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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Top Ten (and Then Some) Music Obsessions


Throughout the year, the taint ticklers remained musical junkies, seeking out a new fix at every opportunity. Records were shared, time was spent in many records stores, stereo equipment was bought, and stacks of music appeared throughout houses. Below you will find the end of the year lists of music-related obsessions for 2011.

Anita Papsmear

Top 30 CDs of 2011 (and 10 Honorable Mentions!)

There was a lot of great music that came out this year, from long-time musical icons to up-and-coming artists. 2011 did not disappoint. Here’s a list of what I listened to this year—in no particular order! Enjoy!

1. Junip, Fields (Mute).
I cannot tell you this is my favorite CD of 2011, but I cannot tell you it isn’t either. It is an incredible CD from start to finish with stark yet luscious songs.

2. Cults, Cults (Columbia).
Classified as noise pop, this band hails from NYC. It is so catchy it should come with a warning label. A perfect mix of indie pop and 50s girl-band vocals, it is a delightful CD.

3. Sleeper Agent, Celebrasion (Death Panda).
A veritable popsicle of rock and roll, you’ll love every minute of it listening to this. It will leave you smacking the sugar pop delight off your lips!

4. Beirut, The Riptide (Pompeii Records).
Simple and beautiful.

5. Eddie Vedder, Ukelele Songs (Universal Motown).
It was time.... Perfect.

6. M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute).
A double disc release of pure chillwave treasures.

7. The Records, de Fauna et Flora (Foolica).
An Italian band that managed to get every song on this disc right, although with their obvious talent, it probably wasn’t that difficult.

8. The Black Lips, Arabia Mountain (Vice).
This CD is a bit more polished than their previous releases, but despite this fact (long-time fans may not like the Pledge polish), this is one of their best releases so far. Punk rock power can wave its flag of pride once again.

9. Zenith Myth, Zenith Myth (Vibra Cobra).
Epic and lush, it’s rock and roll for stoners. Me likey!

10. Washed Out, Within and Without (Sub Pop).
Lush soundscapes, layered over beautiful melodies—the best chillwave CD out there.

11. The Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop).
Always a great disc when Greg Dulli and Mark Lanagen are involved. The tunes on their latest disc are a bit smoother than their other releases but a nice change.

12. Motopony, Motopony (Tiny Ogre).
A Seattle, Washington band with a 70s southern rock sound (or, Folkadelic Rock for you genre-ists), this is a fun and infectious debut release. I dare you to stay still while listening to “Seer.”

13. Still Corners, Creatures of An Hour (Sub Pop).
This CD is incredible—full of haunting, ethereal tunes with purpose.

14. The Vaccines, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines (Columbia).
Great.

15. Primus, Green Naugahyde (Prawn Song).
This CD has everything Primus fans have loved for years about this amazing band and, in particular, Mr. Les. Not only will fans be happy, this is a strong enough release to win over the hearts of those who may not be familiar—if those people even exist.

16. The Orb, C Battery C (Malicious Damage).
A very strong release from the ambient gods. A very fine disc that The Orb can proudly add to their repertoire.

17. Grace Jones, Hurricane (Pias America).
An amazing double CD release. The first CD contains the regular version of the songs and the second disc has all the dub versions of the songs. This is a great collection of tunes, and her voice is as strong and clear and tantalizing as ever—great lyrics too.

18. Vetiver, The Errant Charm (Sub Pop).
Slip this disc in your player and it will bring a smooth, warm breeze to any chilly day. After you reach the end of this CD, I am willing to bet you $10 bucks that you go for the repeat button.

19. Shriekback, Life in the Loading Bay (Malicious Damage).
I was extremely happy to hear something new from Shriekback. Too bad the best songs on the disc aren’t FCC friendly, although the band proves they still have it.

20. Wire, Red Barked Tree (Pinkflag).
Love this band and was so very excited to hear what they’ve been up to! This disc isn’t always FCC friendly (best song can’t be played on-air), but many listeners may not even notice. Hard to resist lyrics when they are this good: “Please take your knife out of my back. And, when you do, please don’t twist it”…. “Fuck off out of my face, you take up too much space. Move, your blocking my view. I’ve seen far too much of you.”

21. Boy With A Fish, I Put My Tongue on the Window (boywithafish.com).
Quirky and a bit different, this is great indie pop.

22. Blitzen Trapper, American Goldwing (Sub Pop).
I have liked every release I have ever heard from this band. This disc is no exception. From mellower, more epic type tunes to fast paced 70s-type rock, there isn’t anything this band cannot do…including putting out a bad CD!

23. Joan As Police Woman, The Deep Field (Play It Again Sam).
I love this CD—it’s a “go to” on Sunday mornings. It effortlessly creams together elements of folk, jazz, and rock into a velvety smooth meringue. Delicious!

24. Adele, 21 (XL).
Nothing needs to be said here.

25. DeVotchka, 100 Lovers (Anti).
This entire CD is perfection. Pound for pound, song for song, simply one of the best CDs released this year.

26. Nitzer Ebb, Industrial Complex (Artists’ Addictions).
Triumphant release by a seminal industrial band—it’s great! They are better than ever!

27. Crocodiles, Sleep Forever (Fat Possum).
This band listened to a lot of Jesus & Mary Chain. It shows and it’s great!

28. Suckerpunch Soundtrack (WaterTower).
Featuring some killer remakes (“Love is the Drug,” “White Rabbit,” etc.), this CD is a great soundtrack through and through. It also has impressive vocal work on a couple of the tunes from the star of the film, Emily Browning.

29. Elbow, Build A Rocket Boys (Polydor UK).
Great release from one of the best bands out there. It isn’t as immediate as some of their other releases but very worthy of a spot on your CD shelf.

30. MOJO Magazine compilation 1-2-3-4! The Roots of The Ramones (MOJO).
Every month MOJO Magazine puts out a zine that includes a CD compilation. In May of 2011, it was a tribute to The Ramones featuring the likes of T. Rex, The Dictators, The Seeds, Suicide, The Shangri-Las—just to name a few. The compilation combines tunes from music artists that The Ramones were influenced by, bands The Ramones influenced, and some of the band member’s favorite tunes. You might be able to back order the comp from the magazine—and you’d have a real gem on your hands.

Honorable Mentions: Wilco, Low, The Decemberists, Kasabian, Blind Pilot, Cage the Elephant, Mogwai, White Lies, Bell X 1, Death Cab For Cutie, and Mr. Glen Campbell.
Worst song of 2011: Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.” My god, it is awful crap.

Class Warrior

Favorite records for 2011

I have been too busy fighting the class war to write reviews lately, but I did have a chance to listen to some music. What a surprise! There are new releases on my list!
(listed by year)

Terrible Feelings, Tied Up and Impending Doom 7”s (2011).
Currently the best punk band in existence. Who would have thought that in 2011 there would be a punk group that has a unique, creative, distinctive sound? This band is from Sweden, where everything is better. If I ever get a chance, I will submit a review of these records. Here’s hoping they 1) tour the United States and 2) release an LP in the near future before the spark fades (as it does for nearly all of us).

Iron Savior, The Landing (2011).
German old-style heavy metal band who wear their early eighties influences (Maiden, Priest, etc.) on their denim-and-leather covered sleeves. Bonus points for having more than one song about heavy metal. One of my goals for 2012 is to make a CD mix of metal songs about either heavy metal or rocking out. Send suggestions to me. Heavy metal never dies!

Swingin’ Utters, Here, Under Protest (2011).
They haven’t missed a beat. As good as their mid-nineties albums. I’m not surprised because they ruled when I saw them in 2007.

Ghost, Opus Eponymous (2010).
Fun, old-style Satan-infused heavy metal done very, very well. Probably not influenced by anything that came out after 1982 or so. From Sweden, of course. Makes me want to grow out a teenage wispy mustache and inscribe inverted pentagrams all over the place. It has (dare I say it?) a pop-ish edge to it. This is the kind of music your minister was worried about when you were a youth. Mercyful Fate without King Diamond? (That would be mercyful.)

