Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Shows: 2011

It was an another up and down year for show attendance; Summer and Fall were decent, but the Winter was a complete bust, and I barely even remember the first few months of the year.

(Oh. Right. Wedding....That explains it).

I did actually get to enough shows to do a top ten list, but due to the fact that so many of them were disappointing (and my generally desperate need for editing), I'll keep it to top five this year.


5. Monotonix at Comet Ping Pong

I'd narrowly missed these guys twice before - once walking into a small club shortly after they'd played, only to discover that the place was fully empty and mostly trashed. So, regardless of what I thought of their music, I did want to finally check Monotonix out.

And generally speaking, they delivered: Lots of riffing. Lots of crusty facial hair. Lots of underwear. Lots of beer and trash strewn around the room. Lots of climbing on things and hanging from things and drum set relocation and semi-bombastic Israeli flag waving.

I can't really say that it was *good*, but it sure was fun, and everyone pretty much got what they came for.


4. The Jim Jones Review at the Black Cat

"Little Richard on crack" was how my friend, Chris, described this band to me. But they were so much better than that.

There's so little great rock out there right now. I'm talking about real rhythm section rock. The type with pianos and horns and tastelessly in-your-face vocals.

That's who these guys are. And God bless them, because despite an appearance on Letterman later that week, they played to a sparse crowd in D.C. that night.

I sure hope they hit Baltimore. Because for a UK band, that's exactly what they remind me of: those incredible 90s rock bands like Ironboss and the Reprobates and the Glenmont Popes and the Put-Outs, that just sort of organically grew out of Hampden for so many years in the 90's.


3. Fucked Up at the Black Cat

Fucked Up rarely puts on anything less than a stellar show, and this would be no exception. They opened with the excellent "Queen of Hearts" (my personal vote for song of the year, by the way), featuring surprise guest vocals from Madeline Folin from Cults, who was playing in town the following night.

This set up perhaps the single greatest dis I have heard in all of my concert-going years, courtesy of Damien Abraham:

"That was Madeline Folin from Cults, and she's playing tomorrow night with Foster the People. Take it from me: get there early, leave early."


Ouch.


2. The Body and the Assembly of Light Choir at St. Steven's Church

It's easy to get defense about how little respect metal gets as a music form, much less an art form. It is also totally cliche. The last thing I need is people thinking I'm that crybaby label apologist, Eddie Fucking Trunk.

Nonetheless, it was nice to witness the Body and the Assembly of Light Choir putting on the single most artistic performance I saw all year -- and perhaps in several years.

True, the AOLC doesn't exactly knock you over with the sophistication of their arrangements. (To be honest, they get repetitive quickly). But that's not really the point.

The point is that it takes both balls and vision to perform them in tandem with a two-piece doom metal band that is playing at full tilt.....not only staying toe to toe with them, but complimenting the band with a nearly Wagnerian power at the end of the set. (Special thanks to St. Stephen's acoustics and some outstanding sound work by local stalwart, Marcus Esposito),

A grudging nod to Lars Gotrich at NPR for tipping me off (via Twitter) to this show. I can't say that I have much use for that intellectual, hipster, metal-for-smart-kids music that he seems to love, but he sure knew what he was talking about with this one.


1. Pharaoh Sanders at Bohemian Caverns

Make no mistake: the last of the jazz greats are dying off. And since I routinely botch every single chance I have ever had to see Sonny Rollins, I wasn't going to screw this up.

Sanders is destined to always be compared to his "mentor", John Coltrane. But with his penchant for playing with feedback, experimenting with insane mouthpieces and generally doing things with the saxophone that it was never intended to do, it's just as apt to have him forever bonded to Jimi Hendrix.

And Goddamn it, he's one powerful, aggressive, fearless performer.

That said, I guess its fair to say that Sanders got off to a slow start. He's a little older, a little shorter and a little heavier than I realized. (And a whole lot blacker - like his skin had a nearly blue glow under the stage lights....not that this has anything to do with anything, but the visual was fucking cool).

Once Sanders hit his his stride, however, I completely regretted not buying tickets for the later set. Because if he picked up where he left off (a fun-as-hell romp on "Going Back to Africa"), the people waiting upstairs had an even better night than I did.

Really glad I caught this.

(And - seriously - I can't believe that Lars Gotrich tipped me off to this one, too. Good Lord. You should probably follow him on Twitter.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Medley 2011

Happy holidays, all!

Those bastards at work wouldn't allow me to cruise into the holidays with out one more effing business trip (...
thanks for the salary and the benefits, but you sure do suck), so here's this year's medley before I hit the road again.

Enjoy, be safe, and Merry Christmas.

Colorado Christmas




Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas




Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)



The First Noel

Friday, November 25, 2011

R.I.P. Black Cat Bill

UPDATE: Washington City Paper Reports that William Turner (aka Black Cat Bill) is still with us. I'm glad to hear it, (and moderately embarrassed).

Then again, who the hell reads this blog anyway? I was a little skeptical, but I wrote what I felt.

+++++++++++++++++

Sad news, my friends.

DCist is reporting that Black Cat Bill has passed away. Details and official confirmations remain hard to come by, but from what I understand, employees at the Black Cat are the source.

Anyone who ever spent more than a few nights at D.C.'s greatest punk rock club knows Black Cat Bill.

Whether you every actually bothered to learn his name or not, Bill was a fixture on 14th Street for....Jesus, I've been running around down there for about 15 years now, and he was outside the door of the club the very first time I set foot in the place.

Warm, good-natured and friendly, Bill was a homeless man best known for greeting the club's patrons with his infamous baritone cheer, "BLACK CAT, BLACK CAT! A little spare chaaaaaaaange for the homeless?"

Half carnival barker, half goodwill ambassador to 14th street hispters, Bill was always pleasant and charming. And he was always grateful for whatever people were willing to share with him. In the heat of Washington's summers or the dead of its winters, I never knew him to be anything other than a gentleman, even when the elements were far less friendly.

Over the years, I'm happy that I had a number of encounters with Bill. A few stand out on this evening in particular.

One night I stopped on the way into the club to ask how he was doing, and he gave me his standard answer:

"I'm doing ok for an old guy...But as long as I keep watching you young folks, I get a little more energy."

And he smiled that infectious smile of his.

Another night I slipped him a buck and asked him how his night was.

He raised an eyebrow. "It would be a lot better," he shot, "if everyone was as generous as you are."

Quite the charmer, he was.

Once, in late August of 2005, I passed him at his regular spot.

"You doing ok these days?" I asked.

"Yeah, I'm doing ok," he responded. "I know I'm doing a lot better than all those poor people down in New Orleans."

I fumbled for something to say, and failed. Here he was, homeless, unkempt, and most certainly struggling with addiction, and counting his blessings nonetheless.

But the one evening I will never forget, was the night he offered a kind word to a drunken, tearful young woman who had stomped out of the club in a huff.

For his efforts, she spat at him that she didn't need his advice, at that, "at least I'M not HOMELESS! I have a JOB!"

There was a silence on the sidewalk for half a beat. I remember being so goddamned angry.

But before I could say or do anything, Bill spoke up for himself, h
is tone even but most deliberately measured.

"I know you're not homeless," he said. "And I'm happy for you that you're not."

I was speechless. At a moment when the only thing I wanted to do was chase that little brat into the street for all of her ugliness, Bill chose dignity. But he made his point, nonetheless.

