Nik Turner – Space Gypsy


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If you say retread, that sounds bad but if you say “going back to your roots”, then you’re in the clear.  I was supposed to see Hawkwind a few weeks ago because they were playing their first U.S. tour since I think 1999 and I had taken two days off work to travel to Cleveland and Chicago (three and four hours from my home and eight hours away from each other) but, because of this whole ordeal with Nik Turner, they cancelled.  So what was a I left with?  Nik Turner’s Hawkwind.  Sure it was scaled down considerably to fit inside the dinky little punk venue I was seeing it but, at very least, I’d get to see a member of Hawkwind performing classic tunes which I had never seen performed live before.  Sure it was basically like seeing a Hawkwind cover band since, of the 12 tunes they played, 10 were from the 1971-1974 era of the group but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers and he and his band were really in fine form.

Now, the band I saw live wasn’t the same exact band that recorded the Space Gypsy album.  The band I saw live consisted of former U.K. Subs guitarist Nicky Garratt along with Lana Voronina on keyboard/synths, Bryce Shelton on bass and Jason Willer on drums; on the album, the synths were played by Jurgen Engler, the bass was played by Jeff Piccinini and the violin bits were done by none other than former Hawkwind (not to mention David Bowie and probably some other people) synth/violin guy SIMON HOUSE!!!  How’s about that, eh?  It should also be noted that the Space Gypsy band minus Turner and House is also the current lineup for Brainticket, which is double plus good if you ask me!  Some of the others are in some band called Hedersleben and a whole bunch more but now we’re getting off topic.

Ah yeah, Space Gypsy, the new Nik Turner album.  Where do I start with this one?  Lessee… MAN is Nik Turner a prolific guy!  He should be given some kind of award just for being so cool!  This 73 year old, saxophonist/flutist/singer/songwriter has been at it for quite some time; from the early, druggy Hawkwind days, to his space punk band Inner City Unit, to his solo tour with HELIOS CREED (!!!) on guitar, to playing with Jello Biafra and Genesis P. Orridge… what a freakin’ pedigree!

And I don’t care what side of this whole Dave Brock/Nik Turner conflict you fall on because Space Gypsy is GOOD!  REALLY, REALLY GOOD!  But I’m not going to lie to you.  It’s not really all that original.  Oh sure, in comparison with the music on the radio, it’s mind blowing but you could say that about a lot of stuff in the underground and especially about early Hawkwind.  And, let’s face it; this sounds EXACTLY like an early Hawkwind record.  I mean, if you didn’t know it came out in 2013, you could easily seeing it being the album that would go between Doremi Fasol Latido and Hall of the Mountain Grill.  I’m not saying it’s Space Ritual Part 2 because it’s not a live album.  I’m saying if there was a transitional style between the more aggressive, headbangy “kraut metal” of Doremi and the slightly more calm and relaxing Mountain Grill, it would sound like Space Gypsy.

Turner and his band have put together one helluva stew of driving, distorted space riffs, psychedelic acid solos, wishing/wooshing space sounds, neato sax and flute solos, computer blip/bloop noises and Turner’s patented “space wizard” singing style that, in my humble opinion, sounded cooler than Brock’s straight forward, normal British bloke voice.  In fact, in spite loving his performances of the classic material, I feel he could have easily kept the crowd’s attention with these new tunes.

If you’re one of those “bands need to always be progressing” kind of people, you might be disappointed and would probably prefer the actual Hawkwind who try to stay up-to-date and evolve.  Opening track “Fallen Angel STS-S1-L” might as well be called “Brainstorm Part 2.111.XL.5.”  This trend continues on in “Joker’s Song”, whose lyrics, like many on the album, tend to border on self-parody – “I heard they ate the queen and government too/these creatures from outer space sure know what to do” – but I can’t help enjoying a song with such a damn good saxophone solo!  Next we have “Time Crypt” and what can I say?  It sounds like a song from Warrior on the Edge of Time which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising considering its nameIn fact, just like on that album, the next song “Galaxy Rise” is a pretty, mellow acoustic yet spacey tune complimented by Turner’s flute playing and the soothing sound of the ocean breeze and seagulls.  But here’s the real kicker!  Side one closer “Coming of the Maya” sounds like “Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun” by the Floyd!  Ain’t that a riot!

I don’t think I need to describe all of side two for you since song titles like “We Ride the Timewinds”, “Eternity”, “Anti-Matter” and “The Visitor” should give you a good idea of what to expect.  Some choice lyrics include “I am a visitor to your world/come to learn the secrets of your life/have traveled far from a dying place/an eternity of eons through time and space” and “I half awake suspended in time/drawn back into regression/of flashing lights and darkest nights/of other lives in quick succession.” As you can see, the ideas on Space Gypsy aren’t the most original; just the typical early Hawkwind meditations on time, space, matter and, I guess, anti-matter but damn it if the album isn’t consistently catchy and fun to listen to!

The Melvins – Tres Cabrones


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Let’s be fair here.  Yes Tres Cabrones (Spanish for “three dumbasses”) may be a new Melvins album but, of these 12 tunes, four appeared on the 1983 10″ EP, three on the Gaylord 7″ EP, one on the Amphetamine Reptile BASH 13 compilation and one on a split single with Helmet; that’s 9 songs that had already come out in some way or another.  Even if you didn’t forfeit a mortgage payment to obtain legit copies of all this music, you probably already downloaded it.

