I just picked up this Desert Rock Classic over at GOME. Tagged as the inspiration for Kyuss, featuring Desert Rock Mainstays (Mario Lalli, Alfredo Hernandez, Brant Bjork,etc.) and all that came from that band (Unida, QOTSA, BRANT BJORK, etc). What Pothead offers is four tracks that reminiscent of Josh Homme's Desert Sessions Vol. 1. Though to be fair this offering pre-dates Hommes collective by more than half a decade. At times the music had me thinking about Angelo Badlamenti's avant garde jazz saturated soundtrack for David Lynch's Twin Peaks. Like that soundtrack each song is unto itself, but clearly part of a larger purpose
"Manolete", which opens the four track EP, is six and a half minutes of rock based jazz. High on sharp ethereal guitar lines, but very laid back. This isn't slick in any sense of the word. The bass line which dominates "Digital Smoke Signal" only slightly shakes up the quickly established Yawning Man formula. In the age of The Mars Volta these songs could easily be condensed, even lengthened, into one mammoth track. To be fair the timing does pick up over the course of the song drastically changing the mood of the song. If " Manolete" represents the darkness of the desert night, "Digital Smoke Signal" represents the coming dawn or the even impending sunset. Things change drastically on "Encounter with An Angry God". Of all the songs this probably comes closest to the blues metal that spawned a generation of bands. Though the song employs most of the same guitar effects, but Lalli shakes it up a couple of times. The sound approaches a certain chaotic aggression- that the previous songs didn't even hint at. The last song "Samba De Primavera" falls completely away from the pack. Driven by the rhythm section, the guitars go to work on some decidedly southwestern musical direction. Mariachi trumpets don't make an appearance but they wouldn't be out of place. This song almost seems like inspiration for a later desert rock collective, Orquesta Del Desierto. Similarly they infuse there brand of alt-rock with southwestern inspired music.
Like the aforementioned Desert Sessions Vol. 1, Yawning Man skips any over bearing vocals. Instead they let the music speak for itself. To the uninitiated or unlike tastes it might sound repetitive or boring. If anything it rounds out and gives a little color to all those bands that cropped up out the desert just outside of Los Angeles. Like Badlamentis soundtrack for the fictional Twin Peaks in the Northwest, Yawning Man is able to create a soundtrack for the all to real Desert rock community in the Southwest. An interesting revisionist experiment might be to lay some vocals or spoken word over the music. Former Screaming Tree, Twilight Singer Mark Lanegan might be a good candidate. Then again that might ruin the soundtrack.
Jack Casady was a member of 60's era icons Jefferson Airplane and the 70's/80's "we just can't forget the 60's" group Hot Tuna. I went to high school in Tarrytown, NY. So, when Jack came to play Town Hall on Main Street it meant old hippies would invade. For a young punk in the suburbs this was like a bad punk rock song. Who knew that Jack Casady had a dirty little new wave secret. Casady played the bass and was backed up by Paul Zahl on drums. Brian Marnell was the front man. They recorded this little piece of Power Pop back in 1979 and released it in 1980.
Anchored by the fantastic "On the Beach" and "Price of Sex", the band doesn't stray to far from the late 70's new wave meets rock formula. "Price of Sex" is closer to the new wave sound that was alternative to the punk rock of the Dead Kennedy's. Keyboards and riffs duel throughout much of the song. Marnell's slight variation on Joe Strummer's snarl is an interesting touch as well. The laid back vibe of "On the Beach" reminds me of all those bad early 80's films about high school and sex. You wanted to live that life, but as you grew older you realized that it was just the active imagination of some aspiring screenwriter pounding out fluff that would attract the average teenage male from Illinois in the cold winter. "Modern Living" marries hard riffs with over active keyboards. I would even go as far as to suggest that the sound effects that open the song were stolen by Wall of Voodoo for the opening to their classic "Mexican Radio". Though their is occasional flares of rock-a-billy show up on "Red Blue Jeans" and a cover of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line", it doesn't take away from the rest of the mini album.
Power Pop Criminal's posted this album and it's an interesting piece of history. Marnell died in car crash and effectively ended SVT. It's hard to imagine that Casady would have ever given up his paid gig and dedicate his musical career to inspiring punk rock kids from Tarrytown. Still I'm loving that I foun this album and now have better memories of Casady. At least I could have gone to the show and demanded "Price of Sex" or "Modern Living".
