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

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Shivvers – Lost Hits from Milwaukee’s First Family of Powerpop: 1979-1982

(Hyped to Death, 2006)

Review by Class Warrior

What do you get when you combine extremely catchy pop songs, a female singer with good looks, heaps of charm, and a great voice, and a bunch of hot-looking, talented young men playing the instruments? You get an awesome band that went nowhere fast because they were based in Milwaukee!

As the liner notes to this fine release state, the Shivvers would have been huge in the early 80s if they had relocated to Los Angeles or New York. These folks were immensely talented and could write songs that stick in your head for days. Trust me on that last part. They had the looks to go along with it, so they were ready for the MTV revolution that occurred shortly after they recorded these songs. As far as I can tell, they only had one release during their all-too-short life as a band: the “Teen Line” b/w “When I Was Younger” seven inch single.

The three best songs are at the beginning: “Teen Line,” “No Substitute,” and “Please Stand By.” These three are as good as ANY pop or power pop songs that were released in the late seventies and early eighties. As good as the Knack, as good as Pat Benatar, as good as (though it pains me to admit it) RICK SPRINGFIELD (whose name always appears in capital letters in the Warrior household). I am not engaging in hyperbole when I say that these three tunes are the best power pop songs ever crafted in human history. If they had managed to release a whole album full of songs like these, it wouldn’t have mattered if they were from Milwaukee, L.A., or Othello, Washington. The whole world would have been singing along. The band members would have enjoyed fame, fortune, plates of cocaine every night (lines snorted through rolled-up $100 bills off a member of the opposite sex’s bare posterior), and an untimely death for one or more band members (thereby ensuring their enduring fame). Instead, they toiled in relative obscurity and became regional favorites. I would prefer it if they were a household name – I love to share wonderful music with people – but at least their recorded output isn’t moldering in someone’s attic.

“Teen Line” features some tasteful and subdued piano work from lead singer Jill Kossoris. The twin guitars are the main focus, and they plow through some crunchy power chords and nice leads/solos – nothing fancy, but we save the guitar hero stuff for metal and “My Sharona.” It clocks in at just under four minutes (as does “No Substitute”), which is long for a power pop tune, but it holds my attention from the first note to the last. There is no filler here.

“No Substitute” has a very nice dancing bass line that runs throughout the song, but the bass really pops out on the chorus. Jim Richardson, the drummer, hits the floor tom a couple of times right before the chorus starts. SoDak and I have a sort of floor tom fan club (he’s the president, I am a junior member), so this song qualifies for inclusion. But forget about the drums – Jill’s sweet vocals and the excellent bass work are what make this particular song outstanding.

It’s pretty much a three-way tie, but if I had to pick a favorite song on the disc, I would go with “Please Stand By.” Jim hits the snare on every beat (like a man afire) during the verses, which gives this song an intense drive. He goes into back-beat mode on other parts. Jim Eanelli (the other Jim – see more below about him) blazes through an excellent solo, which is one of the song’s highlights. The song finally builds to an energy-filled crescendo, then ends suddenly. Below you can find a link to a video of the band playing this song. I hope you’ll agree that it’s fucking fantastic!!

The lyrics to all three of these songs do not deviate from the standard teen love theme that pervaded power pop at the time. It’s the delivery that makes all the difference. Jill belts out the words in a Benatar-esuqe mid-range octave, but she has such conviction and charm that she makes the themes her own. That’s all you can ask for with a love song, and the band delivers! I never get tired of hearing these songs.

Alas, the other songs on this disc cannot possibly live up to the high standard set by the first three divinely-inspired creations. The same people are playing the same instruments, but the hooks are of lesser quality and the frantic, youthful energy is subdued a bit. Plus, they tend to emphasize keyboards a little more as the CD goes on. There is a cheesy keyboard running through “No Reaction” that sounds a bit like a cheap Casio set to “organ.” I’m not sure if I like its presence or not. I’m leaning toward dislike. There’s nothing a keyboard can do that a guitar can’t do better! “Hold On” features dual male/female vocals, and is probably the fourth-best song on here.

The disc comes with some bonus videos. There are four songs recorded live for a cable access show and one song (“Please Stand By”) for which they filmed a video. The latter is definitely worth checking out! Jill, the singer, has straight black hair – her bangs are long and get in her heavily shadowed eyes. She reminds me of a friend who was about the same age as Jill in the early eighties. This friend also was a singer, though she was in a punk band. Scott, the bass player, looks like a young Mark Hamill, who was a teenage dream in the first Star Wars film. The band’s coolness factor is just through the roof. I don’t need to describe them – there's a video at the end of this review! (See, I told you he looked like Luke Skywalker!)

This brilliant release featuring the Shivvers earns nine skinny ties, thanks to the strength of their best material. The first three songs, of course, get the perfect ten. The rest of the CD goes on a little too long; you’ll find yourself playing the first three songs over and over, and skipping the rest. Forget the cheesy love lyrics; these songs are as life-affirming as anything else you’ll find. A big thank you goes to Chuck from Hyped to Death for keeping the classic power pop, punk, and DIY releases in print. This disc is still available, so buy it! If you are hesitant to plop down the price of a whole CD just for three unforgettable songs, what the hell is your problem? These songs are life-changing moments, and you only live once.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Devin Townsend Project

Addicted (HevyDevy Records, 2009)

Reviewed by Scott.

You may be familiar with Devin Townsend as the guy with the skullet from Strapping Young Lad. Before you read any further, just look at this picture: http://gunshyassassin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Devin+Townsend+devin_having_fun.jpg.

Fucking great right? Anyway, Strapping Young Lad is an awesome band, and if you’re looking for some intense, complex metal that’s very listenable at the same time, SLY is hard to beat. (I saw them once at a big outdoor festival. Devin accosted the crowd for not staying home and watching Live 8 or whatever it was, then left with the stage with something like “Go suck a turd to a point and stab yourself with it! Fuck you! Buy our shit!” That was also the day I encountered a pack of rabid GWAR fans in the parking lot and watched them punch out the side view mirrors of cars, but that’s a story for another day!)

