Thursday, March 31, 2005
I've been to Florence,Kentucky numerous times visiting one of my company's customers, but never had time to go across the Ohio into Cincinnati until tonight. Reading Roadfood.com paid off for me as I went to the oldest bar in town, Arnold's Bar and Grill (please no Happy Days jokes) and had a great time. The food and drink were fine, the people there were friendly and the bartender was excellent - I should have gotten the young man's name, but you'll know he's there if you see a bicycle chained to the parking meter out front. I probably would have stayed all night if I had realized they were going to have live classical music later on. I drove around the Over The Rhine neighborhood too - you know I like to live dangerously. Then I later searched the immense Party Source store for obscure beer and ended up buying some Youngs Chocolate Stout to try when I get back home to Tennessee.
Blogging wi-fi (makes me feel like Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame being able to say that) from Holiday Inn.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
I'm stoked to see that Mike Vallely will be stopping by Nashville on one of his frequent tours across the country. He may not know every razzle dazzle new trick, but he skates with passion and I'm sure he will showcase some incredible tricks that rarely get done today. I've been a big fan of his ever since I saw him in Public Domain and I've become a bigger fan of his based on the way he lives his life. Make sure to mark your calendars for May 14th. He'll be at the 6th Avenue Skatepark.
I'm also digging Ramshackle Humanity from Nashville. He's got pictures of pretty girls too.
This isn't a blog site, but as a cartoon nut the Big Cartoon Database is a godsend. Go there and spend a few hours on me.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
The Complete Strategist is the brainchild of Billy Kilgannon; a solo project that developed into a full fledged band. Kilgannon does vocals and plays guitar, Ryan O’Donnell plays guitar and also contributes vocals, Jeff Snyder plays the bass, and Brett Shenkman is on drums. They have an album coming out at the end of April titled We Care which should make lovers of indie-pop flavored fancies very happy.
It’s a Baskin-Robbins of influences on this gently melancholic disc. The lead off cut, “Pyrosis”, does indeed burn with a Shins like intensity as its suffused with trebly guitar interplay setting off Kilgannon’s just this side of almost annoying nasal vocals (think of They Might Be Giants and you’re getting warm). A warning – the song will burrow its way into your brain and you’ll find yourself singing snippets out of the blue. I created a bit of a stir this morning in a project meeting since singing is generally frowned upon. More low key mildly psychedelic musical notes are arranged for listening pleasure on the punny “Ilend” recalling Sixties rock at its breeziest. “Get Outta’ Town” chugs along like a lost Cars track running into Weezer and would be a big hit if radio wasn’t such a crap heap these days.
I don’t want to make the fellows in The Complete Strategist get down about the mainstream radio thing, there’s always hope of lightning striking like it did for one of the groups they sometimes resemble: Fountains Of Wayne who struck gold with “Stacy’s Mom”. This amorphous post modern style is practically a musical canon these days. The song “Ro Jo” even manages to put in a nod to The Police during the intro and outro. The lyrics are generally of the vague intellectual type though Kilgannon goes for the universal jugular on “Anyone Stupid Enough” which has this line, “anyone stupid enough, I can just humor them, they won’t understand” which is something we’ve all felt at some time or another. We Care is not a complete success. It’s probably just an old school rock and roll homage to the days when albums had ten songs at the most with at least four songs being filler, since there are four songs out of ten here that sound like clinkers to my ears.
The Complete Strategist reside in Eastern Pennsylvania and We Care will be released on Happy Home Records.
Monday, March 28, 2005
Many years ago when the Austin, Texas rock and roll underground scene was making big waves with acts like Zeitgeist, Doctor’s Mob, The Wild Seeds, Glass Eye, True Believers and Daniel Johnston to name but a few SPIN magazine came down to do a feature story on the scene which was dubbed the "New Sincerity" in music. I was captivated for a number of reasons; Daniel Johnston worked at McDonalds then and I also worked for the golden arches, Austin came off in the story as a slacker paradise welcoming to artists like I fancied myself to be, and most importantly the story had a bit about a local night of music where each band took the stage to perform a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”, which may sound repetitious to some, but to my Velvet’s obsessed mind read like heaven. Were any of the members of Austin band Black Lipstick in the audience that witnessed the night of homage to Lou Reed back in 1985? It’s not likely since they would have been just children then, but the spirit of that club date must have seeped into their collective unconscious as the force of VU is strong with them.
Black Lipstick is Elizabeth Nottingham, Travis Higdon, Steve Garcia, and Phillip Niemeyer and as they proclaim on the lead off track from Sincerely, Black Lipstick, "B.O.B. F.OS.S.E.", “if the world’s a stage then the whole damn world should bow to us…” they are ready for our supplication. Its exuberant rock loaded with Velvets and Television/Tom Verlaine New York cool mixed with Texas heat and drawl and certainly not without antecedents – read the first paragraph again if you’ve already forgotten the apparent love affair Texas has with “Sweet Jane”. The surface of Black Lipstick’s music might suggest insouciance, but there’s much going on beneath it all. Guitars snarl and hum, drums thump, and the bass rides around each song picking up the melody line when it gets dropped. Prickly little pinpricks of delight await the really attentive listener. “Grandma Airplane” unwinds for seven plus minutes telling the tale of an airplane ride with such dreamlike assurance it feels like you’re the one in the air while “it’s your world sitting on the ground”. Black Lipstick manage to come off as both bohemian and working class and to honor such a melding of intellectualism and pragmatism the next paragraph of this review will be done using the cut up method. I have cut up old Black Lipstick press clippings and through random choices I will try to capture the essence of the band.
CUT UP section: Vinyl over human interaction – this is smart stuff. An atmosphere of erotic suspense – they combine the usual freshly derivative snarky, sexy boho punk. Somebody brilliant comes along to remind you to tackle the grubby themes. The Lipstick aesthetic is clearest nerdy neurotic tribal they’re clever like Lou Reed. Instilled Texas hipsters complete with boy/girl vocals memorable. End of CUT UP section.
“Throw Some Money At It” sounds a little like Pavement which is okay with me. I do prefer the mild psychedelia of “Viva Max” better. You could be the big spot the influence winner of that one if you happen to mention Joy Division. But spotting the influences is not the appeal of the band; yes “The Bad Catholic” might remind you of My Bloody Valentine but what matters is what Black Lipstick do with those influences. They take them, shake them, and remake them. I listen to Sincerely, Black Lipstick when I tumble out of bed each morning so I get the proper dose of rock and roll to get me through another day at the day job and then bookends the night when I’m needing to space out.
It’s one of the best albums of the year so far and your home and rock and roll heart would be empty without it. It’s available from Peek-A-Boo Industries.