I guess I wanted to defend him, which was ridiculous under the circumstances. Bill had bigger problems to worry about than the new wave of spoiled little drunk girls that was soon to take over 14th Street.

The past few years, Bill would disappear for long periods of time. Every time it would happen, I'd get a little nervous....God knows what could happen to an aging homeless guy -- even one that everyone seems to like.

The last time I saw him it was New Years Eve nearly two years ago.

He looked bad. He must have lost 70 pounds....perhaps much more. He looked tired, and for the first time in all of those years of chatting with one another, he seemed sorry for himself.

Heart disease, high blood pressure and gangrene in one of his feet were among the ailments he ran past me. I just couldn't believe how low he sounded.

I squatted down next to him, and gave him a few bucks and some words of encouragement that felt insufficient in every way. He gave my hand a shake, looked me in the eye, then draped his other hand on top of mine. He held on tight.

"God comes first," he told me. "Your family comes second. You come third."

And then he started crying.

"God comes first," he repeated twice, as he gathered himself as best he could.

The moment seemed to last a long time. It was intimate, and it was painful, cruelly juxtaposed against the bars letting out on New Years.

It is not how I will choose to remember Bill.

+++++++

I suppose that it is entirely possible that the reports of
Bill's death are false information. And I hope that they are. Perhaps the outpouring of mourning on Facebook and Twitter will serve as a needed reminder that homeless people are, in fact, human beings with names and lives.

But either way, take some time over the holiday season to follow Bill's example and try to be happy for all that you have and all that you've been given. Even when life just sucks.

And if you can, spare a little change for the homeless.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!


Happy Halloween!

To commemorate my favorite non-religious/non-family/non-nationalistic flag-waving holiday, I'm raising this blog from the dead and taking a trip back in time to share some of my favorite Halloween costumes in years past.

Let's start with this year. This year, I was Lemmy. And I was awesome at it. See here:




Actual conversation overheard at the table next to us at Church Key (a totally awesome beer bar that is unfortunately overrun with semi-douchey hipsters who just might have gotten eaten alive at the corner of 14th and Rhode Island Ave less than ten years earlier):

Girl: "Sorry, I can't even concentrate enough to speak because of that guy's warts. That's disgusting."
Guy: "That's Lemmy"
Girl: "Who?"
Guy: "Lemmy from Motorhead"
Girl: "What? "
Guy: "He's a legend"
Girl: "Who is he?"
Guy: "He's in the band Motorhead"
Girl: "Who are they?"
Guy: *sigh* "They're like Brad Paisley, ok?"

This would not be my first rock star homage. In fact, the year I went to New Orleans for Halloween, I went as Alice Cooper.


I was mistaken for the fucking Crow all night long. Oh, well.

The photo above was taken at 6:00 AM after being out all night at the Howlin Wolf and Snake & Jake's. If I look a little dead, its because I am.

In fact, I *felt* a little more like the photo below:




Of course, I didn't always pick a specific rock star. In fact, this one year I totally phoned it in with this generic piece of crap "rocker" outfit that's about as authentic as Mark Whalberg starring an unwatchably terrible Ripper Owens biopic.

Here I am posing with a coworker.

Once again, proof that the Amish simply work harder than the rest of us...

Ooh, speaking of Mark Whalberg, one year I was totally obsessed with Boogie Nights, and I wanted to do some kind of send-up to 70's fashion. Check THIS out:


What I was going for: Disco king/70's porn star.
What I ended up with: Your dad.

Then maybe a year later I saw Basquiat, and became obsessed with Andy Warhol. So.....

Notice my exceptional attention to detail. Because this is pretty much 70 percent made from the shitty "rocker" costume from a few years earlier.
Also, because as we all know, Warhol never went anywhere without 40 oz'er of King Cobra in a brown paper bag.


Then, one year, just like every other five year old in the Maryland suburbs, I went as a cowboy.

What my coworker was going for: Beats me....
What I was going for: bad guy cowboy/man in black.

What I ended up with: If Joe Buck and Woody from Toy Story had BOTH been male prostitutes.

Speaking of prostitutes, I can't quite tell you what was going through my head this one year.


I can, however, tell you that our HR department was probably borderline incompetent to allow me to get away with this.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes: A Tale of Two Scotts














Man, I haven't done one of these ticket things in a long time.....StubStory.com done stole my concept! (kidding, kidding...)

Ok, that having been said, welcome, boys and girls!

When I think back on all the dinosaur rock acts I've seen over the years, it seems a bit odd that I'd never seen any of the guys from Led Zeppelin live when I was a teenager.

Plant cranked out a bunch of decent-to-middling solo albums over the years. Must've toured behind all of them, but I don't think I even once considered seeing him in concert.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Page had a litany of collaborative efforts with likes of David Coverdale, Plant (...go figure), and perpetual also-ran, Paul Rogers. None of it held any interest for me.

John Paul Jones was probably always working, but I didn't yet know that he would be the only one making interesting rock into his 60's.

I'm sure if there had been a Led Zeppelin reunion in the 80's, that - just like with the Who and the Stones - I would have been totally into it. Hell, on a nearly weekly basis my friend, Scott, and I traded various reunion rumors we'd heard about (usually through the proverbial "friend of a friend", or on 98 Rock), frequently leading us to debate whether "Rock and Roll" or "Misty Mountain Hop" would make a better opener, and always agreeing that "Battle of Evermore" would have to be on the set list.

But for whatever reason - perhaps because of the uniquely mystical kind of legend that followed Zeppelin around after they broke up -- I always accepted that a Led Zep reunion would not be in the cards, and that seeing any of them solo would be a diminishment of that legend.

That, and I should probably say that I never "got" Jimmy Page the way that other kids did. Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix always sort of spoke for themselves by being so over the top. Keith Richards did it by totally nailing his way around the rhythm section. Slash did it with a tone that was just about perfect.

But Page is a guitar-player's musician, and I don't play guitar (not really, at least. Perhaps not at all). Alternate tunings were kind of lost on me for a long time. Ditto for insanely layered parts.

I totally accepted that he was the man, basically because the right people told me so. But frankly, he never quite turned me on the way that some of the other legendary axe men did.

This show did help convert me.

And it was through, coincidentally, a different friend named Scott.

A bit about Scott # 2:

Scott plays guitar, and he’s excellent company. In fact, this one time he hosted a Superbowl party where we decided that we’d jam on Freebird together as the halftime entertainment for his guests. The results were somewhat disappointing. (And by “somewhat disappointing” I mean that everyone got the hell out of the room before we even got the guitars plugged in).


Scott is about 6’2”, and his physical build clearly indicates that he spent a whole lot of his younger years swimming and playing defensive end. And drinking beer – more beer, in fact, than you can drink. (This is a fact).

And despite having what one might describe as a foreboding physical presence, Scott is as good-natured as they come. Calm, friendly and accommodating, Scott isn't really one to seek out adventure; adventure just seems to follow him around.

In fact, the one thing I've learned over the years is that an evening with Scott is always a good time, and quite often a legendary time. Because literally anything could happen:

Someone just might throw a falafel at you.

You could end up in a fist fight with strangers in the middle of Connecticut Ave.

You may end up spending St. Patrick's Day in the the Arlington Courthouse, awaiting a friends release upon self recognizance.

Heck, you just might save a kid from alcohol poisoning. (Hey, Frenchie: if you're still out there somewhere, you totally need some new friends).

