Monday, August 31, 2009

Hell, Thy Name Is Amtrak

Well, maybe not quite hell, but at least purgatory.

Today I traveled from Charlottesville, VA to New York City via Amtrak. The journey was scheduled to start at 7:20am and end at 2:06pm. The good news is that it left one minute early and got in ahead of time at 1:20pm. But, that is about it for the good news. I would have sacrificed the early arrival time to have avoided what was a journey that became a study in why people, for lack of a better term, suck.

Here's what happened:
  • Upon boarding the train, we were greeted with the sweet siren song of a wailing baby. And I mean wailing. Listen, I get it...babies cry. It's what they do and we all did it when we were babies. But when you have been up since 5:30am and are boarding a train before 7:30am, the last thing you want to hear is banshee wails piercing your ears. Don't pretend like a crying baby on a plane, train or bus hasn't made you wince before.
  • Accompanying and outlasting the crying baby (I didn't notice what stop the baby got off the train as I had my trusty iPod on), was a crying, whining, yelling little dude of about 5 or 6. He hit his peak at an extended layover in DC while the train switched engines. I have no clue what exactly was transpiring, but all I and everyone else on the train was hearing ad nauseam was "But, I want to watch a video!", "That was my seat!" "I can't see the video!" and variations on those themes. The mother, god bless her, was trying the 'speak calmly and try to rationalize' approach....and it was failing miserably. Even the kid's (I'm assuming) brother and sister chimed in to try and calm him down, but to no avail. Finally, the guy behind us bellowed "WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE SHUT THAT KID UP!!!!" Inappropriate? Absolutely. But he certainly was expressing other passengers sentiment...he just should not have gone about it that way. What followed was some back and forth yelling between him and the mother and the other adult woman that was with her. The mother did get up and talk to the man in a calm manner and expressed that she was trying to quiet the kid and that she felt the man's yelling was rude. He more or less was shut up at this point and I hope it was because he was a little embarrassed with himself. Who knows though. Either way, the kid kept at it with the whining for at least another 45 minutes before something happened (I'm not sure exactly what) that shut him up. I'm not a parent, so I'm really in no position to criticize, but that mother might want to rethink her technique when her son is having an outburst in a public place.
  • The train rolled on until it hit Trenton, NJ. As we pulled out of Trenton, two elderly women started screaming at the conductor that they had missed their stop and he was to blame. I didn't catch all the dialogue, but from what I gathered, there had been an announcement that only certain doors would open at Trenton and anyone deboarding should make their way to a door with a conductor present. Apparently, these ladies interpreted this as wait at whatever door is most convenient for you and a conductor will come let you out. You want to believe people aren't that stupid, but they are. Anyway, they were yelling and screaming that the train needed to be turned around immediately and that they were deceived by the conductor and it was basically anyone's fault, but their own that they missed their stop. Mercifully, the train was not turned around and something was done to accommodate them.
  • Another, and probably the worst, nuisance was the toilet. Public toilets in 99% of cases are an unpleasant experience, but on trains they are all the more tough because you are getting tossed around due to the high speed you are moving at (it is the one time that, for a man, being able to pee standing up puts you at a severe disadvantage in terms of relieving oneself easily). These toilets were in particularly bad shape....the locks didn't work, there were puddles all over the floors (which I kept telling myself was just water), used paper towels strewn everywhere and of course a horrendous odor. I don't need to elaborate more....we all hate public toilets and one that is moving multiple miles per hour in a shaky train car is all the worse.
  • The cherry on the sundae was arriving in NYC and having the doors get jammed for 5 minutes and the conductors having to come around and open them manually.
The majority of things that happened on this trip Amtrak can't be held responsible for because they can't be accountable for the behavior/stupidity of who they sell tickets to (although wouldn't it be awesome if they could be?). To be fair, the only thing Amtrak can be held accountable for was the doors getting jammed upon arrival at Penn Station. You could argue that they are responsible for the bathrooms being clean, but with that many people on the train being inconsiderate slobs, I think it is fair to put it back on the passengers.

There is an old saying that the best way to see the country is by train. I'd say take a car.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

2009's (Possible) Best Yet To Come

2009 has been a fairly solid year thus far in terms of new music releases and there is still four months to go. Some upcoming releases I am excited about in no particular order (well, maybe in a particular order):

Skeletonwitch - Breathing The Fire 10/13/09

Do you ever have a gut feeling that a band's new album is just going to be amazing? I have that feeling about the new Skeletonwitch.

Skeletonwitch's debut album Beyond The Permafrost was a blackened thrash metal tour de force that I very much enjoyed. My love for the band was cemented after seeing them perform live at the Scion Fest in Atlanta this past February and I've been chomping at the bit for new material since. I've already pre-ordered my copy of their upcoming album, Breathing The Fire, direct from Prosthetic Records and opted to get one of the package deals which includes a t-shirt and a CD.

