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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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Men at Work, Business as Usual (1981) and Cargo (1983)




SoDak:
At the start of the 1980s, like so many other people, I became a fan of Men at Work because of their singles “Who Can It Be Now” and “Down Under.” I recorded these songs from the radio to a cassette tape, so I could listen to them over and over, until I could afford to buy the record Business as Usual. I still love these songs. They are infectious, while being a bit haunting with lyrics such as “these little men come to take me away, why do they follow me.” I was obsessed with “Down Under,” listening to it repeatedly late at night when I supposed to be asleep. The lyrics and music filled my mind with wonderful images and intrigue. I always felt that Men at Work were the Australian version of The Police, given the quirkiness of their songs and how they also incorporated various styles of music, such as reggae and ska. This is not to say they were derivative, as they gave their music a fresh spin. Men at Work were also one of the 80s bands that incorporated the saxophone in a tasteful way.

Men at Work are primarily known for a few of their singles, which are undeniably good. However, the first two records are quite remarkable and present a band who were writing exceptional songs. “I Can See It in Your Eyes” has a strong chorus and speaks of lost love and disappointment. I like the guitar solo and the way the bass moves to the front toward the end of the song. I am drawn to the drive and percussion in “Underground.” “Helpless Automation” sounds like it could be a song by the Split Enz—the new wave band from the New Zealand in the 1970s. (“I Like To” on Cargo also seems like it could be a Split Enz’s song.) It is a very good song, which a punk rock band should cover. Side A of Business as Usual is more immediately assessable, and I listened to it much more than the flipside.

I bought Cargo right when it was released, eager to follow this band. While it is not necessarily as strong as Business as Usual, it is still an interesting record. The opening notes of “Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive” sound like a Huey Lewis song. Nevertheless, Colin Hay’s vocals and some of the additional instrumentation distinguish the song. The chorus is also darker than what would be found on a bright Lewis song. “Overkill,” the second single from the record, is a gem, featuring a nice vocal performance and chorus. I always liked the line, “ghosts appear and fade away,” as we reflect upon the consequences and/or implications of our actions. I was quite taken by “Settle Down My Boy,” with its reggae vibe. Colin Hay sings about the various adult responsibilities being imposed on a young lad. There is a darkness to many of the songs. “No Sign of Yesterday” is a languid song, which speaks to the sheer exhaustion of an individual trying to grapple with a changing world and loss of connections.

Pull out the stop plugs, drain all the waste
Who needs it anyway
Fill all the big holes, leave no trace
No sign of yesterday…

Out in the yard, was such a lovely place
It's where we used to play
Inside, outside you can feel and taste.
No sign of yesterday

While it is not one of my favorite songs, I feel the weight being expressed. One of the stand out tracks on Cargo is “It’s a Mistake,” with a strong Police-influenced, ska-guitar line. “No Restrictions” is a good track, which could easily fit on a record by The Police. In general, Men at Work wrote catchy songs. Colin Hay’s vocals were great. The lyrics were at times terse, but also contained great imagery.




Null:
Like most people, I was introduced to Men at Work via their first two videos, “Who Can It Be Now” and “Down Under,” which were in heavy rotation on MTV in the early 1980s. They were weird and a little bit creepy. They were from Australia. The lead singer had a wondering eye. They were from some far-off land, yet I felt a kinship with them because, at this time, I was living in the blistering Arizona sun. I assumed Australia was similar. Vegemite sandwich, anyone?

Shortly thereafter I played Business as Usual a lot. I liked it and still think it is great. All the songs are good—very up-beat, new wave-type stuff. I really liked their lyrics, which always seemed to be harboring some sort of secret. Often, I would think, “What is this song really about?” They still maintain that mystique to this day, and “Down by the Sea” continues to haunt me after all these years. 

Listen to your heart
Screamin’ at the sky
Can’t you feel it tremble?
Don’t you wonder why?

I still pull the record out and listen to it a couple of times a year. It always takes me back to the early 80s and the burning Arizona sun; yet, it also still sounds fresh, somehow. The unusual personality of their sound remains intact. Also, I always picked up a certain working-class sensibility in their work.

I never owned their second album, Cargo, but I knew the singles that were played on the radio. Men at Work were a good band. I am always surprised when I am reminded that they only recorded three records.

‘Are you going to play football this year, John?’
‘No!’
‘Oh, well you must be going to play cricket this year then? Are you Johnny?’
‘No! no! no!’
‘Boy, you sure are a funny kid, Johnny, but I like you! So tell me,
what kind of a boy are you, John?’

‘I only like dreaming
All the day long
Where no one is screaming.’

I felt a certain kinship.


PaulySure:
Wait!?! Men at Work had more songs than “Who Can It Be Now?” and “Down Under”?




