Wednesday, November 30, 2005

CD Review: The Invisible Eyes - Laugh In The Dark

The Invisible Eyes say their music is like a caveman riding in a spaceship. It's an apt description from a hypnotic quartet of rock and roll primitives whose debut has just been released on the Bomp label. Laugh In The Dark features straight out of the garage sonics recorded at Egg Studios by Conrad Uno. The operative phrase here is not "more cowbell" but "more fuzz" please. The Invisible Eyes are a potent mixture of Sixties beat, blues, and psychedelia.

Aubrey Nehring is the guitarist and vocalist. Ian Barnett helps stabilize the entropy on bass. Adam Svenson pounds the drums. Janet Hurt plays the keys in such a way as to suggest that Shirley Scott and Ray Manzarek once had a love child. It all mind melds together with such protean ease you'll know that the link to the primordial ooze and clamor of our past is but a short one. Unfettered joy awaits fans of troglodyte stomp with this album.

There are 16 tracks in all and while there are some slight ones there's nary a bad one to be found. Some of them do stand out a little bit more than their brethren songs. The raver "No Words" pumps around with enough swagger to make an arterio-sclerotic go-go dancer cry. There's a blues heavy heart behind "Don't Wanna Go" that will have you reaching for another beer since you'll have shed a tear into the one you were drinking.

"Mother Of Mystery" hits all the right notes while leaving me thirsty for some burning wine. Maybe I need to listen to the lyrics again. Nehring lets loose with a wah-wah pedal on "Long Way" and it attacks Hurt's keys in an echoing hypno-groovetastic crescendo of hyperventilating melody and noise that reveals the potentate nature of The Invisible Eyes. Give them purple velvet and crown jewels post haste. Then on the final song of the record they flip it all around for "That Old Song..." with its folkie wail showing there's more to this bunch than just fuzztone and carnival organ sounds.

So find your inner caveman and take a ride with The Invisible Eyes. The trip is spacesuit optional, but don't forget to bring your dancing shoes. Laugh In The Dark is a blast.

Stolen Pony

Sigh, I wish somebody would bring the stolen pony back soon.

Liam & Harp

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"Paranoid" - It's not a happy song!

VH1 was re-broadcasting the UK Music Hall Of Fame Sunday night and the Soulfish wife starting watching it when she noticed some old footage of The Kinks. Soon I joined her and saw the Pink Floyd induction and Black Sabbath one. Then the mighty original line up of Sabbath performed "Paranoid" and what little bit of my teenage angst I had left crumbled to dust. It wasn't the specatacle of 50 year old men rocking out. Since the young kids seem more inclined to steal old songs and recycle them as hip hop trash somebody needs to rock out; it might as well be the senior citizens of the world. What did me in was shots of the audience clapping their hands with glee and Ozzy exhorting them to do it some more.

It would make me beyond happy to see Black Sabbath live. I would probably applaud them too. But I don't think I would be smiling like an oblivious idiot during their show. Their name isn't Black Sabbath for kicks. The music is ominous, loud, and dark and the lyrics to the songs are the same. Somebody remarked (I believe it was Tommy Lee) that they were the opposite of the fun and the sun Beach Boys so why was the UK audience acting like they were at a beach party? "Paranoid" is not a fun, hand clapping song.

Here's what Lester Bangs had to say about it from the June 1972 issue of Creem in an article titled "Bring Your Mother To The Gas Chamber":

People are strange, when you're a stranger. It's a melodrama of alienation, just as "Paranoid" is a terse, chillingly accurate description of the real thing, when you suddenly find that you've somehow skidded just a fraction out of the world as you have and other still do perceive it. "Paranoid" renders perfectly the clammy feeling of knowing that at this point there is absolutely no one on the planet to whom you can make yourself understood or be helped by. All alone, like a real rolling stone; it's no wonder in such circumstances that the imagination might get a little hairy, and turn to dreams of science-fiction revenge. I've felt the arctic wedge of disjuncture myself at one time and another, stuck in the painful place where you can only send frozen warnings cross the borderline and those inevitably get distorted. Because they've captured it so well Black Sabbath means a lot to me and a lot of my friends for "Paranoid" alone.

