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.
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Monday, November 29, 2010
Review by Class Warrior
What do you get when you combine extremely catchy pop songs, a female singer with good looks, heaps of charm, and a great voice, and a bunch of hot-looking, talented young men playing the instruments? You get an awesome band that went nowhere fast because they were based in Milwaukee!
As the liner notes to this fine release state, the Shivvers would have been huge in the early 80s if they had relocated to Los Angeles or New York. These folks were immensely talented and could write songs that stick in your head for days. Trust me on that last part. They had the looks to go along with it, so they were ready for the MTV revolution that occurred shortly after they recorded these songs. As far as I can tell, they only had one release during their all-too-short life as a band: the “Teen Line” b/w “When I Was Younger” seven inch single.
The three best songs are at the beginning: “Teen Line,” “No Substitute,” and “Please Stand By.” These three are as good as ANY pop or power pop songs that were released in the late seventies and early eighties. As good as the Knack, as good as Pat Benatar, as good as (though it pains me to admit it) RICK SPRINGFIELD (whose name always appears in capital letters in the Warrior household). I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that these three tunes are the best power pop songs ever crafted in human history. If they had managed to release a whole album full of songs like these, it wouldn’t have mattered if they were from Milwaukee, L.A., or Othello, Washington. The whole world would have been singing along. The band members would have enjoyed fame, fortune, plates of cocaine every night (lines snorted through rolled-up $100 bills off a member of the opposite sex’s bare posterior), and an untimely death for one or more band members (thereby ensuring their enduring fame). Instead, they toiled in relative obscurity and became regional favorites. I would prefer it if they were a household name – I love to share wonderful music with people – but at least their recorded output isn’t moldering in someone’s attic.
“Teen Line” features some tasteful and subdued piano work from lead singer Jill Kossoris. The twin guitars are the main focus, and they plow through some crunchy power chords and nice leads/solos – nothing fancy, but we save the guitar hero stuff for metal and “My Sharona.” It clocks in at just under four minutes (as does “No Substitute”), which is long for a power pop tune, but it holds my attention from the first note to the last. There is no filler here.
“No Substitute” has a very nice dancing bass line that runs throughout the song, but the bass really pops out on the chorus. Jim Richardson, the drummer, hits the floor tom a couple of times right before the chorus starts. SoDak and I have a sort of floor tom fan club (he’s the president, I am a junior member), so this song qualifies for inclusion. But forget about the drums – Jill’s sweet vocals and the excellent bass work are what make this particular song outstanding.
It’s pretty much a three-way tie, but if I had to pick a favorite song on the disc, I would go with “Please Stand By.” Jim hits the snare on every beat (like a man afire) during the verses, which gives this song an intense drive. He goes into back-beat mode on other parts. Jim Eanelli (the other Jim – see more below about him) blazes through an excellent solo, which is one of the song’s highlights. The song finally builds to an energy-filled crescendo, then ends suddenly. Below you can find a link to a video of the band playing this song. I hope you’ll agree that it’s fucking fantastic!!
The lyrics to all three of these songs do not deviate from the standard teen love theme that pervaded power pop at the time. It’s the delivery that makes all the difference. Jill belts out the words in a Benatar-esuqe mid-range octave, but she has such conviction and charm that she makes the themes her own. That’s all you can ask for with a love song, and the band delivers! I never get tired of hearing these songs.
Alas, the other songs on this disc cannot possibly live up to the high standard set by the first three divinely-inspired creations. The same people are playing the same instruments, but the hooks are of lesser quality and the frantic, youthful energy is subdued a bit. Plus, they tend to emphasize keyboards a little more as the CD goes on. There is a cheesy keyboard running through “No Reaction” that sounds a bit like a cheap Casio set to “organ.” I’m not sure if I like its presence or not. I’m leaning toward dislike. There’s nothing a keyboard can do that a guitar can’t do better! “Hold On” features dual male/female vocals, and is probably the fourth-best song on here.
The disc comes with some bonus videos. There are four songs recorded live for a cable access show and one song (“Please Stand By”) for which they filmed a video. The latter is definitely worth checking out! Jill, the singer, has straight black hair – her bangs are long and get in her heavily shadowed eyes. She reminds me of a friend who was about the same age as Jill in the early eighties. This friend also was a singer, though she was in a punk band. Scott, the bass player, looks like a young Mark Hamill, who was a teenage dream in the first Star Wars film. The band’s coolness factor is just through the roof. I don’t need to describe them – there's a video at the end of this review! (See, I told you he looked like Luke Skywalker!)
