Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Random Thoughts on 8 Hours of Metal

Eight fucking hours in the car yesterday. Went down to West Virginia and back for the boss, who was kind enough to splurge for a rental car with XM Satellite Radio.

Despite being something of a nerdbomb evangelist for this technology back in 2001, I've only had a handful of experiences with satellite radio. This road trip would be a chance to change all that.

I admit that I lost probably a good hour flipping around various sports, talk and news stations, but my arrival at the back-to-back bacchanal of Hair Nation and Liquid Metal somewhere east of Front Royal would prove to be exactly what I needed after absent-mindedly hovering over an all-Springsteen channel for the better part of 15 minutes.

The experience was sublime. The following are a series of thoughts that passed through my head on my journey, including observations on metal as well as other random music generes I took in on the drive:

- If there's a better metal band than In Flames, I'm not even sure I want to know about it.

- I have no explanation for why I keep telling myself that I like Pantara. I'm pretty sure I just like that one song.

- Did Little Steven just say that was Dolly Parton sounding all 1960's NYC girl band?!?!? Dammit, I already forgot how it went. Fuck.

- An all Greatful Dead channel????? Ooof. There but for the grace of God go I....

- "All Nightmare Long" is the first Metallica song that I haven't found overwhelingly disappointing since.....oh, jesus, this is depressing. ...Since "Fuel"??? [EPILOGUE: Good thing I missed the first two minutes of this song or I never would have made it to the good part. I take it all back. Metallica disappoints once again. Why do I have to love your band so much more than you do, James?].

- The Troggs might be the worst band to come out of the 60's. Period.

- I could have gone the rest of my life never hearing "You're Invited But Your Friend Can't Come" ever again, and that would have been just fine. (Actual thought process as the song came on: "Jesus, what the hell is this? This just might be the worst fucking Crue song ever. What album was thi.....oh, right, right. Now I remember. Jeez, Vince.")

- Those guys in Lamb of God sure sound tough.

- Ok, Bruce, we get it: you're awesome live. Wrap the damn song up already.

- "Up All Night (Sleep All Day)" might have the most tard-tastic verse and chorus this side of Aerosmith, but that pre-chorus at the 1:00 mark is everything anyone ever needed out of a hair band.

- Is someone actually requesting all this Whitesnake and Deep Purple?? Good grief...


- Maybe I never gave Papa Roach or Slipknot a fair shake. Ah, whatever. Fuck 'em.

- Those poor bastards in Cinderella were actually really talented. Whoever was dressing them probably deserves to be shot.

- Whatever happened to Grandmaster Flash, anyway?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gwar and the Misfits

Gwar and the Misfits
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

Imagine for a moment that you are young and single, and you have been invited to a BBQ. You know the following things about the BBQ:

There will be a lot of people. Many of them will be of the opposite sex. The weather is expected to be good. There will be beer. It should be fun.

However, you have also been informed that there will be no burgers, no hot dogs, no ribs, and no chicken at this "BBQ". The only food that will be served will be veggie burgers.

In that sense, no matter how good of a party it many how many women you meet, or how many beers you drink, or how many friends you make......this will still be a very lame BBQ.

Do you go to the BBQ? And if you do, have you thus waived your right to complain about it? And if you end up having a good time and stuffing your face with BocaBurgers, should you be too embarrassed to tell your friends about it the next day?

Welcome to the dilemma of a Misfits fan in the post-Danzig era. Because a Misfits without Danzig is most certainly akin to a BBQ without meat. (Though as long as Jerry Only is milking this gig, this BBQ will never be without its meathead).

(Yes, yes....again with the Danzig).

Actually, the Danzig dichotomy needs to be addressed: Almost all punk rock fans have a soft spot for the Misfits, and most outright love them. However, these same folks tend to think of Danzig's solo career as little more than a punch line. So, why shouldn't a revival band without him be fine and dandy for everyone?

(Think about it: there is totally a precedent for this phenomenon of goofy lead singers of once-beloved rock bands, and the tools who go on to front them to great success).