But parallel to his career with SYL, Devin Townsend has released a number of solo albums under various names. Right now, he’s working as The Devin Townsend Project (as opposed to his previous incarnation as The Devin Townsend Band). The solo stuff is heavy but nothing like the fast, blasting style of SYL, and it’s much more melodic and eclectic. Vocals switch back and forth between growling, screaming, and clean singing, sometimes belted out and sometimes brought down to a whisper (and sometimes all of these styles layered on top of each other). While there’s a ton of variety in Devin’s solo catalog, a few things stay consistent from album to album. Along with the mixed vocal style, each album has a wall of sound kind of feel – everything heavy, dense, layered – except for moments when it all drops off, quiet moments that pull back into ambient sound, echoing guitar, hushed vocals. The guitar riffs are usually simple, often just big full chords, decorated with intricate leads, and they build on the patterns of the rhythm section to give the songs a weighted feeling. Lyrically Devin is all over the place, but he tends to write slightly vague, personal stuff, which is sometimes very serious (and occasionally moving) and sometimes absurd. What makes it all so good—and consistently interesting—is the emotional ebb and flow of his work: moving between the big fuck-all rockers; the fun, silly stuff; the experimental, weird stuff; the quiet, contemplative stuff; and the moments of real beauty and power; all in the course of a single album and often in a single song.

This newest album, Addicted, is the second in a four part series that will be released under the name The Devin Townsend Project (the next two are slated for 2011). I’ll just briefly mention the first album, 2009’s Ki. Devin’s sound is always evolving (while sticking to those basic features I outlined above), but Ki is perhaps his most radical shift. Instead of the usual bombastic frenzy, the emphasis is on the groove: everything is kept subdued and relatively stripped down, chugging along at a simmer with basic (but so solid) drums and repetitive riffs and only occasionally building up into a dull roar that quickly drops down again. This being a Devin album, though, there’s some variety, like the Elvis-esque “Trainfire,” the gorgeous “Lady Helen,” and “Quiet Riot,” which is an acoustic reworking of “Cum On Feel The Noize” with different lyrics.

Addicted is a return to the more familiar Devin style but injected with a big dose of dancey pop music (which for some metal oriented folks might be a lethal dose). There’s always been a strong pop influence in Devin’s music under the layers of heavy guitars and metal screams, but Addicted really puts it into the forefront by adding drum loops (with some of that throbbing techno bass drum), female vocals, and some goddamn catchy hooks. It’s like his album Infinity filtered through a Euro dance club  -- and I realize how fucking awful that sounds but still, it works.

This is a high energy album, reflected in the fact that the title of every song ends with an exclamation point (except for the last track, which has two.) Because I’m feeling lazy I’m going to shamelessly rip off my colleague Anita Papsmear’s technique of running this down song by song. It looks like you can listen to every song in its entirety on youtube, so don’t take my word for it but check out this stuff yourself.

1) “Addicted!”
The album opener begins with a moment of diminishing ambient sound and then a very simple, ugly riff, followed by the drums pounding out the time on the hi hat and bass drum. This moves into a typical Devin sort of rhythm but then the drum loops and keyboard stuff kick in and you realize you’re dealing with something a little different. The rest of the song is a catchy, pop-industrial tune, with Devin singing about his addiction to porn (really – Devin’s mental issues have famously been the source of material for both SYL and solo work, but this is a new twist in his psycho-musical oeuvre). Anneke van Giersbergen (ex-The Gathering) provides nice harmonies on this one; she’ll take a more prominent role in songs to come.

2) “Universe in a Ball!”
One of the cooler moments on this album is the intro to this track: a big, busy drum fill that breaks down the end of the last track, goes wild for a few seconds, then settles into a slower, grooving tempo that carries through the rest of the song. There’s sort of a White Zombie vibe going on here, although strictly in a musical sense.

3) “Bend It Like Bender!”
This song is where that dancey pop side of the album really begins to show. Anneke van Giersbergen sings the chorus, which in a way is totally obnoxious and the kind of thing I’d usually hate, but … I just can’t. Lyrically, this isn’t “about” Bender from the show Futurama in any obvious sense, but there’s a soundclip from the show in there, so I’ll chalk it up to Devin being weird. At one point he sings “You know it's heavy / When we look into that open void / But animals don't think of it at all,” which ties into an ongoing theme in Devin’s work that deals with struggling to understand the universe and our place in it as human beings (“Just talking meat” as he puts it on another album). It’s hard to tell what he’s getting at but this vagueness allows listeners to pull different meanings out of it, which can be nice (but frustrating when artists are dealing with ostensibly political/social issues).

4) “Supercrush!”
As the title implies, this is one heavy fucking song. Big chugging guitars and even bigger keyboards and vocals going on. More van Giersbergen on the verse, and on the chorus Devin sings “I don't want to save my soul now / I don't want to lose control / And even if it takes a lifetime to learn / I'll learn,” getting back to that theme of addiction. This is closer to the typical Devin sound, and one of the best tunes here.

5) “Hyperdrive!”
Probably my favorite song on the album (it’s the first song on his myspace page:
http://www.myspace.com/devintownsenddtb). This originally appear on Ziltoid The Omniscient, Devin’s space opera about some super powerful alien being that comes to Earth demanding the best cup of coffee we puny humans can muster. The original version was a little more laid back (and had a drum machine for chrissakes), and the vocals were on the quieter side. Here, it gets the full band treatment and van Giersbergen belts out the lead vocals like her life depends on it. There’s also a good lead riff, which stands out on an album that puts more emphasis on rhythm than riffage.