I believe that the Undertones are highly overrated. Still there is something special about this song.
Weight of the World
I Scream Records
I can think of worse swan songs for a group than Weight of the World. Token Entry imploded soon after the release of Jaybird. Tim Chunks and founder Ernie Parada were put in the unenviable position of making the decision to go on under the name of Token Entry or moving on after "Mickey and Johnny" unceremoniously left the band mid tour in 1988. Well they chose to go on under the name in 1989. Recruiting "Richie and Matt" to fill the vacant guitar and bass duties respectively. After making a triumphant return to CBGB's Ernie, Tim, Richie, and Matt laid the groundwork for Weight of the World.
What does Weight of the World sound like? Well, back in the day (circa '89/90) hardcore was moving in one of two directions, metal (Agnostic Front) or funk (Token Entry). I interviewed Ernie and Timmy before a Pyramid show back in 1989 and they were steadfastly in the the funk category. So, it is no surprise that the album ended up sounding like a hardcore album with some funk and bass lines. The title track sounds like some half baked Vernon Reid riff that was left off Time's Up. Still, there is no denying that the title track also has a catchy beat and great female back up vocals. "Revolution" kicks off the album, but the riff seems borrowed from Murphy's Law's "Ilsa". Tim Chunks pipes are in full form and only the guitar solo veers off the usual Token Entry path. At times you can almost hear From Beneath the Streets screaming from beyond the grave. "Right Down Blue's" riff also seems eerily similar to Murphy's Law's "Cavity Creeps" mixed with Living Colour's "Middle Man", still the song is so well put together you quickly forget any nagging connections. "Doing It Again" also recalls their second album Jaybird. Though this falls more in the pop arena than anything they have ever done before. "Turn Around" guitar is eerily similar to the style that the Rollins Band was doing during this time. Luckily the breakdown quickly confuses the situation.
The trio of "Lucky Seven", "Brian and Tim's", and "Beautiful People" truly knocks you off one side or the other of the proverbial fence. At times Tim Chunks sounds like Will Smith. Even evoking his trade mark "smirk/laugh" from "Parents Just Don't Understand". Other times he sound as inept as Scatterbrain/ Ludichrist vocalist Tommy Christ. The difference here is that Tim Chunks is not part of some grand joke.
The most important thing to recognize about Weight of the World, is that Ernie and Tim really tried to branch out when they had a second chance. The songs might not have worked from beginning to end on every track, but they took a chance that a little hardcore band from Queens could make it big. I Scream Records deserves a lot of credit for not taking the easy route and re-issuing the stellar Jaybird by itself. That release in itself was leaps and bounds beyond From Beneath the Streets. Instead they included a less popular, but no less daring final release to pare with Jaybird. For Token Entry completist (all two of us), this is a welcome release.
Most of the tracks thankfully veer away from all that is wrong with "Sheena Is A Parasite". British influences such as late 70's Cure, Joy Divison, and Bauhaus saturate these tracks and is an obvious jumping off point. Which isn't a surprising since this neo-goth outfit is clearly dressed for the part and they are after all British. They then inject an equal dose of LA punk with sounds clearly inspired (if not borrowed) by early 80's TSOL, DI, 45 Grave, and Christian Death. Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savage's "Jack The Ripper" initiates the carnage. Slow riffs, guitar feedback, and terror filled shrieks dominate the song before a full on death rock assault. Leading off with this is song is an interesting choice. Sutch also used "horror" themes to fuel his proto-garage punk was run off eventually. His second album earning worst album ever honors from the BBC. I certainly hope that The Horrors are not looking for the same type of notoriety. "Horror's Theme" kicks off with bass and keyboard intro which quickly reminds you of the trail-style punk songs that The Gun Club wrote in the mid 80's. The British influence on this song is hard to ignore and makes the song appear like a true original. "Draw Japan" and "Little Victories" are both tightly constructed. They go right were "Sheena is a Parasite" goes wrong. The surf inspired guitar going toe to toe with upbeat gloom of the organ, works wonders. "Thunderclaps" veers closest to the goth that inspired the band. Tribal drumming, solemn whoa's and ahh's, and disaffected vocals that would make Ian Curtis proud.