But hey, why waste an opportunity to release a new record?  After all it’s been a while – roughly six months – since the last official Melvins LP and we were starting to miss these guys!  It should also be made apparent to the casual fan or novice listener that Tres Cabrones was not made by the “official” (sort of a loose term by Melvins’ standars) Melvins lineup of Buzz Osbourne (guitar, vocals), Jared Warren (bass), Dale Crover and Cody Willis (both drums).  Instead the gimmick this time is that the new record features original drummer Mike Dillard while Dale Crover plays the bass in an attempt to recreate the group’s 1983/1984 pre-sludge style.  As evidence by their 2005 demo collection Mangled Demos from 1983, the Melvins began as a punk band and featured Dillard on drums and a pre-Mudhoney Matt Lukin on bass.

However Tres Cabrones isn’t a punk record.  Sure covers of “Walter’s Lips” by the Lewd and “Stick ’em Up Bitch” by Pop-O-Pies are fast, energetic punky tunes (and damn good ones at that!) but the rest of the record consists of stripped down heavy rock that really isn’t all that different from what the Melvins are typically known for.  If anything, it’s just another excuse for the Melvins to rock out and Buzz has no problem creating wonderfully catchy, heavy riffs and twisted little melodies that make otherwise normal, mid-tempo headbanging tunes like “Dr. Mule”, “Dogs and Cattle Prods”, “Psycho-delic Haze” and “Stump Farmer” sound weirder than say ZZ Top.

“I Told You I Was Crazy” is possibly the creepiest song the Melvins have ever done with all those eerie UFO noises and Twilight Zone music.  And, of course, “City Dump” and “American Cow” are signature Melvins sludge tunes.  The three “traditional” songs, “Tie My Pecker to a Tree”, “99 Bottles of Beer” and “In the Army Now” may be fun and funny but don’t really add much and are really just novelty tunes.  But they’re only a minute long each so they don’t ruin the otherwise excellent album.

As far as playing goes, Mike Dillard clearly isn’t Dale Crover so don’t expect that crazy Crover style with all those unique patterns; his drumming is pretty straight forward and simple.  Then again I don’t think anybody could really do what Dale Crover does; it’s part of what makes the Melvins so unique in the first place so the point is kind of moot.  As far as Crover’s bass playing goes, I really can’t tell if he’s doing anything that’s really out there or if he’s just keeping a solid beat.  Ultimately though, who cares because this shit rocks!

So there you have it; seven classic heavy tunes, two wicked punk rock covers, three fun throwaways and a cute billy goat on the cover.

Motorhead – Aftershock


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If you’ve “liked” the official Motorhead fan site on facebook, then you’re probably aware of the amount of fierceness with which the Motorhead p.r. team is pushing the group’s latest effort, Aftershock; everything from status updates asking about your favorite album tracks to adorable pictures of cats posing with a copy of the album.  It’s been at least three years since the group’s last album, The World Is Yours and that is because Lemmy’s heavy drinking/poor diet lifestyle finally caught up with him and he was forced to take some time off in order to address his various health issues.  In fact, according to Lemmy, even during the making of Aftershock, he wanted to get through sessions quickly to go home and rest.

But here we are with the new Motorhead album and best since, I dunno, Kiss of Death?  If you think I’m being facetious, you’ve got another thing coming because I think later period Motorhead albums – Overnight Sensation, Snake Bite Love, We Are Motorhead, Hammered, Inferno and Kiss of Death – from the current and longest lasting lineup of Lemmy (bass, vocals), Phil Campbell (guitar) and Mickey Dee (drums) are just as strong as officially recognized classics like Overkill, Ace of Spades or Orgasmatron.  However it was the group’s previous two albums, Motorizer and The World Is Yours that left me feeling a little cold.  Maybe a few of the riffs were a little dull and trite?  I can’t say for sure except that “Rock Out” is still a gnarly tune.

Anyway my point is that Aftershock, though not quite as strong as the best Motorhead have done, is still quite the wicked collection of raging rock tuneage.  Plus there are 14 songs on it!  That’s more than the group have ever put on an album (not counting bonus tracks which led a different blogger to erroneously claim that Ace of Spades has 15 songs on it when it actually only has 12)!

Well yeah, it sounds like a Motorhead album.  You’re not going to hear anything you haven’t heard on previous Motorhead albums but you’re going to like what you hear.  The group has put the effort into some really great, dirty, simple, heavy and effective rock ‘n’ roll to back up Lemmy’s patented hoarse shouting.  Campbell really pulls out some neat riffs on Aftershock.  In fact it’s pretty commendable that he manages to play such killer, original riffs while sticking to a few heavy, basic chords; I’m surprised Campbell isn’t recognized more as one of the most enduring guitarists in heavy rock.  After all, he’s been in the band since 1983, second longest only to Lemmy!

Does the album have its clunkers?  Sure.  “Silence When You Speak to Me” sounds like “Man in the Box” and drags a bit and the mid-tempo, good-time, AC/DC-style rocker “Keep Your Powder Dry” isn’t the most inspiring song; although it has a strong bridge and guitar solo so it’s not a total loss.  The other mid-tempo, good time rocker “Crying Shame” is a hoot though and sorta reminds me of “Love for Sale” from Snake Bite Love.