Friday, March 25, 2005
“'Cause we're The Konks, yeah yeah yeah yeah
Yeah, we're The Konks and we don't care"
The Konks are rock and roll primitives and you should care and be glad. They hang out with other rock and roll primitive bands like The Curses, The Tamp Offs, Triple Thick, the Coffin Lids, and the mesmerizing Mr. Airplane Man. They won the first Little Steven Battle Of The Bands in Boston throwing a personal beat down on Triple Thick and The DownBeat 5. Bob plays guitar and harmonica. Jon plays bass. Kurt plays two lousy drums and sings. Rest assured that the guitars are also cheap.
Their new self-titled release for Bomp contains 12 songs played with such abandon they’ll make your head spin or maybe it’s the contact carbon monoxide poisoning from The Konks hanging out in the garage for so long. It doesn’t take but a few seconds to see why Bomp would want to sign The Konks. “Outta My Mind” explodes out of the speakers with Kurt yelping all the way. We’re talking screaming tribal thump and super fuzz stammer done with just the right amount of destructo guitar solos and bass guitar beserker bottom. “King Kong” stomps through the reverb chamber with analog biplane smashing style. The song “Out Of My Mind” has a nifty bass line loping around the opening guitar riff which just calls for a rooftop concert – I can’t quite explain my reasoning here, but it was in my personal notes so it must be true. Other tasty treats: “Break My Back” is a blues infected raunchy mess with a bass and drums only bridge that shows why all one needs is a beat, there’s the minor chord “96 Tears” sweep of “What I Came Here For” which shows that The Konks can play nice when they want to, “Honey” has a cool guitar lick that sounds a Canned Heat on crystal meth, and their cover of fellow Boston band, Aerosmith’s “Toys In The Attic” which brings me to tears because it makes me remember when Aerosmith was actually good.
Some interesting tidbits about The Konks: They don’t get their name from The Kinks who of course have a studio named Konk. They are not related to the John Dunbar led Konks of power pop fame. The name comes from the hair straightening treatment congoline. This album was reviewed by bmarkey earlier for blogcritics and the review was so well written it made the Bomp website. This album will probably show up in my best of 2005 list. So go out and get konked.
I love The Octopus Project.
You should be seeing the review next week. The Konks review is coming later today and then it will be Easter party time.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Here's a taste of the fanzine post:
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FANZINES GONE?
Good question, since I've been kinda won'drin' myself. Y'see, there was a time in my life when fanzines were pretty much a huge hunkerin' part of my rock & roll lifeblood just as much as getting hold of some hot independently-produced single by an underground fave felt like a deed most worthy of heavenly reward (this being long before the "indie" mania of the eighties and beyond changed the beast into a slightly-different character that seemed unrecognizable to me even a decade after the original oomph!). And as you would guess, these self-published wonders were just what the doctor ordered especially in a world soon to be overrun with mediocrity masquerading as alternative innovation...with fanzines, you didn't have to cut through the chaff to get to your faverave underground bands (who at the time were so infinitely superior to the relatively soft schmooze that was supposed to "speak to/for you and your generation")...all you hadda do was just open up the things and readreadREAD on about some group that seemed to have all of the smart moves and concepts rolled into a fine package custom-made for your suburban dumboid lifestyle living vicariously through the exploits of the latest Velvet Underground to come down the punkwave chute. While the mainstream magazines may have had "it" (in pure Clara Bow-speak) some of the time, it was pretty much GUARANTEED that the fanzines, even the lowlier "crudzines" of the day, had it ALL of the time and given that the likes of Christopher Cross and Robin Trower were the big guns while the likes of the Zantees and Fleshtones hadda struggle to keep their heads above water, what more could ya ask for?
If that little bit sounds good then click on over to Blog2Comm and have yourselves a time.
It was May 1979 at the local skating rink. Just another gathering of the junior high tribe and the skating rink was the vibrating center of our social life with speed, music, and girls combining to form a perfect swirling gestalt. I was part of the clique that thought it ran the scene when into this milieu wandered a group of strangers, older kids, and all wearing AC/DC Highway To Hell concert tee shirts. It was an intriguing assault on our hegemony, but they didn’t skate much or try to make time with our girlfriends so we quickly forgot about them as they spent most of their time playing the video games. What I couldn’t forget was those shirts. The iconographic image of Angus Young with devil horns appealed to a rebellious side I was just beginning to discover existed. I soon learned how to decode the meanings of rock and roll tee shirts. The marketing people would be so happy to know I had yet to even hear a note of AC/DC’s music and I was hooked.
Soon I bought a midline priced Let There Be Rock and my tinny little phonograph’s volume was pushed to its limits. My Kiss records were neglected as the adolescent adrenalin rush of AC/DC won supremacy of my small record collection. It was rock and roll in super electrified doses living up to their name; it just had me enthralled. Bon Scott’s vocals were so distinctive, sung with a constant leer and the Young brothers are the greatest guitar tandem ever. Listening to AC/DC saw me graduate from geek to freaky geek in a few short months. I may have got to the party late, but I was determined to see Bon Scott and the rest of the crew on their next tour.
We all know the rest of the story. I didn’t get to see AC/DC with Bon Scott on their next tour. AC/DC went from being the greatest rock and roll band in the world to being one of the best heavy metal outfits on the planet. Back In Black was an amazing record cleaved from tragedy, but it’s been an inexorable slide down ever since. The new DVD set Family Jewels is divided into a Bon Scott disc and a Brian Johnson disc and while I like both AC/DC eras (AC/DC’s slide down still results in better music than most), the Bon Scott years are by far the band’s creative peak.
Family Jewels is a chronological journey through AC/DC’s career with videos and live footage of the band’s most well known songs. Many of the material on disc one has probably never been seen by the casual fan except for bits and pieces such as when VH1’s AC/DC Behind The Music showed bits from “Baby, Please Don’t Go” which opens disc one. It’s mainly notable due to Bon Scott’s ridiculous schoolgirl outfit even down to panties he wears. Bon Scott in drag was a scary thing. There isn’t a bum note at all on disc one, it’s all highlights, but some stand out more than others:
Angus and his Chuck Berry on speed act during “T.N.T.”, the footage of the band playing “It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)” in the back of a flat bed truck, “Let There Be Rock” filmed in a church with Bon Scott as the minister and Angus wearing a halo, and the horror shock end of “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It” where the front cover of that album is recreated.
Disc two begins with four videos filmed for Back In Black all during the same time frame. The songs are great, but the antiseptic nature of the performance footage all done on a soundstage is rather dull. This is remedied by the time we get to “Let’s Get It Up” which is actual live footage, but the sound is muddy. The videos from the Flick Of The Switch album are again rehearsal space videos. The only really noticeable change being the departure of Philip Rudd (am I the only one who feels the music got worse faster after he exited the band?) from the drummer’s chair. AC/DC were never too big on the idea of making videos (they did name an entire album Blow Up Your Video) so the lack of MTV style from this time frame is understandable. When they did decide to enter the video heavy rotation sweepstakes, unfortunately an entire suite of film was created for the Fly On The Wall album. I found myself wishing for the plot free performance shots from before. The disc concludes with the career rejuvenating “Thunderstruck” and “Money Talks” period.
