About Us

There is a good chance you found us accidentally by using the word “taint” in your search (If you found us on purpose, you deserve our accolades). Of course we don’t know what you were looking for, but you stumbled on a damn cool project. Look around; let us help send you on a musical journey. Here you will find a number of album reviews from the strange and extreme to the tame and mainstream. Our reviewers are a bunch of obsessive miscreants. Most of us are avid music collectors and have been involved in the music world for decades. A couple of us have been in or are still in bands.

There are no rules on Tickle Your Taint Blog. Our reviewers might make you laugh, or piss you off; both results are legitimate. One reviewer might write a glowing review of an album another might tear it apart. We may end up adopting a single review system, such as five stars, or each reviewer may use his own or none at all. We may have a new review every week or we could end up with one every six months. This blog exists as a social experiment to build community among a diverse group of music maniacs – our reviewers and hopefully you. Pull down your knickers, lube up and join us in tickling yours and our taints.

If you are in a band, have released a physical (rather than an MP3) CD or record, and would like us to review your efforts, contact us at tickleyourtaint@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bad Religion – Suffer

(Epitaph, 1988)

Review by Class Warrior

I realize that everyone knows this album already, at least if you’ve listened to any punk rock in the past twenty-five years. Odds are very good that you’ve formed an opinion about it, good or bad. In addition, the story of Bad Religion is well-known. They had a good run in the early 80s as teenagers, Greg Graffin decided to make “Into the Unknown” and nearly destroyed the band’s reputation, Brett Gurewitz rejoined the band….

Then they dropped this fucking bomb on the world in 1988. My life has not been the same since I heard it the first time shortly after its release.

The following story is one I’ve never told to anyone in quite this way, so you, dear Internet, are the first to hear.

My early high school years were not the most pleasant experience. I grew up in a very small town in the western U.S. from age one through my high school graduation. (Then I got the hell out of there, but that’s a subject for a quite different story.) I knew everyone, and everyone knew me, more or less. By the time I got to high school, most people my age probably thought I was mute. I had a speech problem – I couldn’t pronounce the “ess” sound properly – and I was quite ashamed of it. I knew what I needed to do to fix it – practice the sound and use it in public – but I was too embarrassed and self-conscious to start the process. As a result, my days at high school were a torment. Sometimes, I would hide in the bathroom during lunch hour just to avoid interaction. The special ed kids would come in sometimes and take dumps, which added insult to injury! My only social outlet was playing Dungeons & Dragons with my brother on weekends. Needless to say, I had no luck with the ladies.

Either during 10th grade or the beginning of 11th grade (in 1990 – now you know how old I am), my brother introduced me to punk rock. His friends gave him tapes of the standard “intro to punk” bands, like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. Included among those first bands we heard was Bad Religion and their Suffer album. I was blown away the first time I heard it. Never had I experienced such rage, such scathing critique, or such ass-kicking guitar crunch as B.R. delivered. They offered a fresh, intelligent perspective on topics I had been thinking about, such as the (non) existence of a higher power, humanity’s insignificance in the grand scale of the universe (yet extreme arrogance and self-centeredness), the horrors of capitalism, and the futility of war. The Suffer album addressed all of these concerns, and more. All of a sudden, my little speech problem didn’t seem like such a big deal. I got to work on correcting it. By the time senior year rolled around, I no longer had a problem. Plus I was a punk rocker! Still no luck with the ladies, though. I had to go to college for that.

I credit a great deal of my personal and intellectual development to my introduction to punk rock in general and Bad Religion in particular. I would not be where I am today without it. That is why this album holds a very special place in my heart. I still listen to this record twenty years after I first heard it.

At a time when metal-punk crossover ruled, Suffer was a straight-up hardcore punk blast of energy with a two-guitar attack and awesome vocal harmonies everywhere (the “oozin’ aahs”). Guitarists Mr. Brett and Greg Hetson (of Circle Jerks, etc. fame) played power chords pretty much all the time, with only an occasional lead part. Jay Bentley, the bass player, provided plenty of good low-end thwack that kept everything together. The drummer was quite good as well (can’t remember his name at the moment – sorry!). He could have used a little more cymbal bashing. I’m a big fan of drummers who really ride those cymbals. Needs some cowbell too. I’m just nitpicking now, so I’ll stop. Highlights for me include “How Much Is Enough?”, “When?”, and “Forbidden Beat”, but every single song is great.