6) “Resolve!”
This is a catchy tune, pretty straightforward. At this point you might feel like van Giersbergen has taken over the album, because Devin’s mostly in the background screaming (and you’d be right!) But it’s still cool.

7) “Ih-Ah!”
Well, this is it. If you were able to get through the album and deal with all the dancable pop stuff, here is the big test. When I first heard this I thought it was a cover of a Katy Perry song or something. This is pure emotional pop, complete with syrupy lyrics about l-o-v-e. During the melodic intro, Devin even does the little “ooooo ooooo” vocal warm up thing people do before they start singing (you know what I mean). I’m just waiting for someone to sing this on Glee. But goddamn, this is a catchy song, and for all the contributions the man has made to the world of metal, I’ll give him this one.

8) “The Way Home!”
Back to more rocking fare. This starts out like a metal song but with quiet vocals and clean guitars (the drums are doing a cool double bass pattern). Everything builds up over the course of the song until Devin breaks out the faux-opera vocals, which make an appearance or two on every album. One of the better songs here.

9) “Numbered!”
The beginning of this song evokes the very first tune on the album, but then it opens up into a big soaring chorus with van Giersbergen singing, and back to a more driving verse. There’s also some fantastic guitar playing in the bridge.

10) “Awake!!”
This is a good closer for the album -- it has a feeling of completeness, a similar kind of vibe to “Slow Me Down” from Accelerated Evolution. The song ends with the band fading out and leaving drum loops playing, kind of exposing the electronica skeleton beneath the music.

So overall, an eclectic but catchy and pop-infused addition to the Devin Townsend catalog. The difference between Ki (part one of the Devin Townsend Project’s four album series) and this (part two) is pretty extreme, so it’ll be fascinating to see what parts three and four sound like. If you haven’t guessed by now, Devin Townsend is one of my favorite artists -- he’s one of those musicians with a unique sound that’s informed by an even more unique personality. This might not be his best album (although I hesitate to think of his albums in terms of best or worst), but it’s pretty fucking great.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Keelhaul - Triumphant Return to Obscurity

(Hydrahead Industries, 2009)

Reviewed by Dave.

Well, I'm back again with another lost gem from the lands of “music too technical for your standard AC/DC tailgate partier,” and metal musicianship otherwise buried under the truckload of generic, over produced, formulaic, blast beat, corpse-paint trash. So these guys are from Cleveland, they are too old, too sober, too musically educated for the motorcycle/Maiden crowd and when played on the average metal fan's overpowering stereo, their music will melt your face. This is Keelhaul.

I was first introduced to the band by a friend who had been a solid member of the Midwest rock community for over ten years, opening shows for such '90s power houses like The Jesus Lizard, Hammerhead, and Unsane. There is a certain brutally raw, yet humanly unique character to bands from the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions of the country that I have always really liked. Being hidden away from the overarching influences of the coastal arts communities has a positive influence on these bands in my opinion. Anyway, I was going to start playing bass with my friend in a dual bass trio called Members of the Press. I had to learn several songs from an album previously released by my friend Randy under the Members moniker. The release was recorded with a session drummer several years prior who was active in the above mentioned band Keelhaul. When I put on the CD I was blown away by the energy and innovative style of the drummer. Randy burned me a mix CD of Keelhaul's material and again I was crushed by the energy and innovative vibe of the entire recording.

So from there, I picked up the double LP, put out by Hydrahead Industries. I think Keelhaul's Triumphant Return To Obscurity is my favorite album of the year, even though it came out in 2009.... The first thing I noticed about this album is that the time signatures continuously change in really fluid ways. Unlike most mathy bands, the songs never really get too sonically abrasive or herky jerky. There is always a solid pulse in the rhythm structures. The band's timing and musical concepts can become pretty challenging, but the guitarists maintain solid, classic, thrash chord progressions, never wandering too far into avant garde or experimental jazzy directions. It is very technical, heavy music, but it never gets really noodly or too frantic.

This is a rhythm guitarists album, some might lump it in with grindcore oriented bands, but speed is not a major focus of the record. To me, a complex powerful riff defines a great metal song. I guess that's why I like this album so much. It's not very catchy but there are so many interesting twists and turns in the song structures that I generally stop anything else I might be doing to listen to the intense timing and creative chord changes throughout the record. I started out playing rhythm guitar, slowly working my way through the tangled chord progressions of early Melvins’ albums and Master of Puppets, to me this is the defining difference between really heavy bands and hard rock.

In my opinion, it is never easy to put the sound of a good creative band into written words. I feel these guys are working with strength and heaviness like an instrumental Pantera playing in a much more progressive form without the flashy guitar solos. Another good comparison could made to a slightly more musical take on the concepts put forth on Napalm Death's mid-nineties release Diatribes. The album is a fire breathing beast of musical intellect and power.

If you are into high-flying lead guitar spazz outs or heroic vocal refrains, this might not be the album for you. If you like your metal to snarl like a wolf with rabies, you might want to check it out.

Using Jimmy's time honored scale of 1 to 10 minutes in reference to the auto erotic pleasure produced by this album I'll give 9 minutes.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Andy Taylor – Thunder

MCA Records, 1987

The following is a transcript of a sermon delivered at the Church of Cheese, 11/22/2010

*Warning, Reverend Jimmy and Pastor SoDak are perfectly in tune with the rock and roll gods. This is manifested in the cheesing of tongues, which can be upsetting to some readers.

Reverend Jimmy (RJ): Whoooo! Can I get a hallelujah? [The congregation shouts: “Hallelujah. Praise all things cheeesssaaayyy.”] I want to welcome you to a gangbuster of a sermon tonight at the Church of Cheese. We have with us a special guest. Pastor SoDak has traveled all the whey from the southern states to help you to become one with his special cheese—mmmtofutti!