So, if Scott wanted to go see Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes, who was I to pass on it? (Plus, Scott had this cute new girlfriend that he was really excited about and he wanted me to meet her).

So off we went to the Nissan Pavillion. I had my hang-ups about whether or not this show would be any good, but there we went nonetheless. After all, I'd seen the Crowes at least twice before (maybe more), and despite what seemed to be a total disability to get their songs on the radio after about 1993, they had actually built an excellent reputation for themselves as a touring band.

And, plus, you know....Jimmy Page.

Honest to God, the night was fairly awesome. Despite an unfortunately sparse crowd (the promoter actually opened up the pavilion seats to us lawn stragglers because the sales were so poor), it was a really nicely-performed set made up nearly entirely of deeper Zeppelin cuts. And I have to give the Crowes credit: they rose to the occasion. Never once did they sound like a cover band, or like they were aping Bonzo or Plant. They sounded like the Black Crowes playing Led Zeppelin songs.

Two specific memories worth pointing out:

1. The Robinson brothers nailed the creepy into harmonies on "In The Light", in a way that I never would have thought would be possible live.

2. Page absolutely shredded two or three times during the show. And that's noteworthy primarily because my only gripe with the early Zeppelin albums is how *sloppy* some of the soloing sounds. (The easiest target for this would have to be "Heartbreaker", a fantastic track that I can't help but believe Page totally could have - and perhaps even did - cut cleaner at some point during those sessions).

It's kind of a petty quibble to unleash on a guitar god, but my point is that it was great to see the 50-or-60-something Page performing with a totally different type of precision, sacrificing no degree whatsoever of his trademark recklessness, blusiness or hardscrabble style, yet clearly in greater mastery over his parts.

So, all in all, it was a good night out with Scott. No flying ethnic food. No arrests. No fights or 911 calls.

But a total awakening for me, regarding what all the kids had been telling me about Page since I was in grade school.

(Oh, and I should probably mention: Scott totally married that girl a few year later.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

...Today, at the Reception


I wanted to take a quick second to pour some on the curb for the Govinda Gallery, which I just learned had quietly closed its doors last month.

No parties, no grand farewell. Just a tasteful exit, stage right. Perhaps celebratory beers at the Tombs. Seems fitting.

It appears from the Washington Post article that gallery owner, Chris Murray, decided that it was time to move on, well, because it was time. And, honestly, is there ever a better reason?

“It just seemed like the perfect moment,” he told the
Post. “This was the completion of a 35-year cycle.”

Its a refreshingly dignified way to bring things to a close.

The Govinda was a favorite of mine because it specialized in something that was right up my alley: music-themed photography.

And while a lot of the subjects could be grouped into that awfully-named catch-all genre called "classic rock", I think that totally undersells the breadth of work that Murray featured. Because the Govinda's exhibits included just about anything and everything: jazz, punk, glam, reggae, hip-hop, skater, you name it. Entire shows about one photographer, entire shows about on artist or band, entire shows themed around a genre, city or musical movement. If photographers documented it and if it was worth showing, Murray got it on the walls.

Situated just off of Prospect Street in Georgetown, the Govinda was just barely tucked away enough to be considered a hidden gem. The place was usually quiet, the staff was
always friendly, and I was consistently happy with whatever I saw when I'd drop in.

I have to admit that I'll miss it.

If you live in a city long enough (especially a transient city like Washington, D.C.), you do learn to accept that your favorite haunts won't last forever. Each and every city, in fact, is host to a never ending parade of ghosts of the memories of good times, of safe times, of happy times that took place in long gone - and not so long gone - bars, clubs, shops, bookstores, and restaurants. (Ask three generations of Reilly boys about their favorite memories on the 3300 block of Connecticut Avenue, and it would be very possible that they'd all point you to the same building, with three different memories of three different establishments.)

People come and go, rents go up, and places turn over. You accept it, but sometimes it stings.

Because when I think back on the old Metro Cafe or Signal 66 or Visions Cinema and Cafe, I really do find myself missing those late, late nights at art parties and Britpop dance nights, spent nearly ten years ago with my new girlfriend at the time (now my new wife).

When I think back on the recently closed Commonwealth Gastropub, I remember a fantastic birthday spent in the company of close friends and many rounds of Belhaven Twisted Thistle Ale.

Springsteen and the Ramones might have played at the old Childe Harold in Dupont Circle back in the 70's, but for me, it will always be the scene of the crime for the single most disastrous date of my life.

The old Black Cat location? Where to even begin... It's quite possible that I had more fun in that one building than anywhere else on Earth.

When I think back on the Govinda Gallery, what will I remember?

I'll remember how they never seemed to mind when I'd browse through their library, often sitting cross legged on the floor of the gallery for the better part of an hour, poring over Dominique Tarle's
Exile. Everyone who ever saw me do it knew full well that I couldn't afford to buy the book, but no one ever complained.

I'll remember seeing Bejing punks, PK-14 do one of their very first American shows in the Gallery, to an absolutely packed crowd. And I'll remember chatting with their drummer out on 34th street, telling him how much I wanted to visit China, and listening him to implore me to just skip Shanghai and go straight to Beijing. (I did both cities anyway).

And most of all, I'll remember a fantastic summer afternoon when my girlfriend (wife) and I popped in on a Saturday to check out a new Mick Rock exhibit. There were maybe four people in the gallery besides us, including a tallish, curly-haired and very enthusiastic Brit, who was fully holding court with some very tall tales I was only half listening to.

He caught my attention when he strode up to a gorgeous print of Syd Barrett, posing on the hood of a classic automobile.


"THIS," the Brit announced. "Is my favorite." He went on to describe losing the photo for years and years, and only discovering it relatively recently, under his nose in his flat all of these years.

"Holy shit," I muttered, grabbing my girlfriend's arm. "That's him. That's Mick Rock."

As I puttered around the gallery star-struck, Rock made his way to the door with a friend, announcing to the lovely young woman who always worked the desk that they'd be stepping out for a pint.

"Was that Mick Rock," I asked the lovely attendant.

She smiled. "He pre-signed a bunch of his books over there if you're interested."

+++++++

That'll always be the Govinda to me: cool, connected, friendly, and understated.

And
always in excellent taste.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

After All, He's Just A Man


I can't imagine its very easy for my wife to be married to a guy who loves metal.

There's no way that she enjoys hearing me deconstruct "Cowboys From Hell" for the eleventh time, or theorize how the
Portuguese never would have made it across Copacabana Beach if only the locals had been marching to "Refuse/Resist" 500 years earlier.

She can't possibly like it when I play and replay the bridges from various songs off "Master of Puppets" to cement my argument that it is the greatest metal album of all time (and that nothing was ever the same after Cliff Burton died), or make her watch the crappy iPhone videos I made from last week's The Body/Assembly of Light choir show.

I sure don't think she anticipated my going ape shit and canceling any and all plans last week so that I could watch Lemmy when I randomly found it on TV.

But she's tolerant. I have to give her that. Now that I think about it, one of the first things we did as an engaged couple was to go see Lamb of God. Her first metal show, God bless her. With me.

In fact, there are these moments where I have to suspect that she may be more comfortable with my silly tastes than I am of my own. Witness this recent exchange:

WIFE: What shirt is that you're wearing?

ME: It's just an old concert tee.

WIFE: I've never seen if before. What concert?

ME: It's a Danzig tour shirt.

WIFE: I've never seen you wear it.