Baroness - The Blue Album 10/13/09

Baroness' debut album The Red Album earned a lot of critical praise and that praise was certainly well deserved. Taking a more melodic approach to similar sonic terrains explored by fellow GA band Mastodon, Baroness have a sound that can appeal equally to fans of High On Fire and Explosions In The Sky. As with Skeletonwitch, I've already pre-ordered my copy of The Blue Album direct from the band's label, Relapse Records. And once again, I couldn't pass up the package deal of a t-shirt and cd.

Drive-By Truckers - The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities and Rarities 2003 – 2008) 09/01/09

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about how much I love the Drive-By Truckers, so my excitement for this release pretty much doesn't need to be stated. That being said, what makes this release so exciting is that 7 of the 12 tracks come from The Dirty South era which is when the band was creating some of its best work. It also means unreleased tracks with Jason Isbell on vocals which is a real treat for the DBT faithful. Tom Petty and Bob Dylan covers are also included.

Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue 09/29/09

After the passing of Layne Staley, myself and most others assumed that Alice In Chains passed away with him. His voice was so unique and so essential to their sound, that it simply did not seem like it would be fair to the band's legacy to soldier on under the name Alice In Chains with a new vocalist. But after a long hiatus, that is exactly what the remaining members are going to do with new lead vocalist William DuVall. I was extremely skeptical, but I've heard two tracks from the album and think they are both fantastic. While I'm still skeptical, my skepticism is now mixed in with a healthy amount of optimism that AIC has made not only a good record, but a fitting tribute to the memory of Layne Staley.

Converge - Axe To Fall 10/20/09

Converge has released three stellar albums in a row including and starting with the legendary (in extreme music circles) Jane Doe. While most consider that to be their OK Computer (ie. they'll never top it), they've certainly come close with the last two releases, You Fail Me and No Heroes. By all accounts, Axe To Fall continues in this tradition and only time will tell if this is the album is the one that can top Jane Doe. Members of Cave In and Genghis Tron (sonic brethren to Converge and great bands in their own right) make guest appearances on the album as do a host of others. Also, the band is headed out on tour with Mastodon, Dethklok and High On Fire this Fall which should be a pretty damn good show.

A.F.I - Crash Love 09/29/09

I don't know much about this release except that it is a new A.F.I. album and I like A.F.I. a lot, so I'm psyched to hear it. I think there is some sort of complicated ritual happening on Twitter that allows you to get links to new songs, but I have no interest in following anything or anyone on Twitter (except maybe Michael Ian Black).

Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg 10/20/09

Wolfmother's self-titled debut was a monster of a rock record that three years later I still can't get enough of. The Aussie band seemed poised for rock n roll greatness, but then fell off the radar. So where did they go? The drummer and bassist/keyboardist quit the band over personal and musical differences and the guitarist/singer vowed to carry on without them. He has recruited replacements and an additional guitarist and they are getting to ready to drop (or lay a) Cosmic Egg on the world. They have a lot to live up to after such a highly regarded debut, so hopefully they won't wind up with egg on their face (see what I did there? Man, I crack myself up.). A friend of mine has already heard the album in its entirety and swears that it is amazing, but this same guy hates Journey with a passion, so I'm just not sure that he can be trusted. Here's hoping he is right!

Russian Circles - Geneva 10/20/09

Russian Circles are right up there with Pelican and Explosions In The Sky in terms of kick ass instrumental bands. Their first two albums, Enter and Station, are so engaging that you don't even notice there are no vocals. I saw the band play live at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ earlier this year and they are a stellar live band too. Talked to them a little bit after the show and they are cool dudes to boot. Not much else to say here except that if post-rock instrumental stuff with a metal tinge to it sounds like it is up your alley, then this is your band.

Revocation - Existence Is Futile 09/29/09

After seeing a post about Revocation on MetalSucks, I clicked through to their Myspace page to hear some tracks and was instantly blown away. What you have here is band who goes for a metal smorgasbord with their sound. They go from tech-y death metal to thrash to groove metal ala Pantera in a completely seamless manner. The guitar solos I heard were blazing. And they are a trio which makes the sound they are pulling off all the more impressive. Another selling point for the band, for me at least, is the fact that they are signed to Relapse who, as I mentioned in an earlier post about their labelmates Howl, has superb A&R taste when it comes to signing extreme metal bands. As with Baroness, you can pre-order the album with a t-shirt from Relapse's webstore if you are so inclined.