So lets all clap our hands like we're at a party okay? I don't think so. Maybe I can't find true happiness or perhaps I'm blind, but shouldn't such a chilling tune have a chilling effect?

The very fact that they were being enshrined should have sent little prickles of danger through me. And yesterday it was announced that Black Sabbath would be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame along with Miles Davis, Sex Pistols, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Blondie; all artists that I love. And I wonder whether they are being enshrined for their art or that were able to turn rebellion and iconoclasm into money better than others.

Because that's what it all comes down to: selling fantasy worlds to teenagers. There's this idealistic vision of rock stars being tortured artists being exploited by the huge corporations that release their music, but I don't doubt for a minute that those artists don't exploit the market on purpose themselves. I bet they sit in boardrooms with the record executives plotting ways to capture a certain demographic. If you believe otherwise you're either a deluded romantic who hasn't grown up or you're a kid. After all; I bought Black Sabbath's Paranoid album at Wal-Mart. I was probably 14 years old.

Maybe the people at the UK show had it right after all. To them "Paranoid" isn't a great piece of rock and roll art. It was only a product used to sell the Black Sabbbath brand and it was big hit which meant lots of people made lots of money off it. Whatever meaning the lyrics and song possessed were ripped from it the minute it left the pressing plant because it's only music. Music to be bought and sold. Which is what those vapid faced rock and roll careerists clapping their hands signifies. It's just great music. But when I was 14 that music meant something beyond the confines of the everyday.

I bought into the fantasy world those cocaine snorting sharks in their record label satin jackets were selling. I gave my money, my time, and a lifestyle to it. And I've found it was an ephemeral thing. There is an expiration date on it. They'll try to convince you there isn't with all of the repackaged CD's and classic rock radio stations. It's a wonderful thing when groups like The Eagles reunite and milk their fans for all they can. Those fans love it too. I guess it's the chance to bask in the glow of your youth once again.

But I don't want to bask. I want the music I love to be timeless. I want it to be a well of inspiration or consolation (and sometimes I just want it to rock) that I can return to time and again. It's a shock to realize that the well is poisoned and much of the meaning and significance I've afforded things is a debilitated one. I should clap my hands and be happy. But I can't. Why should I? It's not like I'd have to worry about people thinking I'm insane because I'm frowning all the time.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ahh, Sweet Boredom

Thanksgiving was fairly dismal as expected. Lunch at the in-laws was terrible. There was no chance of me gaining weight that day. Luckily nobody was hurt when the pyrex container of dressing exploded. It had been placed on an unlit stove burner that somebody then decided to turn on. I didn't see it from my perch in the living room, but I heard it make a nice pop. And no, I wasn't the one that turned the stove on. It ruined what my wife said was the best dressing she had ever made, but I never eat dressing so I can't vouch for it one way or the other.

I went home by myself after the meal since my neck and shoulder were giving me fits. They'd been hurting ever since I had spent Monday night and all of Tuesday sick in bed. Left to my own devices I watched a little of the Legacy DVD release of To Kill A Mockingbird which I got a week or so ago, but I found myself dozing off so a full investigation of the contents would have to wait. Once I figured out I wasn't going to be able to get a real nap in (when I moved I woke up because of pain) I puttered around listening to some old cassettes. Then I decided that I should re-read the novel To Kill A Mockingbird because I had forgotten some things from it. When you name one of your children Harper Lee you really shouldn't be forgetting things from that book.

The Soulfish wife was still suffering from the virus that Emmy brought from school so when she got home she made the girls peanut butter sandwiches and went to bed. I fed Liam and gave him a bath and then hit the couch myself. I watched Daddy Daycare with the girls. They enjoyed the movie immensely, especially when the kid poops all over the bathroom.

After they went to bed I had the living room to myself so I watched some television aimlessly until I noticed that TCM was showing Shenandoah. I had never seen the film starring James Stewart, but I knew that it featured Phillip Alford (who played Jem in To Kill A Mockingbird) and I was curious to see him in his only other cinematic role. Soon I was captured by the storyline of a father and his family trying to stay neutral during the Civil War. It made the pain in my shoulder and neck go away for a brief while.