Autistic Youth, Idle Minds (2010).
Very good punk rock from Portland. Wipers meets Adolescents.

Articles of Faith, New Normal Catastrophe (2010).
The masters return. Exceeded expectations.

Knugen Faller, Lugna Favoriter (2007).
An “old” one from Sweden that I dug out and listened to a lot this year. They would have been huge if they had lyrics in English, which is a very unfortunate circumstance—needing to sing in English to be popular, that is. There must be some awesome drugs in the water up there that makes so many people form great bands. I hereby declare that Sweden is the best country in the world (per capita) for guitar-based music. Lots of great things can happen when health care is not tied to employment. I need to find a job there.

Scorpions, Deadly Sting: The Mercury Years (1998).
Couldn’t get enough of the Scorpions this year. Even my son joined in—he loves singing “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” I need to listen to their newish one still.

Blyth Power, Alnwick and Tyne (1990).
Absolutely incredible. This is next on my list for review, so I won’t write anything about it right now.

Stormwitch, Walpurgis Night (1985).
I just discovered this German metal gem earlier this year. The song “Priest of Evil” contains perhaps the most heavy metal line ever: “Priest, priest of evil / spits on every crucifix.” It’s like seeing a thousand churches burn down at once.

Top Secret! sountrack (featuring Val Kilmer) (1984).
I finally found this soundtrack after years of searching, so of course it’s part of my top eleven. If you don’t know what Top Secret! is, do yourself a favor and find out. Skeet surfing, anyone?

Dave

Shining, Blackjazz (2010).
This Norwegian industrial metal group infused new life into the genre with their debut release. I haven’t heard an industrial album with this level of musicianship since KMFDM at the height of their career. There are some really intense moments of free jazz experimentation that are harsh on the ears, but overall this is a very interesting listen for the extreme music fan.

Anthrax, Worship Music (2011).
Joey comes back, the energy level is doubled and Anthrax is a really fun band again. It just goes to show that what makes Anthrax great is relentless energy without the grimmer aesthetics of a lot of modern bands.

Primus, Green Naugahyde (2011).
Those twisted bastards are back and I love it! The thing I really like about this record is that Claypool has taken a bit of a step back to let other members of the band step up and add their own flavor to the songs. I really like Larry Lalonde’s playing on this album. Overall they go back to psychedelic funk rock and actually playing as a band, not the Les Claypool show, which is great!

Jimmy (Explosive Diarrehea) B.

These shows and records are in no particular order.

Shows: I attended more shows in 2011 than in any year in my middle-aged life.

MerleFest: In May I attended MerleFest with SoDak. Over the last few years, I have been getting increasingly interested in Americana and Bluegrass music. MerleFest was well organized, had great sound, and the focus of the entire town was music rather than trying to drain attendees of their life savings.

Mudhoney: Dave and I went to see Mudhoney at Dantes in Portland, OR. After sitting through one of the worst opening acts I have ever had the misfortune of hearing, I was rewarded with the brilliance of Mudhoney. I have been a fan of theirs for most of a decade, but was unexpectedly blown away by their live show. Holy shit their bass player can rip it up!

The Black Angels: Perhaps the most surprising show of the year was the Black Angels at The Wonder Ballroom in Portland. I am the type of concert goer who shoves his hands in his pockets and bobs along to the beat. I never dance, but the Black Angels had me bouncing.

Meat Puppets: How the fuck have I managed to miss the phenomenon known as The Meat Puppets? 2011 was the year of the Meat Puppets. I saw them at the Doug Fir in Portland. Wow! I am now obsessed with this band.

Records:

Brown Bird, Salt for Salt (2011).
I took the family to see The Devil Makes Three, expecting to be blown away by a damn fine established Bluegrass band. But, it was the show’s opener, Brown Bird, which really caught my attention. They are a two piece that sounds like a four piece. If you like Iron and Wine or Dirty Three, you will love Brown Bird.

Across Tundras, Western Sky Ride (2008).
In 2011, I purchased the entire Across Tundras catalog. I knew one of them would make this list; all their records are awesome, so it was a difficult choice. I chose Western Sky Ride, because it is the best example of their sound and vibe—which are totally unique and difficult to explain. Across Tundras’ music has a metal feel, but it is also wonderfully melancholy, much like a spaghetti western soundtrack.

Harvestman, In a Dark Tongue (2009).
Truthfully, I don’t know what it is about this record that I love so much. It is stripped down, not flashy, and the musicianship is merely adequate. But there is something about it—perhaps it is my old friend melancholy.

Jerry Reed, Koko Joe (1971).
Until a few years ago, all I knew about Jerry Reed is that he played Cledus Snow in Smoky and the Bandit. SoDak loves this guy, so I thought, “what the fuck, I will give it a shot.” Reed is awesome. He can croon, he can get dirty, and he is one of the great guitar players.

The Meads of Asphodel, The Murder of Christ the Jew (2010).
The Meads have become one of my favorite metal (or is it punk metal) bands. The Murder of Christ the Jew is their best record to date. Everything came together on this one, the production is good, the composition is good, and the lyrics and creativity are awesome.

Wrack, Graveyard Poetry (2009).
An amazing, but unknown, jazz metal band, known as The Mass, called it quits a few years ago. Their drummer, Tyler Cox, embarked on a solo project titled Wrack. Wrack has a sound loaded with despair. If you like music with a depressing vibe, check out Wrack. Here is a link: http://wrack.bandcamp.com/album/graveyard.

The Black Heart Procession, Six (2009).
The Black Heart Procession was a 2011 discovery. I have picked up several of their albums, and I could have listed any one of them here. I decided on Six; it was the first one I bought, and the album I know the best. Six is, you guessed it, dark and dreary. If you are a fan of Low, you will love The Black Heart Procession.

Meat Puppets, Lollipop (2011).
Awesome, awesome, awesome!

Munly, Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots (2004).
I must have been depressed in 2011. Nearly all of the albums I was smitten with in 2011 were depressing. Munly is no exception. The record has a weird mix of bluegrass (usually a happy up tempo music) and goth lyrical content. It is strange, but brilliant. I met Munly at a Slim Cessna’s Auto Club show, a few months ago. I found him to be polite, refreshingly blunt, and interested in his fans, but the man comes across as haunted, or perhaps he is just odd. If I had numbered my best of 2011 records, Munly would probably be at the top of the list. You MUST get this record.

Kloghole

1. Going on a music binge with Jimmy (Explosive Diarrehea) B. I had so much shit, I had to put back some Saxon I already had on cassette. Pity! Thanx for showing me and the missus a good time!

2. James McMurtry show in St. Louis in March. I bumped into him in the lobby of the hotel after his show. We exchanged pleasantries about the fucked up elevator that had no numbers in the fucking thing. I then pointed him in the direction of a late night bar.

3. Seeing Testament and Death Angel. Testament still rocks, and I was seeing Death Angel for the first time. Anthrax was not half bad.

4. That is about fucking it. It has been a couple of fucked up years personally and musically. My rage is deteriorating into a generalized pissyness regarding every little fucking thing. I am so fucking don’t-give-a-shit that it’s been almost a year since something provoked my rage enough to poke a fucking hole in the basement wall, or post a fucking music review. All I can manage now is a muttered “fuck it” and a defeated plop into my recliner. For the depths of my despondency, see #3 under my Festivus Grievances.

Null

Top 16 of 2011

1. The Joy Formidable, The Big Roar (Atlantic 2011).
They are some sort of mystic force that permeates the scenes with beauty, mystery, and mountains of swirling majestic guitars. Stunning. The music The Joy Formidable make is uplifting and menacing, full of love, hope, and loss. This album also contains the best song of 2011; “Whirring.” It is a seven-minute epic that will make one laugh, cry, and finally jump out the window when the Iron Maiden double bass drum kicks in at the end. Just when you think the song is about to end, it simply jumps to a new level of fucking rockin’ beauty. This band could be the soundtrack to Pangaea breaking up, or falling in love. In truth, it is both.