ME: That's because it's a Danzig tour shirt.

WIFE: The design is kind of cool.

ME: Yeah, but its a Danzig tour shirt.



Here I am in my Danzig tour shirt,
enjoying a delightful Spanish moscato.*

*Note: I don't believe that I've worn this shirt outside in the past ten years.


So, anyway, there you go. This one goes out to the people who accept us for who we are.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

"For Thursday's Child Is Sunday's Clown"

Earlier today, I saw an item on Pitchfork, announcing that Metallica and Lou Reed were planning a full length album in collaboration.

Now, I've been planning a post for MONTHS about how I came to be a Metallica hater, and why I believe I'm still justified in hating on them.

But this won't be that post.

Because, the truth is that like nearly every other thirty- and forty-something metalhead out there, Metallica was once very special to me. Between the years of 1987 and 1991, they were one of my two favorite bands (the other being, ironically to some, the Rolling Stones).

Unlike the Stones, however, Metallica was in the now in the 80's. They were, in fact, way ahead of their time.

And despite being arguably the biggest metal band in the world in those years (yes, Mister Harris, your band was really great, too) , Metallica was also something of a cult band....a cult band that happened to make aggressive, literate and visionary music that was - to me - like some kind of a hidden treasure kept from other kids who were too hung up with their preconceptions about heavy metal to actually give it a chance.

Of course, right about the time I stepped foot onto a college campus in 1991, I began to slowly hit a punk phase. (This, of course, was something of an extension from Metallica, given the strong Misfits connection.) And that path always leads at some point to the Velvet Underground.

I won't pretend that the Velvets were even a fraction as important to me as Metallica was, but they absolutely do form the soundtrack to a lot of my college memories. I damn near wore out that cassette of "Live at Max's Kansas City" by the time I'd graduated, and I remember an awful lot of lonely nights trying to figure out the chords to "Lisa Says" on my roommate's guitar. (I never did get it right. Lou's a tricky fucker).

I loved the way Reed - in the Velvets and as a solo artist - could make his lyrics work on so many levels: the tender, the triumphant, the desperate, the devastated, the dark and the depraved.

I even had a ridiculously awesome over-sized poster of the "Rock and Roll Animal" album cover hanging above my dorm bed, complete with a verse from "Heroin" printed in the lower left corner. (Dad was just delighted to see that over parents weekend).

So, I hope we got all of that out in the clear: I still have an awful lot of love for the music of both Metallica and Lou Reed.

But, my God, I'm really not looking forward to this collaboration.

Because, unlike Death Magnetic ("return to classic form" my white, Polish ass), I have a feeling I'm not going to be able to resist checking this one out.

And, unfortunately, in the exact same way I have misgivings about tribute albums, I'm just not that comfortable with mega-artist collaborations.

Sure, I know that this is all the rage right now. Bon Iver working with Kanye. Robert Plant and Allison Krause. That Dangermouse guy and basically everyone.

But its just not for me. And I think I have a fairly logical explanation for that:

Making great music is a delicate process. It is a collaboration in and of itself, and the right mix of artists, personalities and perspectives is essential.

Furthermore, although there is some truth to the notion that most successful bands are led by a dictator personality within the unit, the fact is that the process always remains a collaboration: the dictator keeps every single member of the band because he knows that they make his vision for his music that much closer to reality. Along the way, new arrangements are suggested, new skills and talents are discovered and fostered, and -- perhaps most commonly -- beautiful mistakes are made, yielding new and often more exciting perspectives on a song.

It requires an immense amount of trust, and quite a bit of humility. (No one knows this better than the drummer).

It was true for the young Metallica. It was true for the young Velvets. It was even true for mid-career Lou Reed, when Bowie and Bob Ezrin produced albums with him.

But I question how much any successful and firmly established legacy artist can *truly* collaborate with another successful and firmly established legacy artist.

I question whether or not Reed has enough respect for Metallica to have them rearrange his songs without meddling.

I question whether or not Metallica has it in them to rise to someone else's standard.

I question whether or not this project should have been given to the guys in Mastadon, instead.

And, honestly, more than anything else, I question whether or not I can ever get over my nagging certainty that this entire idea would sound so much better if Cliff Burton was still alive.

Because when I look back at the young Metallica -- those long-haired, awkward, pimply kids -- I really do find myself thinking of them as artists.

But when I look at the clumsy arena rock juggernaut they've been for the past 20 years...with the law suits, and Saint Anger, and the Basquiat collection, and that fucking album with the philharmonic....

...Well, when I do that, I find myself sadly realizing that when that bus went off the road in Sweden, something truly did "flicker for a moment, and then it vanished and was gone."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unholy Blashphemies?


Every once in a while, you come across someone that reminds you that your lousy opinions are all worthless and weak, and you should just stop offering them on your stupid blog until you can get your act together.

And goddamned if that guy doesn't produce Coverkiller Nation.

I just might be in love with The Coverkiller.

If Jim Cornett reviewed metal albums, he's do it just like the Coverkiller does.

If John McLaughlin hosted a Sunday morning roundtable analysis show about metal, the Coverkiller would smack that smirk off of Monica Crowley's face, give her still-warm seat cushion a slow sniff, and park his Doritos-fed ass in her chair.

The Coverkiller is Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann and Eddie Trunk, morphed into one supremely opinionated voice.

The CoverKiller has a passion for metal that I can't muster for much of anything in my life, besides maybe drinking Bell's Two Hearted Ale, watching The Soup, and passing out on the couch with my wife on a Friday night.

And, so, I now present to you, the Coverkiller's
EPIC 9:00 rant review of Morbid Angels' long-awaited Illud Divinum Insanus.

Quick primer for the three of you who don't listen to metal: Morbid Angel are one of the definitive death metal bands of all time. They make scary music. And they're good at it.

Last month they released an album that made metal fans very angry. That anger was a very specific type of anger. It was nerd rage.

Nerd rage is that irrational anger that one can only experience when one has obsessively sacrificed significant portions of time, energy and dignity to wholeheartedly waving the flag for some under-appreciated passion, only to be horribly betrayed by the object of their obsession (see also: Van Halen hiring Gary Cherone; Olivia Munn leaving "Attack of the Show"; Lucas dreaming up Jar-Jar-fucking-Binks during a Dr.-Pepper-and-quaaludes-bender, then refusing to edit him out after he sobered up; and every goddamned move that Daniel Snyder has made during his humiliating ownership of the Washington Redskins.)


This, my friends, is a splendid example of nerd rage, and I am very pleased to share it with you.

Do not go to war with the Coverkiller Nation.

Enjoy.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reviews In Bad Taste: "All For None, None For All: A Tribute to Peter Steele"



A couple of weeks ago, the good people at MetalUnderground.com stumbled upon my sad little blog, and asked me if I'd be interested in writing a review of the new Peter Steele tribute they'd just released. I told them I'd be happy to, and, lo and behold, within a day's time, they'd e-mailed me my very own copy of "All For None, None For All: A Tribute to Peter Steele".


So first things first: thanks to MetalUnderground for making this album happen; and for believing (1) that my opinion matters, and (2) that anyone reads this blog. (Ha. Suckers).

(Seriously, though, in just a smidgen more than the year after Steele died, MU's crew managed to get a tribute album off the ground, completed and out the door. That grants them my eternal respect for being a top-notch professional outfit. And for releasing it at only $3.00 a copy, they're also just plain good folks.)