Saturday was my birthday and I happened to feel miserable wondering if the pain in my neck and shoulder were perhaps age related. We drove to Murfreesboro to have lunch at my mother's and was surprised to find my second cousin Freddy's mother there with Frankie. Frankie is Freddy's five year old kid so Em and Harp were excited to have somebody new to play with.

It was slightly surreal watching my kids play in the backyard with Frankie. I spent so many Saturdays and summer days playing Hot Wheels with Freddy when we were little, going to the skating rink as junior high kids, and then playing lots of basketball during the high school years before losing touch with each other and here were our kids repeating the cycle.

We got home and I thought the girls might like The Goonies since it was on television. The oldest one got bored with it, but the youngest girl took the opportunity to stay up until 9:30 and watched it with me. I used to really like the movie, but I found it very annoying Saturday. Why does every child character in the movie scream all the time? Almost all of the dialogue consists in yelling out the obvious. It's a case of the Hollywood blockbuster overblown syndrome.

Sunday was as dull as could be and that was good. Even my neck and shoulder pain had been dulled. The wife got the Christmas tree put up with the help of our kids and the two girls down the street. I figured that would be a disaster, but they actually did help.

Then I recorded a new tune to send out as part of my free song deal. And the weekend was over. And while it wasn't all gravy, I'm thankful as can be. Boredom can be nice you know.

Look for some reviews of the latest Bomp records releases soon among other things.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Sickies

Thanksgiving is just a day away and it's ruined. The entire Soulfish clan is either sick, getting sick, getting over being sick, or at least thinking about one or the other. It started Saturday night with Em ralphing all over her bed. I thought she might have just been car sick since we had taken a road trip along the winding highway 56, but by Sunday we knew she had a bug. Monday she was back to normal, but by 8:30pm I was done for: the bug had leaped to me. So wipe away a day and a half for me. I'm recovered from that, but the sore neck I got last week is back with a times two vengeance. By 10:00pm Tuesday the wife and Liam had decided to party with the viral infection. At this point we're thinking Thanksgiving may still be saved, but Em had to wake up this morning even sicker than before so the locale of the celebration, which was to have been at our home, has been moved to the in-laws which means dry turkey city if we can even get well enough to go. Of course, that's the benefit of a family - you all go through everything together. Middle child Harper has announced that she's not getting sick and so far she has managed just that proving once more that she is the most independent and toughest of our bunch.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Scots and Boondocks

Is it weird that my Sunday night viewing was The Boondocks and Tartan TV? In one show you have granpa dating a garden tool and in the other you got a documentary on the opening of a new parliament building. I'll leave it to you to guess which show was which.

Feats Of Strength

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and while I love the holiday, especially since my birthday happens either on it or around it every year. This year my birthday is on Saturday so how about clicking on my wishlist and getting me something good. But another holdiday is right around the bend. No, I'm talking about Christmas, it's Festivus time, that fun time of the year when we get to air grievances and compete in the Feats Of Strength. And to think, it all began from a father trying to buy his son a doll. There's even a Festivus blog.

CD Review: Toxic Shock - Die Next!

Die Next! by Toxic Shock sounds like what would have happened if The Dickies had been from Texas and been fronted by Michael Quercio of the Three O'Clock. Reputed band members: Johnny Now was the guitarist, Sue Side played bass and contributed vocals, drums were handled by Chris Dubbins, and the band was led by guitarist/vocalist Lance Savage. Real names might not be proof and there's some debate about whether these four separate people ever actually existed providing an Archies type mystery to the band almost as captivating as fellow Texan Jandek, but the music is sonic proof enough that if Toxic Shock is just the case of a musical Svengali having some fun we should feel lucky for it. Cavedweller Records roducer Randy Elliott could be the one pulling the strings, but he's not saying anything other than the band can be reached through his website San Jose Vision.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Toxic Shock is that their music is the result of a misguided intital comprehension of what punk rock was supposed to be. They though it was supposed to be raw, fast, loud, and about death. So you get 4 songs with death or dead in the title and several more where the reaper puts in an appearance. What's intriguing is that this fixation is not crass, macabre, or disgusting. There is a Shaggs like innocence behind the tales of terror within. There are some serious parts, but most of the tunes come off with a spirit of fun and naivete only the true beginner would have. It's fresh and disarming especially with several attempts at R.E.M. jangle pop included.