Lucero - 1372 Overton Park 10/06/09

If anyone has gotten the fusion of indie rock and country music right, then it is this band. Lucero first came to my attention a few years back when I was out on the road with the North Mississippi Allstars for a week as they toured through Colorado. The Allstars' drummer, Cody Dickinson, had produced Lucero's first two releases and he and the other guys assured me that I was going to be blown away by them. I can't remember exactly which guy in the band said it, but one of them described Lucero as "an emo Jay Farrar". Well, I was blown away and promptly marched right over to their merch booth after the set and purchased their album. In 2003, Lucero released That Much Further West and it quickly became an all-time favorite album of mine. Nobody's Darlings would follow in 2005 and was another gem of a record (and was produced by Cody's father, the late, great Jim Dickinson). 2006's Rebels, Rogues & Sworn Brothers did not excite me as much as it's predecessors, but it is in no way whatsoever a bad just found the band's sound evolving. I pre-ordered the latest album 1372 Overton Park from the band's webstore (once again getting a package deal, but this time with a zipper front hoodie instead of a t-shirt) and received 6 of the 12 tracks on the album as instant downloads. Ben Nichol's voice sounds more whiskey-soaked and cigarette stained than ever before and the band's sound continues to evolve. I won't lie and say I loved it right away because I didn't, but I do have a gut feeling that this will be an album that grows on me after a few listens (not unlike The Dead Weather record which I HATED on first listen, but have grown to love).

Ok, here are some other albums that I am equally excited about, but just too lazy to do more involved write-ups for (in order of release date):

Black AnvilTime Insults The Mind 9/1
Weekend NachosUnforgivable 9/1
MegadethEndgame 9/15
Shadows Fall Retribution 9/15
The Big PinkA Brief History Of Love 9/22
Between The Buried And MeThe Great Misdirect 10/27
PelicanWhat We All Come To Need 10/27

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rockin' Out: Nine Inch Nails @ Terminal 5 08/25/09

Another terrible Blackberry camera picture, another awesome show. No real need for a detailed explanation about why this was an amazing show because it is Nine Inch Nails who are always incredible live and this was (supposedly) one of their final live shows ever, so everyone in attendance presumably felt pretty lucky to have acquired a ticket (holy run-on sentence...don't tell any of my high school English teachers). This was the third of four performances in NYC and the first of two nights at Terminal 5 (the first and second shows were at Bowery Ballroom and Webster Hall respectively). I will admit that I do not know any of the NIN albums past The Downward Spiral in and out like some other fans do, so I wasn't familiar with every single song they played (the Webster Hall show where they played The Downward Spiral in it's entirety would have been more ideal for me). That being said, I've never really met a NIN's song I didn't like, so a lack of knowledge of less well known cuts from latter albums didn't ruin my fun. I was psyched that they played their collaboration with David Bowie, "I'm Afraid Of Americans", and crowd favorites like "Terrible Lie", "Wish", "March Of The Pigs", "Head Like A Hole", "The Hand That Feeds" and of course "Hurt". Peter Murphy of Bauhaus fame joined the band on stage for "Reptile" as well as Bauhaus ("Kick In The Eye") and Joy Division ("Dead Souls") covers. I was in the bathroom when Trent announced who Peter Murphy was and not being familiar with Bauhaus, I really had no idea what was going on. My friends who love their goth seemed to be over the moon about his appearance though. I do own a copy of their album Mask that I listened to once years ago. I now have it sitting next to my stereo, so that I can give it a listen and see what all the fuss is about. Anyway, I'm really glad I was able to see one of Nine Inch Nails last (supposedly....anyone else skeptical?) live performances. Definitely one for the ages.

You can check out the full setlist for the show here. A friend of mine also taped some decent quality footage of multipe songs from not only this show, but from the Webster Hall show as well which you can check out here. Apparently, all the shows on this tour have been or are going to be professionally filmed and recorded, so some sort of album/DVD/digital download release(s) is most likely coming down the road. And it of course will totally be worth owning.

Side note: My Blackberry camera rarely cooperates with me, but every once in a while it will take a quality and/or funky looking picture. Case in point from last night:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ear Candy: Drive-By Truckers

A few years ago I was working for a small sales and marketing company that worked exclusively with record labels. One of the labels we had the pleasure of working with was New West Records. I hadn't been aware of the label before we started working with them, but the albums we were working were all pretty good or if the music wasn't necessarily my cup of tea, then at least it was a well respected artist.

One day a record came across my desk by a band called the Drive-By Truckers. It was called Decoration Day and little did I know that after just a few listens it would become one of my favorite albums of all time. The folks at the label were of course declaring that it was the greatest thing since sliced bread because that is part of the job description of working for a record enthusiastic about your artists. I have to admit that their enthusiasm did seem truly genuine and I was expecting to at least hear something new to my ears. I took the album home one weekend, popped it in my CD player and wound up listening to it 3 or 4 times in one day. I was blown away. It was like Neil Young, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Lucero had all gotten together and created a genius rock album. Then I really started paying attention to the lyrics and my love for the album increased ten fold. These guys weren't just singing songs, they were telling a story and painting a picture. And these were not happy stories at all, but more about the darker side of the human experience. Death, self-destruction, betrayal, lust....any sin you can think of is probably covered here. That being said, you never get a sense of hopelessness in the lyrics as a lot of it feels more like cautionary tales. The band's Southern roots are also a huge part of the lyrical experience. Another aspect of the album that really kept me entertained is the fact that they have three vocalists/songwriters contributing songs here. Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are the mainstays in DBT and this album saw the introduction of a younger fellow named Jason Isbell who sounds wise beyond his years (both in his voice and in his lyrics). Each singer has a unique voice and unique lyrical style, so the album has enough diversity to keep you on your toes while retaining a somewhat unified theme. Personal favorite tracks include "My Sweet Annette", "Hell No, I Ain't Happy", "Decoration Day", "Outfit" and "Heathens", but there are no throw aways on this album.