It’s they lyrics that set Bad Religion apart from other bands. Greg Graffin and Mr. Brett wrote some tremendous songs with great topics for my young brain (and my slightly older one). My brother and I would get out the dictionary whenever we encountered a word we didn’t understand. Here’s an example from “How Much is Enough?”: “Tell me can the hateful chain be broken / production and consumption define our hollow lives / avarice has led us across an ocean / toward a land that’s better, much more bountiful and wide / When will mankind finally come to realize / his surfeit has become his demise / how much is enough to kill yourself? / that quantity is known today / as we blow ourselves away.” Sheer poetry, but it’s poetry with a strong message (i.e., down with imperialism and capitalism!). The album is full of lines like these. Suffer, without a doubt, contains the best lyrics to come out of the late 80s/early 90s punk scene, and arguably the best punk lyrics ever. I still know all the words after all these years.

This will be seen as heresy in some punk circles, but I think Suffer is the best punk album of the 1980s. It may very well be my favorite album (of any genre) of all time, although it probably comes in second to a record I will review soon. It earns a full TEN out of ten punk points from me. It is one of the very few albums I own both on vinyl and CD. I had it on a (copied) cassette too! If you haven’t heard this album yet (or its follow-ups, No Control and Against the Grain), drop everything, head to the local punk record store, and get a copy!

(Note: I will review a record from the nineties next time. I had to skip that decade because the album I have in mind is packed in a box as I prepare to move across the country.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nevermore – The Obsidian Conspiracy

Reviewed by Scott

Nevermore has a new album out, titled The Obsidian Conspiracy. When I saw this album, two questions immediately came to mind. First, what exactly is an obsidian conspiracy? And second, how will this album stand up to their last, 2005’s This Godless Endeavor? That album is arguably their greatest, the fullest realization of the Nevermore sound (thrash metal blended with elements of prog, power metal, and classic metal, with a little bit of new wave and goth rock thrown in for good measure). And the title is easy enough to understand right away, at least on a basic level (oh right: atheism). But will The Obsidian Conspiracy – whatever the fuck that is – be able to match the high points of This Godless Endeavor, like the long closing title track, which is maybe the best Nevermore song ever written?

Well after listening to this album for some time, I’m still unable to tell you what an obsidian conspiracy is. And that’s symptomatic of the album’s main weakness, which leads us to my second question. No, it isn’t as good as the last one – but that’s not to say this isn’t an excellent album. I would have been highly surprised if I had put on The Obsidian Conspiracy and immediately thought that it surpassed This Godless Endeavor. After all, I’ve been listening to the latter for half a decade, and listening to it a lot, so maybe it’ll be a few years before I can really compare these two albums from anything like an objective perspective. But then again, ranking albums according to quality like this is probably bullshit, and I should really just say that they’re both fantastic.

Which they are. Nevermore has never released a bad album, and The Obsidian Conspiracy is as good as anything in their catalog. The riffs are awesome, the songwriting is tight, and vocalist Warrel Dane is at his best here. But the main problem with this album is lyrical. Dane has always been a political lyricist (and certainly, if broadly, on the left) and this seems like it was conceived as a deeply political album (the “conspiracy” of the title, for instance). Whatever his intentions, though, the lyrics are mostly vague, ambiguous, and nihilistic, unlike previous Nevermore songs which tend to get right to the point.

Sure, the lyrics on The Obsidian Conspiracy sound badass, but who knows what the fuck he’s singing about? For instance, from the opening track, “The Termination Proclamation”: “The lines of right and wrong / Are blurred in the name of freedom / As those who cannot speak / Assume their positions and die / Feel the hook pulled by the system slave.” Now a red like me will listen to this and think, Oh he’s singing about bourgeois “free market” ideology, which “in the name of freedom” brings nothing but misery and death to the powerless and the voiceless, the “system slaves” of capitalism. And yeah, it’s fun sometimes to interpret lyrics like this, when they don’t give you too much to go on. But these are some of the most directly political lyrics on the entire album. You’ll have to check it out for yourself, but the major flaw of this album is that too much is left unnamed and too much is examined indirectly, to the point where any political power the songs could have had is basically lost.

You won’t find lyrics like these, about someone incarcerated on drug charges from the song “Inside Four Walls” off of Dead Heart in a Dead World: “Inside four walls, inside four walls my friend / They took away your freedom / And the pigs still preach their lies.” The lying pigs! And certainly nothing like this, from Dane’s solo release Praises to the War Machine: “While the poor men die, the rich men sing / Monetary praises to the war machine.” Fuckin’ a right they do!