Tonight, children, we will be discussing—oooh, it gives me chills, aaah, it makes me shake and undulate with anticipation just to think about tonight’s topic—the bloomy rind of that apostle of the guitar, we will “Get it on” with Andy Taylor…. [Unintelligible due to cheering].

Brothers and sisters we all know about the genesis of Andy Taylor. Early in his career he was “Hungry Like a Wolf.” Aaawhoooo! [The congregation follows, howling in approval.] Andy joined with those Birmingham top-forty popsters, Duran Duran. But, this cheese was unpalatable to Andy Taylor. He wanted to rock, and rock he did, with the cheese master himself, Robert Palmer, in Power Station. Still Andy’s cheese was not ripe. There was one more step in the fermentation of Andy Taylor’s curds; he had to go solo. Amen-a [the flock erupts in jubilation, and sporadic cheesing of tongues can be heard].

And now raise your arms to the heavens and prepare to receive all of Pastor SoDak’s cheese. Hallelujah! Pastor SoDak, come on out here and help me rock this vestibule.

[Boston’s “More than a Feeling” blares from the loudspeakers while Pastor SoDak sprints from the back of the church to the stage while waving a cardboard guitar overhead.]

Pastor SoDak (PS): Praise the almighty makers of cheeze. Oooohyeah! My brothers and sisters it fills me with great riffs to be here today. [The cardboard guitar is raised high and then placed on a stand just below an illuminated picture of Tommy Shaw.] I want to thank Reverend Jimmy for allowing me to partake in this special celebration of Andy Taylor. It promises to be quite the fondue. Today we reach across the aisle, to partake in the body of cheeze and to learn about temptation, sin, love, and forgiveness.

After dancing on the sands with “Rio,” putting “Girls on Film,” and having “A View to a Kill,” Andy Taylor tired of velveeta tunes. He sought a coagulated sound, the real deal, a hard cheeze. The apostle helping Taylor climb this mountain of bleu cheeze is Sex Pistol Steve Jones, who makes sure the rock is persistent, that it is gorgonzolamazing. Praise the pungent power embodied in Thunder! Let me hear it, Thunder! [The people stomp their feet. The pews rattle.] I said, let me hear it, Thunder! [The windows shake, as the congregation chants Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! The pastor pounds his fist on the podium, encouraging the almighty rapture. The reverend pumps his fist in the air, as he steps forward to speak.]

RJ: Oooesromfetaroomano - I feel the power and glory of Thunder entering my being brothers and sisters—bleubrycheddar!

PS: Roquefort-rock my children. Andy Taylor is a cheese prophet of the people. He knows the value of speaking directly. There is no need to add confusion to the world. “Thunder” rings out, declaring love; and this is a message that is worth appreciating in a cold, jaded world. Read with me from page four:

When you close your eyes
I feel like I'm in heaven
When you're in my arms
I never want to leave you
No matter where you're going

Cheezemaster Taylor is not looking for greener pastures. He is not thinking about scoring with another groupie. He has everything that he wants with the person in his arms. This is pure emotion and sentiment. He does not have to seek riches, he does not have to buy rings and other jewelry, he does not have to pretend to be something that he is not. It is love that he declares. There is no crass commercialism here. Let the guitar be the ring that echoes like thunder, completing this delightful union of cheeze.

Brothers and sisters, we know that love is not simple. We have to work at our relationships. This is part of our growth. It is a process that makes for a stronger cheeze. Sometimes we struggle. Taylor explains:

What can I do that's not wrong
When will my world turn around

But hope is not lost, as commitment remains the foundation of this love:

Stand by me
I'll never let you go
Hold me close
I love you so
Is it just my heart
Lyin' to my head
Stand by me

Yes, “Stand by me.” This is not a soap opera of one-night stands. This is a union that makes us stronger. There is no need to be clever or witty here. This is pure cheeze, untainted. Such honest sentiments run through this splendid feast. Andy Taylor does not fill this record with preservatives. In a series of unadulterated tunes, he exposes his heart and makes himself vulnerable. As the songs progress, he is “Tremblin” feeling as if he has done something wrong, which may end a relationship. In “Bringin Me Down,” he speaks of loneliness and emptiness, missing his lost love. And finally, in “Broken Window,” he confronts the end of love, where something that was so important to him ends.

Through a broken window
Lies a broken heart
I tried to say I love you
But there's no place to start
Through a broken window
Is a broken dream
I had to find the hard way
That love is not what it seems

[A few folks in the pews wipe away tears.] Brothers and sisters this cheeze is good. Let the tears flow. When we share these words, these tunes, we connect to others. Here is humanity; here are shared moments; here are our lives. Eat this cheezydelight. Slowly chew this offering and recognize our own stories and dreams and disappointments. This offering unites us. Halla-cheddar-daiya-vegan-casein free-gooey goodness. This cheeze may save you. [The lights fade; dozens of lighters appear, held high, as the sound of thunder reverberates.]

[Reverend Jimmy walks out onto the dark stage and waits until the crowd notices him; partially in shadows he begins to speak as the spotlight picks him out]

RJ: Children, Andy’s 1987 record, Thunder is a masterpiece of late ‘80s guitar styling as it was ordained by the rock and roll gods. But, if I could turn somber for a moment; I would like to give you a quick overview of the demons Andy Taylor was wrasslin’ with and how he flung those figurative creatures of the dark abyss off his trail.

Oh-a, Andy was terrified, ooh, he was confused; he was in dire need of a moral cheese injection right to his core-a. Friends, Andy saw the evil side of rock and roll. He saw bandmates who did not allow him to give input into the production of the cheese he was creating. [The flock boos and hisses this affront to Andy.] He felt like a master affineur whose cheese craftsmanship was being wasted, that his being was putrefying like a block of limburger whose expiration date had passed. In rebellion Andy wrote “Don’t Let Me Die Young” as the second track on his solo record.