Now comes the hard part: the actual review.

Let's be clear about this: I was totally upfront with Ty that I'm a pretty crap writer, and haven't done very many *reviews* per se. But, well, hell. They found me and offered me this opportunity, so here's my best effort not to screw this up.

++++++++

It's fitting that in the wake of vocalist/bassist/figurehead/co-songwriter Peter Steele's death, MetalUnderground.com has spearheaded a tribute to Type O Negative.

After all, cover songs were always a prominent part of Type O's repertoire, both in the studio and on stage. And although results of Type O's cover choices varied widely (it's hard to believe that the same band that did that jaw-droppingly creepy version of Seals & Croft's "Summer Breeze" also was responsible for the goddawfully terrible take on "Angry Inch"), the more important thing to keep in mind is that the band's choices reflected a dynamic appreciation for some of the best music of the 60's, 70's and even the 80's, including covers of the Beatles, Neil Young, Black Sabbath, Hendrix, the Doors, Status Quo, the Knack, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, CCR, Santana, and the Banana Splits. I'm pretty sure they even goofed on some Nirvana at one show I attended.

All of that is a long way of saying that the Type O Negative catalog should be totally fair game for the next generation to take a crack at, and that (once again) I am glad that MetalUnderground made it happen.

My take? My take is that tribute albums are always a tough prospect. Because out of some perverse form of logic, if you love a band enough to buy a tribute album for them, then you probably also love them enough to feel defensive and territorial about anyone doing them wrong. Its a bit of a paradox, and it explains why I own a library of tribute albums that I don't especially like.

But, still, best case, you walk out with three or four tracks that are enjoyable, and perhaps an artist or two that catches your interest. And, oddly enough, that sort of makes the entire project worthwhile, in spite of however disappointing the rest of the content might be.


And, true to form, that's exactly how this tribute turns out for me.

Before we get started, a few broad trends I spotted:

1. The bands that chose my least favorite songs walked into this review with an immediate advantage. I totally admit that the lack of an emotional connection to certain songs made it possible for me to be a little more open minded.
2. The most common pitfall for most of these bands were the vocals. In so many ways, its a lose-lose: Peter's ultra-baritone was central to so many of the band's arrangements, so if you try to mimic it, you might sound like a poseur. Swing and miss, however, and you'll lose the whole track.
3. Nothing off of "Slow Deep and Hard"?? Damn.

Anyway, without further ado, here's my take.

The Winners: Auvernia, Enthrope, Revilement, Autumn's Eyes.
The Losers: Fairytale Abuse, Emancer, Blind Greed.
Somewhere in the middle: Everyone else.

Track by track:

"I Don't Want to Be Me" -- Auvernia (Argentina): I don't believe that a single band on this comp had as much fun with their track than Auvernia did. Despite the band's ultra-earnest power metal foundations, there's an almost giddy energy behind this interpretation, and I suspect that Peter would have had a chuckle at it. (Seriously tight band, too. I'm still trying to figure out if those are live drums or not.)

"Black # 1" -- Fairytale Abuse (Denmark): As I mentioned, the vocals was a gamble for most of these bands. Unfortunately, Fairytale Abuse rolled a two by swapping out the baritone for a gritty and thin growl, backed on the choruses by a deeper, more traditional bark. And that just won't work for a song that is so dependent on a rich vocal. (Especially during the harpsichord bridge, which the band just fucking skipped altogether - major points off guys.). This track might have been saved if the guy doing the background vocals (Molle?) had taken the lead this time around.

"Halloween In Heaven" -- Stabbingback (Seattle, U.S.A.): Massive improvement of a totally awful song. Excellent effort, guys. Not your fault the song itself sucks.

"My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" -- Emancer (Norway): Such an excellent start to this track. A lot less groove, a lot more drive.

And then... we hit the 1:00 mark.


Is this a fucking joke? Ugh.

"Dead Again" -- Dead Shape Figure (Finland): For fairly obvious reasons, this is one of the more thought-provoking tracks on the tribute. Its a solid effort, and band does the song justice by stripping out the majority of the keyboards and upping the tempo slightly, a technique that works most effectively on the machine gun fills before each verse. A few points off for over-flourishing the vocals.

"Wolf Moon" -- Enthrope (Finland): Enthrope did the best job of anyone working around the obstacle of Steele's vocals. And I have to admit that I initially bristled at the corpsing technique. But here's the thing: after a few listens I began to theorize that the band was using a straight vocal and a corpse-grunt to differentiate between the split characters of man and werewolf within the song. To that end, it's a brilliant technique, brought fully to life as the two sing the coda in duet ("beware/the woods at night/beware/the lunar light"), at once a warning and a threat.

Even better, Enthrope employs the subtle but decided tempo change going into the coda that was a standard of Type O Negative's live show. Gold star to these guys.


"Life Is Killing Me" -- Dark Hound (Nashville, U.S.A.): As with "Dead Again", this one is an obvious choice to include on a tribute album. I can't say that Dark Hound brings much new to the table with this version, but at the minimum the lyrics are higher in the mix and easier to distinguish, which is important for this post-mortem document. Kind of makes me wish I'd listened a more closely when the original disc came out.

"Green Man" -- Band of Orcs (Santa Cruz, U.S.A.): Say what you will about these weirdos, but they happen to be the only band on this comp that took any significant liberties with a Type O Negative arrangement. And although Gogog's vocals are more humorous than threatening, they do effectively create a mood wherein the Green Man character -- something of a pagan resurrection hero in the original -- becomes a very sinister figure.

Do I like the track? Not really; I accept that the whole thing smells like a sophomoric gag, in fact. But I have to offer them my respect for retooling the song into something absolutely opposite in tone from the original. I was hoping for more of this, honestly.


Well, not this. But this kind of effort.

Everything Dies -- In.Verno (Spain): While certainly not the worst track on the album, I'd be lying if I said that this one doesn't strike me as a lost opportunity for In.Verno (or almost any other band with a female vocalist): Pete did his share of macho posturing, but a lot of his lyrics were nearly feminine in their fragility. Laura ComesaƱa has a beautifully mournful voice, and I would have liked to have heard her take a crack at something more romantically vulnerable, like "Can't Lose You" or "Haunted".

"Christian Woman" -- Blind Greed (Tucson, U.S.A.): No two ways about it: there's something wrong here. While there are some nuggets to be found (in particular, the excellent vocals), but I have a sneaking suspicion that Blind Greed attempted to record all eight minutes of the three movements of this song in one take. And that seems to have created some problems.

Most notably, the track just seems thin, due in large part to a snare drum that's way too tinny to stand up to the primary bass and guitar riffs of movements one and three. Moreover, the are sections in both of the last two movements when the band just seems out of synch -- most notably in the climax of the second movement and the transition into the third.

(Sorry guys. It goes against everything I stand for to single out the drummer, so I'm going to suggest you beat up your engineer instead)

Sex and Violence -- Revilement (Taiwan): Holy fuck. Look out, Chthonic. These guys will fuck you up where you stand.

"Love You to Death" -- Autumns Eyes (Connecticut, U.S.A.): I guess I had a lot of problems with this track at first.

Foremost, I thought that Dan Mitchell might have been playing it too close to the original, which I was afraid would bore me. And then there were the high strings in the intro (violas and low strings only, dude....).


But I have to hand it to him: Dan/Autumns Eyes did really well by this track, and that's one hell of a feat, considering that Love You to Death is one of the most lush arrangements the band ever put together.