Sony has done a nice job with this release. Family Jewels sounds great and the video footage is as shiny as new penny. The only complaint might be that there are no extras, but with over 2 and a half hours of footage and priced under $15 who needs extras. I was bouncing around the house like a lunatic after watching it; felt like I was fourteen again. In an odd twist I’ve grown up to be against letting kids wear rock and roll tee shirts to school. I favor uniforms and while some may say it’s because I’m against letting the kids express themselves, I think it’s still a case of being influenced by AC/DC. Here’s to Angus. Let there be rock!!!
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
There is also a party at Jacksons in Hillsboro Village tonight beginning at 5 PM for Nashville bloggers. It is sponsored by WKRN and hosted by Mr. Roboto of Thursday Night Fever fame. Why wasn't Soulfish Stew invited? I am on the list of News 2's nashville bloggers. I couldn't attend anyways - I rarely get out of the hills but it would have been nice to have been thought of. I guess I need to start checking out Mr. Roboto's site more often. The event sounds like it will be a blast so go check it out and tell them Wally sent you.
If this is not your cup of tea, how about some Carter Administration MP3's.
One song and another song.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Soulfish Stew disclaimer: Wally has never done graffiti, unless you count the chalk drawn picture of Electric Jesus he drew on a lightpole at a Burger King in Murfreesboro around the year 1990. The sad fact is that Wally can't draw for crap, hence the appreciation for graffiti artists who really know how to burn.
BBQ is either a rock and roll novelty act –he’s a one-man band – or he’s the 21st century version of Hasil Adkins. Maybe he can be both if he ever writes a songs as far out as “No More Hot Dogs.” Mark Sultan (Les Sexarenos) is BBQ trying to be the “best one-man band since Wilbert Harrison (and no, we’re not forgetting the Legendary Stardust Cowboy…)” according to the PR sheet that came with Tie Your Noose. The music is raw, just guitar and drums for a garage psycho-billy shakedown. It’s all done live with not a multi-track in sight. Does BBQ really fire up the coals with this format?
He’s not too hot or cold on this disc, preferring to tread lukewarm water over the course of 12 songs. “C’mon And Love Me” begins with some promising ‘50’s rock and roll delivered with a soulful bare wires croon. “Outta My Mind” heads straight for the garage with some door slamming style stomping, but Tie Your Noose quickly nosedives and develops a serious lack of sustainable excitability. I can picture some disgruntled kids seeing BBQ performing “Shake Real Low” and grumbling that the hop could only afford one dude. The cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Out Of Time” is pointless and horrible. BBQ should stick to the ‘50’s flavor. He might just look fetching in a poodle skirt. There are some flashes of punk rock on “Hang It Up” and the ever durable Bo Diddley beat makes an appearance on the slap echo heavy “Record Machine.”
BBQ is definitely an oddity in today’s technologically obsessed world and he gets a star for that, but quality is the ultimate barometer and he’s got no one to blame but himself for the inferior product. But with stronger material and some practice, BBQ might deliver a whole album of great songs. Hope that Bomp puts out a 45 or CD single because the whole album is just not worth it.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Thanks very much for the kind words.
The Dusters are still very much alive and kickin'and now with Dan Baird and Mauro Magellan in the ranks...
Bass - The Dusters
I'll have to get out of the hills sometime to see this supergroup.
Civet is not proficient enough to thrash, so their songs sound like slop. Bombshell acquits herself nicely on the drums, but the rest of the ladies…yech! Can we hold Kim Fowley accountable for the raspy voiced Joan Jett impersonation that Ms. Graves attempts? Ah hell, while we’re at it, how about including L7 and Hole in that list of bad influences. How come there aren’t any Go-Go’s inspired bands out there? Civet makes even the god-awful Lunachicks sound tolerable.
Civet’s lyrics are violent, obnoxious, and filled with the drama of living under the heel of male chauvinist bastards. There are probably some guys out there right now thinking, “All right, I like a girl with spirit.” They’ve got so much spirit they drop the F word bomb 10> over the course of the album. “Everything Everythin” has a freakout section in the middle that’s responsible for the biggest share of them. The title cut does take the time to make fun of the “Emo” movement so I’ll give the ladies points for that. I also liked the tune “Extra” which shows more thought than the rest of the thirteen tracks on Massacre. But their attitude is in some severe need of ability. Until that ability comes, all they will be peddling is banal dross.
Friday, March 18, 2005
The Exotic Ones rocked the ‘Boro Bar & Grill with their mixture of kitschy originals and Sixties garage band cover songs last night. The line at the bar almost swallowed the most integral E-1 (because rock and roll without a beat is like a rapper without a posse), Space Fink, alive before he could grab the Rolling Rock beer that fuels his tribal war drums, but he made it to the stage just in time. Zombies were sent running and even though the beer was flowing much too slowly for St. Patrick’s Day one patron still managed to pass out. Zoomga did his best Clara Rockmore impersonation at the theremin and the rest of the E-1 gang thrilled the crowd with their super kinetic powers. Highlights of the show were “Ape Wild” – man I’d trade a bunch of bananas to get my dirty paws on a recording of that song, the totally ace cover of Elastic Band’s mega obscure Atco release “Spazz”, and “Dawn Of The Dead” which featured an ultra boss vocal turn by the aforementioned Space Fink while still keeping the space time rhythm continuum intact. My office mates that went to the show with me really liked the cover of The Meteors’ “My Daddy Is A Vampire.” The E-1’s also surprised me with their last song of the evening when they pulled out “Dragula” dedicating it to “Toby Holmes wherever you are…we love you man.” I sang along out in the audience to a song that got played at every Dragula show we ever played. Thanks for the fun Exotic Ones. The next time they come to your town ready to party you down make it a point to get exoticized!
Thursday, March 17, 2005
See it's not all television and rock and roll here at Soulfish Stew. I sometimes play the businessman, too.
I hope everybody got a chance to see the exemplary episode of South Park, “Die Hippie Die” last night. It began with Cartman at some grandmotherly lady’s home telling her that he thought her house needed exterminating. For hippies! Sure enough, he found some in the attic and a drum circle in the back yard. Pretty soon all of South Park was run over with hippies, but nobody will listen to Cartman about the dangers of them. “They’re not human, they’re hippies!” He tries to prevent the town from letting the hippies have a jam band festival to no avail – the police throw Cartman in jail because he was keeping about 60 hippies locked up in his basement. Just as Cartman predicts the hippie jam band festival gets out of hand and soon the townspeople are begging Cartman to save them. You can watch yourselves when it repeats this weekend. Make sure you don’t miss it as there are some great social observations skillfully placed into the show, most about how a bunch of dirty, filthy, penniless, hippies aren’t about to change the world just by attending a rock concert. Funny stuff.
But my two absolute faves of the moment are Black Lipstick and Architecture In Helsinki.
Sincerely, Black Lipstick is a wonderful melange of Velvet Underground and Television, with drawling vocals, snarling guitars, and tribal drums. It's the first CD in the player in the morning and the last thing I listen to before hitting the sack.