I’m not asking that Dane spend every song regurgitating revolutionary slogans – in fact, some of Nevermore’s best stuff isn’t explicitly political, but deals with highly subjective explorations of alienation, atheism, technological development, suicide, relationships of power, etc (which isn’t to say that it’s not political). And plenty of their best stuff is lyrically vague but makes me want to throw up the horns anyway because it just sounds so cool. But this is an entire album that dances around its seemingly political themes by relying on empty phrases and the occasional metal cliché. The most coherent songs on the album are about a ghost (a woman born in 1617 in fact) who basically just moves shit around and whispers to the narrator, and about someone telling a newborn infant that life is fucked up but also can be pretty ok. And we still don’t know what an obsidian conspiracy is – who’s conspiring? Against whom or what? Why? Why does it even matter?

Maybe this all sounds harsh, but the lyrical content of The Obsidian Conspiracy feels like a retreat. Dane himself captures the mood of this album in the song “Emptiness Unobstructed”: “And I will say once more / The world is still a spinning ball of confusion / That no one understands.” Everyone can relate to that, myself included, but if Nevermore albums have always been about existential confusion – along with the alienation we experience in modern life, the helplessness we feel in the face of systemic destruction, and the rage that overcomes us at the sight of injustice – then Warrel Dane at least used to know where to point the finger. After listening to The Obsidian Conspiracy, though, you’re left feeling more existentially confused than ever.

But this album’s lyrical flaws are minor compared to what it achieves as a whole. It kicks ass. Dane’s vocals are theatrical in the best sense of the word – perfectly enunciated and charged with controlled emotional intensity. And guitarist Jeff Loomis is a fucking monster. I can’t even go into it. Just get this album and make sure your bowels are clear before listening to him shred, or else you’re going to have a serious mess on your hands (and floor).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tiamat – Amanethes


Reviewed by Jimmy “Explosive Diarrhea” B

This morning I was sitting on the porcelain throne thinking about music, metal in particular. Right now is a good time to be a metalhead. Moonspell, Opeth, Tiamat, Rotting Christ, Kampfar, and Lacrimas Profundere have all released new albums in the last two to five months – all good solid metal bands.

As I dropped a brick into the oily water inches below I lamented that as of today I had only managed to purchase one of the new metal releases, Tiamat’s new album, Amanathes. And as I pinched off another brown trout I wondered what the hell I had eaten the day before to cause all the discomfort I was experiencing – hot wings perhaps? I won’t bore you with all the gory details of my toilet adventures; I revere you, dear reader, too much to subject you to such unpleasant details.

But there is one thing more, one vital detail that I must tell you about; when I finally stood and turned around I noticed that there were two floating turds aligned in the shape of a “T.” Yes, today would be the day I reviewed Tiamat’s latest album.

Speaking of shit, I present to you Amanethes. It pains me to write about fecal matter and Tiamat together. Tiamat has been a very solid metal/dark rock band since 1990 when they released Sumerian Cry, an album I am listening to as I write this review. Sumerian Cry is very interesting; it’s heavy metal with some slow crunchy parts, already we can see some elements of future releases.

The music on every Tiamat album from the first to the last has been dark even the almost poppy Judas Christ album. Check out the following lyrics from the song Equinox of the Gods from Amanethes:

Crucify her upsidedown
Impale her with rusty nails
Dress her up in a blood red gown
And gory, beautifully painted veil
Let her bleed to death before our eyes
Oh ooh
May she be punished and sacrificed
(Oh ooh, oh yeah!)
The dirty nuns are in chains
No monasteries remain
The time has come for our Master to reign

That’s some seriously dark shit! Unfortunately the lyrical content is one of the few good and metal things about Amanathes. The album has very good production, and there is one good stand out track, Amanitis, which has some nice layering with strings and keyboards. There are a number of problems with the CD.

First and foremost is that Amanathes is boring. Tiamat are so determined to present the listener with an atmospheric experience that they overuse keyboards, and under use power chords which in itself is fine, but Tiamat haven’t replaced it with anything interesting such as a more progressive structure. Who the hell wants to listen to simplistic keyboard playing for an entire album, other than Rammstein fans?