This brilliant release featuring the Shivvers earns nine skinny ties, thanks to the strength of their best material. The first three songs, of course, get the perfect ten. The rest of the CD goes on a little too long; you’ll find yourself playing the first three songs over and over, and skipping the rest. Forget the cheesy love lyrics; these songs are as life-affirming as anything else you’ll find. A big thank you goes to Chuck from Hyped to Death for keeping the classic power pop, punk, and DIY releases in print. This disc is still available, so buy it! If you are hesitant to plop down the price of a whole CD just for three unforgettable songs, what the hell is your problem? These songs are life-changing moments, and you only live once.
Friday, November 26, 2010
But parallel to his career with SYL, Devin Townsend has released a number of solo albums under various names. Right now, he’s working as The Devin Townsend Project (as opposed to his previous incarnation as The Devin Townsend Band). The solo stuff is heavy but nothing like the fast, blasting style of SYL, and it’s much more melodic and eclectic. Vocals switch back and forth between growling, screaming, and clean singing, sometimes belted out and sometimes brought down to a whisper (and sometimes all of these styles layered on top of each other). While there’s a ton of variety in Devin’s solo catalog, a few things stay consistent from album to album. Along with the mixed vocal style, each album has a wall of sound kind of feel – everything heavy, dense, layered – except for moments when it all drops off, quiet moments that pull back into ambient sound, echoing guitar, hushed vocals. The guitar riffs are usually simple, often just big full chords, decorated with intricate leads, and they build on the patterns of the rhythm section to give the songs a weighted feeling. Lyrically Devin is all over the place, but he tends to write slightly vague, personal stuff, which is sometimes very serious (and occasionally moving) and sometimes absurd. What makes it all so good—and consistently interesting—is the emotional ebb and flow of his work: moving between the big fuck-all rockers; the fun, silly stuff; the experimental, weird stuff; the quiet, contemplative stuff; and the moments of real beauty and power; all in the course of a single album and often in a single song.
This newest album, Addicted, is the second in a four part series that will be released under the name The Devin Townsend Project (the next two are slated for 2011). I’ll just briefly mention the first album, 2009’s Ki. Devin’s sound is always evolving (while sticking to those basic features I outlined above), but Ki is perhaps his most radical shift. Instead of the usual bombastic frenzy, the emphasis is on the groove: everything is kept subdued and relatively stripped down, chugging along at a simmer with basic (but so solid) drums and repetitive riffs and only occasionally building up into a dull roar that quickly drops down again. This being a Devin album, though, there’s some variety, like the Elvis-esque “Trainfire,” the gorgeous “Lady Helen,” and “Quiet Riot,” which is an acoustic reworking of “Cum On Feel The Noize” with different lyrics.
Addicted is a return to the more familiar Devin style but injected with a big dose of dancey pop music (which for some metal oriented folks might be a lethal dose). There’s always been a strong pop influence in Devin’s music under the layers of heavy guitars and metal screams, but Addicted really puts it into the forefront by adding drum loops (with some of that throbbing techno bass drum), female vocals, and some goddamn catchy hooks. It’s like his album Infinity filtered through a Euro dance club -- and I realize how fucking awful that sounds but still, it works.
This is a high energy album, reflected in the fact that the title of every song ends with an exclamation point (except for the last track, which has two.) Because I’m feeling lazy I’m going to shamelessly rip off my colleague Anita Papsmear’s technique of running this down song by song. It looks like you can listen to every song in its entirety on youtube, so don’t take my word for it but check out this stuff yourself.
The album opener begins with a moment of diminishing ambient sound and then a very simple, ugly riff, followed by the drums pounding out the time on the hi hat and bass drum. This moves into a typical Devin sort of rhythm but then the drum loops and keyboard stuff kick in and you realize you’re dealing with something a little different. The rest of the song is a catchy, pop-industrial tune, with Devin singing about his addiction to porn (really – Devin’s mental issues have famously been the source of material for both SYL and solo work, but this is a new twist in his psycho-musical oeuvre). Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) provides nice harmonies on this one; she’ll take a more prominent role in songs to come.
2) “Universe in a Ball!”
One of the cooler moments on this album is the intro to this track: a big, busy drum fill that breaks down the end of the last track, goes wild for a few seconds, then settles into a slower, grooving tempo that carries through the rest of the song. There’s sort of a White Zombie vibe going on here, although strictly in a musical sense.
3) “Bend It Like Bender!”