Black Lipstick hail from Austin, Texas, so maybe it's the Aus in the place that's grabbing me because Architecture In Helsinki are from Australia.
In Case We Die may have a title that seems like it would be a downer, but that's not the case. fun times await the listener to this twee release. Imagine the B-52's if they had grown up on a steady diet of indie-rock instead of Sixties singles. It's really hard to describe Architecture In Helsinki in just a few words, so look for a full scale review before the album comes out on April 12th.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
I know it’s not right for me to be bored. Usually I’m not – having three young children at home makes boredom rare. I’ve also got satellite TV, hundreds of books, thousands of records and CD’s, a home computer that’s rocking Windows 95 with a Pentium 2 processor (anyone for a game of minesweeper?), and several guitars and a four track recorder gathering dust. I’m blessed with things to do, projects that need to be finished (do you want to hear about my unfinished novel…I thought not), and a house that could always use some cleaning somewhere. But there I was last Sunday afternoon bored out of my skull. My two daughters were visiting their grandparents and my wife was taking a nap along with our baby boy. Here was my chance to do just about anything and like a spoiled teenager I sat stewing in my own jaded emotions with just nothing to do.
I didn’t want to get up from the easy chair so I looked on our small marble side table next to the chair for some literature. I was out of luck in the literature department, but there was a Family Circle magazine that had been picked up at the grocery store the day before. The front cover proclaimed it contained all kinds of information about losing weight, yet a photo of a huge plate of fudge brownies also graced the front. This dichotomy was almost intriguing enough for me to open the magazine, but I held off. Maybe boredom was preferable. Then I happened to remember the huge stack of CD’s that I needed to review. So it was that Call Me Lightning became the band that would challenge Family Circle magazine.
Call Me Lightning hail from the cheesy goodness of Wisconsin and they play a muscular post-punk sort of rock taking cues from such groups like the Minutemen and Fugazi. It’s good enough to get them a record deal with Revelation Records who’ve released their latest album, The Trouble We’re In. The cover art is nifty with big giant rats marauding through some Middle Ages skyline while a giant squid’s tentacles emerge from a tumultuous sea. There’s more cool art awaiting those who purchase the disc; I especially like the dolphins bursting out some guy’s mid-section. It looked like Call Me Lightning was winning the battle for my attention easily, but what will the actual music do for me.
“We Be Dragons” leads off The Trouble We’re In with guitar licks that would feel at home on any fIREHOSE release, but that’s just a momentary lull before the group kicks into the Fugazi watusi beat and the singer starts screaming. “Ghosts In The Mirror” heads to the bridge with videogame noises and no Gameboy in site and the sudden shifts to falsetto on the vocals recall the excitable D.C. legends Nation of Ulysses. Any initial trepidation I may have felt before listening to the record is starting to fade once the third song, “Asses To Ashes” cops a feel for the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. But a few songs later the Family Circle is starting to look tempting. Maybe it’s the chopped and blocked nature of the music. It’s all sharp sides, unemotional, and cut and dried except for the vocals.
Family Circle’s tips on how to remove clutter are more intriguing and interesting. All of the advice on women’s health isn’t very useful to me personally – I thought the magazine was about the family and not just for ladies. There’s an article on walking, but it looks more like they just want people to buy some walking vest that’s loaded down with weights. There are some sentimental quotes and inane advice that would only work in some perfect world laboratory setting throughout the magazine. I think I want my boredom back. Luckily Call Me Lightning were only messing me because the album soon grabs my attention again with an intro that recalls a late Nineties chart sensation.
“Horseflies” begins with a riff reminiscent of “Lump” and hearing something so close to the music of a song that was so annoying I ended up liking it makes me spring up out of the easy chair, amble over to the stereo and make like Freedom Rock – you know…crank it up. Some splashed of dub brighten the water of “Rotten River” in what passes for their version of a ballad. The wife and baby wake up soon after the album ends so I’m assured of entertainment the rest of the evening.
So Call Me Lightning's The Trouble We're In was the big winner in my fight the boredom sweepstakes. Their music did get grating halfway through, but they showed enough pop smarts to pull away to victory. As for Family Circle magazine, I think I’ll donate it to a friend who can use it for their pet parrot’s birdcage.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Punk’s not dead, yet it is getting a little stiff. Do we really need more play by the numbers politically charged punk rock bands? This is the perfect rhetorical question for The Hollow Points who fill their songs with rhetoric. It just begs to be asked, so now the plot dictates somebody answer it, so it might as well be I.
The Hollow Points are from Seattle, Washington and with all of that rain and the threat of Mt. Rainer blowing its top someday they’ve got two good reasons to be mad right there. Most of the songs on The Black Spot on Disaster Records rant against the establishment be it government or corporations, but to the band’s credit they keep it fair and balanced as this snippet from “The Sickness” shows: “Republicans and Democrats you corrupt and delegate and decide our country’s fate, I don’t know how I’m supposed to choose between two evils that I hate.” There are a few obligatory mentions of the war in Iraq and Halliburton, but the band is smart enough to cloak much of their anti-establishmentarianism lyrics in generalities. A song like “The Black Spot” is wise to just say “Live up to your disgrace! No respect for the human race! A red party marionette you’re not my Mr. President. I WANT YOU AWAY!” Angst like this will be just as timeless twenty years from now, unless a woman wins the presidency and then it might sound odd.
Sound wise The Hollow Points biggest antecedent is probably Social Distortion. Songs are fast, but not too fast and generally short on dynamics. That’s okay; you’re usually not looking for dynamics with hard charging amplified three chords and a cloud of dust type punk. Let the poseurs play around with big musical variations, we’re talking the proper use of subtlety here. Skateboarding, punk legend Duane Peters of U.S. Bombs produced and guitars really growl in the mix. The Hollow Points do stretch it out on a few choice cuts to prove that variety can sometimes be nice. My favorite track is “Sleaze of Seven Seas” which adds more than a dash of New Wave leavening to the full bore assault. “My Misfortune” incorporates a Spanish flamenco feel into something that quickly heads into Rancid territory, while “Pieces of Eight” is from the pirate/Irish genre that seems to pop up every now and then. Luckily it’s the last song and can be easily omitted.
I hope you’re not getting the impression that I’m panning this album. I’m suffering from a small case of ageism – heard it done before and done better. That doesn’t mean the world can’t use more punk rock of the sort played by The Hollow Points. Kids need some current music they can use for a soundtrack to their next protest of the World Bank. Meathead jocks need some music they can go aggro to while pummeling kids smaller than themselves. Pasty faced geeks who can tear their selves away from the latest video game sensation might like the rebellion offered up on The Black Spot. This aging wannabe rock critic and sometime musician might hear the same ol’ shit, but still feel compelled to pick up his guitar and play along to the codified chord changes. The Hollow Points may be running on retreads, but if you’re pissed off it’ll still get you to where you need to go.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Michael Landon’s Ghost went on to play quite a few shows in Murfreesboro including one at legendary establishment, Mainstreet, which featured the first of our two former Dislocated members playing with us. We added the guitar talents of Mike Taylor before the Mainstreet gig. It was another good show with us pissing off the crowd. Punk rock was yet to really hit Murfreesboro, TN. Mike was going to be a permanent addition to the band, but his life was in a state of flux so it just didn’t happen. Sometime during this point we played the best show I’ve ever been a part of in a small Tennessee called Decherd.
