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Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Helloween

I was never the biggest fan of German metal band Helloween, but Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part I is a pretty awesome album and the song "I Want Out" from Keeper Of The Seven Keys, Part II is fantastic. So, enjoy this little ditty from Helloween, have a safe and fun Halloween and remember don't eat any candy from strangers and if someone gives you a toothbrush instead of candy while you are out trick or treating, then promptly egg their house.

Chuck Biscuits Rises From The Dead!!!



Well, not really, but it turns out that yesterday's reports of Chuck Biscuits demise were an "elaborate" internet hoax. Chuck seems like an odd choice for such a prank, but it must have been been fun and had meaning for some jack ass out there. Frankly, I don't think anyone is really up in arms about this (except for probably Chuck and his family and close friends), but if you want to look at the glass as half full (which I always do), then at least it reminded us all how awesome those first four Danzig albums are. I cranked Lucifuge yesterday and was flooded with great memories from growing up. So, I'm going to give the other three albums a spin in the near future too because after all, Danzig does kick ass.

"Am I Demon"



"Bodies"



"Snakes Of Christ"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

R.I.P. Chuck Biscuits

One of my favorite bands in high school was Danzig. Most folks of course know the singer and namesake of the band, Glenn Danzig from his time in the Misfits and Samhain and from the breakthrough hit Danzig had with their song "Mother". His vocal style is instantly recognizable (you don't hear too many people that sound like the satanic spawn of Elvis and Jim Morrison), but a huge and defining component of Danzig's (the band) popularity was Glenn's backing band (not unlike how David Lee Roth's early solo material was held up by the playing of Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan and Greg Bissonette). The "classic" line-up that recorded the first four albums (Danzig, Danzig II: Lucifuge, Danzig III: How The Gods Kill, Danzig 4) included Eerie Von on bass, John Christ on guitar and Chuck Biscuits on drums. Chuck was a monster of a drummer and provided an incredible backbone to this (literally and figuratively) muscular band. Chuck also spent time behind the kit for legends like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, D.O.A., Samhain, Social Distortion and (as I was suprised to learn today) even a few tracks by Run D.M.C.(!). Sadly, he passed away this past weekend after battling throat cancer at the age of 44. No matter who you are or what you've done in life, that is way too early of an age to be taken away. Personally, I'll be cranking Danzig II: Lucifuge this evening before I go out as my way of paying respect to a guy who contributed to records that were a big part of my life growing up. Thanks Chuck and have fun up there.

"Twist Of Cain"



"Her Black Wings"



"Dirty Black Summer"

Ear Candy: Big Wreck

We all own a couple (or maybe a lot) of albums that we think are brilliant, but they either only flirted with mainstream success or flew under everyone's radar completely. In Loving Memory Of... by Big Wreck is one of those records for me. Released in 1997, the debut album by Big Wreck did enjoy some success due to radio airplay for the singles "The Oaf" and "That Song", but the band never really broke through to the big time. They recorded a second album, The Pleasure And The Greed,which was a complete commercial failure and eventually disbanded.

In Loving Memory Of... isn't necessarily the most inventive music you will hear in your life, but music doesn't always have to be ground breaking to be thoroughly enjoyable. Lead singer Ian Thornley's voice is reminiscent of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and suits the band's alternative/grunge sound perfectly. They have a sound that is familiar, but at the same time difficult to describe. If you are a fan of the aforementioned Soundgarden as well as Our Lady Peace and the Matthew Good Band, then Big Wreck would definitely be up your alley. Parts of it even remind me of Jeff Buckley. Not to scare anyone off, but think Nickelback if Nickelback existed in a parallel universe and was actually a really good band. If this album had come out just three or four years later, then I think it could have been a monster hit, but what do I know...

Anyway, enough of me stumbling through a description of their sound...check it out for yourself:

"Blown Wide Open"



"The Oaf"



"That Song"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Overrated Record of the Year: Silversun Pickups

As 2009 draws to an end, I am beginning to think about my year end Top 25 album list. On top of the fact that I still need to spend some more time with quite a few newer releases and revisit some releases from earlier in the year, there are also a few albums coming (or that just came out this week) that I will have to consider as well (including Between The Buried And Me, Pelican, Wolfmother, Slayer, Nile and Them Crooked Vultures), so things are still a bit murky as to how it will turn out. That being said, I know a few records that WILL definitely be making the list and a few that WILL DEFINITELY NOT.