But one thing is for sure.  There are more fast, “Overkill”/”Ace of Spades”/”Iron Fist”-style speed rockers than on either of the two previous records.  “End of Time”, “Going to Mexico”, “Queen of the Damned” and “Paralyzed” all tear it up.  Upper, mid-tempo, headbangers “Heartbreaker”, “Coup de Grace”, “Death Machine” and “Knife” are no slouches either.  And there a couple of slow jams in the form of “Lost Woman Blues” and “Dust and Glass” to vary things up a bit as well.

So, what else is there to say about a Motorhead album?  I could talk about the lyrics on a few songs here… lessee… “Coup de Grace” and “End of Time” both tell you how much the world around you sucks whether it be because of media lies, oppressive politics or religion.  “Do You Believe” is an uplifting tune about the power of rock ‘n’ roll.  And some others deal with women, death and violence.  There are also a couple of F-bombs on the album because what good rock ‘n’ roll album is entirely profanity-free, huh?  It’s great to have them back and to know Lemmy is doing well; though I hear he works out now.

Devo – Hardcore Volume 1/Hardcore Volume 2


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Yes!  It’s about time these two records were available again!  When are they going to reissue Live: The Mongoloid Years?  Although the internet has made all three of these releases, not to mention the collection Recombo DNA, easy to procure, having the physical representation is so much more satisfying!  First of all this is the first time these records have been released on vinyl and Devo have also re-released them as a two CD set as well.  Secondly they slightly changed the names.  Both of these were released by Ryko Disc in 1990 and 1991 under the names Hardcore Devo Volume 1: 1974 – 1977 and Hardcore Devo Volume 2: ’74 – ’77 respectively.  Why they chose to condense the names, I don’t know.  Furthermore, if I’m not mistaken, the originals came with liner notes that are not included in these.  So that’s kind of a bummer.

In the years following their release, along with the aforementioned Live: The Mongoloid Years, getting a physical copy for less than a month’s rent was damn near impossible. Now, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t need the whole rundown on Devo.  These are the early basement demos from 1974 – 1977 and it’s fascinating to listen to this stuff in its own right because it makes you wonder how many other weirdos across the world with equally bizarre ideas about art and music were making their own basement recordings that are now sitting collecting dust and will never be heard by the public because their bands never busted out into the mainstream.  I mean, except for the Residents and Jandek of course!

But anyway, the two main early Devo lineups are represented on this pair of records; you’ve got the one with Mark Mothersbaugh on keyboards, Gerry Casale on bass and vocals, Bob Mothersbaugh on guitar and Jim Mothersbaugh on electronic drums and the more popular one with M. Mothersbaugh as lead singer, keyboardist and occasional guitarist, B. Mothersabaugh (a.k.a. Bob 1) on guitar, Bob Casale (a.k.a. Bob 2) on guitar and keyboard, Gerry Casale on bass and vocals and Alan Meyers on drums.

When they were initially released, Devo felt these recordings were too esoteric for mainstream consumption; and therein lies the rub because they wanted to be accepted on their artistic merits yet also “spread the gospel” to as many people as possible which, as you well know, resulted in some of Devo’s lousiest albums.  I’ll let others debate whether it was Freedom of Choice or New Traditionalists that was the last good Devo album.  We’re here to discuss some demos, dammit!  So quit stallin’, okay?  First of all, Hardcore Volume 1 sticks to the 15 track sequence of the original release while Volume 2 is a double LP that expands up on the original’s 21 tunes with four bonus tracks!

Any Devo fan worth his/her/its salt will notice that Vol. 1. includes five songs that would find their way onto official Devo releases; “Social Fools”, “Soo Bawlz”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Jocko Homo” and “Mongoloid” really don’t sound very different from their later released, studio counterparts barring that “Social Fools” and “Soo Bawlz” are played at a slightly slower clip thus “de-punking” them a bit.  Speaking of “punk rock”, why on god’s green earth did “Uglatto” not appear on any official releases?  That song is fan-friggin-tastic!  It’s just a two chord punk song in a weird time signature of which I didn’t take the time to count out but is not standard 4/4 yet still makes you want to bop all over the dang room like a wrap-around shade, skinny tied punk of yesteryear.

That leaves nine other songs of weird squiggly noises, 12-bar boogie riffs and other assorted, tinker toy oddities.  The immediate reference point will undoubtedly be the Residents but this stuff is still a bit more accessible than what the eye-ball boys were dishing out.  The songs are very catchy and weird, mind you.  Opener “Mechanical Man” begins with that part from In the Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-Evolution, where the individual Devo letters flash like “D-E-V-O” as a synth goes “baow-baow-baow-wooo” for each letter before the actual song comes in and Gery Casale sings it with a hilarious computer voice effect.  “Golden Energy” sounds like sleazy bachelor pad music from some retro-futuristic 70s sci-fi movie with that awesome moog synth melody.  “Midget” is, um, funky.  It’s all good stuff if you don’t mind the borderline novelty, kiddie music feel and deliberate quirkiness of these songs.

Vol.2 is the better deal since it contains two LPs – 25 tracks total! – of the same kind of stuff.  There are more songs that were never released on any of the group’s albums and/or singles while four of the songs were not on the original release of Vol. 2.  The three songs that would be re-recorded for official releases are “Be Stiff”, “Working in a Coalmine” and “Clockout.”  Aside from “Be Stiff” and “Clockout” being a bit slower than their single and Duty Now for the Future versions, they went pretty much unchanged.

I’m listening to Vol.2 as I write this and noticed the wonderful opening verse to “Bamboo Bimbo.”