The album begins with the ominous spoken word into to "Black Death" before launching into some two chord thrash rock. Songs about the plague just never go out of style do they? "Voodoo Village" recalls Idiot era Iggy. Disappointment and heartbreak are almost as bad as death so there are two versions of "She Was The Girl" included; the second is an unlisted bonus track recorded live in Europe on the Wicked Witch Tour that may or may not have ever happened. The "live" version is the better one with all of the pop pretension drained out it. "No Quarter" is what you get on a song that showcases Toxic Shock's surf and destroy type thrash.

"Tombs Of The Blind Dead" is based on the Italian horror film of the same name. It gets a little grisly since Betty gets eaten alive by some hungry zombies. The aggro "Death Merchants" is based on a soldier's t-shirt who had just returned from war. The song "Bone Circus" resembles nothing less than second album Meat Puppets. The original version of "Black Death" is also included along with the bonus, bouncy, jangle pop cut of "Don't Wanna Be Here". The best song on the album has to be "Dead Til Proven Alive" which features the lament of a high school age hermit whose parents are concerned because he doesn't want to go out on dates or do the standard high school age things. Some people are just late bloomers and "Dead Til Proven Alive" takes this to heart in much the same way as the lyrics to Bowie's "Changes" do. Toxic Shock are quite aware of what you're going through.

It really doesn't matter whether Toxic Shock exists as a real band or is just the fantasy of somebody down in Texas. Rock and roll in general is a fantasy world filled with dream peddlers with most of us looking to escape anywhere from 3 minutes at a time to longer if we're in the mood to listen to an entire album. Die Next! provides just such an escape.

Bubblegum Finking

Once I put a link on the sidebar I don't usually call attention to it again, but in Bubblegum Fink's case I think I should. He's added a slew of contributors to the blog and it's exploding with even more bubblegummy goodness these days. It's a must visit every day if you like pop culture ephemera.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I wasn't ever that big a fan of Aquaman or DC Comics in general. I was a Marvel fan, which means I'd take Prince Namor The Submariner over Aquaman any day. But a recent article at Retrocrush has me thinking I really should try to find some of the old Aquaman comics and give him a try. The article is an appreciation of Aquaman and a diatribe against those who have tried to remake the character into something more adult. Try this excerpt on for size: I felt it necessary to write this article because the problem with Aquaman is really reflective of a larger problem in our culture. We are constantly leaping forward without first looking back.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

22 Songs In 32 Days

I bought an electric guitar and amplifier in 1989. I taught myself how to play by listening to Ramones records. I was the "singer" in a band called The Dislocated when I got the guitar. Singer is in quotation marks because I couldn't really sing. I still don't think I'm much in that department, just the other side of horrible really. I wrote the lyrics to The Dislocated songs, but I was also wanting to write some music. Before the band split I had learned enough to write lyrics and music to "Hippie Bus" and "What Do You Want From Me" and I almost felt like a real musician.

This led to further exploits in the land of music which I've chronicled here before. The last gig I played was in January of 1998 with Jimmy Cunningham and Bret Wilkinson from Jack backing me up as The Most. I had always planned on The Most becoming a real power pop band, but I never really pursued finding others to back me full time. I kept writing songs even if I wasn't going to be playing them live. I recorded rough demos of them on a cheap 4 track and I've shared them with a few people.

Now I want to share my songs with you, the loyal Soulfish Stew reader, in an unprecedented (perhaps) internet event I'm calling 22 Songs In 32 Days. What I'm proposing is this: I will send you 22 songs over the course of 32 days beginning November 21st. They will be in the mp3 format. The novelty of this event is that I will record each song the night before I send it to you. So sonically they're not going to be all that special. And I don't have a drum kit so don't expect many beats. Some will just be me and an acoustic guitar. But they will be guaranteed to have been done just the night before.