#1 on my stinkers of 2009 list is the Silversun Pickups sophomore effort Swoon. I really dug their first full-length Carnavas which sounded like a combination of two great icons of alternative rock, Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins, without being overly derivative of either band and was looking forward to their follow-up. On my first listen to Swoon I was pretty underwhelmed, but chalked it up to the album probably being a "grower". Then I listened to it again and again and again and eventually found myself getting annoyed with the fact that I was suffering through listening to even one song if it popped up on shuffle on my iPod. Around the same time I started to notice that many of my fellow music loving friends could not stop singing the praises of the album. I began to think maybe I was missing something because I seemed to be the only person who wasn't getting it. I gave the album a few more tries and finally reached the conclusion that no, I was not missing anything at all...the record simply defined the term "sophomore slump". Crappy production, lifeless songs and no expansion upon the sound they developed on the previous release.

If you aren't familiar with the band, but are curious about them, then avoid Swoon and pick up their excellent debut Carnavas. Maybe they'll rebound on their third album....

"Lazy Eye" (from Carnavas)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ear Candy: Iron Age

Back in the late 90's/early 2000's, I developed a fascination with the metal sub-genre known as "stoner rock". I was already a huge fan of Kyuss and Monster Magnet after discovering them in high school, but was unaware that a whole scene had risen up around the particular style of metal they played (Sleep's Holy Mountain was on my radar as well and that band was certainly influential on the stoner rock scene). Around '97/'98 when I was getting into bands like Fu Manchu, Nebula, Karma To Burn and Queens of the Stone Age (featuring Josh Homme from Kyuss), I discovered the record label Man's Ruin (who unfortunately are now defunct) which was mostly releasing albums that could fall under the stoner rock umbrella, but also dabbled in doom, punk and hardcore. As luck would have it, the record label I was working for around that time wound up signing a distribution deal with Man's Ruin and I was able to get a large chunk of their now out-of-print releases at no charge. And I literally gorged on these releases. It was all stoner rock, all the time. The bands sounds and styles varied more than your outside observer would know (kind of like someone who doesn't know much about metal will call Slayer "death metal" even though they aren't death metal at all) and there was a lot to explore. This went on for a couple months before I eventually completely burned out on the genre. I still love listening to Kyuss and their various offshoots including the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and Unida (sadly both defunct now), the first three Monster Magnet albums and the occasional album from Nebula, Karma To Burn, The Obsessed and the quite good Argentinian Kyuss knock off Los Natas, but whenever someone tells me about an "it" band that is on a label known mostly for releasing stoner rock or the band is tagged as stoner rock (or the even more dreaded "hipster metal"), I am instantly weary. Case in point, everyone seems to be all hyped up on Red Fang, but the stuff I've heard is a total yawn fest and The Sword is absolutely overrated in my opinion. Arguably, the always impressive Mastodon and Clutch have started to be lumped in with the stoner rock genre, but their roots are in more extreme metal, so I'll give them a pass. Anyway, a few months ago, I started hearing some rumbling about a band called Iron Age who are signed to Tee Pee Records. Tee Pee is mostly known for putting out stone rock bands, so I was more than a bit skeptical that this band would be of any interest to me. Metalsucks streamed their album The Sleeping Eye in its entirety back in August to help promote its release and I decided to give at least the first song a listen just to hear what the buzz was all about. I wound up listening to the entire album, purchasing it a day or two later and see this being a contender for my year end Top 25 list. There are some elements of stoner rock/doom in their sound, but this is pretty much a thrashtastic bludgeoning as opposed to the typical glacier pace associated with that genre's heavier acts. These guys clearly spent (spend) some time listening to 80's thrash metal and wear the influence proudly on their sleeve. This is a straight up metal release and quite a pleasant surprise from Tee Pee Records.

I couldn't find any really great footage of the band performing and they don't appear to have an official video, but check out their Myspace page to stream tracks from the album.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Wish I Had Seen This When I Was Single

I don't know if this is real or a joke (honestly, it could go either way), but it is most definitely awesome. If you are having trouble with the ladies, then let this man offer you some guidance. He is the slickest pimp since the inimitable Smoove B.

It is a little shy of 7 minutes in length, but oh so worth your valuable time:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It Could Be Worse...Or Could It?

The Washington Redskins have been my favorite NFL team since I was born (well, at least since I became aware of football). When I was little, my parents would dress me in t-shirts with slogans like "My two favorite teams are the Washington Redskins and whoever is playing Dallas" and I still have a "Dallas Sucks" button from 25+ years ago. I still absolutely despise the Cowboys, but after spending four years in the Philadelphia area for college and living in New York City for the past 12 years, my hatred for the Eagles and New York Giants has increased tenfold. Honestly, I hate the Giants more than the Cowboys at this point in my life. It is a nightmare being surrounded by Giants fans at all times especially since the Giants are such a damn good football team right now.