Under here lies a different face
In a hungry lonely soul
I guess it ain't easy
When you don't know which way to go

He was lost, adrift in a world of material temptations, before he was found. Comfort is what he needed, whoo, the kind of comfort that can only come from the familiar flavor of swiss or provolone. As Pastor SoDak has pointed out, Andy needed to get laid mondseerbrusselshavarti! Yes, he was tired of groupies, who flock to cheese, but who do not appreciate, savor, and live for the cheese. He was looking for love—with all of its troubles and joys. None of us are pure. We are scarred by past habits and experiences. Andy cautions his potential partner that, “I might lie, when I look into your eyes.” We all have moments of weakness. We all have faults. But, the moral person will admit his or her faults.

We all might lie. I ask you, my children, is there one among you who hasn’t felt like you were putting on an untrue face, by lying to a partner or being so untrue to yourself that you felt alone? [The devotees of cheese respond, shaking their heads.] I thought not.

Here, in the Church of Cheese, you can shed those feelings, much like Andy did when he left Duran Duran. The gods of cheese are here for you, to save you and your loved ones. But we can’t do it alone, no friends, we can’t do it without your support. Please open your wallets wide and give generously when you pass the collection boxes in the back of the rectory; help me help you.

[As the reverend and pastor step forward to shake hands with the congregation, Andy Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Die Young” starts to play over the sound system. A prerecorded message plays over top of the music.] Now, is there anyone in the audience who has not accepted cheese into their lives? For a mere $14 dollars, the price of a high-quality compact disc, Reverend Jimmy and Pastor SoDak will take you in the rear and anoint your taint with cheese.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Judas Priest - Turbo

(CBS, 1986)

Reviewed by Class Warrior

If you ask a Judas Priest fan to identify their least favorite album from the band’s vast back catalog, odds are good that the Priest devotee will indicate that Turbo holds the place of shame. Apparently, lots of metalheads and Priest fans were pissed off when they heard Turbo. Since I was a latecomer to metal in general and Priest in particular, I never was invested in the band having a certain sound. What is interesting about this complaint is that it is unfounded. Priest never had a signature sound that they had stayed true to since the early 70s. Judas Priest has changed their sound several times during their career. From their Queen-worshipping early days, the transition to true heavy metal that Sad Wings of Destiny represented, the pioneering metal of Sin After Sin and Stained Class, the transition from this sound to the semi-attempt at mainstream acceptance (Hell Bent for Leather), their “metal for the masses” sound of British Steel, Point of Entry, Screaming for Vengeance, and Defenders of the Faith, the attempt at pop-metal (Turbo), the transition from this sound back to the heaviness (Ram It Down), and the double bass drum pounding Renaissance that was Painkiller. I love all of these albums (some more than others), but there are a hell of a lot of different types of metal contained in the main period of Priest’s work.

As I said, I don’t have all the baggage that a fan following Judas Priest during the seventies and eighties would carry. I heard all of their albums within a year of each other, rather than having them stretched out over fifteen or twenty years. I was able to form opinions of them apart from time-constrained expectations. Due to this freedom, I have become completely and totally convinced of one inescapable fact: Turbo is an underrated masterpiece. You have to take it out of the “Priest progression” context in order to come to this conclusion. If you compare it to any Hollywood glam metal album that came out in the same time period, Turbo comes out victorious. Put simply: Turbo rules!

Turbo starts off with five awesome hook-filled tunes. Everyone knows “Turbo Lover,” which is the closest in theme and sound to their previous work. Take out the synths and this song would fit on Defenders of the Faith quite easily. It is the best song on the album, without a doubt. They follow up this gem with four straight top-notch butt rock (sorry Kloghole) anthems – “Locked In,” “Private Property,” “Parental Guidance,” and “Rock You All around the World.” These songs are superior to anything that bands like Ratt, Motley Crue, and others of that ilk ever did. Wait a minute – better than Ratt? Yes! Ratt didn’t have Rob Halford on vocals or the twin guitar domination of K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton. Seriously – listen to these songs with Sunset Strip in mind, and you will be forced to admit their superiority. I don’t understand why these songs weren’t all over the airwaves. “Private Property contains one of those Kiss the Sky/Kiss this Guy moments: “Keep your hands off private property – asshole!” is what I hear.

The only song that interrupts the hard rocking good time is “Out in the Cold,” which is long and slow. It’s a fine tune, but it is unlike the rest of the album. This record is all about having a good time and being young, and “Out in the Cold” disrupts this vibe.

The album finishes up with three more blazing butt rockers: “Wild Nights, Hot and Crazy Days,” “Hot for Love,” and “Reckless.” As I listen to this album for perhaps the fiftieth time, I can’t believe that it is considered to be among Judas Priest’s worst. What more do you, the discriminating metal connoisseur, want from them? Great tunes, more hooks on the album than most bands managed in a career, Rob’s distinctive vocal delivery, Glen and K.K.’s six-string mastery… Okay, the lyrics are a little cheesy, I’ll give you that. At least there’s no misogyny, no thinly veiled hatred and/or fear of women. I don’t think Motley Crue, Poison, et al. can say that. Rob’s just trying to tap in to that teenage demon that we all felt way back then. I remember his (the demon’s, not Rob’s) hot breath on the back of my neck urging me toward the carnal side of life. Better than being urged toward the Carnie side! My bedroom wall would be decorated with those small mirrored pictures of rock bands and cheap stuffed animals.

It is very difficult to pick a favorite among all of these underappreciated rock classics, but I’ll have to go with “Private Property” and “Locked In.” They’re all great. I easily could have picked two different songs and been just as pleased.

Another point in this album’s favor is that the documentary “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” was filmed during Priest’s “Turbo” tour in 1986.

If you ever get the chance, check out the pictures that come with the album! Holy crap! They are some of the funniest shit you will ever see! Dave Holland looks like a fucking poodle! Glen’s hair is teased up so high! I wish I had a poster of the group photo – I would put it on my office wall. Or my bedroom wall… The photos are worth the price of the album alone!