The next album DBT released was entitled The Dirty South. I was really excited to hear this album, but had tremendous doubts that it would be able to stand tall with the skyscraper that was Decoration Day. Well, this is one of those times when I love being proved wrong. The album more than measured up to it's predecessor and is pretty much in a tie for first place as the band's best album. The same formulas and themes that were present on Decoration Day are continued here, but Isbell feels like a more cemented presence in the band thus making the performances all the better. Favorite tracks on this one include "Where The Devil Don't Stay", "Danko/Manuel", "Puttin' People On The Moon", "Carl Perkins Cadillac" and "Goddamn Lonely Love", but again, there are absolutely no throw aways here.

Decoration Day and The Dirty South are only two of DBT's seven studio albums. All of their releases are fantastic, but anyone curious about the band should start with these two. Jason Isbell would leave the band after his third album with DBT and has two fantastic solo albums out (Sirens Of The Ditch and Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit) that are worth exploring. Patterson Hood also has two solo albums (Killers And Stars and Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)) that are worth investigating once you are more familiar with the DBT catalog. Here is a list of the band's other albums in the order I think you should check them out:

Decoration Day / The Dirty South
Southern Rock Opera (A double disc album about Lynyrd Skynyrd...AMAZING stuff)
A Blessing And A Curse (Jason Isbell's third and final(?) album with DBT)
Brighter Than Creation's Dark (The first album after Isbell's departure and the debut of Isbell's ex-wife Shonna Tucker as the third vocalist - she had been playing bass with the band since The Dirty South)
Pizza Deliverance

They also have a live CD/DVD available and a rarities and outtakes album coming out soon.

"Never Gonna Change" from The Dirty South:

"Where The Devil Don't Stay" from The Dirty South:

"My Sweet Annette from" Decoration Day:

Monday, August 24, 2009

Excuse To Eat Popcorn and Junior Mints: District 9

One of the fringe benefits of being unemployed is having the option to go see a movie in the middle of a day on a weekday. Today was such a day for me and I opted to check out District 9. I originally heard about this movie when I started seeing marketing posters such as the one to the left on the sides of Manhattan bus stops. I never went so far as to look at the website, but the movie was definitely on my radar. Since the movie appeared in theaters, I had been seeing favorable mentions of it in friend's Facebook updates and decided to give it a whirl.

How was it? On the surface it may appear to be just another alien movie, but this focused more on social commentary while still mixing in the requisite alien weapons, spaceships and the what not. The social commentary was mainly about apartheid and segregation (the movie is quite non-coincidentally set in South Africa), but there was also stuff in there about what happens when powerful, wealthy private military contractors/corporations are given too much power as well as humans constant craving for more powerful and deadlier weapons. The film seems to be geared towards getting the audience to think about these issues and I feel it achieved that goal without being preachy.

Quick plot summary: An alien spaceship gets stranded over Johannesburg. With no way to get home, the aliens wind up stuck on Earth and eventually are forced into a shanty town by the government. The main character, Wikus, works for a military contractor named MNU who controls this camp. With tensions between the aliens and humans mounting, MNU decides to move all the aliens to a new, more remote location. One day while he is serving eviction notices to the Prauns (the derogatory name used to refer to the aliens) in the slum, he is exposed to a substance that fuses alien DNA with his own DNA and he starts turning into one. After that, he is on the run to try and find a cure while the military contractors hunt him down, so that they can harvest his organs and blood. Why do they want him so badly? The aliens advance weaponry can only be activated when an alien uses it, so they want to figure out a way to harvest the DNA and give humans the capability to fire the weapons. Wikus becomes tied up with an alien who can cure him, but he wants Wikus' help in getting the alien mothership activated again, so that he and his people can go home. Vicious Nigerian gangs get involved along the way adding yet another element of danger to Wikus' journey.

The pace is fast and the film doesn't have any slow parts where they over explain some part of the story line. They did leave room for a sequel, but hopefully they will just leave it be because the ending was satisfactory.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rockin' Out: Bouncing Souls @ Webster Hall 08/20/09

Terrible Blackberry camera shot, but a great show. The Bouncing Souls played the first of two nights at Webster Hall last night with openers None More Black and Lifetime. I missed both openers by opting to eat dinner and grab some drinks beforehand, but was OK with that decision. I love the None More Black album "This Is Satire", but I figure they'll be back and I can catch them then. Lifetime I had already seen once before (coincidentally opening for The Bouncing Souls at Webster Hall) and wasn't fired up enough about that performance to have a strong desire to see them again.