Kloghole:
As you may know, I grew up in a town with limited access to music. I am not sure why, when, or how Men at Work caught my ear. My guess it was the quirky “Who Can It Be Now?” or the even quirkier “Down Under.” You youngsters may not realize this, but when we tried to figure out what the fuck a “vegemite” sandwich was, we couldn’t just look it up on the internet. We actually had to do a bit of research. My cousin would bring up, from Dubuque, radio recordings of Dr. Dementia, and we would giggle our way through the strange songs. I vaguely remember a song about poppies and another about dead fish. Men at Work was goofy enough not to be a serious attempt at pop music or the “easy listening” that dominated my local radio station that was anything but easy to listen to.

For that reason, Men at Work’s Business as Usual was one of the first cassettes I spent my “hard-earned” allowance on. I still have it and Cargo, which I also picked up. Without listening to the tracks to remind me, I do recall the infectiousness of “Be Good Johnny” and that “Helpless Automaton” caught my attention. Cargo is a bit more nebulous in my recollection. The first track “Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive” seems familiar, but I cannot pick out the tune.

The release date for Business as Usual is around 1981 or 82, based on print date on my cassette. I was either finishing up junior high or starting high school. At that point in my life, I was still trying to use humor to spackle over the challenges of my youth. I was slowly moving from my class-clown defense to my angry-teen stage as life kept throwing me curve balls. Men at Work, Huey Lewis, and Stray Cats probably represent the last of my goofy, quirky stage before I began my slow descent into alcohol-fueled violent depression and the more appropriate rock and heavier metal. I can justify Men at Work because of my age when I first enjoyed them, but I still get a nostalgic buzz from them.

Looking over my well-worn cassettes, I noticed the scotch tape used on Cargo as attempted cassette surgery. I do not recall if I was successful, but the tape developed a high pitched squeak. I think I replaced the inner film, or the spools using some other donor cassette. I am going to give Cargo a listen and get back to you….

I can say 35 years has not been kind to my cassette (Business as Usual did not fare any better). The sound is quite muddy and drops out at times. The squeak was almost as unbearable as the two artists I recently endured for a future review. I will keep you all in suspense, but I will give you a hint—they have been feuding recently—that should narrow it down!

 “Overkill” brings back memories of fucking around with my D&D beginners set and obsessing over my growing Star Wars action figure collection. Men at Work definitely have their own sound. I am not sure that it would be anything that I would be drawn to today if I had never heard them, but there are certain elements that I still find interesting. If you are able to get past the 1980s synth, “No Sign of Yesterday” is a bit haunting in its sound and lyrical content. “It’s a Mistake” seems to be a comment on something, but I am not sure—war, Reagan, police violence?

“High Wire” is pretty trippy, and contains the line, “I may be an idiot but indeed I am no fool.” I am sure that line resonated with my mid-teens angst. What is really weird about these albums is that, on their face, they are exactly the genre of music that made me want to vomit. Perhaps, they just caught me at the right time in the right mood. “I Like To” is certainly new wavy as I understand it, but it is just too weird for me to take it seriously. I like the song, more for the weird sense of humor than the music itself.

Overall, I am not sure how seriously Men at Work took themselves, especially since the photo on the inside of the jacket is the band, all in tuxes, sitting on shitters and stools in a restroom. For nostalgia’s sake, I give the two albums one sweet sticky ball, maybe two if someone could find me a CD of Cargo. It was nice to go back down memory lane.

Sweet Dreams Motherfuckers.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chester Bennington (1976-2017)

By SoDak

I just read that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, killed himself. In general, Linkin Park is not a band that would peak my interest or that I would devote much attention. I am not completely sure why, beyond the fact that I often do not care for much of nu metal. But, in the case of Linkin Park, I did explore some of their music. For years, I had a job in a college library. The students who I worked with would tell me about their favorite bands, which consisted of many indie bands and some nu metal groups. Many of these younger folks were ecstatic about Linkin Park, explaining that they loved the emotion within the songs and appreciated the sincerity of the words. Several of them told me that this band meant a great deal to them, as this music helped make “the world less shitty.” Whether or not, I ended liking a band, it was good for me to hear this point from a younger generation. For me, Willie Nelson, Don Williams, Johnny Cash, The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, New Model Army, Subhumans, Dissent, Dead Silence, and Dead Kennedys helped me survive. This is music that I was exposed to, that my friends shared with me, and that I found. For other folks, it is going to be different music. Nevertheless, the fact that music can connect with individuals so personally is important. It is really quite an accomplishment.

