Street
7.    Four In The Morning
8.    Let Him Run/Goodbye
9.    Forever All Over Again
10.  Don't Tell Me You Love Me
11.  Sister Christian
12.  (You Can Still) Rock In America
13.  Boys Of Summer - bonus track

1.    This Boy Needs To Rock
2.    When You Close Your Eyes
3.    Sing Me Away
4.    Growin' Up In California
5.    The Secret Of My Success
6.    Sentimental Street
7.    Four In The Morning
8.    Let Him Run/Goodbye
9.    Forever All Over Again
10.  Don't Tell Me You Love Me
11.  Sister Christian
12.  (You Can Still) Rock In America
Bonus features: Night Ranger All Access/Growin' Up In California video/Making of the album SOMEWHERE IN CALIFORNIA
DVD Stereo Mix 2.0/5.1 - Screen 16:9
Total DVD length approximately 100 minutes

For more information please visit:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dokken Continues To Suggest To Diminishing Fan Base That They Are Still "Rockin'"

Don apparently is appropriating the Brett Michaels bandanna look
Old balls Don Dokken continues to schlep around a version of Dokken, attempting to suggest that the band is still relevant with a new record and will a band that does not include guitarist George Lynch.

Seriously, someone needs to inform Don that the only reason we're even talking about Dokken in 2012 is because of Mr. Lynch's six string prowess, and even that fact is questionable as George recently admitted to getting spray tans on a recent episode of That Metal Show and he still doesn't know how to button a fucking shirt.

Thank goodness Don does!

I've got a few Dokken stories up my sleeve, but I'll be damned if I am going to bore you to tears with them right now. 

Instead, I'll let the official press release announcing the band's 11th studio record give you all the details of what the genius behind "Dream Warriors" is up to these days. Apparently, not much since one of the record's selling points was how Don Dokken was once provided the Key to the City in Los Angeles back in 1988. How this promotes excitement for a record nearly a quarter-century later is beyond me, but feel free to read about it and other tidbits of the band, including who mastered the new release.

(New York, NY) - Frontiers Records is proud to announce the return of melodic hard rockers, Dokken; the band's 11th studio album (and their first in North America for the Frontiers Records label), Broken Bones, has been confirmed for a September 25th North American street date.  The album will be released in two configurations: standard CD and limited edition CD in digipak with a bonus DVD, which features a comprehensive "Making Of The Album" documentary.  Broken Bones is produced by Dokken frontman and namesake, Don Dokken, and is mixed Bob St. John (Extreme, Duran Duran, Collective Soul) and Wyn Davis (Black Sabbath, Dio, Whitesnake) and mastered by famed engineer Maor Appelbaum (Halford, Yngwie Malmsteen, Sepultura).  The new set features a return to the band's signature sound of catchy melodies, hot riffs and monster production.  Don Dokken commented, "We've never had a #1 hit; we've just kept touring winning fans over one by one."  The first single from the album will be "Empire"; click here to check out a sample of the song.  Please see below for the track listing for Broken Bones.

Dokken exploded out of the hotbed that was the hard rock and heavy metal scene in Los Angeles in the early '80s. Such classic albums as Tooth And Nail, Under Lock And Key and Back For The Attack were all certified multi-platinum, with songs like "Alone Again," "Just Got Lucky," "Into the Fire," "It's Not Love" and "Dream Warriors" still being regarded as amongst the genre's finest. Dokken was one of the first groups to sell a million copies of their DVD Unchain The Night  The group continues to tour the world extensively and has shared the stage with AC/DC, Metallica, Aerosmith, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Kiss, Scorpions, Bon Jovi and many more.  To date, the band has sold upwards of 10 million albums worldwide.  The group has been nominated for a Grammy as well as an American Music Award. In 1988, Don was awarded the keys to the city of Los Angeles by Mayor Tom Bradley declaring January 27th as "Dokken Day" for his charity contributions to the Los Angeles Children's Hospital.  Dokken is: Don Dokken (vocals), Mick Brown (drums), Jon Levin (guitar) and Sean McNabb (bass).

BROKEN BONES track listing:
1.    Empire
2.    Broken Bones
3.    Best Of Me
4.    Blind
5.    Waterfall
6.    Victim Of The Crime
7.    Burning Tears
8.    Today
9.    For The Last Time
10.  Fade Away
11.  Tonight