Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Strange Highways

Just a quick shout out to Ronnie James Dio.

I think it's more or less common knowledge by this point, but Ronnie is pretty sick. His wife has been kind enough to share some relatively encouraging updates with music fans, but it's a small comfort to anyone who has ever been through a cancer scare or loved someone who did.

Which is far, far too many of us.

You know, it's funny: My formative metal years were just after Dio's best solo work, and yet I've never been a huge fan. Still, I am compelled to pull for him, not just in the interest of beating back cancer, but also because he is perhaps the one and only guy in metal - perhaps in the entire music industry - whose character has unanimous endorsement:

Music fans, journalists, filmmakers, other musicians.....all have openly admitted that Ronnie James Dio is simply the nicest musician around.

Which makes this news all the sadder and more unfair.

So, hang in there, Ronnie. We're rooting for you. Some of us might even be praying.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ten Bands I Just Don't Get

It isn't a personal attack. Try not to pee yourselves, nerds.

Black Flag
- Yes, I read "Our Band Could Be Your Life". No, I still don't get it. Sorry.

The Clash - I guess if I were ten years older and had been an existential pussy during the 80's, the Clash would give me as big of a boner as it does for everyone in their 40's.

But I just can't get excited for this band. "White Riot" has always struck me as a really awesome punk song, and "White Man in Hammersmith Palis" is as close to reggae as I can come without punching a hippie or a frat boy. So, I'll give them that.

But "London Calling"? Just shut up before you launch an entire generation of annoying politically-minded bands.

Anything Involving Richard Hell - Yeah, yeah, you lived in NYC in the 70's when it actually meant something. You're a part of the blank generation. Now take your "New Pleasure"-singin' ass and get the fuck outta here.

Spoon - My God, could the music critics at NPR be any more in love with these guys? Enough already.

AC/DC - Metalheads hold this band sacred, but all I have ever heard in AC/DC is a salute to being white trash. I will give you "Hells Bells" and "Ride On". I'll even throw in "Highway to Hell" if you're gonna make a fuss about it. But I gotta draw the line somewhere, and "Dirty Deeds" is the last song I'll even consider letting in.

I can't stand these fucking guys or their dumb fans.

((...Great, now I can't ever go back to Baltimore)).

Fugazi - Speaking of fans I can't stand, go ahead and lynch me. But before you do, you ought to know that I get it: Fugazi is an immensely important band for all the things they stood for and all the things they did for independent music. Not only do I get that, but I appreciate it. All of it.

But that doesn't mean I have to like their music. Because Ian MacKaye has no fucking concept of pitch and
I'm tired of him getting a free pass on it!

Fuck - even Lemmy shouts halfway in key. (Sort of).

The emperor has no clothes. Get it together, MacKaye.

Nice rhythm section, though....

- I keep waiting and waiting for the hooks, but they never come.

I mean, they NEVER fucking show up. Where are the goddamned hooks with this band?????

(And don't you tell me to be patient. I've been patiently listening to this sickly little fourth grader snivel and moan since "Creep").

Siouxsie and the Banshees - I dated two different girls who thought this chick wrote "The Passenger".

Depeche Mode - Not only do I not get what people love about Depeche Mode, but I outright resent them.

It all goes back to one moment of epiphany I experienced my senior year of high school. I was standing on the side of the stage during down time for rehearsals for "Guys and Dolls" (yes, fuck you very much, I was in the stupid drama club), listening to two fellow students discuss Depeche Mode.

One was a new girl who had transferred in only a few weeks ago. Her name was Amy. She was pretty and friendly, and the five or six straight boys in the drama club were all scoping her out pretty hard.

The other was a kid a year behind me, named Bill.....a tall, gangly, goofy, immensely intelligent and funny kid (who went on to have a fairly amazing adulthood as a writer).

They were engrossed in a conversation about Depeche Mode. I was standing perhaps five feet away, and I knew I had absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation. I also knew that this young lady would not turn around and ask me about the Rolling Stones or WASP.

I seem to recall that Bill and Amy may have had one of those three-week romances that are all the rage in high school. They seemed like an unlikely pairing to me, to say the least.

But deep in my little brain, something clicked: I realized that there was a small number of women who would give guys like me and Bill the time of day. And I also realized that they all seemed to like Depeche Mode. And as my college and post-college life developed, this fact became indisputably true.

And because I could not bring myself to get behind that stupid band, I lost a boatload of opportunities to have something in common with them.

Meanwhile, Bill is probably still pushing drama club girls and English majors off of him.

Man, fuck those guys....

The Dead Kennedys
- Gah. I guess you had to be there

Monday, February 1, 2010

Type O Negative

ton 930

A few months ago I wrote about how, during my first year out of college - lost in the new world where all my friends weren't within walking distance and unrequited love lingered at a distance of 150 miles -- I'd placed enormous emotional meaning to the words and music of Brooklyn grind-core metal "goths", Type O Negative.

Unfortunately, my infatuation with the band didn't quite end there. In fact, only about a year after my broken-hearted purchase of Type O Negative's opus "Bloody Kisses", the band would follow up with a staggeringly lush production entitled "October Rust." And it proved to be just what my tender vagina needed to get me through the watershed period to be known as my early 20's.

While "Bloody Kisses" was rooted in themes of despair, loss and death, "October Rust" provided the ultimate foil - an album loosely focused on one central theme of rebirth. And while no TON album would be complete without motifs of great sadness, this record also charged forward with a shockingly vulnerable celebration of the loves, lusts and desires that are so often just outside the grasp of all male beings. In fact, for this one moment, songwriter Peter Steele put aside the self-hate and self-effacement in lieu of self-doubt.

The results were rather spectacular.