This song is where that dancey pop side of the album really begins to show. Anneke van Giersbergen sings the chorus, which in a way is totally obnoxious and the kind of thing I’d usually hate, but … I just can’t. Lyrically, this isn’t “about” Bender from the show Futurama in any obvious sense, but there’s a soundclip from the show in there, so I’ll chalk it up to Devin being weird. At one point he sings “You know it's heavy / When we look into that open void / But animals don't think of it at all,” which ties into an ongoing theme in Devin’s work that deals with struggling to understand the universe and our place in it as human beings (“Just talking meat” as he puts it on another album). It’s hard to tell what he’s getting at but this vagueness allows listeners to pull different meanings out of it, which can be nice (but frustrating when artists are dealing with ostensibly political/social issues).
As the title implies, this is one heavy fucking song. Big chugging guitars and even bigger keyboards and vocals going on. More van Giersbergen on the verse, and on the chorus Devin sings “I don't want to save my soul now / I don't want to lose control / And even if it takes a lifetime to learn / I'll learn,” getting back to that theme of addiction. This is closer to the typical Devin sound, and one of the best tunes here.
Probably my favorite song on the album (it’s the first song on his myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/devintownsenddtb). This originally appear on Ziltoid The Omniscient, Devin’s space opera about some super powerful alien being that comes to Earth demanding the best cup of coffee we puny humans can muster. The original version was a little more laid back (and had a drum machine for chrissakes), and the vocals were on the quieter side. Here, it gets the full band treatment and van Giersbergen belts out the lead vocals like her life depends on it. There’s also a good lead riff, which stands out on an album that puts more emphasis on rhythm than riffage.
This is a catchy tune, pretty straightforward. At this point you might feel like van Giersbergen has taken over the album, because Devin’s mostly in the background screaming (and you’d be right!) But it’s still cool.
Well, this is it. If you were able to get through the album and deal with all the dancable pop stuff, here is the big test. When I first heard this I thought it was a cover of a Katy Perry song or something. This is pure emotional pop, complete with syrupy lyrics about l-o-v-e. During the melodic intro, Devin even does the little “ooooo ooooo” vocal warm up thing people do before they start singing (you know what I mean). I’m just waiting for someone to sing this on Glee. But goddamn, this is a catchy song, and for all the contributions the man has made to the world of metal, I’ll give him this one.
8) “The Way Home!”
Back to more rocking fare. This starts out like a metal song but with quiet vocals and clean guitars (the drums are doing a cool double bass pattern). Everything builds up over the course of the song until Devin breaks out the faux-opera vocals, which make an appearance or two on every album. One of the better songs here.
The beginning of this song evokes the very first tune on the album, but then it opens up into a big soaring chorus with van Giersbergen singing, and back to a more driving verse. There’s also some fantastic guitar playing in the bridge.
This is a good closer for the album -- it has a feeling of completeness, a similar kind of vibe to “Slow Me Down” from Accelerated Evolution. The song ends with the band fading out and leaving drum loops playing, kind of exposing the electronica skeleton beneath the music.
So overall, an eclectic but catchy and pop-infused addition to the Devin Townsend catalog. The difference between Ki (part one of the Devin Townsend Project’s four album series) and this (part two) is pretty extreme, so it’ll be fascinating to see what parts three and four sound like. If you haven’t guessed by now, Devin Townsend is one of my favorite artists -- he’s one of those musicians with a unique sound that’s informed by an even more unique personality. This might not be his best album (although I hesitate to think of his albums in terms of best or worst), but it’s pretty fucking great.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Using Jimmy's time honored scale of 1 to 10 minutes in reference to the auto erotic pleasure produced by this album I'll give 9 minutes.
Monday, November 22, 2010
In a hungry lonely soul
I guess it ain't easy
When you don't know which way to go
Friday, November 19, 2010
Reviewed by Class Warrior
If you ask a Judas Priest fan to identify their least favorite album from the band’s vast back catalog, odds are good that the Priest devotee will indicate that Turbo holds the place of shame. Apparently, lots of metalheads and Priest fans were pissed off when they heard Turbo. Since I was a latecomer to metal in general and Priest in particular, I never was invested in the band having a certain sound. What is interesting about this complaint is that it is unfounded. Priest never had a signature sound that they had stayed true to since the early 70s. Judas Priest has changed their sound several times during their career. From their Queen-worshipping early days, the transition to true heavy metal that Sad Wings of Destiny represented, the pioneering metal of Sin After Sin and Stained Class, the transition from this sound to the semi-attempt at mainstream acceptance (Hell Bent for Leather), their “metal for the masses” sound of British Steel, Point of Entry, Screaming for Vengeance, and Defenders of the Faith, the attempt at pop-metal (Turbo), the transition from this sound back to the heaviness (Ram It Down), and the double bass drum pounding Renaissance that was Painkiller. I love all of these albums (some more than others), but there are a hell of a lot of different types of metal contained in the main period of Priest’s work.