2. Motörhead, “Get Back In Line” Video (UDR 2011).
This is the best video of 2011. Lemmy and the boys not only expose the death machine of Wall Street for what it really is but also give the capitalist tycoons what they deserve: a royal ass kicking. Sometimes the truth manifests in unlikely places.

3. Willie Nelson, Spirit (Island 1996).
Though this album was released sixteen years ago, it was only this year that I discovered this quintessential Willie Nelson record. His voice and guitar playing are delicate and filled with age-old wisdom. Stunning.

4. Pink Floyd, Relics (Capital 1971).
This album is a collection of singles and B-sides, which illustrate the move from Syd Barrett’s absurd little ditties to the creepy dark ambience that followed. It also rocks in a very uncharacteristic way. I can play this album over and over again and it never seems to get old. It’s like being drugged and lost in the English countryside.

5. Cannibal Corpse, Global Evisceration DVD (Metal Blade 2011).
I don’t even care about the horrifically grotesque lyrics anymore. From the extensive backstage and bonus features on this DVD I fell in love with Cannibal Corpse as human beings, whether they are longing for their wives and children at home or simply throwing cheese at windows out of boredom on a train in Russia.

6. Pearl Jam, Twenty DVD (Vinyl Films 2011).
It was nice to watch this documentary on one of the best rock bands of this generation. They created their best work only after people stopped paying attention.

7. Malignus Youth, Ephemeral / Missa Brevis LP (Youth- Ink 1998).
Out of print forever, I have been trying to get my hands on this record for years. It was only this year that I finally completed my Malignus Youth collection by downloading this album from somebody’s blog. Unfortunately, the lyrics contain some Christian overtones. That was disappointing. Yet, to hear this amazing hardcore band deliver a Catholic mass, “Missa Brevis,” at the end of the album is fucking epic. It sounds like a two disc prog-rock album condensed into seven minutes. It is even sung in Latin. Brilliant.

8. OFF!, First Four EPs (Vice 2010).
Smart. Fast. Short. Does not placate. These old-timers show how it is done. (See review on this site)

9. Blood Ceremony, Living With The Ancients (Metal Blade 2011).
One could say that these Canadian rockers are a bit contrived but who gives a shit. Every time I spin this album I am happy. Apparently a group of Canadians locked themselves in a dungeon and listened to Black Sabbath for years. When the dungeon doors opened Blood Ceremony was unleashed upon the world. They are the children of Black Sabbath with female vocals and the occasional flute which conjures images of Jethro Tull and pagans dancing naked in the woods. Sounds like it was recorded in the 1970s. Awesome. Slow and heavy.

10. Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship
I have always loved Jefferson Airplane. They were kinda like a punk rock Grateful Dead. While completing my collection this year, I wandered far too deep into the Jefferson Starship years, something I said I would never do. Some are great and some are not. Near the end I just had to stop listening as I lost any notion of critique and sat in the corner crying, as I had forgotten my own name.

11. The Smiths, The Complete Smiths Box Set (Rhino 2011).
Miniature facsimiles of the original vinyl LPs released by one of the greatest bands in recorded history. The Smiths were the masters of subversive pop. The lyrics and mastery of their instruments will never be undermined. If it weren’t for The Smiths, I would have killed myself in high school.

12. Nausea, The Punk Terrorist Anthology Vol. One (Alternative Tentacles 2010).
This is not for everyone. Uncompromising “crust-punk” with incredible, intelligent radical lyrics and I am a sucker for shared male/female vocals. This album lit a fire under my puck rock ass and reminded me that a better world is possible.

13. La Traviata Live Opera DVD featuring Anna Netrebko (Deutsche Grammophon 2006).
I have loved Anna Netrebko for years. The big wigs and outlandish costumes and tropes of opera are put aside for this brilliant live performance, replaced with a minimalist stage and color scheme of white, blue, black, and red, allowing the audience to better appreciate the music and story of this Verdi classic. The optional subtitles are helpful too. However, to witness Anna Netrbko in action is awe inspiring. She stands in miniature on a giant empty stage as her voice echoes through the theater. It is incredibly beautiful for the eyes and ears. Baffled, I keep muttering to myself, “That is a human being doing that…a human being!”

14. Motörhead, The World Is Yours (UDR 2011).
This was the first Motorhead album I was really able to connect with. Love it. I get it now.

15. Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son Of A Bitch DVD (Red General 2011).
Whether you like Motörhead or not, you should see this documentary about Motörhead’s notorious and complex front man: Lemmy. It is surprisingly touching and sad, funny and inspiring.

16. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Sour Mash 2011).
The best thing Noel ever did was get rid of his idiot brother. It is not surprising that many of these songs are Beatles and Kinks hybrids but, I mean, what did you expect? What we have here is an album that is surprisingly beautiful and tender at moments. Love and loss. It appears that, now in his 40’s, “big brother” has decided to grow up. A little. Also, in accordance with my grievances for this year, some of the Bonus Tracks and iTune only tracks are some of the best. Bloody Bastards. Bullocks. Tossers.

Unexplained Happenings of 2011

I keep listening to Rihanna. Direct all questions to SoDak.

Plainzero
(coming soon)

Scott

Favorite records this year, followed by top five concerts.
Records, in no particular order:

Ryan Adams, Ashes and Fire (2011).
He’s at his best working in folk and alt-country, and this new one proves it yet again. Song: “Lucky Now.”

Keelhaul, Triumphant Return to Obscurity (2009).
I had never heard of Keelhaul until Dave’s glowing review of this album last year, so I picked it up and spent the better part of 2011 blasting it. It’s technical and complex but still somehow loose and raw. Song: “El Matador.”

Bruce Cockburn, Small Source of Comfort (2011).
Cockburn’s been releasing albums for over 40 years, and this, his newest, is as good as anything else he’s done. The instrumental songs are particularly mesmerizing. Song: “Boundless.”

Ted Leo, Shake the Sheets (2004).
I’ve owned this album for a year or two and sort of liked it, but it never really clicked with me until this year. And man, it clicked, so I picked up the rest of his catalog (as a solo artist), and although there’s a lot of great stuff, this one remains my favorite. Song: “Counting Down the Hours.”

Motörhead, The Wörld Is Yours (2010).
Motörhead fucking rules. This album fucking rules. That’s all. Song: “Born to Lose.”

Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest (2010).
This might be her strongest album yet, which is saying a lot. I guess eight years for a new release was worth the wait. Song: “Hard Times.”

Revocation, Chaos of Forms (2011) and Existence Is Futile (2009).
I’m including both because I just got into this band this year, and both albums smoke. Fantastic guitar work that seems familiar and new at the same time, and really well executed. After a few listens, you also realize how well the songs are written. Song: “Deathonomics.”

Johnny Cash, American Recordings series (1994-2010).
I had one of these albums and at SoDak’s suggestion I picked up the rest, including the Unearthed boxset, which has unreleased songs and alternate takes. The government should issue a set of these to everyone living in the United States. Goddamn. Song (almost impossible to choose but what the fuck, it’s my favorite Sting song): “I Hung My Head.”

Patti Smith,
Just Kids (2010).
I wanted to include a book on here, and, like Patti Smith’s music, this one is mostly good, occasionally brilliant, and often pretentious. But it’s very moving and well worth the read, regardless of whether you’re a Patti Smith fan or not.

Cynic, Carbon-Based Anatomy (2011).
This is just an EP, and only three of the six tracks are “real” songs (the others are atmospheric interludes, I guess), but it’s still going in my top ten. Cynic moves even further away from their death metal roots, and it works. Song: “Box Up My Bones.”

And here are my top 5 concerts.
I saw a lot of great shows this year, and a few more should probably be on here, like the Judas Priest “farewell” concert or Jay Farrar. Gillian Welch deserves a special mention for two of the greatest performances I have ever seen anywhere, a “Revelator” that was fucking electrifying (thanks to David Rawlings’s guitar solo) and a “Hard Times” that literally made me cry a little bit.

Brendan Perry - Mixed in some Dead Can Dance tunes with his newer solo stuff; I was depressed the place was only 3/4s full, if that. A totally underappreciated artist.