Webster Hall is apparently attempting to save money on their ConEd bill because it was hotter than Hades inside....the air literally felt like it could be cut with a knife. Then again, sweating and punk rock shows pretty much go hand in hand, so everyone seemed to be dealing with it. I've lost track of how many times I've seen The Bouncing Souls live, but none of those times was a disappointment. They can always be counted on to put on a great show with plenty of crowd favorites and lots of sing alongs. My personal favorites from last night were "Old School", "Quick Chek Girl", "The Gold Song" and "The Ballad Of Johnny X", but the whole set was solid. The guy crowd surfing in his wheelchair multiple times was also pretty cool to see. This was my girlfriend's first punk rock show and seeing her point at the stage and yell "Oh my God, there are people jumping off the stage!" with a spark in her eye and a huge smile on her face was pretty great. It's nice to see something again for the first time through someone else's eyes.

In closing, The Bouncing Souls delivered the goods as usual and I know all my friends seeing them tonight will not be disappointed. Hopefully they won't go out afterward and drink too much beer like I did, but they probably will.

More On Them Crooked Vultures

Two different videos of Them Crooked Vultures performing their song "Dead End Friends" have popped up on YouTube. The first one, shot at an Amsterdam gig, has better shots of the band playing, but the sound recording is a bit too loud to really appreciate the song. The second video, shot at a Belgium gig, is filmed further away from the stage, but the song is much more audible. First impression of the song is that it sounds like a Queens of the Stone Age tune, which is not a bad thing at all. That being said, I'm curious to hear if their other songs have a sound that is more unique to Them Crooked Vultures as a new band rather than the guys main bands. If it just sounds like QOTSA with different members, then that would be a bit disappointing considering the talent (playing and songwriting) of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones.

Check out the videos below:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is it 2009 or 1993?

This morning I bought a ticket to see Sonic Youth with Dinosaur Jr. opening on November 21st at Terminal 5 in NYC. Just a few days later I will be seeing the Pixies at Hammerstein Ballroom on two consecutive nights. Seriously, what year is this? I'm really excited for these shows, but this would have been a dream week for me back in the early to mid-90's.

The Pixies are definitely just doing the reunion thing and cashing in, but since they put on such amazing live performances no one can really complain. Sonic Youth and the relatively recently reunited Dinosaur Jr. on the other hand are still making great music and I definitely recommend both of their latest releases, The Eternal and Farm respectively. This will be my third Dinosaur Jr. show (fourth if you count the time I saw J. Mascis billed as himself). The first time was back in college around 94/95 when I saw them at The Trocadero in Philly with KYUSS opening. Yup, KYUSS. Still can't believe I was lucky enough to see Kyuss play live and it ranks as one of my favorite shows ever. I saw Dinosaur Jr. again recently at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and J. Mascis is still one of the loudest guitar players on the planet and the show was great. This will be my second Sonic Youth show as I am seeing them for the first time at the Austin City Limits Festival in October.

Now if only Billy Corgan would stop being such a douche and get the ORIGINAL line-up of Smashing Pumpkins back together....

Check out "Sacred Trickster" from Sonic Youth's new album "The Eternal":

and "Over It" from Dinosaur Jr.'s new album "Farm":

Parlez vous Francais?

The phrase "French black metal" isn't used to describe much music (at least not that I'm aware of), but if bands like Celeste are the embodiment of that description, then I'm all for it.

Last night I stayed up late watching Airheads on HBO (a thoroughly awesome movie that any self-respecting metalhead must see). I was curious about the track listing for the soundtrack, so I got on my laptop to check it out and wound up surfing the web for a bit. I realized I hadn't done my daily reading of MetalSucks yet, so I headed to their site and came across a post about Celeste. Axl at MetalSucks was very enthused about the band's music and pointed out that there is no excuse to not check out the band's latest album "Misanthrope(s)" because it is available as a FREE DOWNLOAD.

I listened to the album last night and again this morning and have to say that it is pretty fantastic. When it comes to black metal, I only listen to a handful of bands like Emperor, Immortal, Wolves In The Throne Room, Mayhem and a few others because I find a lot of the bands to be a bit too silly for my personal liking. Celeste however definitely has chops and the music balances the melody (using that term loosely) and brutality just right so as to avoid bludgeoning you over the head too much. I have no idea what they are singing about because a) it is black metal and black metal vocalists are always indecipherable and b) I'm assuming it is being sung in French because the song titles are in French. I did put the song titles into my trusty Mac desktop translator and while a little is lost in the translation, it is safe to say they aren't singing about baguettes, wine and the Louvre. Sample translation: "... Anesthesia Your Members In An Orgy of Enthusiasm". Um, ok. Probably best that we have no idea what they are saying and concentrate on the music anyway.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ear Candy: Them Crooked Vultures

I admit to only having heard around 9o (non-consecutive) seconds of Them Crooked Vultures' music, but I just can't believe that a band consisting of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Probot), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) is not going to be at least pretty good. I'm guessing even seasoned rockers (and future Rock Gods) Grohl and Homme are feeling pretty starstruck jamming with JPJ, but I also bet his presence is helping them elevate their playing to incredible new levels. I can't wait to hear Grohl's drumming on this record as you know he is probably going for a total John Bonham-esque performance. If it is anything like what he did on QOTSA's "Songs For The Deaf", then we are in for a treat.