And, to my surprise, there actually are a handful of tweaks that I'm really happy with: in particular, the slightly off-key children's piano effect on the second verse is creepily playful, providing a very cool variation on Josh Silver's original part.


Moreover, Autumns Eyes incorporates two aspects of Type O's live version of this track that I'd nearly forgotten about: (1) the pensive keyboard into that they always used live; and (2) the fantastic drop-crescendo the band would include in the middle of the coda. (This one small technique was always one of my favorite moments of Type O's live show, and I have to admit that incorporating it here went a very long way in winning me over). So, yeah - big ups to Autumns Eyes.


And there you have it. If you love this band, you absolutely should give "All For None, None For All" a try, even if just to form your own opinion. And if you're getting older (like me), and you're having trouble keeping up with new music (like me), this is one hell of an economical way to get with it.

Many, many thanks to all of the bands who participated in this tribute, even the ones I was unfavorable to. The fact is that their contribution keeps Peter's music alive longer and to a more broad audience, and that's important.
And thanks to MetalUnderground -- not only for making this happen, but for recognizing that a whole lot of us saw the greatness of Pete Steele's talents.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reviews In Bad Taste: Black Label Society - The Song Remains Not the Same

Over the years I haven't always done right by Zakk Wylde. Despite the fact that he may be THE guy who has done the most to carry the flag for hard rock since its near-death experience ever since the grunge era, I actually don't own a single Black Label Society album.

I've wanted to make this right for a long time, and last week I finally did.

After catching a TV promo for Zakk's new acoustic album, "The Song Remains Not the Same"during a recent airing of "That Metal Show", I decided to give it a try. This decision was made despite the album's borderline terrible name and an acoustic concept that - in my experience - generally disappoints.

With all of that said, the music featured in the ad showcased a teary-eyed Allmans-esque side of Wilde's music that I'd always felt was just barely beneath the surface of BLS, but was repressed nonetheless. And that excited me.

And then, there's the x-factor of someone so unabashedly ROCK doing an "unplugged" album. Because, let's face it: after the initial success of MTV Unplugged (ahem, 20 years ago), acoustic performances got pretty played out; they turned into a gimmick, often performed with minimal effort and to poor outcome. All of this made me a little uneasy, and very curious. (Say what you want about Zakk, but the dude's a workhorse, and I had a feeling he wouldn't half-ass this).

And, so, I broke down and gave the thing a try.

The song list for the disc can generally be divided into two categories: acoustic renditions of BLS tunes, and covers of tender-hearted classic rock songs from the 60s and 70s. I'm going to address each category separately.

The Black Label Society Songs:

A bit of a mixed bag here. In fact, thirty seconds into the first track, things were not looking good. Album-opener "Overlord' loses all of the funky muscle that makes the original a great rock song, and transforms it into something more akin to a Days of the New outtake. And that's not really a good thing.

Things do pick up from there, however: "Parade of the Dead" provides a downright mournful counterpart to the "stomping off to war" theme of the original, and features an arrangement that I have to admit much better suits the vocal melody; and "Riders of the Damned" is nearly unrecognizable from its source.

But the highlight has to be "Darkest Days". The new version didn't actually require a lot of tinkering (the original being a tear-jerker in its own right), but the more sparse arrangement is still effective; the extra space gives Wylde the freedom to explore his vocals and land on a weary style that owes itself a great deal to the aforementioned Gregg Allman.

(For some reason, there's an unnecessary second version of this tune later in the album, featuring country music star, John Rich, on vocals. I don't really question the decision to have Rich on the disc so much as the decision to include two takes of the song. I hate it when musicians do that).

The Cover Songs:

The second section of the album features a surprisingly diverse group of songs by Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Blind Faith, and (*gasp*) Simon & Garfunkel. And this is noteworthy, because hard rock and heavy metal musicians (and fans) are all too often typecast as completely one-dimensional listeners; to have a band as iconic as Black Label paying homage to roots that might not seem altogether obvious is something that I'm very grateful for.

"Junior's Eyes" kicks things off. Not one of my favorite Sabbath tracks to begin with (how on earth did this one not end up on "Blizzard of Oz"? It certainly never sounded like Sabbath to me...), I'm willing to tell you that its an improvement. But that's not much of an accomplishment in my book, and I can't say I'll be hitting "repeat" on this on anytime soon.

Their take on Young's "Helpless", meanwhile, is a big winner. Perhaps in the same way that I might never be totally pleased with any version of "Junior's Eyes", I suspect that I'd be pleased with almost any artist's take on Mr. Young's bleak and beautiful epic...I'm a sucker at the very first line, and BLS does exceptionally well by the song, patiently negotiating the circular nature of the arrangement.

The cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a truly noble effort, and a ballsy one at that: There's nothing particularly rock or metal about this classic, and other than a fairly awesomely schmaltzy cover by Vegas-era Elvis, I've never actually heard anyone else attempt the song.

That said, it's a damned high bar for just about anyone, and Zakk doesn't even attempt Art Garfunkel's death-defying vocal crescendo at the end (which I kind of thought was the point of the whole song). As such, I can't say this one isn't a slight disappointment, but I totally respect the attempt nonetheless.

Similarly, Black Label Society doesn't really improve on Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" (primarily because that's basically impossible). But they don't make it *worse* either, which is far too common on these types of projects . So bully for them, I guess.

The disc wraps with an instrumental take of "The First Noel", which will undoubtedly remind listeners of Randy Rhoads' solo classical/baroque track, "Dee", on the "Tribute" album. Its a pretty listen, and like the rest of the album, serves as a reminder that there's more to BLS than rude guitars and awesome facial hair.

And that comment kind of wraps the disc up for me. It's a good effort, and I'm sure it was a difficult one on several levels. Most importantly, its a bit of a gamble, pushing the comfort level of certain types of consumers. Had it been pitched to a major label, I can't imagine Zakk & Co. would have gotten the green light for it.

Do I love it? Not really.

But I sure like Black Label Society an awful lot more for it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bid Laden is Dead

Yeah, I'm totally just posting this for Web stats.

Soul On Fire

Three things you should know if you've stopped by here before:

1. I believe that Glenn Danzig is a terribly under-appreciated talent.

2. I believe that hipster douchebag music snobs ruin everything fun about enjoying music.

3. I believe that I'm kind of a hypocrite, because I know what a detestable snob I can be about music, and how much fun I've had at Mr. Danzig's expense over the years -- despite my personal crusade on and off of this blog to have the guy properly recognized for his skills.

All of that said, I'm happy to point your attention to a recent post on hipster douchebag music snob emporium, Pitchfork.com, which previews droner-rock princess, EMA's, cover of "Soul on Fire". This track from the first Danzig album has always been one of my favorites: his vocals were uncommonly subtle, the arrangements are fairly dynamic, and the production is a real prizewinner (name me one other hard rock/metal song featuring a baritone sax).

EMA's take on the track is excellent. It sounds fairly mechanical in contrast to the very patiently live feel of that entire first Danzig album (thank you, Mr. Chuck Biscuits), but vocalist Erika M. Anderson makes it work with the same kind of brooding tension - albeit from a feminine voice that makes it seem less threatening and far more sexual (um....to me, at least). Sorta like that awesome Melissa Auf Der Maur cover of Devil's Plaything, except more so......way more so.