Another problem is that Edlund, is completely monotone, which I realize is a goth vocal style and it works for other bands, but Edlund seems to be as bored and uninterested as the listener. With Amanethes, Tiamat are going in the same direction as Paradise Lost; they are becoming boring and generic.

I tickled my taint for 4.8 minutes

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Smalltown – The Music

(Deranged/Snuffy Smile, 2004)


Review by Class Warrior

This is the co-winner of the “best punk album of the new century” as determined by me. To see the other entry, look for the No Hope for the Kids review from a couple of weeks ago.

Smalltown is a three-piece punk band from Sweden. To the best of my knowledge, they formed in the late nineties and have been playing together ever since. The band has released numerous seven-inch records, two full-length albums, and a bunch of split EPs with various bands. They, like No Hope for the Kids reviewed earlier, had a song on the disastrous “Public Safety” comp that MRR Records put out in 2006. (Seriously, this comp ruined the reputation of millennial punk and hardcore for me. Only a few bands emerged unscathed.) “The Music” is Smalltown’s first full-length album.

I loved this record the moment I heard the first note of the first song. It is exactly the type of punk rock that I love the most. They have a big late 70s influence that they exhibit proudly. Think Stiff Little Fingers, The Strike (without the heavy left politics [unfortunately]), The Jam (and the rest of the mod revival/power pop scene from the late 70s/early 80s), and the Ramones. Smalltown doesn’t imitate, though; they play with charisma and passion that makes the music transcend its influences. The songs are filled up with memorable melodies and tons of great big guitar and vocal hooks. The guitarist alternates between open chords and power chords with deftness. It all hangs on the frame that the bass and drums create. The bass work is solid and precise and doesn’t just follow the guitar. The drummer is not afraid to bang the cymbals (a big plus!) and pop in a bunch of awesome fills when needed. Most of the twelve songs are mid-tempo, but a couple of them crank up the speed a few notches. We’re not talking Negative Approach (or Reign in Blood for you metal junkies), but fast enough to get the blood pumping pretty hard. Excellent, excellent songs. This is the kind of music that I would like to make if I were in a band now. If only I could write a decent song….

The best songs are “What’s Going On?” and “Warning.” While there are no mediocre songs on the disc, these two turn up the intensity a notch. The former song is, in essence, about rocking harder than whatever crap is on the radio: “Alright, everything is set to ten / we’re here to make a mark that stands the test of time.” Yes! Most of the lyrics to the other songs are introspective without being cliché or cheesy. “Warning” is the exception; it’s a strong anti-war and anti-power song.

I managed to see these fellows in Portland during their 2005 West Coast tour. SoDak and Mrs. Warrior were kind enough to accompany me. Smalltown put on a hell of a show, even though the venue (the IWW Hall, if I remember correctly) was less than ideal. I stationed myself in front of Kalle L, the guitarist/singer. I knew all the words to the songs, so I sang right along with him. It was a great show – easily one of the top five I’ve attended in my life. We found that the band members were nice as hell as we chatted with them after they played. Bought two t-shirts that night. They barely fit then, which means I have no hope of wearing them anymore – I’ve increased a couple of sizes and am starting to get man-boobs. Oh, the depredations of old age and sloth!

Their early seven inch records are great as well – perhaps better than the songs on their first full-length. Especially check out “Years, Months” – that’s the best song they’ve ever done. (Don’t worry, vinylphobe: they collected all these singles onto a CD called “The First Three Years.” However, it may or may not still be in print.) You’ll be pleased to know that Smalltown is still alive. In fact, they just released their second album last year. It’s not as strong as “The Music,” but it certainly has its moments of glory. Give it a listen.

“The Music” is a fantastic album. I recommend it highly, particularly if you have a weakness for melodic punk rock. If there were any justice in the world, this would be playing on the radio instead of whatever is on there now. I give it 9.5 out of 10 punk points. (Or, if you prefer the taint scale, I self-abused for 9.5 minutes.) At this point, the careful reader will note that I gave co-winner No Hope for the Kids an 8.5. It doesn’t look like a tie. You are correct; it’s not. After listening to Smalltown again, I had to choice but to break the tie and award them the sole award for best album of the decade. I simply forgot how killer this album is! Kalle L, Lobo, and Kalle T, you made music that stands the test of time.