I guess there are a lot of reasons, actually. First and foremost, the Misfits had been dead and buried for something like 15 years before Jerry Only brought them back with a new singer. And beyond that, there's something about the Misfits that is quintessentially teenage. Sometimes it just best to leave those memories as they were.

And then there was the fact that Michael Graves - while no doubt one heck of a trooper to try and fill Mr. Danzig's boots - was just a weird, weird pick. He was young, and sort of vaguely good looking, but not in any sort of punk rock way. He looked a little like a frat boy to me. He had pipes, for sure, but Ripper Owens he was not.

Regardless, I went to this concert on my own will. In fact, I'm sure it was my idea.

Took my little brother, who by now was finally over that episode at the Guns N'Roses concert.

This was in no small part because the Misfits would be joined on the tour by the one-and-only Gwar. Somehow, despite the fact that we were suburbanite little dorks, Kevin and I had known about Gwar and their sideshow tour for years and years. Together with the Misfits, it seemed like a good opportunity to kill two birds that we'd probably never otherwise hunt for.

The show wasn't particularly memorable. The Misfits brought a lot of energy and did the mainstays - Skulls, AngelFuck, etc. I even think that they played one of the Misfits songs that Danzig had taken with him to his future bands....(drawing a blank here, but it must have been "Horror Biz").

The point is, if you could forget the fact that you were watching a glorified cover band, it was a fairly fun set.

Gwar was.....well, Gwar was Gwar. They sang a lot of songs with gross lyrics ("Fish Fuck" stands out), and they made a fucking mess of the stage, as they were fully expected to. To say that they were "good" would be an overstatement, but they sure were entertaining, and didn't take themselves too seriously.

I'm not sure that can be said of anyone who came out of the Misfits camp. God only knows what part of being from New Jersey and dressing up like a zombie and playing punk rock is to be taken as sacred, but nonetheless, not having a sense of humor seems to have become some kind of an ironic curse associated with the extended Misfits clan.

Or so I was thinking right before I saw Jerry Only emerge in the 9:30 Club balcony and sign a bunch of stuff for teenage fans. I stood there with my brother and watched, thinking how cool it was for him to be making the rounds after his show, and how rare it is for a performer to be that accessible - especially a performer as legendary (um....relatively speaking) Mr. Only is.

After shaking a few hands, he made his way towards the stairs, close by where I was standing with my arms folded. I lifted my chin and smiled to him - I intended it to be a subtle but direct gesture.....I didn't want to be a fanboy, but I thought that perhaps he might appreciate a nice word from someone over the age of 17.

Jerry was having none of it. Locking in on me with his peripherals, he stared past me and strode by at full speed, totally dissing me.

Maybe it was the Samhain shirt I was wearing....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zakk and Ozzy Make a....Mistake

Like a lot of people, I happen to find the current age of celebrity obsession to be completely vapid and soul-destroying. I don't even know who most of the hot actors and actresses are anymore, or why they're famous. Or why we care who they are breaking up with.

As everyone can see by now, there's no better example of the shallowness of this culture than the dignity-shredding circus surrounding Michael Jackson's death. People keep tuning in for story after story about the newest absurdity of his strange death, and I can't help to think that we are somehow trying to distance ourselves from some sort of implicit participation we all had in his sad life.

All of that said, it would be wrong for me to try and deny a lifelong Jackson devotee of his or her grief. Because regardless of any actual relationship that we have with our favorite musicians, the fact that they scored and/or performed the soundtracks to the best times of our lives means that we will always feel personally connected to them on a level that is flawed, but very forgivable.

Which brings me to the big news of the past few weeks in the metal community: The celebrity break-up of metal godfather Ozzy Osbourne and axe-man Zakk Wylde. And why it makes me so, so sad, despite having no personal connection with either man.

Long story short, it looks like Ozzy has sacked Mr. Wylde. And by telling him through the press.

Now, it's not a surprise when Ozzy switches guitar players; throughout his career he's gone through them like Peter North's costars went through boxes of Kleenex.