Pitchfork's interview with Anderson, on the other hand, is unsurprisingly disappointing. While there are a few good insights about EMA's musical influences, the questions about Danzig tend to rotate around his height, his fashion sense, and the ass whooping he received a few years ago at the hands of Northside Kings vocalist Danny Marianinho. (Believe it or not, this seven year old story actually generated yet another headline this weekend. And, no I'm not defending Glenn on this one. Dude really needs to move past it if he ever wants the skinny pants kids to stop dissing him). Anderson actually pays him a really nice compliment in the interview on his ability to write vocals, and also indicates she's listened to some even deeper cuts by the band, but it's generally buried in the piece, and that's too bad.

It's just kind of a bummer. Glenn's been covered by everyone from Metallica to Guns N'Roses to My Morning Jacket. Even Johnny Fucking Cash recorded one of his songs. And yet, its easier for the smart kids to keep him as a punchline.

Dude makes it easy for him, though doesn't he?

Anyway, check out the tune if you can. In the face of some of the general mean-spiritedness of the piece, its hard not to see it as a validation.

Friday, April 29, 2011

You Pull The Trigger of My....

Been having a little trouble carving out the time to do any actual writing these days, but I've stumbled over some pretty awesome gems the past few weeks. This one comes to you courtesy of The Metal Inquisition - a blog that is vastly superior to mine, even if it does happened to be more starved of content of late. Enjoy.

You can file this under "Thanks For Making My Weekend Totally Fucking Awesome":


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Still Looking for Someone Who Was Around

As we approach the one year anniversary of his death, MetalUnderground reports that it will be releasing a Peter Steele tribute album. According to the site:

"To honor Peter’s memory on the anniversary of his passing, and lead a new generation of metalheads to his music, heavy metal news site Metalunderground.com has teamed up with a dozen underground bands from across the globe to release an exclusive tribute album. The tribute, entitled “All For None, None For All: A Tribute to Peter Steele," was done in collaboration with Dan Mitchell of Beneath The Woods Studio and features twelve stellar cover songs from many stages of Peter’s career in both Type O Negative and Carnivore."

I've posted quite a bit here about my admiration for Steele's music. If you could get past all of the dumb-guy-from-Brooklyn humor, the sex god nonsense and the very pre-Twilight-era vampire fetishism, I was always convinced that there was a ridiculously talented songwriter within the guy.

And, as I have written elsewhere on this blog, tracks like "Love You To Death" and "Haunted" have always seemed so beautiful to me that they almost didn't count as metal (a feeling I first experienced the first time I ever heard the middle section of "Orion" -- or, much more to the point now that I think of it, the intro to "Damage, Inc." -- as a young teenager....and that's some excellent songwriting company).

But all of that said, I'm always a little wary of tribute albums. I own a lot of them, and they're often just shy of worthless. The exceptions tend to be when the interpretations show some real ambition. And in order to inspire that, it generally helps if the source materials has a depth of arrangement to it.

So, that's why I'm relatively eager to give this one a try. If Steele and Josh Silver could do one thing, it was typically to put a worthwhile arrangement on a song. Plus, the one cover I've ever heard of them (via Boston shoegazers, The Constants) was generally very satisfying.

So, check it out. I have to admit that I don't know a single band on this list, and that's a good thing.
I'm kind of looking forward to this.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What we need is awareness, we can't get careless

No time for a real post tonight, so I'm just going to point you to an exceptional article from the New York Times this week, about the legendary Clyde Stubblefield's crusade for royalties for the countless hits on which he's been sampled over the years.

(try and diagram that sentence for me, will you?)


Now, if you're looking for me to write a post that attempts to invalidate hip-hop as an art form for its frequent reliance on sampling, you've come to the wrong place. I think sampling can be pretty fucking artistic, in fact. And, no, I'm not talking about that garbage Puff Daddy was doing ten years ago.

I'm talking about my roommate and I -- both suburban white kids -- staring at each other in the living room of our college apartment upon our first listen to "The Chronic" and "The Predator", wondering where the hell Dre and Ice Cube had dug up those ridiculously obscure (...to us) hooks and horn lines.

I'm talking about realizing for the first time that the fanfare introducing "Jump Around" was lifted off of "Harlem Shuffle".

I'm talking about the fact that I intimately know every single funky-ass drum fill to "Bust A Move", but don't actually know the first line to the song.

At root, I'm talking about the exuberance of being turned on to totally new music when a familiar artist delivers it to you in a new package. Ultimately, that is the beauty of sampling.

Some are apt to discredit Stubblefield because, well......because he's a drummer. And drummers rarely get songwriting credits. Hell, you ask even the mighty Hal Blaine how much he got paid for doing the tracks for "I've Got You Babe" or "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" or "Help Me, Rhonda" or "Age of Aquarius", and I'm willing to bet you the bottle of Guinness in front of me that he received not much more than his day rate.

But things should be different for rap and hip hop. Because unlike rock and roll with all its pretty guitar players, hip-hop has few - if any at all - of the distractions that prevent the listener from recognizing the core essence of this music is about the beat and how the MC's meter works around it.

Anyway, by now you know where I stand: when one artist has constructed such an overwhelming number of those beats, it's just plain wrong for him not to receive a writing credit or royalty or some sort of formal recognition for being the source artist (...and heaven forbid that the estate of James Brown lays some claim to any available cash, because God knows that bastard loved nothing more than docking his musician's pay).

Ok.....I think I was going to try and keep it short tonight, and now that I've brought up my feelings about James Brown, this post is absolutely on the verge of unraveling. Next thing you know I'll be on that asshole, Ray Charles.

Give the article a read and weigh in.

Monday, March 7, 2011

So Please Don't Ask Me Why I Love You.....

So.... Blabbermouth is reporting that Poison and Motley Crue are touring together. And this has the seventy or so remaining fans of 80's hair bands in a gigantic uproar, presumably because Poison are "poseurs" and the Crue are "rock".

Or something like that.

I couldn't really care less. I've seen the Crue twice, and I admit it was an awful lot of fun both times. But those guys are charades of the hedonists who wrote "Looks that Kill" and "Live Wire" thirty fucking years ago, and the more they try to flex their muscles and reclaim any credibility associated with that era, the sadder it makes me.

I'm relieved to say that I never saw Poison live, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't like the majority of their singles. (What can you say? Most of their catalog is straight off the pages of the Cheap Trick songbook, and that formula happens to work.).

I am bummed, however, to learn that the New York Dolls are touring with them. I shouldn't be, but I am.

The Dolls are something special for me. My introduction to the band by way of a roommate happened to coincide with the era at which I began to play in a band of my own, and when I finally was beginning to embrace punk rock. I was already a devotee of the Rolling Stones and I had gone though a hair metal phase, so they were, in so many respects, a missing link for my musical tastes.

There were nights and nights and nights my musician friends and I lost in the living room of our dilapidated old Maryland farmhouse, jamming to "Trash" and "Personality Crisis" and "Give Him a Great Big Kiss" (the last of which I danced to with my godmother at my wedding this past weekend). These are some of my happiest memories.

During that same era, I picked up a copy of Johnny Thunders' stunningly tender "Hurt Me" album, a CD that provided much of the soundtrack to a terribly sad period of time that I was entering into just about ten years ago. As much of a gem as I find that disc to be, I can't say that I listen to it very often anymore. I guess that it just dregs up too many sad memories - particularly the title track, which just breaks my heart to this day.

So, yes, the Dolls are special to me.