Other albums from the 2000s that are really good: Jay Reatard – Blood Visions, The Vicious – Alienated, and anything by Direct Control (the best of the early 80s imitators). It’s a pretty short list, I realize, but there wasn’t much for me to get excited about. Having said that, I would like to mention that there are a huge number of punk bands still out there playing their hearts out. They deserve recognition and support. I don’t want to make it sound like I think there are no good bands anymore, or that punk is dead. As long as punks play punk rock, it survives, and, in some places, thrives.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sword - Sweet Dreams

Aquarius Records / Roadracer Records 1989

Reviewed by Kloghole

I woke up this mornin’ dreaming that I was kicking my bloodhound’s face out of the toilet to take a fuckin’ piss after getting pissed off about some fuckin’ assholes not doin’ me right to the chorus riff of CDB’s “Legend of Wooly Swamp” runnin’ through my head (I was singing something in my dream to the effect of “I couldn’t believe it, you fuckin’ fucked me again this time, you mother fuckers ...” and then I realized I was straying off melody). As I realized that the bloodhound drinking water out of the toilet was really the fuckin’ sound of my goddam sump pump runnin’ and grateful that I didn’t piss the bed again to sound of fuckin’ runnin’ water, I was reminded how miserable my fuckin’ life really has been. I don’t know if it was my brother’s righteous fuckin’ homemade wine I finished two hours before or if it was the weird goddam dream, but now I am awake as the sun barely creeps across the horizon. Fuck it. If I go to bed, I will lose my thoughts and wake up even more pissed. That is the wonderful theme that has been constant throughout my life since at least Jr High, if not before. I can’t get to sleep because I’m pissed, and I really don’t care to wake up because, to quote Great White’s cover of The Angels, I don’t want to “Face the Day.”

I realize that there are people out there whose lives are indescribably worse than mine, but that is part of what troubles me. I alternate between pissed and fuckin’ suicidal, and I am not living in my car or ducking bullets. Well, my brother did have to hit the dirt when he crossed paths with my neighbors who were poaching every fucking living thing in sight. He had to dive in a ditch when they came marching through because bullets were whizzing all around him. These were some special people. The used their basement as a butcher shop where they would eviscerate their poached carcasses. The local newspaper reported that one brother turned the other brother in for stealing the gas can out of his boat. They used to steal gas out of our cars and lawn mower until my brother filled one tank with Coleman fluid. My Mom and brother enjoyed the show when their fuckin’ lawn mower blew up after they filled the fuckin’ thing with a goddam milk jug full of our “gas.” We had some other neighbors earlier that threw their own shit on our house - not dog shit, not cat shit, real it-came-out-out-of-a-redneck’s-ass people shit. One of the kids about my age ended up in the fuckin’ penitentiary. For a few bucks, or just kicks, he killed an elderly gentleman by standing on his neck in a few inches of water in a drainage ditch. What the fuck brings people to do this shit, and why the fuck do they have to live next door to me?

It wasn’t until college that I was able to place a name on the face of this misery. I took classes from an interesting little feller whose shirts never quite fit around his plump little belly. He was a thin dude, but he looked pregnant. As I wondered whether his buttons would pop, I learned about C. Wright Mills, the power elite, and Madison anti-war protests where he saw someone’s teeth dragged out of his face with a nightstick carved with ridges for maximum effect. As a long-haired, isolated youth who had been stopped and ticketed far too many times for non-violations, I resonated with the sociological insight. Fuck the police and the fuckin’ fuckers they fuckin’ serve.

What the fuck does this have to do with music? Well, jesus fuckin’ christ, let me get to it. Fuck. When I started listening to music, much of what I sought resonated with my trailer house, Banquet Chicken eatin’ fucking existence. I was in the same graduating class as many of the offspring of the town elite. The fuckin’ car dealership, the damn sports shop, the chiropractor, the town doctor, the fuckin’ manufactured home king, etc. We had a graduating class of 125, and I happened to be in the one with all the fuckin’ prima donnas. This stark contrast sent me to seek music that spoke to that vast inequality.

Slowly, I began to develop a taste for shit that said something deeper than my candle needs waxing and I’m out of beer. Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime said it explicitly, “while the banks get fat and the poor stay poor and the rich get rich and the cops get paid to look away as the one percent rules America” (say what you will about Queensryche, but read their fuckin’ lyrics if you are not too much of a neanderthal, knuckle dragging, inbred, sheep humpin’ shit stain). While watching Headbanger’s Ball, I saw this band I had never heard of performing this nice little ditty. The band was Sword (don’t fuckin’ confuse this with that new band, The Sword, who are too fuckin’ lazy to come up with their own goddam name, so they just add “The” to some other band’s name - how fuckin’ ridiculous), and the song was “The Trouble Is.”