There will be a mix of some of my old material re-done, newer stuff I've yet to record, and at least 3 songs I haven't even made up yet. The style will veer from power pop to punk and somewhere in between. After 32 days you'll have enough of my stuff to make your very own CD that you can either play for pleasure or use to get annoying people to leave your room.

Why am I doing this? It might be simple narcissism or just the impulse to throw my songs out there to see if they can make it out there in the cold, cruel world. I could say it has everything to do with sharing my creativity and artistic nature, but I hate that sort of talk in addition to not being able to believe it if I said it. I don't even consider myself a musician. That's something far more talented people than me are. Ultimately sharing the songs comes down to this: it's something fun to do and hopefully it will bring some fun to you too.

So if you want to get 22 Songs In 32 Days just send me an email and I'll put you on the list of recipients. If you're an old friend of mine I've probably already got you down so you might want to send me an email asking me to let you off. Ha-ha! wallybangs AT hotmail dudes and dudettes!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The South's Gonna' Do It Again

Well, it's been 140 years since The War Between The States (only Yankees call it the Civil War) ended and the South's gonna finally get its revenge as Big & Rich hit NYC on the CMA Awards Show. I know it's harsh and probably more than the North deserves, but here's hoping Big & Rich get captured so Nashville won't have to put up with them or their Musik Mafia again.

Tin Tub Bucket

No posts the last few days because: I wrecked a car Saturday which was fairly depressing and mildly traumatic. So I didn't have the time nor the inclination to write the music reviews I had planned. After 11:00AM I spent the rest of the weekend trying to get control of a sloppy house figuring it was the one area of my life that should be in control, unlike a highway in which another driver can decide to make a left into your lane with no indication that this is about to take place. Then I got the new Oxford American in the mail so I read the article on the painter Carroll Cloar and felt like I met up with a long lost relative. His paintings were a time portal for me and it was like I was a child growing up all over again during the many barefoot North Mississippi summers (never mind that his locale was Arkansas)I spent visiting my grandmother who lived in a house almost identical to this one painted by Cloar.
Her house had no air conditioning. No television. Just a radio-clock that could only pick up the local Ripley, MS country station. It had a bathroom, but for some reason the bathtub leaked so it became a home of boxes of mason jars and spiderwebs. The bathroom was tiny and cramped and lit by a naked light bulb with a pull string. The window in the room was boarded up and you always hoped the light bulb would work during the night as you wouldn't want to get stuck in the dark with the spiders. Without a bathtub we had to bathe in a big tin tub bucket in the middle of the kitchen and dining area where your relatives would wander the whole time. It was embarrasing to say the least, but a cold dip in the tin tub wasn't too bad after a day when the temperatures easily hit a hundred degrees.

The house in Cloar's painting probably had 4 rooms. That's all that in my grandmother's place. The living room doubled as her bedroom. She wouldn't sleep in the real bedroom which was stuffed with a bed, a dresser, and mountains of junk. Then there was a kitchen and dining area combo. She had a washer in there too, maybe even a dryer (all I remember is clothes being hung on the line in the back yard). And then the little bathroom. Here's a peek into the kitchen.

By the time I came along, the little table would be replaced by a huge freezer. The door to the bathroom would be gone, replaced by a sheet creating a hall where the washer was before a new door to the bathroom that never opened properly was placed.

I know this post is getting sentimental, but sentiment is not a bad thing. I will dare to utter what sounds like a cliche - for such a small house, there was alot of love there. And on a day like last Saturday I was in need of some love and my memories triggered by Carroll Cloar's art were the first salvo back against the chaos that life was throwing. My own loving family took care of the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2005

CD Review: Western Addiction - Cognicide

"Nil by mouth with prophetic paint" - Western Addiction

It's true that you can think something to death which is what the title, Cognicide, of Western Addiction's new album means. Punk rock often veers between extremes of too much thinking and too little. Western Addiction straddles the fence both musically and lyrically while recalling the greatest hardcore punk of the past. The song "The Church Of Black Flag" isn't on the album for nothing.