I admit that I was cynical to their decision to re-form so many years after Jerry Nolan and Mr. Thunders had passed away - although less so after viewing the marvelous "New York Doll" documentary, which chronicles this reunion through the delicate eyes of Arthur Kane.

I also admit that I had a doubly-sour taste in my mouth when I learned that the band would continue the touring even after Mr. Kane himself passed away shortly after the reunion. (Yet, this somehow did not dissuade me from seeing the band with this new line-up not once, but twice. I guess I'm selfish like that.)

But touring with the Crue and Poison is just the goofiest goddamned thing I can think of. As bad-ass as Motley Crue may have seemed to me when I was all of 11 years old, I'm not sure they were ever as threatening as the transvestites adorning the Doll's first album - appearing so deviant, and bored and truly subversive. The Crue looked like characters from a movie; the Dolls looked like real, live sex workers. Touring with those guys, at any age, would seem to be a diminishment of that highly-effective image.

Poison, meanwhile, launched their entire careers off of a debut single which was, for all intents and purposes, "Personality Crisis", and (to the best of my knowledge) they never bothered to give the Dolls props for it. For that reason alone, I completely shun Poison and this tour.

But what this really proves is that at the end of the day, none of them are any better than the others. Punk is no more noble than metal. Metal is no more noble than hard rock. Hard rock is no more noble than glam.

They're all pretty much the same. In the words of fellow New York punks, the Dictators:

"What's it all about? Pussy and money.
I'm not trying to be cute, I'm not trying to be funny
Everybody lies about pussy and money
It's always going to be that way."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Once Upon A Time I Thought That I Was Cool (But I Don't Want to Brag)


N
early fifteen years ago, I was routinely doing some dumb ass things. Things that I may not be technically "ashamed of", but I'm sure not proud of them, either. I guess that the most appropriate term would be "embarrassed". I am embarrassed my actions at that time.

And there is probably nothing that I am more embarrassed by than my former drug use.

Now, I'm not talking about the good stuff. Not the illicit substances smuggled across borders and sold on street corners.

I'm talking about the sad ass trucker speed cocktails I typically would procure at convenience stores. Boxes of asthma medication, stay-awake stimulants and various weight loss supplements that I'd heard would get me buzzing through my weekends.....never you mind that I was already naturally thin as a reed, and generally wound up tighter than your cousin's skinny jeans. Speed was not at all what I needed in my life.

It was a short period.....six months, max. I received no real benefit from the experience, and I have to admit that I course-corrected fairly promptly (though - in the spirit of full transparency - not until after I mixed Pimatine and Miller Lite one evening, only to lose control of my car on a back country road and drive myself into a speed limit sign that was well clear of where any car should have been).

It's all so embarrassing in retrospect. I had all of these aspirations of being a rock star or a scenester or a local celebrity of some sort....which is so painful to admit now that I'm in my late-30's and too tired for angst. But its the incorporation of fake drugs that really takes the cake.

How foolish. How unnecessary. How insecure. How much more desperate for an image could I have been?

I am still so embarrassed about it all.

************

And this leads me to Steven Tyler.

Now, this isn't about Tyler's decision to be a judge on American Idol. Because, frankly, by this point in time I don't really know how anyone on earth could feign shock or disappointment at Steven Tyler compromising his rock and roll cred. ("Rocks" was awesome and all.....)

I'm talking about an appearance Mr. Tyler made on Letterman last week, in which admitted that the circumstances of his erratic behavior last year were the result of drug use.

"Drug use?" I mused, as I lay on the couch. "This could be good."

What followed was, indeed, shocking: Mr. Tyler formally admitted that his famous Sturgis flop off the stage was the result of ..... wait for it.... Lunesta.

And not just taking Lunesta pills, but snorting them.

*****

Now, allow me to be perfectly clear about one thing: I'm not proud of my failed attempts to become the Brian Jones of the Cough and Cold Aisle back in the day.

But I sure as hell know that if I had an army or roadies, employees and record company enablers at my disposal, I would have made it a point to step it up well past the pharmacy aisle and gotten something a little more worth wrecking my career over.

(As opposed to wrecking my car. Naturally.).

But that's just me. I was hopelessly insecure and desperate for validation, and doing ridiculous things each and every day so that people would continue to pay attention to me.

I doubt that Steven Tyler would know anything about that, would he?









Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Greatest Closing Track of All Time

A few months ago, NPR's "All Songs Considered" blog did an entry asking readers to tell them what they thought the greatest closing tracks of all time were.

Now I know what you're thinking: NPR sucks. It is not metal. It is for yuppies. Their news is biased. They speak in monotone, and a large number of their employees have speech impediments.

The fact is that NPR does not suck. Because there is not one media outlet on this planet that does more with less.

None.

Is it for yuppies? I couldn't tell you. I may be on the wrong side of "young", but I'm urban and professional, and there's not much I can do about that.

Is their news biased? Let me tell you something, Jack: All news is biased. FOX and MSNBC are fucking embarrassing in what they cover. CNN is fucking embarrassing in what they don't cover. Cry "liberal" all you want, but NPR does more actual analysis than anyone this side of John-fucking-McLaughlin.

Do they have an unusually high number of employees who are (literally) physically incapable of properly enunciating? Yes. Yes, they do
.

All of this is beside the point. Because near as I know, FOX and MSNBC don't know shit about music. And NPR absolutely does.

So, when I came across this particular NPR blog entry, I spent a good deal of time poring over the comments section, disappointed at how predictable so many of the selections were...the countless calls for "Sgt. Pepper", "Dark Side" and "Highway 61" from the balding pot-bellies I always associated with NPR listeners....along with the equally predictable calls for the closing cuts from albums by the Afghan Whigs, Radiohead, The Clash, and U2.

My selection? My selection reminds me that no matter how gray I am or how socially liberal my politics might become, I'm not quite the same as these NPR people.

Because I believe that the greatest closing track of all time happens to be"Rocket Queen", which concluded Guns n'Roses' debut album, "Appetite for Destruction".

It certainly wasn't a popular choice among their followers, but "Rocket Queen" was, in fact, a stunning closer for "Appetite". In the midst of a debut album that was more violent, more angry, and more misogynistic than just about anything else that had hit the mainstream (certainly much meaner than anything the Sunset Strip had produced in recent memory), "Rocket Queen" basks in a socially and lyrically filthy, over-the-top sexuality, making bedroom promises that would be fully threatening if they weren't so offhandedly boastful.

"You'd better turn me on tonight," Axl sneers, his bravado and contempt stemming from the power inherent in even having that choice.

It's nearly feminine in that regard....which is an interesting way of thinking about it.

Because out of nowhere, the songs stops on a dime approximately three minutes into what might be the funkiest and most sexual groove in the history of hard rock. And it shifts gears towards a much more classic, romantic, Southern-rock-style conclusion.

Those last three minutes are shockingly tender. They are pleading and vulnerable in a way that dreck like "November Rain" could never be, lacking any traces whatsoever of self-consciousness. Expanding on what I mentioned earlier about a nearly feminine voice for this song, it's not impossible to imagine this as - brace yourselves - a love letter from one prostitute to another.

And I challenge you to sit down with the song and consider that theory.

On one hand, this track would seem to reveal that there's more to Guns n'Roses than Jack Daniels, strippers, groupies and cocaine.

On the other hand, their debut album ends right there, with literally nothing but those three minutes to support such a claim.