There was a skate park there and they let bands play out back inside a small concrete block building. Toby or Wes got us the gig there and I don’t remember whether we played the show as MLG or under the name Pibebomb. I believe the name change was already in place – we just figured we would never go anywhere with a name like Michael Landon’s Ghost, plus I’m always big on change. We had rehearsed with a girl named Christie who wanted to play guitar in the band and she was supposed to play at this show, but it didn’t happen. It was a shame because she missed the greatness and glory only rock and roll can bring.
We pulled in just in time for sound check. One of the other bands on the bill, and there were several, was doing a cover of a Pegboy song and it sounded really good. We set our equipment up, did a run through of one song – probably “Paranoid” which were going to cover that night – and then we just hung out wondering if anybody would actually show up in the summer night heat. It’s amazing how my usually razor sharp memory has forgotten so many important details about this night. I don’t remember if we were the first band to play or the last. I don’t remember the names of the other groups and one of them liked us so much they gave me their card. What I do remember is the pandemonium of the show. The concrete block building was sweltering even though the sun had long gone down. There was a good sized crowd of around fifty kids in the audience when we played and they went nuts – slamming and moshing, stage diving from the lip of a stage that stood maybe four inches off the concrete floor, screaming along with the words of our originals by the time the second chorus came around, and jumping up on stage to dance. We had never gotten such a reception and I never would get such a one again. The kids down in Decherd were starved for punk music. They weren’t jaded like the kids in Nashville where you’d have been lucky at the time to get twenty kids to show up for a Sunday matinee hardcore punk rock show. The audience at Decherd swirled around and around in a mad frenzy of youthful rebellion, but one could see the absolute joy rising up from the madness. When we finished the set, it seemed like every kid in the place came up to us to tell us how great we had been. I was completely humbled by the experience – not too sound like a hippie, but there was a spiritual vibe in the air that night. After the gig, we even got paid cash money for the first time ever and then Toby and I promptly spent it on some skating items before taking a few turns around the park on our boards. Seeing that we were skaters too only cemented our status in the eyes of the kids. I wonder if anybody from Decherd or Winchester, TN still remembers that night.
Our next big gig was at the Cannery in Nashville. We were going to be one of many bands performing some all day and all night concert. We decided to enlist another former Dislocated band member, Mark Taylor, for this show figuring we could use another guitar to bolster our sound. We instantly clashed as Mark actually wanted to play “Sonic Reducer” the way it sounded on record. I just wanted to keep playing it the only way I knew how. In retrospect, he was totally right, but to his credit he let me have my way as band leader and he played it the way I asked. The show was rocking with a pretty big crowd in attendance – it wasn’t only punk bands on the bill. We got a big mention in local fanzine Sky Flying By and we were also written about in Nashville punk magazine House O’ Pain. That show had also seen what I believe was the debut performance of the Nashville punk rock band that made it out of Nashville: The Teen Idols. Things were starting to really look good, especially after a former strip club became a music club. The Pantheon soon became the place to be.
I saw Superchunk play there twice and I also saw L7 play a riotous gig there one night. I should have known Toby was getting tired of the music scene the night of L7 when he bailed with his girlfriend before the show began, but gave me twenty dollars to buy him a t-shirt before he left. We never got to play on bills like those, but we played several Sunday afternoon matinees; the two most notable were opening for Letch Patrol (here’s an article about the now homeless lead singer Harris Pankin)once and then what I believe was our final gig opening for Bedlam Hour.
Letch Patrol may have been dubbed “Scum Rock”, but they were a helluva bunch of nice guys. When they heard us do our cover of the Dead Boys “Sonic Reducer” during sound check, they told us they did the song too. When I asked them if they wanted us not to do the song, Harris Pankin quickly said, “No, no, you guys do the song too. It’s a great song.” Maybe a handful of people saw the show which really rocked. I believe our final show ever was when we opened for South Carolina punk legends, Bedlam Hour, who were also great guys. The bass player wore a cow suit and the band threw snacks to the sparse crowd. It was fun, but the small crowds at the Pantheon were wearing us down. Pipebomb was ready to fizzle out.
It was time to pay up for our rehearsal space and I decided to pull the plug. Wes White got to keep the space and Toby now had time to spend with his girlfriend. I actually had some free time for studying my college courses. Wes went on to play with rockabilly band Hellbilly before joining the Teen Idols where he spent a long time before heading back to rockabilly. Toby and I went on to form Dragula. MLG slash Pipebomb was an awesome experience. I'll leave you with some of the lyrics of one of our first songs, "What Can We Do" written about Germs lead singer Darby Crash.
"Darby lived as he died, a crash of glory, a suicide
nightmare dream of the modern eye, the television way to die,
a flashbulb burned out right, the sunset stripped American night,
a neon hell that never fades from sight, the drugs help you feel allright."
Note: Soulfish Stew does not condone or endorse the use of drugs. It's called dope for a reason.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Part two of the story of my second band: Michael Landon’s Ghost
Once we had rehearsed a few times we were ready for open mike night. Our plan was do several Ramones songs, The Didjit’s “King Carp”, The Dickies “Gigantor”, and The Sex Pistols “Pretty Vacant” since we weren’t ready to unveil our original songs. We were fired up the night of the show and we really let loose in our fifteen minute segment. “Gigantor” got the biggest reception, but we really impressed a couple of high school kids in the crowd. It felt pretty cool to be on stage again after being away for a couple of years. The best was to come.
We were invited back and this time we were going to do our originals plus invite our friends. The place was packed by the time we were ready to take the stage. I was crazed and felt like a tiger in a cage. We starting cranking out the noise and the crowd were digging it. Our originals – hardcore punk tunes titled “Eddie Killed Grampa”, “Michael Landon’s Ghost” (okay I have a bad habit of writing theme songs for my bands), “So High” and “Just A” – sounded fully fledged and never better. I took my guitar and threw it to the ground and then stomped on it at the end (it would need some repairs). I don’t why I did it, but the evening required some sort of sacrifice. The crowd went nuts. Even longtime friends were stunned at how good we were in our 15 minutes we had.