As I said, I don’t have all the baggage that a fan following Judas Priest during the seventies and eighties would carry. I heard all of their albums within a year of each other, rather than having them stretched out over fifteen or twenty years. I was able to form opinions of them apart from time-constrained expectations. Due to this freedom, I have become completely and totally convinced of one inescapable fact: Turbo is an underrated masterpiece. You have to take it out of the “Priest progression” context in order to come to this conclusion. If you compare it to any Hollywood glam metal album that came out in the same time period, Turbo comes out victorious. Put simply: Turbo rules!
Turbo starts off with five awesome hook-filled tunes. Everyone knows “Turbo Lover,” which is the closest in theme and sound to their previous work. Take out the synths and this song would fit on Defenders of the Faith quite easily. It is the best song on the album, without a doubt. They follow up this gem with four straight top-notch butt rock (sorry Kloghole) anthems – “Locked In,” “Private Property,” “Parental Guidance,” and “Rock You All around the World.” These songs are superior to anything that bands like Ratt, Motley Crue, and others of that ilk ever did. Wait a minute – better than Ratt? Yes! Ratt didn’t have Rob Halford on vocals or the twin guitar domination of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton. Seriously – listen to these songs with Sunset Strip in mind, and you will be forced to admit their superiority. I don’t understand why these songs weren’t all over the airwaves. “Private Property contains one of those Kiss the Sky/Kiss this Guy moments: “Keep your hands off private property – asshole!” is what I hear.
The only song that interrupts the hard rocking good time is “Out in the Cold,” which is long and slow. It’s a fine tune, but it is unlike the rest of the album. This record is all about having a good time and being young, and “Out in the Cold” disrupts this vibe.
The album finishes up with three more blazing butt rockers: “Wild Nights, Hot and Crazy Days,” “Hot for Love,” and “Reckless.” As I listen to this album for perhaps the fiftieth time, I can’t believe that it is considered to be among Judas Priest’s worst. What more do you, the discriminating metal connoisseur, want from them? Great tunes, more hooks on the album than most bands managed in a career, Rob’s distinctive vocal delivery, Glen and K.K.’s six-string mastery… Okay, the lyrics are a little cheesy, I’ll give you that. At least there’s no misogyny, no thinly veiled hatred and/or fear of women. I don’t think Motley Crue, Poison, et al. can say that. Rob’s just trying to tap in to that teenage demon that we all felt way back then. I remember his (the demon’s, not Rob’s) hot breath on the back of my neck urging me toward the carnal side of life. Better than being urged toward the Carnie side! My bedroom wall would be decorated with those small mirrored pictures of rock bands and cheap stuffed animals.
It is very difficult to pick a favorite among all of these underappreciated rock classics, but I’ll have to go with “Private Property” and “Locked In.” They’re all great. I easily could have picked two different songs and been just as pleased.
Another point in this album’s favor is that the documentary “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” was filmed during Priest’s “Turbo” tour in 1986.
If you ever get the chance, check out the pictures that come with the album! Holy crap! They are some of the funniest shit you will ever see! Dave Holland looks like a fucking poodle! Glen’s hair is teased up so high! I wish I had a poster of the group photo – I would put it on my office wall. Or my bedroom wall… The photos are worth the price of the album alone!
This is an album to throw on when you’re trying to get your metal friends to dance, when you’re driving around the neon-tinted city at night, when you’re up for some good-natured “Reckless” thuggery (or huggery!), or when you and your partner are “Hot for Love.” I would totally play this album during sex! Your potential partner will say “What’s this awesome music?” That’s when you say “Shh,” take off your denim and leather, and let him/her know that you’re “All Fired Up” (bonus song on CD). Play this album the next time you want to get “Locked In” to your lover’s “Private Property,” or else you’ll be left “Out in the Cold.”