Seventeen years ago, I was living in a garage that was converted into an apartment. It was dark and musty. One night, my girlfriend and I had the radio on, which was rare. We heard a song that mixed metal, grunge, and hip hop. We were slightly amused, but we also liked the chorus. It ended up being, “In the End,” by Linkin Park. The song may be an earworm, as the chorus stayed with us for days. Nevertheless, I thought about the students who really liked this band, and decided to pick up the first record, especially since it was available for a dollar at one of the local shops. We listened to it several times. My girlfriend really liked it, and to this day enjoys playing “In the End.” From time to time, I buy other records by Linkin Park, when they are a couple dollars. I tell myself that I am picking them up for my girlfriend, but it is really my own curiosity. I am still not a big fan of the style of music, but I can hear the various influences from other bands, which I like, in their songs. The dual vocals can be quite engaging. I also appreciate the sincerity of the lyrics. Over the years, I have found quite a few songs that I really enjoy. But for the most part, I remain interested in this band, simply because the music Linkin Park made connected so deeply with many younger folks who I really like. It allowed me to learn more about their lives, to open myself up to different connections, and to appreciate the important contributions of artists/musicians.



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kiss, Dynasty (Casablanca, 1979)

By Null

Kiss is the worst band in the world. Well, maybe they’re not the worst, but they definitely get an award for the worst lyricists of all time. Any kid can rhyme bar, star, car, and far. While the album Dynasty often gets a bad rap from their fan base as their “disco” album, I would say that it is their best album. It the only one I can listen to from beginning to end. Well, I can also make it through Kiss’s Ace Frehley album.

Let me set the scene. It is the late 1970s and I am a little kid living on a farm in Michigan. Kenny Rogers, Pat Benetar, Journey, Bob Seger, Kiss, as well as a few others, were the records and 8-tracks that were available for me to pick through. Most of these were bought by my parents or my older brother. We had Double Platinum, Dynasty, and the four Kiss solo albums in our collection. We also had Kiss Alive 2, which I believe was mandatory for Michiganders because it contained the song, “Detroit Rock City.”



Kiss came into my life primarily as superheroes. They were just superheroes that happened to be in band and made records. As gluttonous marketing whores, Kiss knew no boundaries. There were lunchboxes, action figures, coloring books, etc. I will always remember watching the Phantom of the Park movie on TV in 1978 when Kiss battled an evil enemy with their superpowers. Even as a young child, I could not really take these guys seriously. (See the dialogue in the following clip.)



Despite all this, Kiss was still kind of cool. It was hard for kids not be drawn to their make-up and spaceman/demon costumes. Every Halloween there would be a certain percentage of kids dressed up like Kiss. Any young kid in the late seventies can attest to this fact.

Over the last several years I have been acquiring the music that I listened to at a very young age for both nostalgic reasons and to reassess the music itself. I have found that early Pat Benetar and Rick Springfield were the precursors to my future love of punk rock, at least musically speaking. Add some distortion and speed up the tempo a bit and you’re pretty much there. Reluctantly, I decided that it was time to collect the Kiss records I had as a kid and consider how these formative records felt in my forties. I decided to forgo Kiss Alive 2, because it seemed redundant and I don’t really recall listening to it that much.

When I picked up Double Platinum with its reflective cover, I was surprised how bad it was. I remembered all the songs but also recalled how I would move the needle around the record on my Fisher Price record player to avoid what, even then, seemed like stupid songs. “Beth,” “Cold Gin,” “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City” were my go-to songs. “Deuce” had some great riffage. “Rock Bottom (intro)/She” sounded a lot like Cheech and Chong’s “Earache My Eye.”(I listened to Cheech and Chung’s Greatest Hits on 8-track quite a bit back then.) I can only surmise that the emotional depth and mystery I found in Bob Seger, Billy Joel, and others was not present in these Kiss songs. The endless conquest of women and the rock and roll lifestyle in the lyrics: planes, limos, and the like, seemed cartoonish and adolescent to me even when I was still in elementary school. I would take a break from Kiss and throw my Soundtrack to Pete’s Dragon back on the little turntable.



Recently I picked up only two of the Kiss solo albums, even though we had them all when I was young. As a kid, it was awesome to have all the Kiss solo records because, to be honest, they just looked cool as a collection. Peter Chris’s album was some kind of Seger rock ‘n’ blues hybrid, which I found unlistenable. I rarely listened to Paul Stanley’s record because I hated it. His voice just creeped me out. I didn’t like it when he was all “acoustic-y” and I hated it when he screamed. I just didn’t buy it when he tried to be all “romantic” when it seemed he just wanted a piece of ass.