This is an album to throw on when you’re trying to get your metal friends to dance, when you’re driving around the neon-tinted city at night, when you’re up for some good-natured “Reckless” thuggery (or huggery!), or when you and your partner are “Hot for Love.” I would totally play this album during sex! Your potential partner will say “What’s this awesome music?” That’s when you say “Shh,” take off your denim and leather, and let him/her know that you’re “All Fired Up” (bonus song on CD). Play this album the next time you want to get “Locked In” to your lover’s “Private Property,” or else you’ll be left “Out in the Cold.”

Turbo earns nine bloody swords (which are covered in purple velvet). If ye of false metal faith have ignored this album on principle, prepare yourself for some “Wild Nights” of rocking out and “Hot and Crazy Days” of sexual freedom. It may be just the tonic to free you from your buttoned up existence.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seein’ Red – Workspiel

(GAP Recordings, 1993)


Reviewed by SoDak

The other day I was listening to the news on the radio. It did not take long to get sick of the endless pabulum following the election. I needed to find something to boost my energy, to give me a swift kick in the ass, to vent my frustration. I looked through my music collection to find Seein’ Red’s Workspiel. Right away, the crunch of the guitar made me feel better. I started to sing along to the opening song, “Great Planet”: “Open your eyes goddammit, can’t you realize goddammit, we’ve got to act now goddammit, if we want to save this planet. Don’t expect anything from the capitalists. They’ll keep raping our Earth for their profits.” I felt better, even though I continued to be pissed off, which is good, given the state of things in the world. I remembered the excitement of punk rock, of friends working together to put on shows, to organize rallies, and to direct action. It was good to feel the unity of struggle, which too often is lost in the day-to-day grind of life.

Seein’ Red, a punk band from the Netherlands, formed when Lärm broke up in the late 1980s. The first full-length record, which is self titled, sounds much different than the releases that followed; Fugazi and Ignition were obvious influences at this point in time for Seein’ Red. I bought this record when it was released, and I really like it, so I was somewhat surprised when I heard the short, fast, and intense songs on their next recordings.

Seein’ Red is addicting. This three-piece band produces a powerful sound, knocking out politically charged songs with lyrics that often focus on a critique of capitalism. On Workspiel, almost all of the songs are under three minutes long. So the lyrics are very short and direct. Their songs address exploitation at work, confronting racism and sexism, environmental degradation, hating the rich, revolution, and protest. There is also the occasional song about friendships and loneliness. Seein’ Red has released a ton of records through the years. I have not been able to keep up or track down all of their records. I wish that the endless series of seven inches, splits with other bands, and compilation tracks were compiled on CDs. Some of my favorite records by Seein’ Red remain their early seven inches, which are included on the end of the Workspiel CD.

The twenty-seven songs on this record pass by quickly. I often hit repeat to listen to several songs more than once. Seein’ Red is good at including space between power chords, which lets the energy build within the songs. This is how “Fist” starts out, before the drums and bass join the assault. It is a simple song to be yelled: “It only takes five fingers yeah to make a fist. They can break your fingers but they can’t break a fist. That’s what unity’s teaching us, so organize and resist. A message so fucking true it turned me into a Marxist.” While most of the songs are fast, straight-forward punk rock, mid-tempo songs break up the pace from time to time. Bass runs surface on many songs. The power of the guitar keeps this album lively.

On “Dream,” clean guitar notes can be heard, before the drum propels us into the song, “I wanna see socialism inspire, see sparks turn into a huge fire, a fire the rulers can’t damp down, burning their empires, the empires down, burn it down to ashes, making an end to all oppressive conditions, making the way free, free to the people. I wanna see a world revolution, see the people being part of the solution, a solution the rulers can’t fight down, tearing their power, their fuckin’ power down, tear it to pieces.”

Within the fantasy world of capitalism, there are endless distractions that encourage escapism and submission to the dominant ideology. Seein’ Red notes this dynamic and responses, “Fuck that.” While this may not be the most original statement, at least it expressions opposition. They explain that living in a state of sleep is not an option. Furthermore, in the song, “Direct Action,” they point out, “There are the times that words are not enough. There are times that protest marches don’t work. Then it’s time for direct action.” They continue, “protest songs” are not enough. Change demands revolutionary praxis—get out into the streets.

“Believe in Yourself” starts with a nice drumbeat. The song slowly builds before exploding in passion. “There is something I’d like to tell. There’s no heaven and there’s no hell. So get out of your stuffy church, get off your knees sheep. Tear up the holy bible, break with your religious beliefs…Believe in yourself…Soon you will realize, religion was just sand in your eyes.” The song changes tempo a number of times, and the bass thunders as it runs underneath the whole song.

In 1996, Seein’ Red played with Torches to Rome in Rapid City, South Dakota. They did an incredible set with great intensity. They use the microphone to address important social issues, rather than just playing songs. None of the songs from this record or the previous record were played. Seein’ Red is focused on the present struggle. They are constantly writing new songs to address immediate concerns. Along the way they have recorded a ton of songs filled with anger and love, passion and commitment, insight and hope, protest and revolution. Get a Seein’ Red record. Read the lyrics and sing along. Then get up and make some connections with other folks. Organize. Rebel. Raise the red flag and get on with it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

4 Non Blondes - Bigger, Better, Faster, More!

(Interscope, 1992)

Reviewed by Kloghole

It was a typically warm, humid day in the Amazon. We were traveling by canoe up the Bobonaza river in the Pastaza province of Ecuador. As I contemplated how the riverbanks were reminiscent of the river valleys of the driftless area of Wisconsin, my eyes must have welled up because my traveling companion remarked that I looked deep in thought.