Turbo earns nine bloody swords (which are covered in purple velvet). If ye of false metal faith have ignored this album on principle, prepare yourself for some “Wild Nights” of rocking out and “Hot and Crazy Days” of sexual freedom. It may be just the tonic to free you from your buttoned up existence.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
(GAP Recordings, 1993)
Reviewed by SoDak
The other day I was listening to the news on the radio. It did not take long to get sick of the endless pabulum following the election. I needed to find something to boost my energy, to give me a swift kick in the ass, to vent my frustration. I looked through my music collection to find Seein’ Red’s Workspiel. Right away, the crunch of the guitar made me feel better. I started to sing along to the opening song, “Great Planet”: “Open your eyes goddammit, can’t you realize goddammit, we’ve got to act now goddammit, if we want to save this planet. Don’t expect anything from the capitalists. They’ll keep raping our Earth for their profits.” I felt better, even though I continued to be pissed off, which is good, given the state of things in the world. I remembered the excitement of punk rock, of friends working together to put on shows, to organize rallies, and to direct action. It was good to feel the unity of struggle, which too often is lost in the day-to-day grind of life.
Seein’ Red, a punk band from the Netherlands, formed when Lärm broke up in the late 1980s. The first full-length record, which is self titled, sounds much different than the releases that followed; Fugazi and Ignition were obvious influences at this point in time for Seein’ Red. I bought this record when it was released, and I really like it, so I was somewhat surprised when I heard the short, fast, and intense songs on their next recordings.
Seein’ Red is addicting. This three-piece band produces a powerful sound, knocking out politically charged songs with lyrics that often focus on a critique of capitalism. On Workspiel, almost all of the songs are under three minutes long. So the lyrics are very short and direct. Their songs address exploitation at work, confronting racism and sexism, environmental degradation, hating the rich, revolution, and protest. There is also the occasional song about friendships and loneliness. Seein’ Red has released a ton of records through the years. I have not been able to keep up or track down all of their records. I wish that the endless series of seven inches, splits with other bands, and compilation tracks were compiled on CDs. Some of my favorite records by Seein’ Red remain their early seven inches, which are included on the end of the Workspiel CD.
The twenty-seven songs on this record pass by quickly. I often hit repeat to listen to several songs more than once. Seein’ Red is good at including space between power chords, which lets the energy build within the songs. This is how “Fist” starts out, before the drums and bass join the assault. It is a simple song to be yelled: “It only takes five fingers yeah to make a fist. They can break your fingers but they can’t break a fist. That’s what unity’s teaching us, so organize and resist. A message so fucking true it turned me into a Marxist.” While most of the songs are fast, straight-forward punk rock, mid-tempo songs break up the pace from time to time. Bass runs surface on many songs. The power of the guitar keeps this album lively.
On “Dream,” clean guitar notes can be heard, before the drum propels us into the song, “I wanna see socialism inspire, see sparks turn into a huge fire, a fire the rulers can’t damp down, burning their empires, the empires down, burn it down to ashes, making an end to all oppressive conditions, making the way free, free to the people. I wanna see a world revolution, see the people being part of the solution, a solution the rulers can’t fight down, tearing their power, their fuckin’ power down, tear it to pieces.”
Within the fantasy world of capitalism, there are endless distractions that encourage escapism and submission to the dominant ideology. Seein’ Red notes this dynamic and responses, “Fuck that.” While this may not be the most original statement, at least it expressions opposition. They explain that living in a state of sleep is not an option. Furthermore, in the song, “Direct Action,” they point out, “There are the times that words are not enough. There are times that protest marches don’t work. Then it’s time for direct action.” They continue, “protest songs” are not enough. Change demands revolutionary praxis—get out into the streets.
“Believe in Yourself” starts with a nice drumbeat. The song slowly builds before exploding in passion. “There is something I’d like to tell. There’s no heaven and there’s no hell. So get out of your stuffy church, get off your knees sheep. Tear up the holy bible, break with your religious beliefs…Believe in yourself…Soon you will realize, religion was just sand in your eyes.” The song changes tempo a number of times, and the bass thunders as it runs underneath the whole song.
In 1996, Seein’ Red played with Torches to Rome in Rapid City, South Dakota. They did an incredible set with great intensity. They use the microphone to address important social issues, rather than just playing songs. None of the songs from this record or the previous record were played. Seein’ Red is focused on the present struggle. They are constantly writing new songs to address immediate concerns. Along the way they have recorded a ton of songs filled with anger and love, passion and commitment, insight and hope, protest and revolution. Get a Seein’ Red record. Read the lyrics and sing along. Then get up and make some connections with other folks. Organize. Rebel. Raise the red flag and get on with it.