Anyway, anyone who follows the NFL knows that the Redskins are an absolute disaster and continue to make life miserable for their long suffering fans. The Jason Campbell experiment has proved to be a total disaster, Clinton Portis is way past his prime, the defense is in shambles since letting defensive coordinator Greg Williams go (and the sting is made even worse by the excellent job he is doing with the Saints right now) and the cherry on top of the sundae is that even the kicker sucks. As with all NFL teams, the head coach receives the blame, so this week the Redskins management took Jim Zorn's play calling duties away. I just read this article on ESPN that discusses their new play calling strategy. As far as I can surmise, he is still going to be standing on the sideline with a headset looking like a head coach, but "offensive consultant" Sherm Lewis will be relaying the offensive play calls to Campbell from the coach's box. What? How does that solve any of the current offensive woes? The best part is that Sherm Lewis is two weeks out of retirement and was most recently, in his words, calling Bingo games at a senior center. Oy f'ing vey. The reasoning behind this is completely befuddling. The only thing that makes sense is that management is trying to shame Zorn into quitting and defaulting on his contract.

The real problem with this team is the owner Dan Snyder. Since he acquired the team from the Cooke family, it has been a dramatic and painful downhill slide for this storied team. He thinks money solves everything and brings in big name players that are way past their prime and contribute nothing new or inspiring to the team. And look what he has done with head coaches. Steve Spurrier? The "Fun 'n' Gun" was a total disaster and the guy bailed on his contract early. And it was the most lucrative coaching contract in the history of the NFL at the time by the way. How bad must things have been for a guy to walk away from that much money? Joe Gibbs? All Redskins fans love Joe Gibbs, but he had been out the NFL way too long. The players and the game had changed dramatically since his time there. At least he got the team to the playoffs though. And poor Jim Zorn. He's a goner somehow some way next season for sure. And quite frankly, it was way too early for this guy to be a head coach...he hadn't even been a coordinator yet! And now what? Who in their right mind would want this job? Jon Gruden? He isn't going to turn this team around.

The concept of getting a bunch of young guys in, letting them develop and slowly building a championship team is completely lost on Snyder. All he has to do is look at division rival the NY Giants to see a team with a plan that worked and continues to work.

I don't know if or how an owner can be ousted, but that is the only solution for saving the Redskins.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bad Motorhead Brains

Two of the most influential bands in heavy music (and personal favorites of mine) will see documentaries on them released in the (hopefully) not so distant future:

Bad Brains are easily the best hardcore band ever to exist and you would be hard pressed to find any musician who plays that style of music who disagrees (and if they did, then there band probably sucks). Obviously, the band stuck out in a scene dominated by white boys because they were Rastafarians, but they also stuck out because they were faster, louder, crazier and better than everybody else. The incorporation of reggae into their music made them stand out (and above) the pack and has never been bested by any band since (at least not to my knowledge). The band hasn't sold millions, but they have been hugely influential in the hardcore, punk and metal scenes. One of those bands that launched a thousand bands if you will.

Here is a teaser for the documentary:



"Big Take Over"



"I Against I"



And speaking of bands who launched a thousand bands, Motorhead is getting the documentary treatment as well. Well, technically the documentary is about lead singer/bassist/all around bad motherf'er Lemmy Kilmeister, but he IS Motorhead (and that's not taking anything away from the superbly talented line-ups he has had over the years). Lemmy: The Movie tells the story of Lemmy's 40+ plus year (!) career. Pretty amazing that the guy is in his early 60's, yet still gigs like crazy all over the world (and has never "retired" only to come out of retirement for a cash-in tour). The guy really makes all other rock bands his age look downright geriatric (well, maybe not Neil Young).

Check out the teaser:



"Ace Of Spades"



"Overkill"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I've Got Hurt Feelings, Pussy

Last week I wrote about one of this year's most ridiculously catchy songs, "Tokyo" by Telekenisis! This week I want to talk about two more catchy songs which are both unlikely to ever be huge hits, but stranger things have happened....