“He got his first whiff in the jungles of ‘nam
That slanty-eyed catfish tasted better than mom
Every night, she drops that big bomb.”

Wow!  Yeah, they had some pretty dirty humor and un-PC sentiments on their actual albums but, come on!  That’s gross and racist!  Thankfully it’s sung in such a mocking, smug tone, rendering it absolutely hilarious every time I listen to it.  Okay, maybe not “hilarious” but you will catch me giggling every time this song comes on.

Ya know, they might have been right about many of these songs being too weird for normal people.  Listen to the absolutely annoying “Goo Goo Itch” with its cutesy “itchy-itchy-coo”s.  What normal person would want to listen to that?  Also, did I mention un-PC, racist, gross and funny?  Check out “Fraulein”, “Chango”, “I Need a Chick” and “I Been Refused” – “took a couple back views/took some up front/three tries, wallet size/I was looking at that cunt” – uh yeah.

If you’re looking for catchy hooks and melodies, Vol. 2 has ’em; “The Rope Song”, “All of Us”,”Baby Talkin’ Bitches”, “Bottled Up”, “Fountain of Filth” and “Let’s Go” all rule in this fashion with less of the novelty feel.  They’re solid yet quirky rock tunes.  Actually “Let’s Go” really gives me that retro-future Death Race 2000/Rollerball “death game show” feel. Don’t ask me why this would be the case.

In terms of that gross humor, I’ve read the Devo book.  I know it’s inspired by modern art with its mix of the high and low brow, which is what Devo was all about.  But maybe that’s why they felt “normal” people would not understand this early material.  That and the songs which sound like quirky, synth, robot Kraftwerk music minus the “pop” sensibility if you get me.

So what about the four new songs?

“Man from the Past” – awesome fuzz-guitar filled, rock song, reminds me a little of “Boris the Spider” with that driving bass line.

“Doghouse Doghouse” – acoustic, folky rock song with “funny” dog noises?  Hmmm…

“Hubert House” – sounds like a quirky Devo song with the tape warping.  It’s not your turntable.  It’s the song.

“Shimmy Shake” – non-ironic, 70s boogie rock?  Okay…

I suppose the last four don’t add that much to the Devo canon but with Hardcore Vol. 1 and 2 back in print, how can I complain?

Public Image Ltd. – First Issue (reissue)


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I know I’m not going to win any friends with this review but you all like honesty, don’t you?  Light In The Attic has reissued the first Public Image Ltd. album and I’m a fan of their reissues; beautiful fetish objects loaded with liner notes, photos and other assorted memorabilia – if you haven’t picked up their reissue of the Monks’ Black Monk Time, stop reading this now and go get it!!!

The reissue for First Issue or Public Image – First Issue or whatever it’s called is no exception.  Light has released it in several packaging options including one with a bonus b-side to the “Public Image” single called “The Cowboy Song” and a 56 minute long BBC interview.  Also, considering that the original album was never officially released in the states and that the only CD issue is from 1986, the album was due for a retooling.

However, and I say this as a pretty big PiL fan (I have the dang logo tattooed on my inner fore arm), Metal Box/Second Edition is the only album by the group that I find satisfying all the way through.  They have some pretty awesome material but, unfortunately, upon revisiting the album, I don’t find it musically enjoyable from start to finish.

Look, I’m not one of those music philosopher guys who thinks the Pistols “separated the world of pop music into a then and now” or care about situationism or feel any need to discuss Malcolm McLaren’s involvement with the band.  They were awesome and looked cool and Never Mind the Bollocks… Here’s the Sex Pistols is one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll albums ever made and that’s that.  After Lydon bid adieu to the stagnating Pistols – as in they entirely stopped writing new material – he hooked up with former Clash guitarist Keith Levene, old buddy and bassist John “Jah Wobble” Wardle and Canadian import drummer Jim Walker and started PiL.

But we’re not here to talk about music history; we’re here to talk about songs.  The first PiL has eight of them and of those eight, I really only enjoy five.  So let’s get to the nitty gritty.  “Religion 1” isn’t even a song.  It’s John Lydon reciting the lyrics to “Religion 2” without any musical accompaniment.  Sounds exciting?  Well, it’s not.  So there’s two minutes you can shave off the album.  Next we have “Attack.”  Well, for a guy who “hates rock ‘n’ roll”, it sure as hell sounds like a rock ‘n’ roll song or rather a poorly written Sex Pistols song.  Don’t believe me?  It’s mid-tempo punky rock with three distorted chords only it’s recorded really poorly and the lyrics go something like “Attack-attack-attack-attack-attack-attack” – real clever, huh?  And, lastly we have “Fodderstompf”, which predicts the bass driven, dance grooves on the next album but, when Lydon and co. repeat the same “be bland, be boring” joke over and over, the song becomes bland and boring.

Now let’s talk about the good stuff!  Opening track “Theme” might have seemed unusual at the time but now it’s a delightful nine minute drone of hypnotic, dub bass lines and “metallic” guitar scrapes with a similar tone that The Edge would use a couple years later.  The lyrics are just vague free association about not being a cliche and surviving and he repeats “I wish I could die” a lot.  “Religion 2” is fun if a bit repetitive since it only has two parts but man is that a cool angry bass line and the drums pound hard and John Lydon trashes the Catholic church.  No deep meaning there.  Next we have the energetic, mid-tempo punky rocker “Annalisa”, which according to the Pitchfork review is about an exorcism gone wrong.  They call the song “harrowing” but I call it bouncy and fun.  And of course last but, most certainly not least, are the pair of bright, shiny pop songs!  “Public Image” and “Low Life” are cut from the same principle cloth of basic but catchy, two-note bass lines and cheery, non-distorted jangly chords.  The former became Lydon’s initial calling card as he tells his former manager, “hey man! you don’t own me, man!”  The latter I guess also trashes McLaren or something.