From my notes at the time: “I’m going to be a rock and roll star. Michael Landon’s Ghost has arrived with a vengeance. Dude in the grill yelled, “Hey you guys were great, man!” Right after the show the sphincter kid looked up at me in wonder and said, “You’re somebody famous aren’t you? Yeah I saw you on TV.” That’s the ticket, man. Wally is here to stay. I’m here to set the world straight, I’m like Billy Jack meets Sid Vicious.” It didn’t turn out that way, but for a short while we were red hot. We picked up a show opening for fellow punk rockers, Will Work For Drugs, and after that went well we had to play a local battle of the bands the next night. Here’s what I wrote at the time about that show – before and after: “I’m on the verge of playing Battle Of The Bands on February 11th where Michael Landon’s Ghost will make a rock and roll explosion this town has never seen. It will be earth shattering, brain blasting rebellion on display. I’ve got so much angst built up it’s time to get “Loose” like a stooge. Stars are going to fall on the crowd so bring your lead umbrellas.” That was probably written a few days before the both shows. Later on my confidence was not quite as high because I wrote this: “Here we go, it’s Tuesday February 11, 1992 and the silly Battle Of The Bands show is tonight but who cares. We played the ‘Boro last night opening for Will Work For Drugs. It was fantastic. I pissed the crowd off by saying hippies suck and went berserk as usual on show closer “I Wanna Go Home” (an old Holly & The Italians song). Tonight promises even more I can feel the rage inside. Guys in WWFD said we were great. One of them said we were a cross between the Sex Pistols and Ramones. We got it on videotape and damn if we weren’t pretty good. The potential is there to make it out of this hellhole town. People know that MLG are the next big thing exploding skyrockets across the collective consciousness of this crappy town playing real rock and roll spanking everybody’s behind. This isn’t Woodstock, this is my Altamont. “I Wanna Go Home” is definitely the show closer till doomsday. No escape from a motorcycle of pain, it’s the beat that drives them insane, Michael Landon’s Ghost will be real rock and roll heroes.” So we went on to play the show in front of a sparse crowd mainly consisting of friends of the competing bands. We played a decent show, but a spark was missing. I wrote about it later that night: “End of the line, adios muchachos or whatever – the gig is history and it’s all on videotape. The night ends with my foot going through a hole in the floor at Toby’s (the bass player) house and then cussing him out. The show was just a joke. Fletcher (a local scenester) loved it and few others liked it, but the spark wasn’t there like it was on Monday night. We did get a reaction, especially from all of the washed up rednecks. It’s almost a joy to hear them yell epithets at us along with the constant complaint to slow it down between every song. Maybe that’s what happened to Charlie Parker when he first started playing fast. I had my Rick Sims (Didjits) look going on along with a Public Enemy picture I cut out of a magazine pinned to my lapel. I’m just never happy with a performance, there’s always something to gripe about. We didn’t fall through the stage and we didn’t embarrass ourselves. There are a few more souls who now know to stay away from Michael Landon’s Ghost.”
I know this part of the story is overdue so I’m not promising a date for part three, but there will more parts to this rock and roll story so stay tuned if you’re enjoying the ghost ride.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the songs included on this compilation are not power pop. What we have on display on Power For Passion are obscure or never before released pop punk gems. It’s all part of the Bacchus Archives effort at making early punk rock rarities and previously unreleased material available. There are fifteen tracks by twelve artists, several of them from Connecticut and Massachusetts. A compilation like this has no scene to document or specific historic moment to chronicle so it stands or falls on the strength of the songs included.
A good portion of obscure or unreleased music probably deserves that status based on either poor recording quality or bad songwriting, but the Power For Passion offerings suffer from neither one. Its chock full of jittery melodic punk predominately of British style guaranteed to bring a smile to even the most jaded of punk rawkers. There’s an excitement to the tracks most of them made on the quick and financed on the money, hopes, and aspirations of rock and roll dreamers who may have fell short of making the big time but who still made their mark.
The Reducers: “Small Talk”
Stratford Survivors: “Now I Know”
The Nips: “Take Me Down”
Matcheads: “Pearl Harbor”
The Reactors: “The Dispossessed”
The Reducers: “Black Plastic Shoes”
The Headaches: “Teenage Sex”
The Silencers: “Boyfriends/Girlfriends”
The Ejectors: “Fade With The Summer”
The Foreign Objects: “You Go Home”
Butch Minds The Baby: “Natural Cause”
TV Neats: “Who’s Courting Who”
The Foreign Objects: “Plan 9”
The Headaches: “Power For Passion”
Dennis Most: “Life Can Be A Cruel Gig”
My favorites are The Reducers “Small Talk”, a very British sounding song by a band whose London connection was hailing from New London, Connecticut. A very active bass line underpins a standard kiss off lyric. The stammering beat of the Daniel Rey produced Stratford Survivors reminds me of The Alarm. “Take Me Down”, by what I assume is Shane MacGowan’s old band The Nips has one of the standout cuts rocking out much like the Undertones did on their debut album. The Reactors “The Dispossessed” is a classic punk complaint list featuring this great line, “if we hear you bitch about the sound we get we’ll turn everything up on ten.” The Reducers play some manic rockabilly thumping punk on “Black Plastic Shoes” showing some variety in their style. The Headaches from Chicago are dead ringers for Generation X. The vocals are uncanny; it’s as if they kidnapped Billy Idol. The Foreign Objects score twice on the fun scale with the Troggs meets Devo thud rock of “You Go Home” and the carnival organ propelled apocalyptic tale of “Plan 9.” The best lyric of the CD belongs to The Silencers from “Boyfriends/Girlfriends” as the Poly Styrene inflected vocalist lists a bunch of reasons against romance including “I don’t need no cheap shots below the belt, I haven’t got room for no one else”; cheap narcissism will always take you far.
Power For Passion may not deliver the “power pop” goods the CD cover promised, but it certainly comes across with sizzling punk snappers. The punk rock completist will be pleased and the young kids get a nice history lesson. I think I’ll go join The Foreign Objects and “hide in my room and play records” while I wait for “the Earth to pop like a huge zit.”
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
As I grew older my musical quest for the good depended on songs, books, and tips from friends; for example: I heard “She Digs Ornette” on the Zeitgeist (later called The Reivers) album Translate Slowly which led me to finally buy an Ornette Coleman record, Kerouac’s On The Road was filled with jazz references so I bought a Charlie Parker record, and then I met a fellow student at Middle Tennessee State University who was a jazz fanatic and upon his advice I was buying jazz from artists I had barely heard of before. While sacrificing spontaneity, this method of musical discovery does allow one to plan a methodology of listening, especially with artists that have a rich back catalog of releases you’ve never heard before. When I began to purchase Miles Davis albums I started from the beginning just to be able to approximate the impact of his evolution since I had heard enough to be familiar with his work. I did the exact opposite with John Coltrane, but there was no design intended. Like the chance moments of my youth, it just happened.
Coltrane’s Impulse recordings were being re-released on CD in the late Nineties so I started buying them as they came out. I was blown away by Coltrane’s tone and his freewheeling spiritual approach. I wasn’t surprised to learn about the church of John Coltrane: St. John’s African Orthodox Church which was organized in 1971 in San Francisco under the banner of One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body Of Christ. Coltrane’s music sometimes feels other worldly; his tenor saxophone playing singing with sharpened emotions, an invitation to the ideal humanity within all of us. His early death at the age of forty has naturally created a legendary aura about his life and his music. I could find no argument with that listening to his late Sixties output. I have since gone the systematic route working my way backward through his recordings. What do I think about Coltrane’s earlier work before his ascendancy to volatile free form genius had taken flight? Huge explosions can be started with the barest of sparks, and in Coltrane’s case he was always blazing.