Check out the brief video below with some very cool sounding riffage playing over a montage of clips of the band recording/hanging in the studio.

Ipecac (The Record Label, Not The Vomit Inducer...or maybe there is no difference?)

I came across an interesting article on Mike Patton's (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom, etc.) label, Ipecac, the other day. It has some cool info on upcoming releases through the label including various Mike Patton projects, a re-issue of Queens of the Stone Age's debut with some bonus unreleased tracks (sweet!) and a Desert Sessions box set. Check out the article and/or enjoy the below videos from Patton and Queens of the Stone Age.

Mike Patton performing with an orchestra (I could be way off, but I believe he is singing in Italian):

Queens of the Stone Age performing "Avon" from their debut with Dave Grohl on drums at Glastonbury (Grohl's mini drum solo towards the end is killer):

Ear Candy Classic: Skid Row "Slave To The Grind"

The other day, my friend's Facebook status was the lyrics to Skid Row's monster hit "I Remember You" and the song instantly got stuck in my head. While their self-titled debut was a great album, their second album "Slave To The Grind" was a more balls out, hard rockin' affair that holds the distinct honor of being the first metal album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts in the Soundscan era. If memory serves, then I recall the band claiming in the press that record label execs forced them to have a softer edge on their debut album, but after the huge sales of that album they were allowed more artistic freedom for the follow-up and hence went with the heavier sound and more mature lyrics that they had desired to be playing all along. The band further drove this point home by taking Pantera out as openers on their headlining tour (which I unfortunately and shamefully was not able to attend). The record is solid from start to finish with no throw away tracks, but the singles that were released were definitely some of the better songs on the album. Check out some videos below and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Still Read Magazines?

I have a lot of friends who aren't music geeks like me and they are always asking "How do you find new music?". I usually tell them that I find new music by reading music related websites, getting recommendations from my other music geek friends, going to shows, listening to free samplers when I find them (physical and online) and picking up the occasional music rag. I gave up on the Spin's and Rolling Stone's of the world as reliable sources a long, long time ago, but I certainly don't think the print medium is obsolete as a tool for discovering new music. The choices have thinned dramatically as magazines cease publication due to the ailing economy and advertising budgets moving away from print and to online, but, as is always the case, quality products will survive because content is king (right?). Case in point, Decibel Magazine.

Music magazines had been a big part of my discovering new music in my teenage and collegiate years, but a lot of titles I liked had disappeared, sunk in editorial quality or I had simply outgrown them. In terms of metal magazines: I hadn't been a big fan of Metal Maniacs layout for years (although I am happy that they are relaunching their website after the death of the print version). I did have a subscription to Revolver for a while, but let it run out as I found myself reading less and less of every issue because I was not digging the large majority of the bands they were covering. [The wisdom of this decision was solidified about two weeks ago when I was in a Border's in the Seattle airport and saw that Revolver's latest issue had Suicide Silence on the cover. To be fair, I've never actually listened to a full Suicide Silence album, but they just scream "shitty Hot Topic metal-core" with their image and the few tracks I've heard. But hey, if they act as a gateway drug of sorts to get younger kids into more extreme metal, then god bless.] U.K. mags like Terrorizer, Metal Hammer, Kerrang, etc. are great, but those newsstand copies are expensive over here in the U.S.

Enter Decibel.

Last Christmas, I had a layover in DC's Union Station on my journey home and popped in a bookstore to grab some reading material for the train ride. As I scoured through the music section in the magazine rack, I came across the title to the left. I'm not the world's hugest Cannibal Corpse fan (I certainly don't dislike them though), but the fact that a magazine had their singer on the cover certainly piqued my interest. This particular issue was Decibel's year end issue which included two lists: "The Top 40 Albums of 2008" and "The Most Anticipated Releases of 2009". Being a lover of or at least mildly interested in most music related lists, I decided to pick up the magazine and see what it was all about. While some of the writing was a bit over the top (eg. unnecessary use of SAT words, overuse of adjectives, etc., etc.....if you've ever read a metal magazine, then you know what I'm talking about. That being said, metal music is generally over the top, so no real surprise that the editorial about it is the same), I still found it to be an enjoyable read and led me to eventually pick up albums from Bloodbath, Genghis Tron, Nachtmystium, Withered, Cynic and Bison b.c. among others.

In February of the following year, I flew to Atlanta for the Scion Fest (which had too many awesome bands playing to deal with listing here) and on the plane ride down my buddy pulled out a copy of Decibel and loaned it to me to read on the flight. This issue had the almighty Napalm Death on the cover and much to my pleasure featured yet another list inside, this time for "The Top 30 Grindcore Albums Ever!". Once again, I found it to be a great read and decided that it was time to get a subscription as this magazine was just what I needed to aid in my never ending search for new metal bands to check out.