I know, I’m supposed to drool all over myself because it’s back but I’ve been listening to this mofo for years even if it’s on a poorly mastered CD.  Oh, that’s right!  “The Cowboy Song” is like a cowboy song with galloping drums.  And what info can you glean from the 56 minute BBC interview?  I don’t know.  I haven’t listened to it. I’ll just wait until someone posts on youtube.  I’m more looking forward to the Devo reissues of Hardcore vol. 1 and 2, which will be hitting my doorstep soon.  Until then, see ya!

Iggy and the Stooges – Ready to Die


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It’s all relative I suppose and you don’t need me to tell you that I like the new Stooges album because you can just go on youtube and listen to the whole thing for free.  But, hey, I just want to talk about the Stooges even though I very clearly said I wasn’t going to do that in my introduction essay thingy.  The Stooges are built into the DNA of my music taste.  If you don’t own The Stooges, Funhouse, Raw Power and the two to three albums worth of songs on unofficial releases like Open Up and Bleed, then you and I do not share the same world view and we should probably not run into each other on the street.

The Stooges brief career ended in 1974.  Several of Ig’s former band mates played on a few of his solo albums but it was made pretty clear a reunion wasn’t going to happen; especially after the insulting liner notes on the 1997 Raw Power CD reissue.  To quote – regarding the Asheton bros. – “those guys couldn’t organize a home aquarium without me.”  Ouch!  But somehow, in 2002, the Stooges were back!  Iggy was joined by Ron Asheton on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums, Minutmen/Firehouse bassist Mike Watt and even Steve McKaye on sax.  They did four songs for Iggy’s 2003 album Skull Ring.  Then they put out their poorly received “come back” album, The Weirdness in 2007.  Then, in 2009, Ron Asheton passed away.  Well, who else should take his spot than the guy who did so way back in 1972?  So, even though he hadn’t held a guitar in three decades, James Williamson rejoined and here we are, with a new Stooges album.  Only now it’s Iggy and the Stooges but, we know what’s up.

It’s good!  I  don’t think people were expecting to be blown away.  But I’m enjoying Ready to Die a lot more than I did The Weirdness (although, to be fair, I might have to just go back and listen to that one since it’s been six years).  First of all let’s make one thing clear.  Ron Asheton was the man!  His forceful, primitive guitar playing is the reason why punk rock exists.  But James Williamson is a stronger player.  That means a world of difference in 2013.  The Weirdness is full of basic, not too interesting garage rock riffs and we need some new tricks to tides us over!  I’m not saying this new album is particularly original.  All I’m saying is that Williamson just plays better melodies and more creative riffs.

It’s a garagey/punky hard rock album!  They aren’t breaking new ground and don’t try to.  Instead it’s just rock ‘n’ roll.  Um, lessee… I wouldn’t call the album particularly diverse but there a few different things going on here.  Williamson plays Stonesy melodies but, just like on Raw Power, his tone and approach are meaner and dirtier than Richards.  But this, in no way, has the same anger, fire and vitriol of Raw Power so don’t think it does just because I made a comparison to it.  I bitched on facebook about how I want the “I’m a streetwalkin’ cheetah with a heart full of NAPALM!!!” Iggy not this modern, crooning Iggy.  But, how can I demand such a thing from a 67 year old man?  The album scores on the fact that they know what they’re good at yet don’t make active efforts to copy the past.

Most of these songs are energetic rockers in which Iggy does what Iggy does; he makes no bones about his love for “those double Ds” – which is funny because I always pictured Iggy as an ass man who loves huge amazons but whatever – talks about having a shitty job and being sick of it and a bunch of other hilariously blunt admissions.  But the rockin’ tone is broken up with a trio of bittersweet, acoustic numbers – the strongest being album closer “The Departed”, which aside from incorporating the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” riff on acoustic guitar is just a really beautiful song about their dead friend.

Some of the songs also have sax and piano on them so that adds some dimension.  I’m sorry if this review isn’t the most in depth thing but I really don’t know what else to say about the album.  It has ten songs in 35 minutes.  Some of the song names are “Sex & Money”, “Dirty Deal”, “Unfriendly World” and “Gun”, so you know, they try to keep things grounded but not get TOO negative.  After all, they’re old and lived long lives and have had plenty of time to be angry at the world.  I dunno, whatever, it’s good.


The Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausages


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Cover albums are usually a terrible idea.  Bands might have a blast jamming their favorite songs but they should do the listener a favor and keep it strictly in the rehearsal room.  That is, of course, unless you’re the Melvins and actually do something unique with other artists’ creations.  It should come as no surprise even to the casual listener that the Melvins wouldn’t go the standard route and just do faithful renditions of songs everybody has already heard a whole bunch of times.