While it is not the most overtly political album, Sword’s Sweet Dreams captures the Reagan era ass-fucking the working class people were going through at the time. While the actual lyrics of “The Trouble Is” are rather cryptic, there is that hint of righteous anger. “The trouble is; politicians rule with an iron hand. The trouble is; the threat’s alive among the living and the dead.” I resonate with “Children are crying, people are starving. We say we’re helpless, it’s their destiny.” It takes every fiber of my being to not strangle the fuckin’ life out some mental midget with a child-molester grin on their face that parrots the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mythology. Wake the fuck up. The intellectual diarrhea you spew is what keeps you struggling to pay your fuckin’ bills you stupid son-of-a-bitch. I love you, but fuck, get a goddam grip.

A more poignant lyrical gem is “Caught in the Act.” “It’s hard to be free when our sick society is caught in the act. You’re breaking the rules and you’re living like a fool who’s caught in a trap.” It may be a song about excessive imprisonment, which has only accelerated, but I saw it more as a mindless public swallowing swill - not only swallowing the swill, but enjoying it so much they convince their friends that it’s the next best thing. Nowadays, it has gotten so bad that if you repeated “cowshit is peanut butter” enough times on TV that the slack-jawed, redneck fuckin’ hillbillies that I love so fukin’ much would make a goddam sandwich out of the fuckin’ shit. Fuck, it’s depressing.

There is also a nice little anti-war song in there. “Land of the Brave” is a real swift kick in the shorts. “War; slaughters the earth. War; you’re sent to the front and your life is fading away.” The song is interesting because it is placed after the invasion of Grenada and before the invasion of Panama. This is at least three years before the penultimate civilian slaughter in Iraq. During the plethora of US war crimes, I recall blasting this album in rage, over and over again.

Even if you are one of those thick-headed, cheap beer drinking, cum stains who lives for objectifying women, you can look past all the lyrics that would make your tiny little brain actually fire a few neurons for a change and listen to the riffs that really do shred. Those three songs are probably my favorite in that order, but there are some more crushers in here. This is straight 80's metal, so keep it in perspective, but “Back Off,” “Prepare to Die,” and “State of Shock” are all solid hooky tunes. “Life on the Sharp Edge” has the frontman, Rick Hughes screeching out the chorus, almost on the verge of out of his range, but it still works. Sword only put out two albums, and this is the superior of the two. I recently saw the first, Metalized, in a used record store, but they are pretty rare. If you can get your hand on this gem, for fuck sake don’t pass it up. You can buy that Taylor Swift album in the used bin in a couple weeks.

Well, that brings me to where I opened this little rant. I got to go back to bed sometime. Fuck. Maybe it is because I am tired or because this is a band that really should have had a longer run, but I have to give this album three sweet sticky balls. Sweet dreams mother fuckers.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sod Hauler - Sod Hauler

(Inimical Records, 2003)


Reviewed by Jimmy “Explosive Diarrhea” B

I have been patiently waiting for the past two years for this day, the day I would write a Sod Hauler review. I have a beef, you see, with the drummer. I took my darling wife with me to see Paranaut and Sod Hauler in Portland, OR. You may not realize this about me, but I am a chivalrous dude. I pulled out Mrs. B’s chair and bellied up to the bar so she could rest her beautiful little feet. In my absence Sod Hauler’s drummer inched his way over, and set his beer down next to my better half. I know what he was thinking; it went a little like this, “Oh my god, a girl! The stars have aligned, there is a girl at a doom show!” And then he thought, “fuck, be cool, sidle away from the table like nothing is happening. Shit!” You see, at the moment when he was pulling out a chair to begin scaring the most rare of creatures, a girl at a doom show, I walked over and sat down. I pretended that I didn’t know what was happening, but I haven’t forgotten, and now, you purveyor of the sticks, I am about to get my revenge.

I was turned on to Sod Hauler through the Seismic Emanations festival in Portland, Oregon (and apparently the drummer was turned on by my wife’s sexual emanations). When Sod Hauler came on stage and Josh, the vocalist and guitar player, hit his first chord I heard someone next to me say, “Jesus, that guitar sound is ridiculously heavy!” Was it ridiculous or was it brilliantly, bluesily heavy? I tend to think it was brilliant. Okay, so on to the review.