Cognicide takes me back to those days when I first started going to punk shows. I was just a young suburban dope on punk scared and thrilled at the same time venturing into the middle of a slam dance at a Circle Jerks show. It was sparsely attended, but I was in awe of the punks milling at the front of the stage. Leather jackets, died hair, mohawks, and Doc Martens stood in stark contrast to my jeans and a tee-shirt. The opening band was some high school kids who made up for their lack of ability by their intensity. Then the Circle Jerks came on and delivering a ripping set of hardcore punk and goofball metal. Western Addiction recalls that era of the 80's well.

"Charged Words" opens the record with a wallop that you should get used to because there's no let up. Revel in the fun noise and paranoia of "Mailer, Meet Jim" which has the timely lyric line "so forget husbandry and no more baking bread, one careless crow and now I'm f**king infected." There'll be no striking a pose with "We Tech Supported A Manipulator" and "Incendiary Minds" channels Greg Ginn in its intro. "It's Funny, I Don't Feel Like A Winner" is a slamming stomper that should inspire some black eye mosh pits worldwide. "Matrons Of The Canals" has a groovy intro that has an ominous Dead Kennedys vibe. Most songs begin ponderously slow until exploding into vehement shards of melody among the noise.

Western Addiction bear a reverence to the past without falling victim to mere homage or parody. If you thought great punk was no longer happening. That it had only become something you could buy at a Hot Topic store, think again. Cognicide is right up there with with some of the best punk albums ever recorded.

business on top

and party on the back! Mother Tongue Annoyances has a nice piece on the ever denigrated mullet haircut today. I may have let my hair grow to my shoulders once during the 90's...I resembled Sammy Hagar, but I never rocked a mullet. Now, old pal Gonz was always treading dangerously close to a mullet look during its heyday, but he had nothing on our munchkin friend Crick. Dude could rock a serious blond mullet that would blow in the wind as he drove his Pontiac LeMans (or was it a Bonneville?) down the road after school.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

CD Review: Mad Science Fair - ...For A Better Tomorrow

What if I'm just too pooped to power pop? Mad Science Fair is the latest power pop / hard rock band to cross the threshold into my house and it's either due to the onset of Epstein-Barr or that Mad Science Fair just isn't all that good to blame for the disinterest and boredom I find whenever I cue up For A Better Tomorrow on the CD shuffle machine.

Mike Clayton formerly of Hot Glue Gun is the man behind the band. The album is produced by Adam Schmitt who has released his own share of underrated power pop gems himself. The label is Mud which is being distributed by Parasol. The ingredients promise crunchy melodies and rousing choruses. Song titles fit the bill: "All I Do Is Wrong", "Shot On Sight", "Retro Anthem", and "Green Day vs. Weezer" will entice you to hear them.

After you hear them you start to wonder about the group's chance of winning a prize at the science fair of rock, mad or not. "No Room For Error" leads off well even while siphoning off more Foo Fighters than Beatles. The Posies's influence is all over "All I Do Is Wrong" making it the standout track. Then the album heads off into mid-tempo adult alternative land; a place I always find unhospitable. A song called "Retro Anthem" should have a huge guitar sound and rousing choruses, but the song strikes a middling pose early and carries it through to the end.

The song title "Green Day vs. Weezer" had me thinking the tune would be novel and fun. Instead it's more medium paced plodding with a refrain of "We're getting older, we're getting older" that hints of some generational struggle going on in Clayton's head. Just come and say which side you're on. "Leave Me Alone" has the cold appeal of The Cars if they were on steroids going for it, but we all know what steroids does to certain body parts.

I wish that Mad Science Fair would just let it loose once and rock out with some abandon approaching enthusiasm. For A Better Tomorrow is too studied and sterile to convince me or inspire me. Maybe next time Mad Science Fair can posit a future where rock and roll can still touch a primal nerve and prove that power pop can rock