Bruce Cockburn - Saw two intimate shows back to back, reminded me of why, if I had to name a favorite artist, it would probably be Cockburn. Slightly awkward when I met him afterwards and showed him some of his lyrics I have tattooed on my arm, and realized how crazy I seemed—but he was very nice about it, until I asked for a lock of his hair.

Opeth/Katatonia - Never saw the latter before despite being a big fan; they were great. Have seen the former at least every time they came through NYC/NJ for about 10 years (plus some other random shows), but this was the first time seeing the “post-death metal” Opeth. Still one of the fucking greatest bands alive, although I do miss the growls.

Cynic - A special (one of a kind?) acoustic performance by Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert in a tiny bar packed full of metal nerds. Played the new stuff from EP and two other songs, so it was a quick but very memorable set. I was lucky to catch it.

Billy Bragg - Just him and a guitar. Thought I would enjoy the show but was surprised by how much I did. Sent me back to the Billy Bragg catalog for a couple of days (and he revealed that Mermaid Ave III, another installment of the Woody Guthrie-derived album series with Wilco, is coming in 2012).

SoDak

I still have boxes filled with CDs and records that I picked up, but have not listened to, this year. I would like to go on a long road trip in order to listen to this music. Nevertheless, I devoted countless hours listening to new music and rediscovering past favorites. My list is in no particular order.

Records:

Dolorean, The Unfazed (2011).
I saw Dolerean play in Eugene, OR many years ago. His songs swirl my head. The Unfazed might be the best record yet by this artist. Stand out tracks include: “Fools Gold Ring” and “If I Find Love.”

Crooked Fingers, Breaks in the Armor (2011).
Crooked Fingers includes Eric Bachmann of Archers of Loaf fame. Most of the Crooked Fingers records are great. His solo record, To the Races was captivating, especially the songs “Carrboro Woman” and “Man O’War.” I am not sure what it is about his voice, but he has hooked me. I am drawn to him. “Typhoon,” on Breaks in the Armor, is a great track.

Dawes, Nothing Is Wrong (2011).
I picked up this record this summer, but I did not listen to it until October. I was driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway and decided to give this record a chance. The songs made the curves in the road easy, as I marveled at the bounty of colors as the leaves were changing. There is a distinct warmth to this record that reminds me of country-rock from the 1970s. It is a gentle record.

J Mascis, Several Shades of Why (2011).
I go through bouts where I really do not want to hear anything by Dinosaur Jr. Other times, it is exactly what I need. An old girlfriend was obsessed with Dinosaur Jr., and I have found memories of listening to this band. This year J. Mascis put out a solo record that is absolutely wonderful. An acoustic guitar and his voice are the main focus here. Some songs include his signature electric guitar solos that drift over the rhythm. I get lost in the record. It is a good record for a rainy day.

Black Lips, Arabia Mountain (2011).
I bought this record by mistake. I thought I grabbed a different CD. I am glad that I made this error and still decided to give it a listen. This record is filled with catchy rock songs that incorporate influences from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. I love the psychedelic sound of the record. It rocks and makes me dance around the house.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Here We Rest (2011).
Jason Isbell wrote superb songs while he was in the Drive-By Truckers. I did not like his first two solo records following his departure from the aforementioned band. However, his new record pleasantly surprised me. Last year, Scott mentioned that some of the new songs that Jason played at a show were outstanding. He was right. “Alabama Pines” and “Codeine” are great fuckin’ songs. This is a good record. I would only delete three songs, “The Ballad of Nobeard,” “Never Could Believe,” and “Heart On a String.”

Jethro Tull, Aqualung, fortieth anniversary edition (1971, newly remastered 2011).
Yes, a classic record. I have always been a casual listener. My partner used to listen to Heavy Horses quite a bit, and Jimmy (Explosive Diarrehea) B. loves this band. So when the fortieth anniversary edition of Aqualung was released this year, I decided to give this record a closer listen. The CD remained in the stereo for several weeks. I could not get enough of it. I played it over and over. The sound is incredible. The guitars, bass, drums, and flute sound great, especially when played loud. The concept of the record is delightful in its critique of religion. I love the heavy guitar crunch that erupts every now and then on some of the songs. This new edition has an extra disc, which includes longer versions of a couple of the short songs on Aqualung.

Motörhead, The Wörld Is Yours (2010).
Solid record. Fuckin’ love it. The video for “Get Back In Line” is awesome. It is one of the few music videos that I even like.

Two Cow Garage, Sweet Saint Me (2010).
I have been a fan of Two Cow Garage for a long time. I saw them play many years ago in Oregon. Finally picked up their latest record. They get better and better. While distinct, they fit well with Lucero and the Replacements, on days when I am in the mood for dirty, raspy rock and roll. They do a good job mixing things up, as the rocking songs kick ass and the ballads break your fuckin’ heart in all the right ways. Lately, I have been hooked on the songs “My Great Gatsby” and “Soundtrack to My Summer.”

Primus, Green Naugahyde (2011).
I saw Primus when they were the opening act for Jane’s Addiction in 1990. Always thought they were interesting, but it has taken a long time for me to fully embrace them. I am hooked, many years late, I know. But it is great to have a band making such a good record after all of these years. Plus, I have to love a band with a song called: “Lee Van Cleef.” Here’s to Angel Eyes.

Wire, Red Barked Tree (2011).
While I liked their early punk rock records, I have become a bigger fan of their most recent records.

Alice Donut (their entire fuckin’ catalog).
I saw Alice Donut around 1990. They were good. But I never spent any time listening to them. Null has continued to praise them for years. He sent copies of their records. I fell in love with their dark, demented songs—which are also filled with lots of heart and humanity. I then purchased all of their records over the last couple of years. Each year, I find that I spend more time listening to them. They continue to intrigue me, given their complicated songs. They are definitely a band that you have to spend time with, digesting the bountiful feast that is served.

The Bomb, Speed Is Everything (2009).
Jeff Pezzati from Naked Raygun in the vocalist in The Bomb. I liked the previous record by The Bomb, but Speed Is Everything is much better. It is solid, melodic punk rock. As the record progresses, it gets better and is filled with more catchy and powerful songs. There is a good mix of fast punk rock songs with slow tunes. I love the songs “Spaceman” and “A Song for Helenas.”

Report Suspicious Activity, Destroy All Evidence (2008) and Report Suspicious Activity (2005).
This past year, I finally picked up the two records by Report Suspicious Activity, a band that includes Vic Bondi (from Articles of Faith) and J. Robbins (from Jawbox). I was not disappointed. Report Suspicious Activity play angry, politically charged punk rock. Hearing Vic Bondi holler sends chills down my spine. I get excited and want to start a band. There are also a few good acoustic tracks included on these records that add an interesting variation and more depth to the collection of songs.

Ghost, Opus Eponymous (2010).
I had been curious about this record. Then one day, Null called me and told me that I had to get this record. He was enthralled by the classic metal sound with the very melodic vocals. He was right. Ghost has a classic sound that still sounds fresh. I love the song: “Ritual.” This record includes lots of songs about Satan. Raise the Devil horns, my friends.

Concerts/Shows: Below I list only a few of the standouts shows.

Motörhead. Finally had a chance to see Motörhead with my friend Critter. Of course, it was loud. What? I said it was loud. But it was awesome. It was a night filled with great songs by a band that seems to love playing music.

June Star. I saw June Star play a couple times in Chapel Hill, NC, in a shitty little bar. June Star consistently puts out great Americana records. Andrew Grimm is a terrific songwriter and a very cool person. Check them out.

Mike Watt. Mike Watt is an amazing bass player. I stood at the front of the stage and watched his three-piece band knock out Watt’s most recent rock opera. Sweat was flying and I had a huge smile, enjoying every moment.

Bottlerockets. I saw the Bottlerockets open for Lucinda Williams in the late 1990s. They were incredible and I wish they played a longer set. This year I saw them play again. They definitely knock out the tunes, playing a lot of songs in one show. They did not take time between songs to change guitars or tunings. It was straight ahead rock and roll with twang. Wonderful.