Flight Of The Conchords is one of my favorite HBO shows (and one of my favorite shows in general). On top of that, it is also a musical act. Comprised of two New Zealand comics named Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, the duo incorporates their songs into the story lines of the show (basically, music videos are placed in each episode) and the results are nothing short of hilarious. They don't stick to one particular style and instead bounce around from folk to techno to hip hop to reggae and so on and so forth. I won't say that they are actually particularly proficient in any of the genres they dabble in, but that is probably the point and a huge part of the charm. That being said, the best part about the tunes is that they are actually catchy and enjoyable and you don't need the visual element of the show to enjoy them (although seeing them performed on the show is most likely the best way to experience them for the first time). Today marks the release of their new album, I Told You I Was Freaky, which is a collection of songs from the second season of the show. There are quite a few gems on there, but one of the best is the song "Hurt Feelings". This song is a comedic take on rap that will have you not only smiling and chuckling, but singing the chorus in your head for days. The chances of this reaching beyond Flight Of The Conchords fans is probably slim though. I think the last "hit" from a comedy album was probably Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song", but again, you never know.



Another song that is also catchy and funny, but in a much more tongue in cheek (and salacious) manner is Rammstein's "Pussy". Rammstein first made a name for themselves in the USA with the song "Du Hast" from their 1997 release Sehnsucht. The video got some love from MTV (MTV still sort of played videos back then instead of dumbing down America's youth with The Hills 24/7) and (terrestrial) rock radio showed it some love as well. Their take on industrialized hard rock/metal (think Ministry "light") mixed with vocals mostly sung in German is an interesting twist on the genre, but I never really loved any of their albums. That being said, I do like a couple Rammstein songs, so I give the "singles" a chance when they put out new albums. A couple weeks ago I started seeing mentions on Facebook about how over the top the video for the first single, "Pussy", from their new album was and a couple hours later a friend of mine sent out a link to the video. He didn't really say much except that it was NSFW and pretty wild. The title alone was a bit edgy, so my curiosity piqued (and currently being unemployed and having no co-workers to offend) I hit the link right away to see what all the fuss was about. It started off innocently enough and then progressively turned into a full blown porno. Yup, like Jenna Jameson and Ron Jeremy porn. The interesting part though was that the song was actually not only good, but the chorus was just as catchy as any current pop hit. After watching the video 500 times, um, I mean one or two more times, I have literally been singing it in my head for weeks. The album, Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da (which translated from German means Since Love Is For All), came out today and I just had to buy the single right away because the only way to get a song out of your head is to just listen to it a lot, excessively even...eventually you will tire of it. I think Rammstein is brilliant for making a song that is not only anti-mainstream (and I'm sure horribly offensive to the buttoned up/religious zealot crowd) in a time where everything is so overly politically correct, but is also not just shock for the sake of shock (*cough* Marilyn Manson)...the song is well written, structured and executed.

(This is a censored version of the video. If you are feeling perverted, I mean intellectually curious, then you can see the uncensored version here.)

No More Zakk

Ozzy Osbourne recently parted ways with guitarist Zakk Wylde. It was news that mostly made me shrug my shoulders because I think Ozzy is way past the point of making music that will be relevant much less good. I think most folks who heard Ozzy's last release Black Rain would tend to agree with me although a lot of people gave up on him after the album before that, Down To Earth. I thought Down To Earth had it's moments and I actually rather enjoy its predecessor Ozzmosis, but Ozzy's last amazing, barn burning, fantastic album was 1991's No More Tears.

I remember very clearly when that album came out. It was released the same day as Guns N Roses' Use Your Illusion I and II albums. I had gone to the now defunct Kemp Mill Records with enough money for exactly two CDs ($25.06) and being a huge fan of both Ozzy and GnR, I was having a really difficult time deciding which two albums to purchase. Should I just get both GnR albums or should I get one GnR album and No More Tears? And if I only get one GnR album, then which one do I get? What if I don't pick the better of the two? [For the record, II is the superior album.] After 90-120 minutes of debate, I eventually went with both GnR albums. I arrived home and my mother asked me where the heck I had been. She was guessing that I had gotten yet another detention, but I explained to her where I was and why it took me so long. She looked a little confused, but just shrugged her shoulders and I took off to go lock myself in my room and crank some GnR. A few days later I was sitting in my room when my mom came in with her arms behind her back. She explained to me that she was morally opposed to Ozzy Osbourne (a good Irish Catholic mother practically has to be right?) and that she never let my older brother listen to him (he totally had Sabbath and Ozzy albums and listened to him anyway), but when I came home from the record store the other day, I seemed so passionate about my decision making process about choosing just two of three albums to purchase that (and then she brought out a CD from behind her back) she went out and bought me No More Tears. Pretty cool mom right? Needless to say I was really psyched and turned on the album immediately. No disrespect to Randy Rhoads and the two amazing albums, Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman, that he made with Ozzy, but I've always felt that No More Tears was Ozzy's best album. The title track, "Hellraiser", "Mr. Tinkertrain", "I Don't Want To Change The World", "Road To Nowhere" and every other song on the album are awesome and a large part of the album's appeal is Zakk Wylde's guitar playing.