This area of the Ecuadorian Amazon is remote and largely untouched by the scars of so-called civilization. It is difficult to communicate the peacefulness, yet strength, within this community. The children are almost unbelievably mellow while the parents do not appear to exert any direct authority or control. They are obedient in a way that is not from domination but simply the way it is. For example, we went to a swimming hole to clean up before we flew out. We were joined by three children. When it was time to leave, we simply said “vámonos.” The children immediately stopped playing and joined us joyfully. There was no, “just a bit more, come on, five more minutes ...” that would spew from US children’s pampered pieholes. The children joined us not because we exerted authority but simply because it was what we were doing. Like I said, this is difficult to describe especially to those of us used to living in the crushing pace of US society.

The contrast in societies is a painful juxtaposition. I traveled to Ecuador to expose students to the struggles of an oil nation and to learn a little bit about the social movements in the country. While I certainly was confronted with poverty and a struggling nation in some respects, the country exhibited a warmth and decidedly more laid back pace of life (excepting motorized travel). Within the context of these economic struggles and calm exterior were people motivated toward positive change. People that we met were engaged in struggles, sometimes for their very existence, while maintaining a cheerful and optimistic interaction with us. This dedication to progressive social change is not absent in the US, but certainly buried under layers of consumerism, propaganda, and corporate financed political machinations. Visiting Ecuador can make you feel as though change is possible, but returning to the US quickly dispels this illusion.

Highlighting this contrast was a song I heard at one of the hostels where we stayed. While checking into our hostel, all of us are milling about, lugging our backpacks and trying to pull out some money to pay for our rooms. While the desk clerk is distributing room keys, “What’s Up” by the 4 Non Blondes radiates from the speakers in the office. While others continue unaware, I pause, listen, and lament for a bit as I absord those lyrics.

“So I cry sometimes when I’m lying in bed
to get it all out what’s in my head
then I start feeling a little peculiar
so I wake in the morning and I step outside to take a deep breath
I get real high
then I scream from the top of my lungs
what’s going on ...
I try all the time in this institution
and I pray, oh my God do I pray
I pray every single day
for a revolution”

The contradictions of wealth, privilege, poverty and exploitation are laid bare in the juxtaposition of US citizens visiting nations we have used to enrich ourselves. The emotion in the song commingles with emotions of Ecuadorian struggles and my own working class existence. The righteous anger against privilege, gained from exploiting others, bubbles to the surface to be tempered with the melancholy of the losses suffered by the oppressed. I find it hard to contain my emotion in the hostel office. I need one of those $2 quarts of beer. Instead, I wander off to take photos.

The emotion in the 4 Non Blondes album resonates with my experience in Ecuador, but also my own life experience. There is a depressed anger that permeates this album. For someone who has made a career of depression, this album allows me to wallow, swim, splash and revel in my dark mood. “Pleasantly Blue” sums this up perfectly. “Morphine and Chocolate” rescues the chronically depressed for the moment by substituting “gloom with happiness” and “sickness with health.” The rage of “What’s Up” returns in the song “Dear Mr. President.” While similar to “What’s Up” musically, its lyrics bite a bit more directly. “Oh please Mr. President will you lend me a future ‘cause you will just get it back from the little blind woman with the kid on the corner and the people all over doin’ crack”

At one point, this album was in heavy rotation driving back and forth to my graduate program in Minnesota. I find this record infectious mainly because it suits my mood and dire outlook. It is lamentable that 4 Non Blondes did not bust out another album, and I have yet to track down Linda Perry’s solo effort. For some inexplicable reason, I find myself wanting to give this album 2 1/2 sweet sticky balls. I have a feeling that some unconscious sexism does not allow me to put this album on the same level as others I play just as often. So, 3 sweet sticky balls it is. It is worth it.

Sweet Dreams Motherfuckers

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ramones – S/T

 Sire Records, 1976 / Rhino, 2001

Review by Class Warrior

Everyone knows these songs, but you know what?  To hell with it.  I’m going to review my favorite album of all time.

I’ll keep it short and simple.  If you (yes, you!) have not heard the Ramones, go out RIGHT NOW and buy this record!  Do not order it online – that takes too long.  Drive down to the CD store (and make sure you speed!), RUN to the punk section, look under “R” (your store does have a punk section, doesn’t it?  If not, hold your nose and go to the Rock section), and find the one that says “RAMONES” and has a picture of four ugly dudes up against a brick wall.  If it helps with identification, you should also be aware that these four gentlemen have funny haircuts, leather jackets, and ripped jeans.  Tommy’s belly button is showing.  There is a tall, ridiculously skinny guy (Joey) grinning at you awkwardly. Grab the CD, RUN to the counter, elbow any other patrons out of the way (whatever they’re buying, it’s going to be worse than what you have in your hands.  When they see what you’re purchasing, they’ll understand!), and pay for it with cash so you don’t have to wait through the onerous credit card process.

If you have a CD player in your car, unwrap the cellophane and pop in the disc.  You may drive back home at your leisure, though you’ll have a hard time avoiding going fast as the pure rock and roll energy seeps into your soul.  If you don’t have a CD player, if you take mass transit, ride a bike, or (for god’s sake) you walked to the store, or if you were lucky enough to find the album on vinyl, stop wasting time!  Get home!  Put your foot on the gas, exhort the bus driver to not stop for riders, or pedal your ass off!  You spent the last however many years without the Ramones in your life – don’t waste another second.  You will spend many an hour with Johnny (guitar), Dee Dee (bass), Tommy (drums), and Joey (vocals).

For those of you who have heard this album, you know what I’m talking about when I urge the uninitiated to buy the album.    It is electric music stripped down to it barest essentials.  No keyboards, no production frills, no backup singers, nothing extra at all.  Except for a very brief lead in “Havana Affair,” the songs feature nothing but two-string power chords.  The songs are rock and roll in its purest form.  They called it punk, and they called themselves punk rockers.  A musical revolution was born.  The revolution swept through England (i.e. not the birthplace of punk), then the rest of Europe, then the world.  Interestingly enough, these American revolutionaries were virtually ignored in their own country until three of the original members died before their time.