Judas Priest. I was supposed to attend this show with Kloghole, but he was not able to join me. My partner and I went to the show. Thin Lizzy were forgettable. Black Label Society was horrible. But Judas Priest was awesome. The crowd was very cool, singing along throughout the whole show. The band played a song from almost every album. The new guitar player was good.

Merlefest (tons of artists, including Jerry Douglas, Peter Rowan, Lyle Lovett, Sam Bush, and Tony Rice). Jimmy (Explosive Diarrehea) B. and I spent a couple days at this festival in western North Carolina. I was very impressed with the organization of the festival and the variety of stages. We saw a lot of good music. Both of us ended up with nasty sunburns. But we were quite happy with the music, minus the Doobie Brothers.

Sam Baker/Jon Dee Graham. This year, I finally saw Sam Baker and Jon Dee Graham, two amazing songwriters. During this show they took turns playing songs. The show was very spontaneous, given the lively banter between them as well as with the crowd. They told great stories between songs. Their performances were wonderful.

Joy Formidable. Null has been praising this band all year. I was fortunate to see them play, arriving at the venue just before they took the stage. The drummer was fuckin’ unbelievable. They put on a high-energy performance. I am still singing songs from the show, even though it was a couple months ago.

Tinariwen. I was pissed that I missed Tinariwen perform last year. Fortunately, I saw them play this year. The two main front men took turns leading the band throughout th night. The band was engaging and powerful. No one in the crown was standing still, as the music was infections causing everyone to bounce around, smiling.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Festivus Grievances 2011

Another year has passed, and the taint ticklers remain pissed. The Festivus poles are erected, and it is time for the airing of the grievances. Read on to explore our 2011 musical grievances, past wounds, and general discontent.

Anita Papsmear

Worst Things in Music 2011

I get so excited when I put a CD in the player for the first time. Hearing a new piece of art is an exhilarating thing. So, when I unwrapped the latest Kooks CD, the juices began to flow! Their 2008 sophomore release Konk was a decent effort. The first 3 songs showed all the promise of a young, ambitious, English band. Unfortunately, much like a sophomore, the disc shoots its wad by the third song and the rest of the CD just peters out. My expectations were fairly high for this year’s release, “Junk of the Heart,” because typically, after a lot of youthful jerking off, one settles down to do the deed right—to last for all 12 songs. The first couple of notes from track one start soft, but that’s to be expected right out of the gate. There is still ample time to stiffen up and satisfy. Too bad that is where it stops—it just stays limp. I reach for my Viagra smelling salts, it can’t be over yet, can it? It’s a 12 inch—I mean—12 song release that is almost tall enough to ride the ride, but not quite powerful enough to ring the bell, if you know what I mean. I was expecting to get a good kick in the manjigglies here, but instead I was left with an empty, hollow feeling. I mean, when I grab a pair of plums, I expect to get a handful. My mitts didn’t get the satisfaction of a full pair of hairy nuggets. Instead I found that only one testicle had dropped and it was still small and fuzzy. Maybe with the next CD, the other crackerjack will drop and I will get the satisfaction I am looking for. That said, there might be a couple songs on the CD that aren’t completely disappointing. Perhaps if my copy had the cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” there would have been another track to comment on (the track appears on later pressings of the CD). I hate to be too harsh, I am sure they are nice guys despite the disappointments of “Junk of the Year Heart.” Let’s hope their fourth release has them maturely emerging from their adolescence with their mighty and hairy cojones in their hands! Still, the Kooks aren’t the biggest disappointment of the year.

That award goes to…Panda Bear and their disc, Tomboy. You may be asking yourself, “But, Anita, I’ve seen that CD on many a 2011 Year End Favorites lists.” “Yes,” I’ll say, “so did I. But they are wrong!” It’s the guy from Animal Collective (Noah Lennox) and some other cohorts, so how can it miss? Here’s how: repetition, repetition, and, did I mention, repetitive repetition? Sometimes identified as “glo fi” (and many other terms such as chillwave). Chillwave’s roots are based in 80s music, combining samples and ambience, interlaced with dance-y beats. I love the genre, however there is a dangerous strain of repetitious mind-benders out there (Noah) casting a haze on the lovely ambient sky. While it is a common element (I get it), to take it to this extent is merciless. It just doesn’t work to take one good hook, one good phrase, and then loop it together for 5 minutes. I’d sooner grow a pair of love spuds out of my ass and back-leg kick them until they were bloody and swinging than listen to the same thing over and over again. Okay, where was I? So, I saw Panda Bear’s Tomboy on a list of 2011’s great CDs (fuck you, Magnet Magazine) and thought, “I’ll just buy it—it’s gotta be good.” I like Animal Collective and I like chillwave. GONG! The disc was a huge disappointment. This CD is almost like Noah et al. took great songs and deliberately fucked with them until they became unlistenable—a dare to the ears to make it all the way through a song. They have taken great, lush melodies and have run them into the ground. At times, it seems as though the CD is stuck in place or even skipping. Pretty becomes abrasive, catchy becomes unbearable monotony, full, shiny balls become shriveled, old plums…you get it. Reports say Animal Collective may break up so that Noah can follow his Panda-ness, but honestly, if Panda Bear can’t do a little more interesting work here, what is the point? It’s like shaking it more than 3 times after you pee, you might enjoy it at first shake, but later you know it was wrong. My advice to Panda Bear: put your catchy hooks into one song and call it a single and be done. And me? I’ll pick up my Animal Collective disc when I need a chilly fix. Not even with the most supportive of jock straps can I tolerate this one.

P.S. I was also slightly disappointed with The Kills and White Denim’s latest releases too…sigh….

I give a collective 2 Papsmears on both these releases.

Class Warrior

The first is always a grievance until we are able to resolve it: we need to divorce popular music from corporate control. It’s as good a reason as any for a revolution.

Second: where is the Devil? Why did people stop being concerned about His presence in music? I want people to be worried about the music I like, and I want them to be worried for the right reasons. Now that I think about it, I’d rather people were worried about revolutionary music. Would Satanic music cause sleepness nights for citizens of a socialist society?

Third: I demand more time to listen to music. Working fifty-hour weeks (and that’s a good week) and having a little Warrior at home does not allow me to rock out as often as I would like. I fall asleep before I get a chance to listen to anything. I have several hundred albums in my listening pile that I may never have a chance to hear. Yet another reason for revolution—think of all the time we would have for music creation and enjoyment once we got rid of all the shitwork! (This is also Mrs. Warrior’s grievance—the lack of time for music, that is.)

Fourth: Scott Walker—the politician—is a steaming pile of shit. No, that’s too good for him—shit is useful once composted. Let’s compost Walker. Fuck that guy. Once we win the revolution, he’ll face a choice: work in the salt mines or die in prison. Not sure which alternative would be sweeter, but that’s a dilemma I don’t mind facing. Oh, yeah—Walker’s existence makes music less enjoyable.

Fifth: that “Friday” song by Rebecca Black should be on here somewhere, I guess. Even I, who has never heard anything by Lady Gaga or similar “artists,” saw the video for this song, which should tell you how many people know about it. Reproduction of corporate-marketing-inspired products (e.g., pop music) is a disease, and socialized production is the cure.

I have saved the biggest grievance of all for last, and it has nothing to do with socialism or the Revolution. Judas Priest, WHY DID YOU SKIP MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL ON YOUR FINAL WORLD TOUR?

Dave

1. I haven’t done a good job of keeping up with music in 2011, but I can honestly say I can’t think of more than 3 records that came out this year that caught my interest.

2. In the last 2 years I’ve seen bands with members over 40 years of age rock twice as hard as bands half their age. I rock harder than kids 10 years younger than me. What the fuck?!? The old addage that rock and roll is for young people is over!