Raisin Box Lore

I really like raisins. I eat them for a snack at work most every afternoon. My Sun-Maid raisins box bears this advice on its lid: Don't get lost, get directions. I'll have to think about that. I'm heading full speed toward 39 thinking and so it begins: the mid-life crisis. There's a deep urge to recalculate, reevaluate, and restate various facets of my life; box up the books, the records, and compact discs, throw out my closet and start anew. Flip everything around and see how it stands just to face facts: odds are good that half my life is over. Done. Finished. The choices are multi-plex multiple screenings with elements of reversion and conversion all vying for my attention. And then Liam learns how to say "yum". Harper gets a goal in her last soccer game of the year. Emmy gets all A's on her 1st grade report card. The Soulfish wife looks more beautiful than ever. I receive an email out of the blue complimenting this blog. Jones Violet finds herself singing a song I wrote. So the mid-life crisis comes to a halt before it does much damage. Though I still have a nagging compulsion to buy a red car.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

CD Review: Lagwagon - Resolve

The latest release by Lagwagon is tough to critique. Resolve is a bitter pill full of emotional lows and musical highs. Skate punk's ebullience meets real world tragedy. This isn't just about crashing at the bottom of the vertical in a snake run bowl session. It's a thematic and dramatic meditation on the suicide of Lagwagon's original drummer Derrick Plourde. That it doesn't resort to Afterschool Special crassness or devolve into mere exploitation is a credit to Lagwagon, but Resolve's biggest hurdle in listening enjoyment is that the final work of art becomes very hard to separate from the final act that was its inspiration. As the name of the lead off track says, this is "Heartbreaking Music."

A line like "But I wish I were as smart as you I could have changed your mind" is as blunt as it can be and the musical juxtaposition becomes even more forceful accompanied by backing that wouldn't have been out of place on an early All album. "Automatic" manages to be uplifting with its defense of the mundane sharpened by Joey's vocal on the verses which recall the clipped anguish of Kurt Cobain either by coincidence or on purpose. Despair and love run circles throughout the album. The wondering, the questioning, and the eulogizing are not held back. There's straight up melodic punk like "Runs In The Family" to the impetuous thrash of "Rager" to the dynamic groove of "Infectious" all encapsulated by the same grieving spark.

Resolve might be tough for the millions who love Lagwagon to take. Joey even eludes to this on the last song "Days Of New" where he mentions "the mushy shit that people sing" knowing that one man's catharsis is another's sentimental wail, but most will surely not resist such a sincere coming to grips. It's a tribute both to the departed and to the present. Resolve is available through Fat Wreck Chords and all finer independent record stores.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Missed Posting Picks

Since I missed posting my college football predictions last week due to my back trouble I've decided to pull the plug on this season and just accept my final record of 55-35 picking winners and 35-55 picking against the spread. It seems like a nice symmetrical finale. If you liked the college predictions posts you can always go visit Vindy's Picks.

Bad Back

I've been out of commission since Wednesday with a bad back. It's no fun when you can't walk due to back spasms. I reinjured a lower back muscle that had incapacitated me for 5 days 3 years ago. All it took was a twist the wrong way. So that's why I've not been posting. I'm back on my feet again so the posts should commence again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Stiffs

When punk rock met Victorian dress The Stiffs were formed. They were also known as Stiffs Incorporated. Some of their early singles are posted for your listening delight. Just crank up the Victrola.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Halloween Past

I know this will raise the ire of the Soulfish wife who often accuses me of wallowing in the past like a hog in a mudhole; here's an essay I wrote about Halloween for Goblinhaus last year. It's about the last time I went trick or treating as a kid and the November 1st that followed.

There comes a time in life when you have to give up certain things. Trick or treating is one of these things. Sure, I go with my daughters (and Liam went this year) now, but I'm not actively pursuing tricks or treats. Teenagers going from house to house are usually sad kids trying to hold onto the past or obnoxious jerks trying to greedily grab more candy than the little kids. Teenagers exist in a prolonged liminal state, liminal meaning in between. They're not adults, yet they shouldn't act like children.

The autumn of 1980 saw me in the same situation. I was 13 years old. I wouldn't play with my Hot Wheels cars in public, but I had mighty drag races inside my home. My parents wouldn't let me cross the main highway on my bicycle, but I would anyways. I was too old to trick or treat, but I was too young to go out with the older guys who were going to camp out in the local cemetery. The evening began with no clue as to how it would turn out. What proceeds is an attempt to capture a little of the flavor of that night 24 (now 25) years ago.