My latest dip into the past is Traneing In recorded in 1957 for the Prestige label. Coltrane performs with the Red Garland Trio: Red Garland – piano, Paul Chambers – bass, and Arthur Taylor on drums. There are five tracks all produced with amazing sonic clarity by Rudy Van Gelder. Coltrane’s Prestige sides are often overlooked by casual fans and I don’t really understand why. His playing is almost without fail excellent and the musicians he performs with generally able conspirators as is the case with this release. The iconoclasm of his later work may be missing, but there are hints of it ready to be found by the intent listener. Coltrane’s warm blues inflected tone pulls at the boundaries on this release with post be-bop lyricism only a few years away.
Traneing In begins with the Coltrane composed title cut. Red Garland starts off the proceedings with a solo before Coltrane takes over slowly increasing the amount of notes until there is a river of them – a baptism of Fifties bop playing, and then Paul Chambers takes a fun bass solo at one point incorporating “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” into the mix followed by a gentle summary by Garland and Coltrane of their solo runs. “Slow Dance” is a gentle ballad with Coltrane playing the song straight with a feeling and soul any mother would love. Paul Chambers highlights “Bass Blues” also written by Coltrane. Chambers divides his time playing pizzicato and using a bow across his bass creating a flurry of excitement for the listener. Coltrane and the Red Garland Trio once again deliver an aching ballad in “You Leave Me Breathless.” The album finishes up with “Soft Lights And Sweet Music” as Coltrane gets announced by a great drum roll by Arthur Taylor before swiftly blowing a flurry of notes. It might not be the absolute best John Coltrane outing, but it makes a great addition to any jazz collection and might be the best place to start for those who want a more traditional sound.
I may not have the same innocence and naivety I had as a child. I may pursue music in an educated and tactical way. My memory bank may suffer for it, but that’s okay. The moment the needle drops or laser hits the CD of truly great music or in the case of Traneing In a truly great artist, all of the years are wiped clean and I am only in the moment which is as pure as one can get.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Man, what a great surprise it was yesterday to arrive home and see that the promo copy of AC/DC's Family Jewels DVD set had come in the mail. I put the first disc in of the Bon Scott years and it was like I had time traveled back to my adolescence. I was 14 again bouncing off the walls and singing along. I'll have a review of the set in a few weeks.
I had watched School Of Rock with oldest daughter Emmy over the weekend and she had really liked when they did "It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll) so I wondered how she would like the original version. She was instantely grooving to it. Now she's an Iggy Pop and AC/DC fan. I couldn't be more proud.
Here's the complete track listing of the 2 DVD set:
Baby Please Don't Go
It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock 'N' Roll)
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Dog Eat Dog
Let There Be Rock
Rock 'N' Roll Damnation
Fling Thing/ Rocker
Whole Lotta Rosie
Shot Down In Flames
Walk All Over You
Touch Too Much
If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
Girls Got Rhythm
Highway To Hel
Back In Black
What Do You Do For Money Honey
Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Polluction
Let's Get It Up
For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
Flick Of The Switch
Fly On The Wall
Sink The Pink
Shake Your Foundations
Who Made Who
You Shook Me All Night Long
That's The Way I Wanna Rock N Roll
Are You Ready
Approx. running time 2 & 1/2 hours
When it comes to metal the West Coast has the reputation of flash guitar, flash pots, and lots of hairspray, while the East Coast is slower, heavier, and louder. Richmond, Virginia’s RPG is the metal equivalent of a moonshiner’s stripped down transport car and no; RPG doesn’t stand for rednecks playing guitar. It’s from the military meaning rocket propelled grenade, an apt name for a group dealing in three chords, and two minute cloud of dust reductions. Watch out or you’ll get some sonic shrapnel in your ass.
RPG formed in 1999 deciding to play the kind of rock and roll they wanted to hear – really loud and simple songs. They’ve been touring the country ever since spreading a blue collar stoner work ethic touring with Zen Guerilla, GWAR, Orange Goblin, Bad Wizard, and long time friends Lamb Of God. They put out the CD Fulltime last year and it has been picked up by Arclight Records who are reissuing it along with a bonus disc DVD High Performance.
Reference points for Fulltime are the MC5, Stooges, Motorhead tempos and some Grand Funk Railroad thrown in for good measure – “Stand Still Blues” has that kind of good time party vibe. One of the best things RPG has going for it is the vocals of Matt Connor. He also plays guitar and became lead vocalist by default, and he gets by more on attitude instead of vocal chops. He slurs and drawls his way through the songs like he’s got a mouthful of chaw instead of the mouthful of gravel method so much preferred by so many metal acts these days.
Tony Brown plays bass with rock solid precision; a necessity for RPG’s punk pacing. John Partin joins Connor on the twin guitar Big Muff pedal fuzz assault. The group’s anchor is the Chief Michael Marunde who is an absolute beast on the barest minimum of drum kit. Marunde also is a highlight reel of his own in the High Performance DVD proving that the drummer is the craziest person in the band cliché is not dead.
Some highlights of Fulltime include “Untuck It” which reminds me a little of Texas metal band Young Heart Attack, “Paralyzed” since it shows that RPG do know that such a thing as dynamics exists, and “Early ‘72” with its AC/DC like riff which also features some sweet guitar licks doubling the melody of the song. The disc clocks in less than 30 minutes so nothing ever grows tiresome. It’s a punk metal ethos that is pure compared to the punk metal crossover sound from the late Eighties.
RPG is loud, long haired, and probably on drugs if the High Performance DVD is accurate. They play the kind of music mothers used to call dangerous back in my youth. It’s probably even more dangerous in today’s music scene of studio perfection pop and fake rebellion. The danger is that they rock. Be sure and go see them when they come to your town.