3. The Stop Online Piracy Act: As far as the music business and the RIAA is concerned, this protects labels, the for profit marketing and distribution networks much more than it could ever protect artists. It protects the middle-men that make sure that a band’s songs are never longer than 4 minutes, that musical ideas in the songs are rarely more complex than anything Led Zeppelin did, and that mediocre bands like Radiohead are called band of the millennium because other innovative bands like Minus the Bear and Pretty Girls Make Graves weren’t given proper exposure on radio and in the print magazines because they won’t play the major label game. We’ve reached a point where we don’t need big record companies to produce music anymore. Technology has reached a point where an artist can produce, distribute and market their albums on an international level by themselves without big money influence. Better yet, imagine if Lady Gaga or Madonna had to put together their own stage shows or perform simply as singers with good backing bands.... Would they last? Hehehe.

4. Where did all the really creative people go in the independent music scene? I hate seeing so many musicians work so hard to fit into a specific genre. I thought part of the reason people write and release their own albums is to do their own thing regardless of the larger music community?!?

5. I was very excited to hear in 2009 that Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston (Dysrhythmia) had joined my favorite death metal guitarist Luc Lemay in reforming one of the most innovative bands in the death metal genre—Gorguts. I’ve been waiting 2 years for this album and really, really want to see these guys on tour, what is the hold up!!!

6. Primus released a new album this year that was really fun and totally Primus.... Apparently only lingering Gen-X Primus fans took any notice....

7. The Portland Oregon creative community becomes more a parody of itself every year. FUCK YOU Portlandia.

8. The emergence of a mainstream punk community that runs counter to the spirit and ideology of the original community and movements, WTF!

Jimmy (Explosive Diarrehea) B.

1. What the fuck is Mastodon doing producing an ineffectual little turd nugget like The Hunter? Why would a talented band like Mastodon take such a giant step backwards? The nut-hugging fans are attempting to explain the change in direction as a progression. Fuck that! A progression is a step forward by doing something more complicated or more interesting. The Hunter is neither interesting nor complicated.

2. R.E.M. called it quits in 2011. Why? Were their professional lives getting in the way of their social lives? I guess not touring and releasing albums sporadically every three to five years is way too demanding.

They will be missed.

3. Rush let another year pass by without releasing
Clockwork Angels. They don’t realize how much they are fucking with my mental health by always promising the carrot, and keeping it just a little out of reach.

4. In 2011, I saw two shows—Nomeansno and Death Angel—at the Hawthorne Theater in Portland, OR. This, in my opinion, is the worst venue in Portland, and has got to rank as one of the worst anywhere. The sound at the Death Angel show was fucking awful; I couldn’t even find the music’s groove. All I heard was a wall of noise. The guitar and vocals were lost in the muddy mess that is the Hawthorne’s sound system. I will never set foot in this venue again.

5. Finally, my friends, I have to kick my own ass a little bit. 2011 was a very non-creative and unproductive year for me. I only wrote two or three reviews. I am a lazy, lazy man.

Kloghole

1. The idea that Lady GaGa (or by extension, Madonna) is liberating to women. Portraying an exaggerated depiction of men’s expectations of women as sex objects is not feminist, nor liberating. Gaining power by succumbing to a nauseatingly essentialized view of women only reinforces sexist assumptions that women are men’s sexual playthings. Wealthy women in the Victoria era gained power by fainting. It worked, but it also gave the medical profession more ammunition to assert that women were “hysterical” and needed to limit their physical and intellectual exertions in order to meet men’s sexual needs. I didn’t buy the Madonna strong woman bullshit, and I won’t suck on the festering cock of an idea that Lady GaGa is anything but degradation of what it means to be a woman. It just reinforces the hypersexualization of women and the idea that a (heterosexual) man should be able fuck anything that walks just because he has a cock. Even more offensive are folks that try to compare and contrast the two as if either one had a fucking thing to offer. Let ‘em both rot in their own fetid diarrhea.

2. I just heard the song “Hillbilly Bone” for the first time this year. I am still incredulous. I can’t figure out if Blake Shelton is so fucking wrapped up in his hetero-normative masculinity that he does not recognize the homo-eroticism explicit in the lyrics, or if he is really a crafty son-of-a-bitch who secretly hates the pathetic homophobic rejects who willingly sing along to “We all got a hillbilly bone down deep inside.” It even mentions “queens.” Wow! I just cannot imagine that someone at the record studio didn’t lean over to someone else and whisper, “I’ll give you a hillbilly bone, Shelton.” Maybe I am bit homophobic for giving a shit either way.

3. Of all the new albums I bought this year, not a fucking thing stands out. Am I that fucking old. Fuck. The paucity of new music that I have been able to identify had me manipulating, thoughtfully, a copy of Blake Shelton’s Hillbilly Bone album. Jesus Fucking Christ. I await, optimistically, the unlikely earth-rending events of 2012. Come-on apocalypse!

Null

1. Hidden Tracks / Bonus Tracks

This issue has been bothering me for many years now but it was this year that I was finally fed up with this complete and utter fucking bullshit.

Hidden Tracks: Shortly after the advent of the compact disc, record labels and bands became aware of the incredible amount of unused space on the CD compared to vinyl and cassette formats. Unfortunately, this led to the annoying trend of adding “hidden tracks” at the end of albums. Usually the result was that just when the album seems to be over, the listener is witness to an incredibly long track, or tracks, of silence. This silence can range anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes, at which point an usually annoying joke song or ridiculous noise track suddenly emerges from the speakers. Often these tracks are only funny to the band and under other formats would never see the light of day.

What is even worse is if the track is actually a great song. In order for the listener to enjoy the song he/she has to fast forward through 20 minutes of fucking silence to hear it. Doing this a few times just makes the listener ambivalent about the song altogether. What started out as a cute little quirky aspect to the production of CDs has become an annoying pet peeve for this music lover. Look, if it is a good song just add the motherfucker to the normal tack list so that it can be enjoyed by the listener. The “joke” wasn’t really that funny to begin with and it only irritates the listener. At first, I thought this was just a trend that the bands thought would be funny for a little while, but the motherfuckers are still doing it today! Nobody really wants to hear your fucking drunk acoustic medley of Kiss songs away, so spare us. If the song is good, as they often are, then don’t take a big shit on it, just put it on the fucking CD with the rest of the tracks. I envy people that only listen to vinyl pressings because they don’t have to put up with this moronic and unfunny joke—however, if the vinyl listener misses out on a “mind-blowing” hidden track, well, I guess that just illustrates what idiots these bands are in the first place.

Bonus Tacks: First of all, let me state the obvious. If a listener picks up a CD and finds that after the “last track” the words “Bonus Tracks” appear along with a few songs listed below, well, guess what?, they aren’t fucking bonus tracks because they are on the fucking album! Calling them Bonus Tracks is an oxymoron. By their appearance on the album they are already part of the whole. If they don’t belong on the album then leave them off or release them in another format, but don’t tell me they are a Bonus, when, by default, they are already part of the album. I’m not necessarily saying the songs should be removed. The more music the better but don’t fuck me with your words like a car salesman that tells me the steering wheel is a bonus feature. This is simply a ploy by the record companies that lead the buyer to believe they are getting something a little extra when in fact twenty thousand CDs where printed up the exact same way. Fuck.

More importantly, and more irritatingly, there is the how-can-we-fuck-the-fans-in-the-ass aspect of Bonus Tracks on digital versions of albums. A listener goes to the record store (if he/she is lucky enough to still have one in his/her town) and buys a much anticipated new release from one of his/her favorite artists. All is well, until he/she finds out that that the iTunes or eMusic digital versions of the album has 2 or 3 bonus tracks—or even more annoyingly it only has 1. Often, these digital version only Bonus Tracks are quite good but…wait…there’s more, not only is the fan forced to buy the Bonus Tracks digitally—ohh, yes,yes, computers are everything, I want to cum on them and stick them in my ass—these Bonus Tracks are not available for individual purchase. Oh, no. The fan must digitally re-purchase the entire album to get them. Fuckers. This is just another way that the artist, and primarily the record company, fucks real fans in the ass, as well as, obscures the actual sales of albums as fans end up buying more than one copy of the same album. Astonishingly, this is not only a trend for major commercial artist but also for underground artists.