My favorite songs on the album are “Blitzkrieg Bop” (of course), “Judy is a Punk” (my mom’s first name was Judy, and it amuses me to picture her as part of the narrative), and “53rd and 3rd.”  The latter song concerns the lamentations of a male prostitute standing on the corner, waiting for a john: “You’re the one they never pick / don’t it make you feel sick?”  Dee Dee tackles his first assignment on vocals in this song – he outlines the red revenge the prostitute takes upon an unsuspecting customer (and upon the wreck that the song subject’s life has become): “Then I took out my razor blade / then I did what God forbade / now the cops are after me / but I proved that I’m no sissy”.  I always thought that Dee Dee should have sung more on the early albums.  His scratchy voice was a counterbalance to Joey’s much smoother New Yawk delivery.  If I had one complaint about the album, that would be it.  IF I had a complaint—but I don’t.  All the songs on here are perfect.

When I first got a copy of this album, I listened to it over and over again for weeks, perhaps months.  I can’t remember – those days are a blur of downstroked power chords and shouts of “hey ho, let’s go”.  I don’t listen to this album nearly as often as I did back when I was a lad, but whenever I put it on I spread my legs far apart with fake guitar in hand (Johnny Ramone style), put my mouth up to the fake microphone, and pretend I’m Joey and Johnny and Dee Dee all at the same time.

I modeled my guitar playing after Johnny’s style.  I used to play nothing but downstroked power chords.  This stunted my growth on the guitar to such an extent that power chords still are the only things I can play on the instrument.  Thanks, Johnny.  When I was in college I could play every single note of every single song.  The songs are so basic that this feat was not a big challenge, but I was proud of my dubious accomplishment.  If I tried, I’m sure I could still do it.  Just give me a half hour or so, then you and I can play Ramones covers all night long.

Thankfully I didn’t model my political outlook on Johnny Ramone’s beliefs – that guy was a conservative prick!

The Ramones’ self-titled effort is the first punk album ever released.  It is the best punk album of all time, which makes it the best music of all time.  It is the standard by which I judge all other punk rock.  To give it a numerical rating would be a meaningless exercise.  Instead, I ask myself a simple question: where would I be without this album in my life?  I’d probably be working for an insurance company or something.  Fuck that!  This album will change your life if you let it in to your heart.  I love this record so much I made my son a t shirt with the album’s cover art, and I will continue to make a new t shirt with the album art every year as he grows.

Rest in punk, Joey (1951-2001) (you awkward, beautiful man), Johnny (1948-2004), and Dee Dee (1951-2002).  I wish I could have seen you perform live just once.  I’ll see all of you in hell, I guess.

Monday, November 8, 2010

AC/DC – ’74 Jailbreak

(Atlantic, 1984)

Reviewed by Jimmy “Explosive Diarrhea” B.

I have a love/hate relationship with AC/DC. I love Bon Scott, but hate Brian Johnson. There are a lot of bands whose careers can be broken up into eras. This could be due to a style change, like the change in Iron Maiden after Powerslave when they adopted progressive jazz structures. Or the era is defined by the inclusion/removal of one of the key members. Van Halen is a good example, although I defy anyone to tell me how the music changed with the inclusion of Sammy Hagar. AC/DC changed in both ways.

Bon Scott was a fantastic storyteller. Scott is one of the most underrated lyricists in rock. Bon Scott and Angus Young collaborated on the writing and composition of most of AC/DC’s songs and the result could be stunning. The music wasn’t about highlighting Young’s manic personality as it came to be in the Brian Johnson era, it was about helping the lyrics unfold into a story. With the end of this collaboration, due to Bon Scott’s death, AC/DC turned to shit. They became boring and formulaic. I often joke that you can overlay the drumming from any AC/DC song over any other song and they will match perfectly.

’74 jailbreak is my favorite AC/DC album, for the simple reason that it showcases what Bon Scott did best; the telling of everyman stories. Check out these lyrics from “Jailbreak,”

There was a friend of mine on murder
And the judge’s gavel fell,
Jury found him guilty,
Gave him sixteen years in hell.
He said, “I ain’t spending my life here,
I ain’t living alone
Ain’t breaking no rocks on the chain gang,
I’m breakin’ out and headin’ home…

Heatbeats they were racin’,
Freedom he was chasin’
Spotlights, sirens, rifles firing,
But he made it out
With a bullet in his back.

Now add guitar solos and a beat that highlights the action of the story and you get an idea of what AC/DC was at their best, and their best only happened under the tutelage of Scott.

 ’74 Jailbreak is the most varied and most creative record in AC/DC’s catalog. There are actual drum fills on this record. Let me say that again, there are fucking drum fills on this record. It turns out that AC/DC’s drummer can actually drum a bit. The song “Soul Stripper” begins with an almost disco funk and simple drumbeat, but it takes off and there are numerous tempo changes. The album, as a whole, is much more bluesy than what we normally associate with AC/DC. There are moments when the band seems to be on the verge of breaking into a blues stomp.  My only complaint about ’74 Jailbreak is that it is too fucking short. It was released as an e.p. in 1984, nearly a decade after most of the songs were written, and several years after Johnson joined the band. It was almost as if the band realized they had turned to shit and needed a rock and roll injection so they could face themselves and their fans.

Fuck the Brian Johnson era of AC/DC and fuck all the poser assholes who think they are AC/DC fans because they can sing along to “You Shook me all Night Long.” If you don’t know Bon Scott, you don’t know AC/DC. If you only allow yourself to buy one AC/DC album, pick up ’74 Jailbreak.

I tickled my taint for 9 minutes