Everything about Sod Hauler’s self-titled release surprised me. The production is quite good. And, three out of the four tunes on the disc are all original and interesting (more on this later).

Sod Hauler’s style is Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus inspired heavy blues-rock. But, I don’t want to give you the impression that they are attempting to clone their influences. Sod Hauler doesn’t break into rock and roll romps or progressive moments the same way Black Sabbath did, nor do they stick to the ultra slow formula laid out by St. Vitus, but Josh has a similar playing style to St. Vitus’guitar player, Scott Weiner. There were moments on the album when I was afraid that Sod Hauler was going to turn drone or suffer from what I see as stoner metal’s biggest shortcoming, formulaic song structures. At the beginning of each song Sod Hauler lulls the listener into a trance and then unleashes some heavy riffing and the occasional kick ass guitar solo. They mix it up nicely with slow and fast parts. Normally when I listen to a doom or stoner album, my attention waxes and wanes. But, Sod Hauler held my attention for the duration of the album.

I am in danger of sticking my head all the way up Sod Hauler’s collective ass. But, I feel like I would be negligent in my reviewing duties if I didn’t point out Josh’s fantastic vocals. Nobody is going to confuse him with Roger Daltry or Ronnie James Dio, but he has a perfect voice for the style; the fit couldn’t be better.

There are a couple of blights on the record. First, the song Mother Trucker ventured too close to stoner metal cheese for my taste. Second, I get tired of the stoner/doom style of drumming. All a doom band drummer needs to be able to do is keep time and hit the cymbals. I don’t see this as a problem with Sod Hauler in Particular, but with the genre in general. Sod Hauler’s drummer does what he is supposed to do, which is to keep the songs at a snail’s pace, be boring, and let the guitar and vocals unfold.

To sum up the review thus far, the drummer attempted to violate my spouse, I took out my anger on the genre, and Sod Hauler has put out a terrific stoner/doom album. I am jonesing for more. I noticed on their Myspace page that they finally, after six years, put together another album – way too long between recordings.

Side note: I had a nice chat with the band after the Portland show. They are some cool, down to earth guys (particularly the drummer), worthy of support, and they rock!

I tickled my taint for 8 minutes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Leatherface- The Stormy Petrel

(No Idea Records, 2010)
Reviewed by SoDak


A record that starts, “God is dead,” instantly warms my heart and makes me pay attention. Frankie Stubbs, who sings and plays guitar, immediately follows this, stating, “better red than dead….Viva Chavez. Viva Allende.” The terse lyrics also note how absurd it is that wartime leaders receive the Nobel peace prize and how mainstream economists help fuck over the public. The song is rather simple, but direct, which is often the case with this band.

Leatherface is an English band and has been around since 1988. Unfortunately, it was only eight years ago that I finally gave them a listen. My friend, Captain Kluber, gave me a couple of their CDs, telling me that I would love this band. He had seen them play in the late 1990s, and it was one of the most emotional punk rock shows he had ever seen. Needless to say, I was quite curious. For days, I sat in front of the stereo, listening to these CDs, captivated by this band. The singer has a very rough voice, and it is hard to understand all the words. But his voice, once you get used to it, grabs your heart. It is not necessarily clear, without a lyric sheet, what is the focus of a particular song. Nonetheless, there is something so moving in the rise and fall of his voice and the heaviness that it embodies. I became obsessed with this band, desiring to share their music with others. One friend asked me who the singer of Leatherface sounded like. The best description that I could come up with was the following: if you added one part Lemmy from Motorhead and one part Jason Beebout from Samiam (or Blake from Jawbreaker) to a blender and processed it well, you would have Frankie Stubbs. The raspy, emotional growl is pretty fuckin’ catchy and makes Leatherface a unique band. They are not a bubble-gum punk rock band. But, damn, they write some great fuckin’ songs. Dickie Hammond and Frankie Stubbs provide great guitar lines, creating a wall of sound at times (reminiscent of Husker Du), as well as crisp, clear pop-punk songs. The bass and drums kick the songs in the ass, moving everything forward.

Leatherface has released many great records over the past twenty years. The Stormy Petrel is a solid record, and with every listen I am even more taken with this collection of twelve songs. The lyrics, at times, seem a little scattered, providing partial vignettes of someone confronting the alienation that is all too pervasive in the world. My favorite songs, so far, are “My World’s End,” “Never Say Goodbye,” “Nutcase,” “Broken,” “Another Dance,” and “Monkfish.”