Singer Farris Badwan runs the gamut with his vocals. For every time he intones Jefferey Lee Pierce, he then pulls Jack Grisham out of his hat, or even Jack (Yarber) Oblivian. At times his vocals give off the impression that his live performance makes up for any shortcomings. Spyder Webb uses every inch of the organ to propel most of these songs way beyond their natural ability. "Count In Fives" and "Gloves" best represents his performance on Strange House. The organ fades from the front to back, never once intruding on the overall performance. Rather an asset to the songs. Joshua Grimm makes the most of his guitar overdubs. The leads on all tracks are impeccable and he gets to improvise with pretty much every guitar trick he has ever learned, feedback, surf rock, solos, etc.
There are very few missteps. The extremely popular "Sheena Is A Parasite" just doesn't work. The brief song may be the hit, but it's tone doesn't fit well with the rest of the album. The song is sloppy and un-engaging. "Gil Sleeping" an instrumental that falls into all the same traps that most goth bands continue to fall into when they write instrumentals. You can't make a song dark and moody just for the sake of being dark and moody. This is generally where the singer adds his "special ingredient".
The Horrors should be big in the long run. Recent releases by The Nekromantix, AFI, and Nine Inch Nails prove the horror genre in music needs a bit of a face lift. Strange House proves you can reinvigorate the drama by reaching back to where people would least expect you to pull from your influences from. More importantly The Horrors could easily pull in that fan who just can't stomach Davey Havok's latest haristyle, Kim Nekroman's move to Beverly Hills or Trent's latest interest in marketing albums. Without the music they would all be caricatures, while The Horrors are true characters.
Satan's Little Pet Pig
In The Red Records
While we wait for the imminent arrival of Mark Sultan's debut solo release, his partner's in the Mind Controls (Ysael and Brian) have released their first formal long player on In The Red with their group Demons Claws. While not far from the usual fare that has come out of the Montreal over the last ten years Demons Claws sound less derivative then most of the other garage rock stalwarts. Incorporating thirty plus years of musical inspiration, the band also touches on proto-punk, Black Lips style country, and have learned a thing or two from their partner in the Mind Controls.
"Get Together",sandwiched in the middle of the twelve tracks, captures all the intensity of the late 60's Freakbeat scene, with just enough reverb to make it feel like it was recorded in the late 60's. "1000 Rounds" also has similar success using the retro formula. The shout along chorus gets a little lost in the execution, but the energy of this song is undeniable. "Shadow of a Castle", which opens the album, sounds like Laced with Romance-era Ponys. Utilizing the same sort of despair rock that solidified The Ponys brand of alternative rock at just the right time. Demons Claws are using this song to suck you in and as a jumping off point it' pretty successful. The closest the band comes to sounding like mid 60's garage punk is on "That Old Outlaw". The mid tempo country rocker recalls Mouse's "A Public Execution" from Nuggets. The worst that can be said is that the track is poorly placed on the album. The downward shift from the manic energy of "1000 Rounds" and the immediate blast off of "Wrong Side of Town" puts the song at a disadvantage. The last half of the Satans Little Pet Pig is especially strong. Kicking off with the previously mentioned "Get Together" and ending with non-stop beat and guitar feedback of "Behind the Barn", Demons Claws don't rest. Each song has a little more energy that most resembles the punk of the Mind Controls, falling somewhere between Cream and the more British Invasion qualities of the MC5. "Hunting on the 49" is most like "An Old Outlaw", but the weary road story gives the song a little more muscle. "Cecile LeMay" stands out as probably one of the simplest tracks on the album and also the most fun.
The worst that could be said about Satans Little Pet Pig is that the sound quality at times might be trying a little too hard to duplicate the limitations of the first wave of garage punk. There is keyboards credited on the album, but you would have to listen closely to find them in the music. Also, the vocals do suffer at times.
So, as the wait goes on for The Sultanic Verses our time is kept busy with Satans Little Pet Pig. Demons Claws prove worthy of their Montreal pedigree and their associations. As long as they keep the music coming the fans should follow.
This is a long time coming, but someone finally got a tribute site up for Snake Nation. Snake Nation was what Woody and Mike from Corrosion of Conformity did (some of the time) between the release of C.O.C.'s Technocracy and Blind. The album and tape were released by Caroline Records in the late 80's. Unfortunately this never got a proper release on CD. The music is a natural progression from Animosity with a healthy dose of In My Head era Black Flag mixed, Sabbath-esque riffs, with all that made early C.O.C. great. They have a Check it out, here.