When I got home from Atlanta, (I should say, "When I FINALLY got home from Atlanta" as we were stuck there for a few extra days due to a snowstorm. Seriously, who the hell expects to get snowed in while visiting Atlanta? Stupid global warming!), I went to my local B&N looking to pick up the Decibel issue with Napalm on the cover, but found that they had already moved on to their latest issue which featured the amazing Brutal Truth on the cover. Certainly not a disappointment, but I had wanted the previous issue for the Grindcore list that had been compiled. Oh well. So, I got home, went online and ordered myself a subscription. Not much longer after that I received an email from their customer service rep, Mark Evans, who thanked me for subscribing and let me know that the latest issue with Brutal Truth on the cover would arrive in my mailbox shortly. I wrote him back and explained that I had actually just purchased that issue and was wondering if it would be possible for him to send me the Napalm Death issue instead. His response was "Sure, man, I'll start you with that issue instead. I'm mailing it out today. Thanks again for your support!" You gotta love it. Two big thumbs up to Decibel for their customer service!

Anyway, I am very much enjoying my monthly issues of Decibel and still finding a wealth of new bands to listen to inside each issue. The magazine is dedicated to quality coverage of the extreme metal scene including album, DVD and concert reviews, in-depth interviews, profiles on up and coming bands and the monthly Decibel Hall of Fame feature which is "{Decibel's} series exploring landmark albums in the the badass pantheon of extreme metal" and has inductees ranging from Rollins Band's "The End Of Silence" and Quicksand's "Slip" to Metallica's "...And Justice For All" and Anthrax's "Among The Living" to Emperor's "In The Nightside Eclipse" and Autopsy's "Mental Funeral". Check them out online or if you are like me and enjoy holding an actual magazine in your hand from time to time, then get a subscription.


Monday, August 17, 2009

How Awesome Does This Party Look?

Unless you are some jaded Hollywood lame ass, there is no way that a party with Pee Wee Herman, Rodney Dangerfield and David Lee Roth in attendance doesn't sound like it would have been a blast (unless of course DLR stole your girl and slept with her in the pool house or you walked into the private screening room while Pee Wee was in there alone). I'm assuming this was taken in the '80s, so I doubt anyone was holding back on the imbibing and the music they were playing must have been stellar.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

R.I.P. Jim Dickinson

Jim Dickinson passed away on August 15, 2009. This story most likely won't be covered by any of the major news outlets like Les Paul's passing was, but he will certainly be mourned just as much by many notable musicians, music professionals and music aficionados. If you are a passionate music fan, then taking the time to find out who Jim Dickinson was is a worthwhile investment of your time.

I won't bore you with a reprint of his bio here, but you will find his recording studio's, Zebra Ranch, site to contain much more exhaustive information about his production and session work then the Wikipedia page (which isn't terribly informative). Instead, I'm just going to share with you some of my personal favorite records/songs that Jim Dickinson produced or played on:

The Rolling Stones "Wild Horses". Jim played piano on arguably the greatest ballad by The Rolling Stones (I have never been able to choose which is better between this song and "Angie").

Bob Dylan "Time Out Of Mind". Jim played keyboards, Wurlitzer electric piano and pump organ on this 1997 Bob Dylan release which I consider to be his best album since '83s "Infidels".

Lucero "Nobody's Darlings". Jim produced this 2005 release by one of the best alt-country/indie/whateverthehellyouwanttocallthegenre bands going.

Mudhoney "Tomorrow Hit Today". Jim produced this oft overlooked 1998 release from Seattle's Mudhoney. Not their best album, but if you are a fan, it is essential for your collection.

The Replacements "Pleased To Meet Me". Jim produced the 1987 release from The Replacements which has memorable songs from their catalog like "Alex Chilton", "Skyway" and "Can't Hardly Wait".

There are a wealth of other artists Jim worked with including Johhny Cash, Big Star, Toots and the Maytalls, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and on and on and on. He is a great example of someone who didn't get the spotlight, but sure as hell was incredibly important.

On a personal note, years ago I worked one of Jim's solo releases, "Free Beer Tomorrow". It didn't light up the charts, hell, I'm pretty sure it didn't even wind up in the stadium parking lot of the charts, but the people I dealt with who were fans of Jim really, really loved him. He played a live show at Lakeside Lounge, a wonderful little dive bar on the Lower East Side, and you could barely get your arms up to drink your beer because it was so packed. Years later I would go to the same bar to see some singer/songwriter that Joe Elliot and Vivian Campbell from Def Leppard (who were in attendance and I believe it was touted that they may jump onstage with him) had discovered and was one of about a dozen people there. Draw your own conclusions...

Jim's legacy will live on not only in his recorded works, but with his two sons, Luther and Cody DIckinson, who play in the North Mississippi Allstars. The NMA's are one of the best live bands I have ever seen and, in my opinion, are unfairly lumped in with the jam band scene. I personally dismissed them at first because I assumed they were just like Widespread Panic, Phish and all that other crap, but then I witnessed a live show and was instantly converted. They are a straight-up blues rock boogie rock n roll machine and well worth your time. "Shake Hands With Shorty" and "51 Phantom" are good starting points, but the live show is absolutely where it's at.