Spring tour dates:
MAR 19 S Austin, TX @ Headhunter's
MAR 20 S Little Rock, AK @ Juanita's Cantina Ballroom w/ ATP, RWAKE
MAR 21 M Birmingham, AL @ The Nick w/ ATP
MAR 22 T Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero w/ ATP
MAR 23 W Hickory, NC @ Wizard Saloon w/ ATP
MAR 24 R Greensboro, NC @ Ace's Basement w/ ATP
Thurs 21-Apr Columbus, OH The Revari Room
Friday 22-Apr Chicago, IL The Note
Sat 23-Apr Lawrence, KS
Sun 24-Apr Ft Collins, CO
Mon 25-Apr Denver, CO
Tues 26-Apr Salt Lake City, UT Burt's Tiki Lounge
Weds 27-Apr off
Thurs 28-Apr Seattle, WA The Catwalk Club
Friday 29-Apr Tacoma, WA Hell's Kitchen
Sat 30-Apr Portland, OR
Sun 1-May Arcata, CA 330 Club
Mon 2-May off
Tues 3-May San Francisco, CA Hemlock Tavern
Weds 4-May Glendale, CA The Scene
Thurs 5-May Los Angeles, CA 1269 Warehouse Party
Friday 6-May San Diego, CA Scolari's
Sat 7-May Phoenix, AZ
Sun 8-May Albuquerque, NM Atomic Cantina
Mon 9-May Denton, TX Rubbergloves
Tues 10-May San Antonio, TX Tacoland
Weds 11-May Austin, TX Emos
Thurs 12-May Houston, TX Rudyards
Friday 13-May New Orleans, LA
Sat 14-May Atlanta, GA Star Bar
Monday, March 07, 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
My brushes with French culture include narrowly getting out of French class my sophomore year of high school (I ditched it every day for two weeks until they placed me in German), reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, following the Tour de France every year, and viewing most of Truffaut’s films. I’ve never even met a French person, but I’m sure they exist. The media still runs stories about how they can’t stand the U.S. and why would the media ever want to make up enemies? I recall the story about Henry Ford II saying “I don’t like frog tires” after being told that one of his executives had put Michelin tires on a Mustang. So the animosity between our cultures is long lived, which is downright funny considering they helped us get free of the British and then our revolution inspired their own. If only old Henry could have heard Les Terribles blasting out of the Michelin wheeled Mustang, maybe his opinion of the French would have been better. This new Dionysus label release is pretty heavy on the French version of British Invasion era rock and roll, unless it’s just a joke perpetrated on your dear reviewer.
It is laid on a bit thick. A big Recorded In France emblazoned on the disc. The members are listed as chant – Rudie, guitare 1 – Fred, guitare 2 – Nicus, basse – Ivan, and batterie – Michel. That’s vocals, guitar 1, guitar 2, bass, and drums for you non-French speaking folks out there. Now how could a good old boy from Tennessee figure that out when he never went to French class? Well there is a French Broad just down Interstate – 40. It’s a river, not a woman so get your mind out of the gutter. I also used to know some Cajuns and they could cuss a black and blue streak of crazy patois. The members of Les Terribles are said to have come together after playing with Dutronic, Operation 5, No Talents, Wangs, and Les Synapses. All of the dudes, except for Rudie who’s a girl, look like Roy Orbison crossed with Dee Dee Ramone. The music is crude Sixties high treble hooks and ladders that doesn’t surrender to today’s fashions. It clings to the fuselage of backbeat British Spitfire raucous and roll.
The vocals are definitely French. Which is the only thing holding this back from garage band status. It’s not because I can’t understand what in the heck it is Rudie’s singing about most of the time. I love Bossa Nova and Samba and the words have no literal meaning for me, but they do sound good. The best songs on Les Terribles work despite being in French, but this does mean that you have to accept this album on its terms. You can’t look at it as mere novelty. Even the two instrumentals are in French you know.
Highlights of the disc are the jittery “Sauvages et cadides”, “Pourquot je pleure?” features a sharp bridge section, and “Tes yeux” with its syncopated kinky going to a go-go dancing in a steel cage vibe. “Trop sage” is a nice rollicking chugger of a tune – yes I can play like the Yardbirds and Stones, I think I can, I think I can indeed – that makes me think of trains. “Chante” is “I Can Only Give You Everything” in disguise. Les Terribles cover the Kinks with “La nuit le jour” in smashing fashion – best cover of the Kinks since The Pop did “I Need You”. ..and I bet you thought I was going to have the obligatory Van Halen reference. “Rosbeef attack” and “Froggies strike back” are the aforementioned instrumentals and there are hundreds of more songs included for a total of 14 tracks (math was never my strong subject) that rock with abandon.
Les Terribles might not change your life, but maybe they can have the same impact on American high school French classes that Nena’s “99 Luftballons” had on my high school German class. Translation: lots of kids will be learning Les Terribles songs for extra credit. I just hope that if Les Terribles makes a video that Rudie shaves her armpits. Poor Nena sure caught hell from my German class back then for being natural.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
With the sticky feet patter and a powerkiss
On a window in the morning it was cool breeze & Christmas"
Inane and absurd they may read, the lyrics from “Powerkiss” above when coupled with The Katies’ music, a peculiar superior blend of power pop was announced to a world in 1999 that either didn’t get the chance or didn’t want to hear. The Katies were described as being part Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Nirvana – a valid statement putting brand names to their mix of power pop, heavy classic rock, and grunge. That blend of styles may be one of the reasons why their self-titled debut album sank into the immense sea of annual releases destined for anonymity and commercial oblivion. Mike Love was infamous for his desire that The Beach Boys stick to their formula – girls, cars, and surf – and he was probably right in the narrow commercial sense. The Katies formula was a recipe for confusing the type of music consumers likely to drive an album to gold status. The Katies were too heavy for those who like their rock soft and too soft for those who wanted their rock and roll heavy. Perhaps Elektra Records didn’t put up enough cash or spend enough energy promoting the band. It could have just been that The Katies sounded a lot like The Posies who had beat them to the marketplace. There was also the matter that the “J” word was used in a couple of the songs on the debut – Jesus has a way of scaring away leather clad rockers. This commercial response was a shame because The Katies deserved better than oblivion.
It’s this very oblivion that does guarantee the album its “lost classic” status and undoubtedly plays a role in the appeal to my more snobbish rock critic standards. But that’s not the only thing going on here. The real draw is the music which when played live was raw, raucous, and ramshackle, but in the studio achieves a shine and sonic clarity – a power trio with all its parts gleaming. The Katies were comprised of two brothers: Jason Moore on vocals and guitars and Josh Moore on drums. Gary Welch played bass and brought much of the heavy rock appeal to the band. What more could one expect from a guy with an Angus Young tattoo on one arm and Malcolm on the other. He composed the hardest rocker, “Noggin Poundin’” and it’s a good one even if the line about being “tongue tied and under spoken” could use a little work. “Powerkiss” puts the template into place – the beginning and prototype for the whole album – with huge drums and quick rhythm leading to moderately paced sing song verse and chorus moments filled up with the angelic voice of Jason Moore. “Shiseido” is one of the songs that drop the Jesus bomb in the lyrics along with “Jesus Pick”, but it’s the product of growing up in a South heavily infused with Christian spirituality and not formulaic Contemporary Christian proselytizing. Another highlight is the yearning “Drowner” with its protagonist wanting to be a drowner being saved by his lover.
During The Katies brief run at rock stardom, they did attract a small but rabid group of fans so a Katies website is still maintained with music downloads of their unreleased tracks free to the public. The thunderous grunge pop may be silent now, but their sound is as fresh today as it was six years ago. Fans of power pop should search their one official release out – it was going for mere pennies at Amazon the last time I looked. You won’t be disappointed with its earthquaking catchiness.