Furthermore the cast of characters involved with Everybody Loves Sausages should make people froth at the mouth and rush out to get the record – or at least listen to a free download.  Also the idea of a covers/collaborations album isn’t exactly new to the Melvins.  In 2000 the group did a similar project called The Crybaby.  And furthermore, even though Everybody Loves Sausages is considered an official Melvins release, it’s a pretty mix and match affair.  Aside from the aforementioned guest appearances, various songs feature different permutations of the group; both the duel drum version with Jared Warren and Cody Willis and the Melvins Lite version with Trevor Dunn on standup bass appear on the record at various points.  The only member who plays on all thirteen songs is Buzz Osbourne.  His “cover” of “Heathen Earth” by Throbbing Gristle is actually a solo piece he made up himself in which he plays all of the bleep-bloop noise machines and which actually isn’t a cover of “Heathen Earth” at all since the song “Heathen Earth”, as thought to be a Throbbing Gristle song, doesn’t exist and is actually Heathn Earth, an album.

Going into the record I was already familiar with nine of these thirteen songs.  Of the one’s I hadn’t heard, “Set It on Fire” is by Australian garage/punk band the Scientists.  Mark Arm’s lead vocals makes the song sound like Mudhoney, which is fine by me!  “Art School” by the Jam is done Oi! style with Tom Hazelmeyer of Halo Of Flies and AmRep fame joining Osbourne on a hilarious shouting match of “Oi, Oi!” while the two sing in thick British accents.  It sounds like standard punk fair but no worse for it.  It’s the other two that bug the shit out of me!  When I checked discogs for “Timothy Leary Lives” by Pop-O-Pies and “Romance” by Tales Of Terror, both are from long out of print albums, which fetch incredibly high prices and that sucks because both songs are good!  When Osbourne calls the Tales Of Terror record one of the best he’s ever heard by anybody ever, he might as well wave his dick in my face and say, “ha ha, you can’t touch this!”

As far as the rest of it goes, it’s going to be difficult to describe the record without describing each song individually.  I know this is a terrible way to write a review so please bare with me!  The album’s “WTF?!” tone is immediately established at the beginning of the album.  After Scott Kelly of Neurosis makes you want to drink Coor’s and smash beer cans against your head all day to the tune of “Warhead” by Venom, the Melvins do a faithful, sincere rendition of “My Best Friend” by Queen!  According to the liner notes, it’s supposed to make you go, “huh?” but I can just as easily assume it was Buzz’s and Dale’s honest admission of love for each other.  Who knows?  Then the album gets kinda shitty because they do “Black Betty”, a song I’ve always loathed with all my being!  I just can’t stand that “black betty bam balam” refrain!  Thankfully the Melvins make it halfway listenable by playing the coda Motorhead style.

Elsewhere we get “Attitude” by the Kinks which RULES!  It’s probably my favorite performance on here.  They don’t change it too much but you know how in the original the chorus slows down and only gets fast in the last refrain?  Well, in this version, it’s fast and punky the whole time!  So, it never stops kicking your ass!  It’s awesome!  “Female Trouble” is a neat little treat with Dunn’s standup bass and Osbourne singing “they say I’m a skank but I don’t care/go ahead and put me in your electric chair”!  “Carpe Diem” by the Fugs isn’t altered too much other than briefly heavying up the song during the “you can’t out think the angel of death” refrain.  Otherwise the band maintain the gorgeous melody of the original, making it my second favorite performance on the album.

And that leaves us with the two longest songs on the album.  Don’t get me wrong; I like “Station to Station” by Bowie and “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” by Roxy Music.  And the band do fine versions of them; the former is turned into a heavy, sludge thing before the funky part kicks in.  I wish J.G. “Clint Ruin Feotus” Thirlwell sang in his old sleazy style, not his new, high pitch, melodic style but oh well.  And, in the latter, Jello Biafra, with his unmistakable vibrato, helps maintain the original’s creepy vibe when telling the tale of a man’s love affair with a blowup doll.  The only problem is that, since most of the songs are relatively short, placing an 11 minute song and a 9 minute song at track five and track ten respectively tend to slow up the album’s otherwise brisk pace.

Someone might want me to mention that Blondie drummer Clem Burke, former Melvins and Cows bassist Kevin Rutmanis, Tweak Bird guitarist/singer Caleb Benjamin and longtime Melvins producer Toshi Kasai also appear on the album.  They do.

Mudhoney – Vanishing Point


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I know I’m late to the party on this one since the latest Mudhoney album Vanishing Point has already been out for two months.  But I guess I just wanted to rant about how good the new album is.  I listened to it on repeat on my two hour car ride back from Grand Rapids and I must say it’s their best album in fifteen years (not counting their absolutely fantastic best of/rarities double disc set March to Fuzz).  Now that is actually saying something.  I gotta confess that I’m a fan.  In Our Band Could Be Your Life writer Michael Azerrad claims that Mudhoney topped out early in their career with “Touch Me, I’m Sick” and henceforth just did the same thing over and over just not as good as the first time.

Well, he’s got that almost correct.  Add Mudhoney to the Motorhead/Ramones/AC/DC camp; bands who know one or two tricks but do them so well, they should never, ever think outside the box.  It’s a good box after all.  My friend told me that Vanishing Point sounds like it could  have been released 20 years ago.  Great!  I’m one of the few who thinks they never sucked during the 90s.  However after their breakup/reunion with Guy Maddison in place of original bassist Matt Lukin, I don’t know… I just didn’t like those albums as much.  Maybe I just felt that Since We’ve Become Translucent, Under a Billion Suns and The Lucky Ones were just generic garage rock albums.