If the rejected little drama queen in me had bought into the often ridiculous funeral stylings of "Bloody Kisses", the repressed romantic of my 22 year old self fully wished to embrace the honesty of "October Rust".

Could this possibly be the same band that once wrote songs entitled, "Too Late: Frozen", "Kill You Tonight" and the unforgettable "I Know You're Fucking Someone Else"??

It was, in fact, the same band, and I took no small amount of inspiration in their effort towards reinvention. And there was probably a good reason why:

At the time this album came out, I'd been out of school for over a year and I was still living at home with my folks. I was stuck in the mud, I was underemployed, and a rebirth was exactly what I was in need of.

I gave the disc its first listen as I was lying in the dark in my twin bed, with absolutely no idea what to expect. I say with no exaggeration whatsoever that I was floored by how beautiful and haunting the opening track, "Love You to Death" was. By the time the song had reached the coda, I was literally sitting bolt upright in bed reaching for the lamp and staring in disbelief at the stereo as Steele repeatedly sang the gorgeous extended "am I good enough" outro.

To this day, I'm not sure that I have ever been so overwhelmed by a single piece of music, or by a lyric so incredibly simple. For a kid who had never stopped struggling with his notion of self worth - probably from the time I was in first grade or so - I was just completely knocked out to have the entire question of my lifetime summed up and sang back to me in a six-word lyric, repeated for two full minutes:

"Am I good enough for you", indeed...

This is usually where I write some snarky and defensive couple of sentences about how oversensitive I used to be, but to be honest, it's pretty tough to conjure the self-deprecation right now. Every music lover has those moments when a song somehow takes on an immensely important and deeply personal resonance with him or her. I guess its too bad that the Beatles or the Clash couldn't have been that force for me. But the fact is that once again it was metal that spoke to me and spoke for me.

And that's ok.


In the face of such a personal confession, I would be remiss not to share the other defining story associated with this song.

I was desperate for an awful lot of things in my early 20's. And one of the items near the top of the list was for people to think that I knew what I was talking about when it came to music.

And so I tried to sell just about everyone I knew on what a tour de force "October Rust" was.

As always, no one listened. Except my friend, Joey - known in previous posts as Pornmaster-T (PMT).

I've gone into detail about PMT before, so it seems unfair to dive into all his shortcomings again. But bear with me here, because its relevant.

PMT was having an open mind one night, and he agreed to borrow my copy of October Rust and give it a spin.

He proceeded to keep it for several months.

I should also mention that PMT had moved out to West Virginia. He was living with his dad, and having a little trouble forming a social circle. This is all understandable; starting over in a small town is hard.

One of the places that PMT looked for comfort was in the many low-brown gentleman's clubs that dot the Martinsburg, WV metro area. And I can't judge him too severely, because it was not uncommmon for myself and another friend to trek out to West Virginia and sample said strip joints with PMT.

Over time, however, PMT increasingly became a regular at these establishments, and he presumably attended them by himself. With all of us well within our early 20's, this struck me and my friends as both troubling and depressing.

PMT, in fact, became such a common patron of one establishment that they allowed him to bring in his own music for the DJ to play.

Just take a moment and imagine that.

((Oh, God, I'm just remembering the one time he brought us to this joint and made the JD play Faster Pussycat's "House of Pain". In the history of modern music, I'm not sure there's anything less appropriate for a young woman to gyrate nude before strangers to, than an ode to absent fathers.

Good job, PMT.)).

Of course, you all know where this is going by now. Perhaps six months after I lent him my goddamn favorite CD, PMT finally decided to return it, and - while I'm trapped in a moving car with him - he tells me in detail all about what he's been doing with it for the past several weeks.

"You know that strip joint we always go to?"

"Well, I mean we went to it two or three times, I think. I wouldn't say we *always* go there"

"We always go there when you visit me! Anyway, yeah yeah, we always have such a great time there. We gotta go back soon."

"Uh. Well."

"So, remember how they let me bring in my own music?"

"Oh, yes, I remember."

"Well, 'Love You to Death' is the BEST. LAP DANCE. SONG. EVER!"


"Cuz, you know it's a long song, man. And I'm paying my $20 so the way I see it, I'm getting top value."


"But here's the best part...."

*resigned silence*

"At the end, you know that part at the end? The part where he says over and over "Am I good enough for you?"

*glowering silence*

"You know what I'm talking about??"


"The girl stood up - and she was so hot, man - she stood up and turned around and bent down right in my face and whispered "yeeesssssss."

*disgusted silence*

"And I was all like "UUUUGHHGHGHGHHOAAAAAH," PMT said, as he rolled his eyes back in his head and made his grotesque orgasm face.

A few awkward hours later, he gave me the CD back. I promptly threw it out and bought a new copy.

PMT and I are still friends, sort of.....but I always hated him a little after that. Seriously.

Still, I choose to remember this song for the powerful moment when it first reached me, and not for the equally powerful image of my morbidly obese friend having a 32 year old mother of two gyrate on his little dogcock as she counted the $1 bills that would hopefully someday finance her way through beautician school.

Because I can't live with that.


As for the concert itself, who the hell knows? I'm too tired and I've written too much to do a review.

But in looking over the stub, it occurs to me that this wasn't even the tour behind "October Rust"; this was the tour behind the following album "World Coming Down" (which wasn't anywhere near as good of a record).

I lost the set list, but what I can tell you is that I went to this show immediately after my punk pop-noise band played the Metro Cafe on 14th Street (on a bill with no less than minor-punk-pop royalty, the Mr. T a packed house, at that).

We finished our set, I broke down my kit, and I ran down U Street just in time.

The show was sort of disappointing, as I remember. But they did play "Love You to Death".

Originally uploaded by tonbabydc