Ted Leo/ Pharmacist
Live @ Webster Hall
Originally Published Earvolution
America's most overlooked hit maker Ted Leo headlined Webster Hall this past Saturday on what was his final tour stop. Ted Leo's music for a little over a decade has centered around the more accessible elements of late 70's inspired punk fused with elements of rock and hardcore. Leo looks the part as well. Tonight he looked every bit the son of Joe Strummer and Paul Weller, only from New Jersey not Surrey, England. Sporting Doc Martens, white jeans, and a red "fore arm" band, Ted Leo resembled a less grizzled Joe Strummer. Dismissing his world music influences and remembering how great the Jam and the '77 era Clash are thirty years later. His backing band, The Pharmacist, consisted of Chris Wilson on drums (looking every bit like Mick Fleetwood), Chris Lerner on bass (looking every bit like Trouble's Eric Wagner/ Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale), and James Canty shadowed in second guitar (perhaps Living with the Living's producer Brendan Canty's brother).
The night opened with that "Sons of Cain" from his latest album Living with the Living and ended with an abbreviated encore of Stiff Little Finger's "Suspect Device" which appeared on Sharkbite Sessions. In between he managed a cover of Chumbawumba's "Rappaport's Testament" , delivered a groove heavy version of "Old Souls Know", and eliminated the vocal overdubs on his signature song "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone" which makes the live version both invigorating and maddening. Reasonably a good portion of the show contained material off Living with the Living. Despite the dark lyrical content of "Colleen", the song live is a power pop gem. "La Costa Brava" sounds better live and hints at what kind of great rock songs Leo is capable of writing. "The Unwanted Things", a straight up dance hall/ dub reggae song, might appear out of place but it served as a buffer to the mostly up tempo set and worked especially well with the older material. The crowd had to endure my least favorite experimental tracks from Living with the Living, "Annunciation Day/ Born on Christmas" and "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb". The latter was actually weaker live despite Leo's last minute request to tweak the vocal monitor. "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb" is basically two songs melded together for no good reason. Judging the crowd's reaction clearly I am in the minority. This made me yearn for the all to short "Army Bound" and "Bottle of Buckie". "Me and Mia" and "Angels Share" were the only songs from Shake the Sheets. The former appearing surprisingly early in the set, but luckily Leo's material is strong enough to play all the "hits" first. Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak suffered similar fates on the set list. Thankfully the only way this impacts the show is your desire to go home after the show and listen to more Ted Leo. The great thing about Leo's music in general is that the riff and his vocals are enough to carry the song. Lerner, Wilson and Canty would often jump into the song well after they began. Not to diminish their role or their contribution, but the songs are that good. Where Wilson took the time to rest up, Lerner's downtime seemed like a guy who posturing. From my point of view Canty was in the shadows and only noticeable if you looked for him. This was surprising since Webster Hall has more than enough stage to accommodate a four piece band. Perhaps it was fear of a shock from Leo's wire from his guitar to his amp that kept him in the shadows or the lighting.
Leo spared the audience of any in between song banter for most of the set. Webster Hall, it was pointed out, has a 10 PM stop time on live shows. When he did engage the audience he was quick witted, self deprecating, and taking on the regional debate of Staten Island vs. New Jersey (which one don't you want to be from?). He wisely refused to perform his Kelly Clarkson cover, "Oh no, you don't want me to play that". Setting the record straight on why he doesn't drink beer. He is not straight edge, but extremely careful with his "girlish figure". Then a quick role call on what was happening after the show: Daniel Higgs of Lungfish playing at the Mercury Lounge or Murphy's Law on Staten Island? After digging himself a self described "hole" it was back to the music.
Ted Leo and The Pharmacist live erases any of the faults that come off on their recorded material. For ninety minutes they delivered a great show and displayed the range of influences that could easily fuel a musical career for the next twenty years. The songs are sharper and more focused. Except for misqueue on "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" the band didn't waste a riff or beat. Leo's vocal's were clear and lively. For those fans who followed him for the last decade or so, they couldn't be disappointed. He might not have busted out any Chisel covers, but I suspect we could wait another decade without that happening.