But they’re back in fine form!  Little Marky Arm and Steve Turner blast out one great Stooges/Blue Cheer/MC5 riff after another across the album’s ten songs and 34 minute running time.  There is some great guitar interplay and Arm’s lyrics are as spot on and clever as ever.  Arm compares GG Allin to Long John Silver and drops references to Foreigner and Devo songs.  And when the lyrics aren’t clever, they are deliberately stupid and thus very funny.  Probably the best example I can give for this is “What to Do with the Neutral” which contains the lines “embrace the positive/reject the negative/what about the neutral which is neither here nor there/what to do with the neutral is not an easy problem/problem to solve/I will say no to nothing/and yes to something/but I have no idea what that something should be.”  What does that even mean?

But, like usual, Mudhoney tamper their signature style with slightly different approaches and fun little inside jokes for rock fans.  Oh!  And “Chardonnay” is a raging, uptempo punk song!  It sounds like the New Bomb Turks!  Aforementioned “What to Do with the Neutral” seems to be a vocal homage to Iggy – and I mean the solo, singing Iggy not the “I’m a streetwalkin’ cheetah” Iggy.  And I can’t say for sure but on the intro to “I Don’t Remember You”, it seems as though the group “borrowed” the “Under My Wheels” intro.

But it’s those inside references that make me want to shout it out loud and proclaim to the bros in the car next to mine when I tool around this boring Detroit suburb, “fuck you, assholes!  I listen to ROCK, baby!”  And that’s what this and all of Mudhoney’s albums are!  They’re rock!  Not  punk, grunge or “alternative” (a term which seems to all but died save for those who are completely out of touch)!  I don’t know how to say it without getting redundant!  No new ground is broken, just ten wonderful, catchy as all hell fuzzed out rock tunes!  They’re loud and Mark Arm belts out the lyrics with the same glee and whimsy as when he first shouted “I’m a jerk/I’m a creep!” 25 years ago.  Only now it’s “I’ve got big enough balls/ to admit I like it small”!

Oh okay, I will also mention “Sing This Song of Joy”, a mellower, more somber tune which evokes a similar mood as earlier songs like “Endless Yesterday” from aforementioned Under a Billion Suns, “Thirteenth Floor Opening” from Piece of Cake and “Broken Hands” from Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.  So there you go; different tones.  However the majority of the album is a rollicking, gnarly good time!  And really isn’t that what we all live for?

Black Sabbath – 13


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If any of my loyal readers were wondering why I dropped off the blogosphere, I spent the weekend in Grand Rapids, acting drunk and stupid while attending the performances of Kylesa, Torche and Baroness, who just happened to all be in town on three successive nights.  Now I’m back and have the next week off work so expect to see lots of new posts; band profiles and reviews, reviews, reviews!!!  Old, shitty movies, new lousy records – although I’m being facetious on both fronts let me tell you about the mediocre new Black Sabbath album.

But before I get to that let me tell you about Blood Ceremony, who opened for Kylesa.  They sounded like Sabbath but with a flute playing front-woman who dressed in typical, Satanic cult garb.  It seemed like the only things she sang about were Satanism and witchcraft.  Which, leads me to my next point.  Where does Sabbath stand in 2013 among all of these stoner, doom and sludge metal bands?

Look, it doesn’t take a rockologist to know that these reunions are a pile of bullshit.  The first Black Sabbath album was released in 1970.  The world was a different place; nobody had heard anything quite like that first album.  In fact I was chatting with the gentleman at the Corner Record Shop and he told me that it really stood apart from Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin.  People really believed that Ozzy Osbourne, Toni Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were card carrying occultists who drank goat blood and worshiped at the altar.  Or maybe that’s how they were perceived in conservative old Grand Rapids.

But back to this reunion thing.  Bands have a right to make money off their legacy however they should limit it to a tour and then kill it.  Why try to recreate the past?  And, for that matter, it’s not even a full reunion!  I was disappointed when I read that Ward wouldn’t be participating.  He plays in an atypical jazzy style where he struggles to stay in standard 4/4 time.  Brad Wilk, on the other hand, is just a rock drummer.  They could have gotten anybody and it wouldn’t have mattered.

But the bottom line is that Black Sabbath attempt to recreate the sound and vibe of their first four albums to a fault.  It seems as though the group surveyed their early catalog and found specific songs to replicate.  While most don’t go exactly by the numbers, opening track “The End of the Beginning” and third song “Loner” are musical sequels to “Black Sabbath” and “Planet Caravan.”  The former follows the structure of “Black Sabbath” to a t.  It starts with slow, doomy, heavy chords.  Then said melody is played on the root notes.  Then the song builds up and the headbanging part comes in with the only departure being that the song doesn’t end but detours into another part.  But it also starts the album with a question.  The opening line in “Black Sabbath” is “what is this that stands before me?”  The opening line in “The End of the Beginning” is “is this the end or the beginning?”  Yeah.

“Loner”, on the other hand, is “Planet Caravan” style acoustic, hippie, bongo drum music and attempts to combine the lyrical themes of both “Planet Caravan” and another Sabbath softy called “Solitude.”  Ozzy even sings through that weird, quivering bong water effect from the original “Caravan.”  Yikes.