It used to be fun, in the old days and in the British tradition, to get your hands on a single that had a non-album b-side track(s) because it was a great way to hear new tunes in-between full-length releases—but this shit is neither fun nor exciting—it is just another irritating example of the record industry fucking over the very people that keep them alive. It is no surprise, of course, that the record industry in not about art, the “humanities,” or expression, but instead, like everything else in a capitalist technology worshiping society, it is only about profits. It is the slow suicide of record stores, community, voice, and eventually the planet itself.

2. Joe Perry’s Unused Shirt Buttons

Joe Perry needs to button up his fucking shirt. I saw an interview with him recently and was repelled by his attempt to be sexy. Joe, you are not sexy. You look like you have been on a hunger strike to legalize cocaine. Listen, I love early Aerosmith but this guy hasn’t even written a good song since 1979. I mean, I know that Bruce Springsteen has suffered from the same problem—not buttoning up his shirt—in the last 10 years. But then, Bruce Springsteen has written some of his best songs in the last 10 years. Also, give the guy a break. He has shared the stage with Little Steven (whom I love) for years, and evidently Bruce has been raiding Little Steven’s closet in search of mystical gypsy necklaces and silk scarves for quite some time now. Hell, if Little Steven lived next door, I would probably look like the bloated 6-string slinging Italian gypsy he has become. The man obviously has a certain fashion-ical influence on the Boss. I’m not saying Springsteen doesn’t need an Occupational Therapist to help him figure out how to proceed past the first four buttons on his shirt; I’m just saying that I have accepted it from him. Besides, Bruce probably works on cars and stuff and exudes a certain middle-aged sexuality that middle-aged Jersey women everywhere can recognize. But Joe Perry is just creepy and his chest bones stick out like the starving Aerosmith fans that have hungered for a good Aerosmith song for the last 20 years. Let’s, face it, Aerosmith have always been ugly, which is often the cornerstone for a great dirty riffing rock band. I recognize the creepy but alluringly sexual virginity-stealer that Steven Tyler was in the 70s but if Joe Perry thinks a little make-up and boney chest exposure makes a stuffy old millionaire-recovering-coke-addict sexy then I almost wish he never went to rehab. Joe, button up your fucking shirt, drink some whiskey, and go sleep in the garage and vow to never use pro-tools again and there may be some hope for you and your band. Well…not really.

Plainzero

(Coming soon.)

Scott

When someone in a well-loved band decides to quit, there’s usually a big fan backlash. I don’t like this. Musicians are people with their own lives and their own reasons for doing things, and if they feel like they need to move on, they should. They don’t owe it to the fans to stick it out in a situation that isn’t right for them, or to hold back on whatever creative impulses they have. This is especially true if there’s a bad situation developing within a band (especially related to drug or alcohol abuse or whatever). Sure, if that musician is crucial to the band’s sound, it sucks when they leave—but all you can do is wish them well, and hope that the band will continue to create great music.

That’s what some tiny rational portion of my brain thinks. The rest of my brain, however, has spent the last several months thinking NEVERMORE: WHAT THE FUCK. I mean, seriously: Jeff Loomis and Van Williams, guitarist and drummer, who are both totally essential to the sound of what I think is one of the best contemporary metal bands, what the fuck. Are you fucking kidding me? Fuck.

Nevermore split earlier this year, and the future of the band is in doubt. The lineup that played on every single Nevermore album (along with a number of rotating second guitarists), has fractured down the middle, with Loomis and Williams on one side and vocalist Warrel Dane and bassist Jim Sheppard on the other. From what band members have said, it was an ugly split. Loomis and Williams are out, and Dane and Sheppard may or may not continue without them.

This is especially shitty because Nevermore has developed a unique sound that draws on all the players’ contributions, but in particular the way that the rhythm section locks into the patterns of Loomis’s stellar riffs. And it’s even more shitty because the band was at the top of their game—their latest album, The Obsidian Conspiracy, which I reviewed for this venerable website, is fucking great, and the one before that, This Godless Endeavor, I think is their best. But everything before that was really fucking good too.

Fuck.

What’s next? Well, we can make an educated guess. Warrel Dane released one solo album, Praises to the War Machine, which is good but uneven, and feels thin without Loomis’s guitar work. And Loomis released one solo album, Zero Order Phase, which is good if you’re into instrumental guitar wankery (which I sometimes am), but has truly fucking awful song titles like “Opulent Maelstrom,” and is nothing but instrumental guitar wankery. Clearly, these guys need each other, and we can conclude that the classic-line up of Nevermore was probably greater than the sum of its parts.

Maybe the remaining members will be able to find suitable replacements and match the greatness of the band’s previous work while also pushing it in new and interesting directions—that’s the best outcome. And maybe Loomis (with or without Williams) will put together a great new band, or release a more fully developed solo album (he has one due next year). Dane is working on reforming his pre-Nevermore band Sanctuary, which could end up being great. All these things are possible.

But it’s more likely that Nevermore, the band that did not give a fuck about playing an uncool style of music and very much gave a fuck about writing challenging, serious songs and lyrics, and absolutely fucking killed it in the process, is dead. Here’s the last song off the last Nevermore album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L3IMUfiZVI.

We’ll probably hear nothing quite like this again. That’s my grievance for the year.

SoDak

1. I must file a musical grievance against myself. Throughout the year, I intended and wanted to write many reviews, but I failed. Additionally, I fuckin’ missed seeing the Bad Brains. Shit.

2. Every time I read a recent interview with Dave Mustaine he is such a fuckin’ douche bag. His reactionary, right-wing diatribes and born again proclamations are mind numbing. For the sake of honestly, I admit that I have every Megadeth record and think he is a very talented musician.

3. Fuckin’ Bono. It is almost impossible to even know where to start this fuckin’ piece of shit and his empty fuckin’ gestures. The list of crap is long, so for now, I will simply list links to a couple recent essays that highlight some of the ongoing issues. Wish this fucker would stop blowing smoke up our asses. (Again, as a point of full disclosure, I have all the U2 records, and loved the early records.)

http://davemarsh.us/?p=951

http://www.chumba.com/blog/ (This one is just for fun.)

4. R.E.M. calling it quits. Shit.

5. Mojo magazine for constantly putting the Beatles or one of the Beatles on the cover. The ongoing circle jerk regarding the Beatles has fostered a dislike of a band that I actually enjoy.

6. Not sure if it is a musical grievance or a big disappointment—regardless, The Mirror by Jill Andrews was a stinker. I loved her work with the Everybodyfields and her first solo EP, but the new record is uninspired and filled with drivel.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Redbush - Wonder Nugget

One Legged Pup records, May, 2011

When I look back at the decade of the nineties, I always think about how inspiring and interesting music became in '91 and '92. The likes of The Melvins, Sound Garden, Helmet, Rollins Band, Tool and Primus were able to put out really creative, rowdy, fun records on major labels, and actually get radio airplay. Frankly, I think that was the last peak of true creative independence where musical artists could operate successfully at the national level. On another sad note, the tide rolled back nearly as quickly as it came in; about the time radio caught on, and the “alternative” station format came into being - I'd say by the mid-nineties - all the raw energy, personality attitude and edginess was stripped out of music. How many Eddie Vedder imitators do you remember? It was all half ass mush; there was nothing musically interesting in the material, the vocals were always slightly off-key and generally felt uninspired, Bush? Foo Fighters?? Really? Ugh.....

So how does this relate to the record I'm going to review? Let’s turn back the clock and take Foo Fighters as a basic example. Let's teach them all how to really play their instruments, light a fire under their drummer's ass, force their bassist to learn everything Mike Watt ever recorded and force a six pack of Rainier beer down Dave Grohl's gullet each night before they play. You might have a basic idea of what the band Redbush's latest EP “Wonder Nugget” sounds like.

This is just a fun American rock record. There are solid nods to classic rockers, such as the MC5, the Who, and Thin Lizzy. I also hear some tasteful nods to the SoCal punk scene of the early nineties in the chord voicing Wonder Nugget’s used. There are straight forward melodic leads that break up verses nicely. Overall, it is upbeat, enthusiastic and catchy without being obnoxious.