But it always made news anyway, perhaps because so many of us have always felt that Ozzy spent the second and third chapters of his career searching for his next Randy Rhoads: It's no secret that he was absolutely devastated by Rhoads' death, and that no matter how much of a lunatic Ozzy had always been, the Rhoads tragedy seemed to be the fulcrum for the full out insanity that became Ozzy's cocaine-fueled lifestyle in the mid-80's.

(The obvious flaw in this, of course, is that Ozzy didn't "discover" Randy Rhoads: Rhoads was already a known name in guitar circles long before Ozzy poached him from Quiet Riot, which makes one wonder if his quest to be come a guitar kingmaker was somewhat doomed to begin with).

All the same, one can never deny that Ozzy's taste in guitar players was damn near beyond reproach: He cut his teeth with the single most iconic guitarist in heavy metal history; he flirted with the mighty George Lynch and academy award winner Steve Vai, wisely avoiding a committment with either (both are undeniably too ego-centric and visionary to be anyone's side-man for long); he gave Rhoads a platform to introduce to the masses a Robert Johnson-styled approach to simultaneous rhythm and lead guitar playing; and he debuted the maligned would-be wonderkid known as Jake E. Lee.

(Those who spent their teen years tearing through drugstore copies of Circus magazine - or perhaps Hit Parader in a pinch...but never Metal Edge -- received constant updates about Ozzy's frustrations about Lee, Lee's feelings of abandoment over their tattered relationship, and nearly gleefully tepid reviews of the flop that was Lee's next project.

Ironically enough, though, Ozzy's albums with Lee have aged surpisingly well. "The Ultimate Sin" in particular is astonishingly good when you consider how much of a mess Ozzy was at that stage of his life. Conversely, "The Blizzard of Ozz" showcases some of Ozzy's best work with Rhoads, but the record is absolutely plagued with terrible early-1980's production hallmarks that devalue songs like "Goodbye to Romance" to nearly complete unlistenability).

And, so, when Ozzy announced in 1987 that he would be introducing a 19 year old viruoso for his upcoming record, all eyes were on one Zakk Wylde. Would this be the new it-kid in heavy metal, or was Ozzy going to dud out once again?

No matter what you say about the album that was "No Rest for the Wicked" (certainly not a classic), one thing was for certain - the media unanimously gave Wylde their full endorsement on his debut. His obnoxious, rude, hyper-macho style gave Ozzy's music an ass-heavy feel that had not been associated with Ozzy since Sabbath. (...maybe on "Suicide Solution"?)

And although Ozzy had a long road todwards sobriety ahead of him, the rumor was that he was nearly paternal to Wylde, even roping him in when Wydle got out of control on the road.

Wydle would stick around on and off for the next twenty years. And over those next twenty years, Ozzy's life would finally see some seblance of balance for perhaps the first time: Not only did he begin giving some thought towards his obligation as a parent, but he also experienced a renewed level of success: "No More Tears", in fact, would mark the apex of his late-career artistic output. Ozzfest would prove to be a critical and financial success, and a launching pad for many a nu-metal sensation. He would even soon participate in an overdue Sabbath reunion.

All together, the events of 1990s should have firmly cemented Mr. Osbourne's legacy for once and for all. And the contributions of Mr. Wylde were very much a part of that. Those of us who rooted for Ozzy over the years were happy to see it.

Of course, the mastermind of his resurgence - his career manager and wife, Sharon -- also began a most shameful manipulation of Ozzy's image at about this time, most infamously by pimping him out to MTV in a truly repugnant display of exploitation.

No longer was Ozzy a visionary madman; he was now just an overmedicated nincompoop, and it was all laid out there for an entirely new demographic of viewers to see, who now may never know him as anything but a puttering old fool.

Ozzy seems to be on his feet again these days. His medication intake seems to have leveled off and he seems to be at his most lucid point since about 1991.

But I can't say that I trust his judgement. And I can't say that I trust his manager's judgement. And the manner of his dismissal of Wylde seems very much in line with Sharon Osboure's failed dealings with the likes of Motorhead and the Smashing Pumpkins:

It's rude, and it's unprofessional. And its sad for me to see, even though I have no good reason to care. None at all.

But I do recommend that this would be a good time for Wylde to reintroduce "Losin Your Mind" into his set-list.