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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Saturday, May 21, 2011
Reviewed by Scott.
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.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Reviewed by Kloghole
Yes, I have been fucking negligent. It has been far too long since my last post. Since I have just a few moments respite from my never-ending demands, I thought I would chip in a few words on recent developments swirled in with a review.
Right now is a very fucking bizarre time to be alive. Up is down, war is peace, and wrong is right. But, we are seeing cracks in the veneer. People flooded the streets after Walker’s wholesale assault on working people. Glen Beck lost his Faux News program, and tea-bagging is losing its astroturfed luster. How did we get here? What in the fuck were working people thinking when they supported these goddamn working class-hating vampires? Well, the public seems to vacillate from blind patriotic self-injurious behavior to a momentary questioning of elite self-enrichment (sometimes in the same sentence). These cycles tend to be enmeshed in the contemporary social circumstances and are documented in the music of the time. For an example, let’s take a look at country artist, Hank Williams Jr.
With the album, Almeria Club, we can see a shift in his backwoods redneck rhetoric from earlier albums, especially in his reworking of the song, “A Country Boy Can Survive.” The album, overall, had such potential. The music on most of the songs is gritty and backed by a rowdy slide guitar driven by hooky rhythms. Unfortunately, Jr.’s choice of lyrical content leaves me cringing, complete with facial distortion and full-on shoulder twitching. Driving down the road, I look like I’m having a fucking seizure when I listen to this album.
The first song to grace the listener’s ear starts with Jr.’s ridiculous intro based on his penchant to claim different personalities – “Rockin’ Randall,” “Bocephus,” and, in this case, “Thunderhead Hawkins.” Immediately following Jr.’s unnecessary intro, a bluesy riff leads us into a groovy little tune, but then the misogyny overwhelms the slide hooks and delicious noodling. So goes most of the album. Solid musicianship is lost under a slimy lather of poor lyrical choices and outright buffoonery. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, this is not a significant departure.
Hank Jr. ends the album with a rewrite of his hit “A Country Boy Can Survive.” The original focused on the vigilante ethic prevalent at the time. The growing popularity of vigilantism was the subject of the Charlie Bronson film, “Death Wish,” in 1974. The ethic of the vigilante grew and was a theme within Hank Jr.’s work. “I’ve Got Rights” was an explicit tale of vigilante justice, released in 1979. Later, vigilantism was incorporated into “A Country Boy Can Survive,” released in 1981. The second “Death Wish” movie was released in 1982, and Bernhard Goetz fulfilled his fantasy of vigilantism in 1984. Within this cultural milieu, Jr.’s song brooded about revenge for the death of his friend. “I’d love to spit some beechnut in that dude’s eye and shoot him with my old 45.”
Despite the vigilante themes, there were still some remnants of class issues in society, largely due to Reagan’s assault on workers, but also because we were well on our way to the deindustrialization of the US. In 1982, Hank Jr. included “I’ve Been Down” on the album, High Notes. Whether Jr. knew what the song was about is unclear to me, but it does reflect a slightly different sentiment at the time. “Reaganomics and plastic people make good luck hard to find. All this stuff that’s goin’ down, really got me down this time.” This song provided a more structural approach to the problem of poverty and crime. Instead of taking the vigilante route, the song focuses on the lack of opportunity that drives a man to rob a liquor store, with tragic consequences. Instead of wanting to spit some beechnut in some dude’s eye, we sympathize with man pushed to the edge by “Reaganomics and plastic people.”
Moving forward to 2002’s Almeria Club, Hank Jr. rewrites “A Country Boy Can Survive” and calls the new version, “America Will Survive.” We find that the events of September 11 allow Jr. to find a new venue for vigilantism. The targets of his wrath are no longer the dispossessed, but an unspecified group responsible for the attack when “our people went down.” What follows is a rash of nationalistic chanting, “America can survive,” mixed with blood revenge, “I read ‘a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye’ and that’s an old slogan we’re gonna revive.”
This red, white and blue-shit was pouring out all over, facilitating those who wished to wrap their war crimes in patriotic garb. Once fully immersed in the rhetoric of war, it was not too far of a leap to continue to justify attacks on working folks as the redistribution of the wealth to the wealthy continued to hollow out the economy. The nation swallowed two wars with little more than a whimper, stood by as corporations were handed fistfuls of cash, and then elected the same fuckstains that perpetrated these crimes because “change” did not happen fast enough.
So, how did an artist who sang about the evils of Reaganomics and working class tribulations end up waving a flag for those who champion accelerating Reaganomics? Well, the same way many working class folks did. They took a big old bite out of an economic shit-sandwich that was wrapped in greasy patriotic paper. Without a solid grounding in economics, politics or history, these folks all blow whichever what the flag is blowing. Fuck.
This is where the story takes a small turn. These right-wing fuckstains, full of themselves from their recent victory, began instituting changes they had long salivated over. Once it was finally clear that, “oh yeah, these fuckers are really fucking the little guy,” people started to question the whole paradigm. Now, do not get too optimistic because the public’s memory is short, but the reaction to this right-wing horseshit developed because the right-wing fucksticks drank their own kool-aid and thought that working people actually hate themselves.
Songs like “America Can Survive” helped facilitate the movement for suicidal electoral politics, while an understanding of economic forces withered in artists like Hank Jr. and others. However, he dip pop out “Red, White & Pink Slip Blues” in 2009. While this song laments the economic conditions, it does not identify the problem. Typically, this one song is overshadowed by the flag waving nonsense on the others. It is hard to listen to music that is so completely off the mark and out of touch with reality. Almeria Club tends to have this grating lyrical tone. As a result, I give Almeria Club one sweet sticky ball for the musicianship and two turd nuggets for lyrical content.
Sweet Dreams Motherfuckers