I've been sitting here looking at the computer screen for the last half hour trying to think up a good comparison or description of the vocal style of JD Korpitz, and I just can't come up with much beyond this: the man has a very solid tuneful baritone/tenor vocal range and a good sense of melody. He definitely does his own thing that you just have to hear, which scores points in my book.

In classic rock form, the guitar riffs solidly back the vocals. There are a few dark, metal inspired turnarounds and transitions between vocal phrases and verses to keep the guitar playing from becoming generic. There is some pretty technical playing that pops up here and there on the record, but it is all very subtle. There are no over-the-top guitar hero moments. Ian Mckillip ties everything together with inspired, well thought out bass lines that add a lot of dynamics and groove to each song on this record. The songs are solidly driven by the upbeat punk inspired drumming of Ev Bruhnke.

I will say again, overall this is a fun well written garage/power pop EP that is comparable to albums put out by Husker Du, early Replacements, QOTSA, and/or a musically advanced Against Me!. If you ever get a chance to see these guys live just do it! I think their material comes across even better live and loud. Maybe if bands would have had this kind of drive and energy back in '95 we wouldn't have all the mediocre '60s/'70s revival schlock that passes for rock on the radio these days.

Cheers!

Dave

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Exciter – Violence and Force

Megaforce Records, 1983

Reviewed by Jimmy “Explosive Diarrhea” B

Moments ago I was lounging on the sofa somewhere in between napping and reading when I heard some loud screeching. I thought to myself “Is that…could it be…am I hearing two cats fucking?” I couldn’t believe my ears. I dropped my book and sprinted to the window hoping to catch a glimpse of the feline fornication (I like to watch). But wait, it was about to get really strange; I thought I heard words coming from the cacophony the cats were creating. Huh? Then I noticed the kitty passion was in time with the music in the background. Then it hit me; I was listening to Exciter’s Violence and Force.

Why were the cats fucking to Exciter? Class Warrior would not approve of this bit of sexual heresy. And, why is my sleepy brain worried about Class Warrior’s sexual rituals? Perhaps being turned on by Exciter does make sense; check out these lyrics from “Pounding Metal:” “…gone past the pressures of pain, Leather and spikes strapped to the wrists of this metal brigade like pistons pumping…”

Pistons pumping? Case closed; Exciter makes metal to breed by. Exciter, like most early metal bands has dazzlingly silly lyrics. And it goes without saying, which is why I am saying it, that the production was complete shit. Is that reverb I hear on the vocals? I think it is.

Is there silliness? Check. Do the bad vocals make the neighborhood cats frisky? Check. Is it groundbreaking? Check. Exciter is a band I sometimes like to beat up on for their shortcomings. But I find myself coming back to Exciter again and again. I have been listening to them off and on since 1986. Twenty-five years later I still get a lot of enjoyment from listening to them, and Violence and Force is one of their best.

The cobwebs are clearing and I am bobbing my head in time to the music. Every time I listen to Exciter, I am struck by how much their style owes to Lemmy and the boys in Motorhead. They are not Motorhead clones; Exciter’s style is faster, dirtier and has a punk edge to it. Exciter is metal. They are ridiculous, but driving. They are gloriously low brow, but innovative.

Usually, when I listen to Violence and Force, I get lost in the groove. Today I am struck by John Ricci’s blistering guitar solos. The solo on “Swords of Darkness,” my favorite track on the record, is great. And how in the hell does Dan Beehler manage to keep time while…uh…ahem…singing?

Speaking of Dan Beehler’s vocals, the cats are gathering. My friends, I must end this so called review, and release the hounds. I must think of my standing on the block. What will the neighbors think about the feline orgy taking place outside my door? And how will they react to the home owner with an erection holding a video camera?

I tickled my taint for 7 minutes.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Iron Thrones - The Wretched Sun

(Self-released, 2010)

Reviewed by Scott.

http://www.myspace.com/ironthrones

I first read about Iron Thrones on the invaluable MetalSucks blog, where they were compared to Opeth. Or, what Opeth might sound like if they emerged out of today’s metal scene, and not the Swedish melodic death metal scene from two decades ago. I’m a big fan of Opeth, so this caught my attention, and I picked up the Iron Thrones album The Wretched Sun. Amazingly, these guys weren’t signed when this album was released, and from what I can tell, still aren’t -- which is sort of insane, considering how good they are. (Although maybe they’ve chosen to self-release their stuff, which makes some sense in this day and age.)

Anyway, Iron Thrones plays a kind of melodic, technically ambitious death metal that does sound a lot like Opeth. They mix complex and often totally crushing riffs with the occasional quiet, jazz-inflected passage, although without much of the folky/acoustic stuff that Opeth is known for. You can hear the similarities in the way the riffs are constructed and threaded together into full songs, and how the songs come together to form a complete, fluid album. Like Opeth, these guys are very melodic, but they don’t rely on excessive guitar leads or harmonies or layers of cheesy keyboards (thank god), and they temper the melody with riffs that settle into heavy grooves or break into quick little shreds that make you go, aw fuck, that was cool. There are many such moments on this album, when you experience the most basic of metal pleasures: you smile and say, that was a cool fucking riff.

But Iron Thrones deserves to be judged on their own merits, and not just as a band that sort of sounds like another really great band. They have their own sound, and it works so well, I think, for two key reasons. One is that they’re tasteful. The Wretched Sun has a high standard of musicianship but it never sounds like a bunch of dudes jerking off, like a lot of technical metal often does -- they play some impressive shit but always in the service of the song, and not as an end in itself. They also take elements from all over the metal world but blend them together into a coherent whole, which never comes off sounding eclectic. That’s cool for some bands, but here the diversity of influences is more subtle, and submerged in the total aesthetic of the album. The other reason is the quality of the songwriting. The songs are complex but they move along naturally -- I usually hate this phrase in music but the songs feel organic, and not just like an assemblage of cool riffs linked together with no sense of overall development or motion. No riff salad here. Instead, you have a fluid progression from one part of a song to the next, even when it’s intended to be a little abrupt or jarring, like from a clean, mellow section into some fuck-all heaviness.

So The Wretched Sun is pleasingly consistent and consistently pleasing, is what I mean. If there’s a downside to this, it’s that the band doesn’t take very many chances, and there isn’t much experimentation. They change shit up in a few sections -- two (I think) instances of clean vocals, which work well but are brief, and some whispering stuff during a clean part, but that’s about it. The album never gets boring, though, so this isn’t really a problem -- but we’ll see what happens on albums down the road (and hopefully, there will be many!).

Just a brief note on the lyrics: the harsh vocals are fairly intelligible, so you can follow along if you want to. This seems like a loose concept album about love, and losing it -- the first song, “Like A Moth to A Flame” is basically a love song, but there’s some foreboding here: “You left me without words / Tongue tied in a knot of anxiety / I knew I needed you / The blinding beauty I see in your eyes / The first embrace / The warmth of your skin / Desire deceived / Like a moth to flame.” We’ve all been there right? And we all know how the whole moth/flame thing ends up: you get fucking burned! Hence, by the end of the album, in the song “And the Sky Came Falling Down” (before a killer guitar solo outro): “This pile of ashes no longer reflects / the radiance of the flames that we once created / Instead it lies there as a reminder of hollow words / and hollow years that I never desired to see.” So it all goes to shit. The rest of the lyrics are more or less like these, and they work for the music but don’t really add too much -- they’re inoffensive, occasionally sensitive (not in a bad way) reflections on a doomed relationship. They don’t distract from the instrumentation, which is where the real power of this band is anyway.

And fuck, that’s some power. I liked The Wretched Sun the first time I heard it, but it grew on me after a few listens. Not that the album isn’t accessible (it is, if you’re into this sort of thing to begin with), but you really come to appreciate the balance and the quality of the songwriting once you become familiar with the songs. I just ordered their older album, Visions of Light (which I’ve yet to hear), and am looking forward to it, but am more excited to see what these guys come up with in the future.