Ear Candy: HOWL

Providence, RI isn't exactly a town one would think of as a breeding ground for extreme metal bands, but then along comes a band like Howl and once again, pre-conceived notions must be dismissed.

After seeing a few mentions of the band Howl in friend's Facebook updates and on a Metal blog or two, I decided to check them out. I hopped on and looked up their release. Yes, I went to Amazon instead of Myspace. First, I have a short attention span and Amazon's 30 second snippets of each song suit me well. (And another one of the reasons that Amazon trumps iTunes is because they have a "Preview All" button that allows you to play all the samples right in a row rather than individually click on a song to hear it....but Amazon vs. iTunes is a whole other rant altogether.) Second, I find Myspace's band pages to be relatively cumbersome and too busy. I just want to hear the music and skip the bells and whistles, but then again I'm basically old and cranky, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, Howl's self-titled three song EP (Relapse Records) sounded pretty cool from the samples I heard and at a cost of $2.97 it struck me as well worth taking a chance on and purchasing. [The fact that they are signed to Relapse, who tend to have fine A&R taste in extreme metal, was also a strong, if not deciding, factor in my decision making process.] I've basically been addicted since and listen to the EP at least two times a day. If you enjoy the likes of Eyehategod, Mastodon, Bison b.c., Tombs, Rwake, Kylesa, Torche, etc., then this will be right up your alley. It is familiar, yet completely fresh sounding at the same time. If this EP is any indication, then the full length should be one monster of a record and quickly put this band on the extreme metal map.

Hear music on their Myspace (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know).

Pick up a digital copy at


A physical copy through Relapse Records mailorder.

Running and Running Into People From Your Past

This past April, I headed to the park by my apartment to go for a run. It was the first real day of Spring, so it was teeming with joggers, sun worshippers, dog walkers and the like. I was walking to the starting point of my run when I noticed a tall, skinny girl walking towards me with a Jack Russell Terrier. She looked pretty cute, but she was wearing a t-shirt that said "G_ F_CK Y_ _RS_LF. Would you like to buy a vowel?". This struck me as a little out of place for the Upper East Side and for lack of a better term, a little white trash. I was fixated on the t-shirt, so was a bit startled when the girl tapped me on the shoulder and started talking. I pulled my earphones out to hear her and caught "Hey! I know you. We went out on a date once and hooked up." I took a longer look at her and then realized that she did indeed look familiar and that I had gone out on one date with her three years ago. After an awkward re-introduction where we had to remind one another of our names, it took me about 30 more seconds to realize why I never went on a second date with her.

What followed was 15 to 20 minutes of her throwing questions (which I had 5 seconds to answer) and thoughts at me that followed no logical sequence. She asked if I was married or had a girlfriend. I said yes, I have a girlfriend. She asked how long we'd been dating. I said, for two months. She said that was nothing and basically dismissed my relationship as non-existent. She then called her dog "Stanley" away from the butt sniffing of another dog. Later, I would come to find out that "Stanley" was a girl dog and she named her that because when she was a little girl her father called her Stanley. Ok. She then informed me that she was going to Pennsylvania that weekend to visit her grandparents who were "both dying." She then explained to me that she was seeing a bunch of guys, but "not doing it with them or anything, unless I want to". She then explained that one guy, whom she happened to have a date with that night, was a married French guy who she flashed her nipple when she was sitting next to him on an airplane because he was "checking [her] out". I asked how she felt about messing around with a married guy and she said "I don't care, I'm single". I once again pointed out that HE WAS MARRIED and she still didn't understand how that was a problem. She then said "So yeah, I was all depressed and shit when we knew each other wasn't I?" which was followed one second later by "Oh, hey check out that garbage boat" which was then followed by her picking up her dog and pretending like she was going to throw her in the river and saying "Oh no, I'm going to throw you in!". Poor Stanley. I was so perplexed, confused and scared that I couldn't even come up with a good excuse to leave even though I wanted to do nothing more than that. She had asked me how old I was three different times and when she asked my name for the third time (why I didn't give a fake name is beyond me), my desire to flee became overwhelming. I said that I really needed to continue my run and she said "But you haven't even started running yet!", which was impressively observant of her. As I was taking my steps backwards to get away from her, she asked if I was Catholic. I said yes, but that I wasn't practicing. She then asked if I ever went to mass and I said no. She then explained that if I ever felt like going to mass, then I could go to her church where she gives mass because she is an ordained minister. Yes, she is an ordained minister and gives a mass every Sunday afternoon. Let that sink in for a moment....

I then wished her luck on her date with the French guy that evening and turned and began my run. I ran for five miles and pretended that she was chasing me the whole time as motivation to keep up a fast pace.

For the record, Stanley was a very nice dog.