But elsewhere you’ve just got a lot of slow, heavy, down-tuned songs, the very type you’ve heard countless times on Sabbath albums and by countless other bands.  Yes, Ozzy has a unique voice, Iommi plays occasionally solid riffs and Butler moves his fingers all over the neck of his bass to created that whirling sound.  So I’ll give them that.  There are parts of 13 which are solid and heavy.  But so what?  A few of these songs are just way too long!  Why does “God Is Dead?” have to go on for nine minutes when all they do is repeat the same parts over and over?  Also, two songs – forgot which – have stupid “funky” parts, sorta like you’d find on a Rage Against The Machine record, in other words, not good!  Furthermore Ozzy really hams it up and, sadly, sounds a little stupid when he’s deliberately singing every song very slowly decades after performing on the much more uptempo material of his solo career.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is that the lyrics are really dumb, combining a melodramatic delivery, stupid cliches and bad rhyme schemes often at the same time!  The most egregious example I can think of at the top of my head is this line from “God Is Dead?”, which goes “Out of the gloom I rise up from my tomb into impending doom.”  That’s pretty terrible, isn’t it?  They’re mostly like that!  And this is 2013!  We forgave Sabbath for the clunky lyrics and overly earnest approach on songs like “War Pigs”, “Iron Man”, “Electric Funeral” and “Sweet Leaf” because they were young guys thinking that they were making serious statements!  But now that younger bands like Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats are singing cult, Satanic and witchcraft themed songs in a fun way, Sabbath’s philosophical musings on God, Satan, death and the apocalypse make them seem like old, out of touch, buffoons.

Chrome – Half Machine from the Sun: The Lost Tracks from ’79 – ’80


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When Helios Creed announced on his Facebook page that he was compiling tracks for a new Chrome release, containing “lost” material from the Half Machine Lip Moves and Red Exposure eras, I was pretty stoked.  So don’t expect the most objective review of the new Chrome release.  I’m a pretty big fan of Chrome and Helios Creed so, as long as he keeps doing what he does, chances are pretty good I’ll be satisfied with it.

What is it that he does you ask?  Acid/space guitar wiz Helios Creed joined Damon Edge in Chrome after the release of the first Chrome album, The Visitation, in 1977.  He played on the group’s next five albums – all considered classics by fans – before starting a solo career under which he released a whole lot more albums.  Damon Edge also released a bunch of albums under the Chrome name, but unlike Helios Creed’s, they apparently weren’t very good (DON’T SAY IT!  I HAVEN’T HEARD ANY POST CREED CHROME ALBUMS!!!)  Then, in 1995, Damon Edge passed away and Helios Creed decided to keep Chrome alive and began releasing albums as Chrome AND Helios Creed.  Personally I think Helios Creed and latter day Chrome albums are pretty much interchangeable.  But I have a feeling Helios Creed would disagree with that.

Half Machine from the Sun is a 73 minute long collection of  18 unreleased songs/pieces/compositions from 1979 and 1980.  I’m listening to a download so I can’t give any further insight – at least until the double LP comes in the mail – so all I’m gonna do is tell you what I think of these tunes.  As expected from an outtakes collection, you’re likely to have a few great songs, a few okay tunes and some incomplete sketches.

First let’s discuss the good stuff.  Actually there are quite a few so I’m going to try to keep from describing each one individually.  “Anything”, “Salt”, “Tomorrow Yesterday”, “Sound and Light”, “Fuckishima (Nagasiki)” and “Something Rhythmic (I Can’t Wait)” are typical of what to expect from Chrome.  Each song has a basic three chord riff which is played through tons of effects pedals combined with random noises – some which provide a hook! – and processed vocals. Most of the tunes rock along to a driving mid to slightly above mid tempo.  “Fukishima (Nagasaki)” is an example of the latter, a punk rock song with rewind noise and incomprehensible distorted voices for vocals, and “Something Rhythmic (I Can’t Wait)” has a pop hook.  Although it’s catchy it seems to go on too long since it only has a verse and a chorus.  Actually most Chrome/Helios Creed songs are pretty simple composition with one or two parts that seem to just keep repeating over and over.  The stronger the riff/hook, the more you want to hear it driven into the ground.  This applies to “The Inevitable”, a slow and sludgy song which is very catchy yet sounds more like a Helios Creed song than a Chrome song and “Ghost” which is also sludgy and sounds like a Helios Creed song but not as good.

Other songs I’m going to describe: “Charlies Little Problem”, has no guitar, just piano, tribal percussion and a trash can lid being hit over and over.  “Autobahn Brazil” has a sexy Latin beat, samples and spacey noises; it kind of sounds like a Hawkwind slow jam.  “Moog Piece”, as the title implies, is just a jam on moog synths; they create some neat sounds but it’s still far from being a complete song.  “Sunset” has a pretty bass melody, some noises and above all an atypical, non 4/4 beat.  Maybe it’s 5/4, I dunno!  “Looking for your Door” has a dance beat!  It sounds like Public Image Ltd. in outer space!  I can’t say for sure but it seems that Edge and Creed just might have been listening to Metal Box prior to making this song.  I mean, just the beat sounds like it comes from a PiL song!  “The Rain” sounds like new wavey/goth pop, perhaps something like Wire would have done.  It’s a bit too long at 6 minutes but it’s fun and neat hearing Helios Creed sing actual lyrics that I can understand!

Half Machine form the Sun has 11 or 12 good to great songs and a few neat experiments on it but the entire thing is an entertaining listen straight through.  If a song isn’t spot on, at least there are weird noises to listen to.  Ultimately, even if you’ve never heard Chrome before, you might still want to give this album a listen; it’s a win for the fans but not a bad introduction either.