I did pick up the Kiss solo records by Gene Simmons and Ace Freley though. Gene Simmon’s solo album had its moments. This womanizing Republican douchbag was capable of a few good songs. I remember spinning “Living in Sin” endless amounts of time. My father often lived in sin at Holiday Inns. “Radioactive” was also pretty good with its “radioactive” refrain. Oddly enough, Bob Seger actually sings background on many of these tracks. Cher, Helen Reddy, Donna Summer, and others also appear on Gene’s record. There is also a heavy Beatles influence. I would pick and choose tracks from this album as well.

The cover of Gene’s solo album, however, kind of scared the shit out me. We weren’t a particularly religious family, but for some reason one night, a preacher came by to tell my parents about all the satanic messages found on the cover of rock albums and in rock music. Thinking back, this is really strange because we hardly ever when to church and we lived on a farm out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know if the preacher was doing the rounds in the country or what. But it was odd. I sat at the table and listened to him talk about the images and subversive messages in rock music. I remember him telling us that KISS stood for “Knights In Satan’s Service.” When all was said and done, my parents didn’t really care too much. They didn’t take records away from us. As a matter of fact they didn’t mention it again. I think it freaked my mom out a little bit, but I am pretty sure that my step dad realized that the only real threat of these bands was that they were all “queers” and “druggies.”

The preacher showed up in the evening when the night was black and the shadows and strange sounds of a farm were all at the height of their powers, particularly for a kid like me with an untamed and endless imagination. I was a little creeped out. My brother was very aware of this and took advantage of it, as older brothers tend to do. That night, while we slept in the attic, my brother kept moving the cover of the Gene Simmon’s record directly above my head while I slept, so that every time I woke up Gene Simmons would be staring at me with that little trickle of blood oozing over his lip. The devil is in the details and I will always remember that the blood that was oozing over “the Demon’s” black lip was made even more sinister by the fact that it looked like a severed piece of a court jester’s hat with a little “blood bell” dangling at the end. It was satanic madness. This may only be evident when viewing the large image that can only be experienced with vinyl album covers. I slept very little that night. Even today, as an atheist, supernatural musings and horror films scare the shit out of me.



Anyway, the best of the Kiss solo albums was defiantly Ace Frehley’s. A lot of the lyrics were still pretty lame, but it rocked. I still think of it as the sister record to Dynasty. Ace, or the Spaceman, was the gritty and streetwise member of the band and seemed to display more emotion than the other members, even if that emotion was derived from cocaine withdrawal. This solo album is what Kiss records should sound like. He had a hit with his cover of Russ Ballard’s “New York Groove” and the guitar on “I’m in Need of Love” helped foster my continuing love of the delay pedal.



Lastly, I picked up the Kiss album Dynasty, which is the only Kiss album I have internalized. I know every note of that record and I never skipped over tracks like I did with the others. As much as I dislike Kiss and all that they stand for, Dynasty remains forever imprinted on my brain. Even the album cover was cool with all four superheroes’ faces—reminiscent of the solo albums. Somewhere there is a VHS tape of me as a 4th grader standing in front of our fireplace with an unplugged electric guitar mouthing the words and “playing” along with “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” Their cover of the Stones “2,000 Man” could be their greatest achievement. The song was originally a sci-fi fantasy, but it has become our new reality. Every song on this album is great. The songs give a little bit more for the listener to chew on, both musically and lyrically. The production is crisp and clear. I have yet to hear a Kiss album that sounds quite like this one. The best riffs are on this slab of vinyl as well. Even Gene Simmons plays some complex and funky bass lines. The music stands head and shoulders above anything I have ever heard the band record. The themes on this record still contain some of the go-to Kiss crap, but overall, the album seems to have more real life depth and emotion. Much of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle stuff was left on the sidelines while songs like “Dirty Livin’” and “Hard Times” illustrated a world-weariness, as opposed to the glittery rich rock star life. Both of these are Ace Frehley songs, which gives me the inclination to believe he was the real star during this period of Kiss. The harmonies and background vocals on “Sure Know Something,” “Magic Touch,” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” are extraordinary and they even make me like Paul Stanley for 40 minutes while this record spins. The verses of “Sure Know Something” sound like a warm 1970s rock blanket with harmonies that sound like The Eagles. “Charisma” could be Gene Simmons greatest moment on record. The bass sounds so cool that I even forget this is essentially a song talking about how incredibly awesome he is. Yet, somehow, this song makes me forgive him, momentarily.

I realize that to a real Kiss fan, much of this review might seem inaccurate or down right incorrect. I am sure that Kiss has had other great moments throughout their career and output, but I have yet to hear them. And for my part, I am not inclined to find them. I am perfectly happy to live in my little world of Dynasty and Ace Frehley’s solo Kiss album. I guess I wrote this review for people like me who generally dislike Kiss. To those of you out there, here is a little secret: Dynasty is a fucking mega record.