My best friend Jay was going out rolling houses and then he was going to spend the night in the cemetery. I was so jealous of him and mad at my parents for not letting me go. I was determined I was going to have some fun. The evening grew darker and I started walking around the neighborhood. I hooked up with two other friends and we started telling ghost stories. At some point we decided we would soap some windows. We get to the first house when the owner sees us and invites us up to her porch.

Even though none of us were dressed up, she gave us candy. We didn't soap her windows and then the very same thing happened at the next home. We decided to go home, do what we could for costumes, and go trick or treating after all. I rushed home, grabbed two baseball hats and a scarf to become Sherlock Holmes. My two friends put on some camouflage face paint and we were off to beg for candy.

It wasn't long and we all had bags full of candy. We expected some of the houses to turn us away because we teenagers, but everywhere we went we were greeted with affection. I believe that most of the smaller kids went to different neighborhoods. Maybe the folks on our street were just lonely. Or maybe they knew we weren't going to be throwing toilet paper into their trees that night. That was what Halloween was about for most kids our age.

The night grew cool with a hint of rain in the air. The leaves crunched underfoot as we wandered from yard to yard hoping we could see a ghost before we went in for the night. We were sure the older guys were living it up at the grave yard. Our parents began to holler for each of us. It might not have been the most exciting Halloween in history. We were probably too old to have been going door to door begging for candy. But it felt right. It was a last sweet taste of innocence for us.

The next morning was a sunny Saturday. My cousin Freddy came to visit me. We took a walk around the neighborhood to see if anybody had rolled it anywhere. It was a pretty clean place. Most of the activity had been on the other side of town where the cemetery was located. At one house we discovered some unused rolls of toilet paper. I guess somebody had been planning to use them, but chickened out. Since the people in the house were gone, Freddy and I decided to try our hand at rolling in broad daylight.

We did a bang up job. The trees were filled when we finished. We had enough to make toilet paper bunting along their fence. The mail box got a very nice display of white bows and a couple of empty tubes in the box. It was an odd way to spend November 1st. Nobody seemed to notice us and if they did they didn't care. We'd run and hide behind the house when a car drove by. We got the exhilaration of Halloween in the bright of day. And I wouldn't trick or treat until I had kids.

CD Review: The Amino Acids - ...Destroy The Warming Sun!

The Amino Acids say they are influenced by Black Sabbath and Dick Dale. Their music has sometimes been described as surf-gore and they are part of that wacky bunch The Church Of The SubGenius. They also claim to have been sent from outer space. Hey, it worked for Sun Ra. The most likely band they will be compared to is Man Or Astroman? due to the surf/space convergence except there is less concentration on B-movie samples and more reliance on fuzztone on their album, ...Destroy The Warming Sun! out on Bowlophonic Records.

"Super Sonic 4-Dimensional Transistorized Sound" will grace your ears and be a fine source of the Slack revered by the followers of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. Frazzed out, fuzzed out, and blown out surfer boy riffs await from the start on "Dunked In The Think Tank" and there's no let up for the next half hour as songs careen by with light speed before entering a freakout zone on the final and title track. Best title: "Return Of The Attack Of The Curse Of The Son Of The Astro Squid Part XIV Chapter Six". Favorite track: "Gas The Verig Man" which starts out sounding like it was recorded through some vegatable can telephone network put together by 5 year olds before the producer wakes up and hits the right button on the mixing board. There's also plenty of use of the theremin (the original "look ma, no hands" instrument) throughout.

This is outer space surf punk for the industrial era. It's broken down, junky, and analog like a lunar lander. Surf purists will probably hate it because it's mainly riffs without fancy arrangements. But who needs fancy arrangements when the objective is to ...Destroy The Warming Sun!. Take some Amino Acids today and soon you can be bowling in Roswell too.

The Ice Age Is Coming

Via new British sensation Arctic Monkeys.
They've dissed the Kaiser Chiefs which makes them copacetic in my book. DD Blank is swearing they're the only exciting thing he's heard this year so go and give them a listen.

Recognize The Greatness Before You

After a come on like that he says sheepishly Nashville Is Talking had a nice word for me. Coolness as Parker Lewis used to say.