“Never Say Goodbye” is about the passing of time and loss. “Broken” has the great line, “What is this thing I could’ve done, with a loaded gun, while you were pissing on my setting sun.” As is often the case with Leatherface, almost every song has a great chorus that makes me sing along, even when I am not quite sure what the words are. The lines to “Another Dance” pass by quickly, but then the chorus, anchors the song: “Send me on my way, have another dance, have another dance, have another dance on my grave.”

If you haven’t heard Leatherface, and you like punk rock and are open to introspective songs, pick up one of their records. I almost always have one of their records in the car when I am driving across the country. I love Frankie’s voice, as it creeps from the speakers in the car, keeping me awake and alert. My only hope is that we don’t have to wait half a decade, like we did this time, for another new record from this band

Friday, July 2, 2010

No Hope for the Kids – S/T LP

(Kick ‘n Punch, 2003 / Feral Ward, 2005)

Reviewed by Class Warrior

What was the best punk rock album of the new century’s first decade? For me, the answer is a tie: I will review the other record next time.

The Denmark punk rock scene in the early 2000s produced a number of good bands, particularly the Young Wasteners, Amde Petersen’s Arme, Gorilla Angreb, and No Hope for the Kids. All of these bands put out some great seven inch records and/or full length albums, but No Hope for the Kids (hereafter referred to as NHFTK) is at the top of the Danish heap. NHFTK released two seven inches, an LP, and a few comp tracks (including one on the massively disappointing “Public Safety” compilation on MRR Records) before calling it quits a couple of years ago.

The full length album is the focus of this review. On this LP, NHFTK play traditional-sounding punk rock. Most of the music sounds like it would not be out of place in the late 70s/early 80s Los Angeles scene. I can’t pinpoint any particular band as an exact influence, which is a good thing. They are not mere imitators, unlike most of their contemporaries from this decade. NHFTK provide their own touch to a fairly limited musical genre. (When I say “limited,” I’m telling the truth about punk rock, and the truth hurts me!) Lots of strong power chord guitar hooks, catchy choruses with some vocal harmonies, sparse and limited guitar leads here and there (as it should be in punk rock – save the solo wanking for metal), and two- to three-minute song lengths are the defining characteristics of the music. In addition, there is a dark tone to the songs that is hard to define precisely. I’m not quite sure how they captured it; they used some minor chords, but it goes beyond that. All of this adds up to one hell of a memorable collection of songs. If you’re looking for fast hardcore punk, look elsewhere. The focus here is on melody and hooks.

The lyrics are refreshing takes on standard punk subjects such as war, personal alienation, and bitterness directed toward an uncaring world. Most of the songs are in English; I assume the ones in Danish feature similar lyrical content. These guys aren’t poets or anything, but their lyrics are sharper and more complex than the average punk band. Their songs about war, particularly the ones with World War 1 and 2 perspectives, are my favorites.

NHFTK’s two seven inch records are top-notch punk rock as well, especially the Angels of Destruction / Cold Touch of Death seven inch. “Cold Touch of Death” is one of those songs that makes my spine tingle. The awesome vocal harmony on the chorus gets me every time.

Pick up anything you can by No Hope for the Kids. The LP was still available from Feral Ward the last time I looked. It’s only out on vinyl, so you digital music junkies are out of luck. You do have a record player, don’t you? Come on, loser. Buy a record player already. I saw some at fucking Target the other day, so there’s no excuse. Oops, I just checked again – looks like it’s out of print for the moment. Don’t have it? Sucks to be you, I guess. Send a message to me c/o Jimmy B and I will reassure you that, yes, it is an awesome album you should own. Alternatively, you could search for illegal mp3 files, but I can’t recommend that on account of I am a fine, upstanding citizen. Best of luck in finding these songs as the Devil intended them to be heard (i.e., on vinyl) – they are worth the search.

As stated above, this LP is tied for best album of the decade. In an era marked by an unseemly amount of worship of punk rock’s good old days (particularly the overrated early 80’s Boston scene – I just don’t see the fascination), No Hope for the Kids stands above the generic masses who eschew innovation. It receives 8.5 out of 10 points. (I haven’t thought of a good scale for punk albums.) I will reveal the co-winner next time.