Ozzy's new guitarist might be an amazing player, but I'm not really interested in hearing what he does with Ozzy. I'd rather just listen to No More Tears (or even No Rest For The Wicked).

"No More Tears"



"Mama I'm Coming Home"



"Mr. Tinkertrain"



"I Don't Want To Change The World" (live)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rockin' Out: The Gaslight Anthem @ Terminal 5 10/15/09

As I went to start writing this entry, it dawned upon me that I completely forgot to take a crappy Blackberry picture at this show. Last week was mentally draining and by the time Thursday night rolled around, all I wanted to do was have a couple of adult beverages, see a good live show, not worry about a sick pet for a few hours and certainly not deal with the maddeningly poor camera on my Blackberry. Well, mission accomplished on all fronts! [And I am happy to report that after a pretty good scare, Buddy The Cat is well on his way to a full recovery.]

I was first introduced to The Gaslight Anthem in the summer of 2008. I hadn't heard any of their music, but multiple friends whose musical opinions I trust told me that I had to check them out. So, I got tickets for their show at The Knitting Factory and went in with no preconceived notions and only a loose idea of what to expect. It'd been a while since I'd gone to see a band having no idea what they sounded like and fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. The band wears their Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty influences proudly on their sleeves (making more than a few lyrical references to both artist's work in their songs), but injects a punk (and I use the term "punk" loosely) vibe into the mix. I bought both of their excellent albums, Sink Or Swim and The '59 Sound, right after the show and have been singing their praises since. I saw them open for Rise Against/Alkaline Trio/Thrice later that same year and was still impressed. Even though they were playing conceivably the worst venue in New York City (Terminal 5) this time around, I still wanted to see them because I knew it'd be a fun show. Well, even Terminal 5 couldn't suck the fun out of The Gaslight Anthem's live show. There is nothing particularly unique about the band's performances....they just get up, play the songs, make sure the audience is having a good time along the way and then say good night, but when the music is good enough, that is all you need right? Only having two proper studio albums out, the band isn't really at a stage in their career where they can leave out any songs that you are just dying to hear, but that is just my opinion.

I don't need to see The Gaslight Anthem every single time they roll through town, but when I'm in the mood for a good, light-hearted rock n roll show, they will certainly fulfill my needs.

"The '59 Sound"



"Great Expectations"



"I'm On Fire" (Bruce Springsteen cover)

Hurricane Stryper



Last night, I inexplicably and quite randomly got the 1988 "hit" (it did appear on the Top 40, but I think you'd have to be a pretty serious hair metal fan to remember it) "I'm On To You" by Hurricane stuck in my head. Mercifully, the track is available for purchase on Amazon, so I was able to almost instantly acquire and listen to it. This is the only song of theirs that I remember liking and I am almost 100% certain I never owned one of their albums, but hearing this song again did get me thinking about the first concert I ever saw. Why? Well, because they were the opener.

I got into metal in 6th grade. That was the year I bought Girls, Girls, Girls by Motley Crue and a life long love was born. My parents were never overly concerned about the fact that I loved metal music (with the exception of an interrogation or two by my mom because of a ridiculous write up in The Washington Post about how Metallica's music made people kill themselves and the other when I left cassette tapes by Obituary, Eyehategod and Suicidal Tendencies out on the kitchen counter), but my mom did have a lot of rules about what concerts I was allowed to attend. The Motley Crue's, Poison's, Iron Maiden's and Metallica's of the world all played at an arena that my mom deemed unsafe for a young teenager (for reasons still unknown to me, she was convinced I could be caught in the middle of gang warfare). There was a smaller arena closer to our house that I was allowed to attend concerts at, but that rule didn't go into affect until after I had finally convinced her to let me go to a concert at all. Technically I had been to concerts before, but seeing The Four Tops with your parents while on vacation at the beach doesn't really count. A kid who lived down the street from me was from a fairly religious Baptist family. He was into metal, but Whitesnake and the like were a big no no in his household. Stryper, on the other hand, was definitely allowed and he got me into their albums To Hell With The Devil and In God We Trust. Sure the whole "God" thing wasn't exactly "cool", but Stryper definitely had some chops and their singer Michael Sweet could wail with (if not better than a lot of) the best hair metal vocalists. Anyway, the kid down the street and a bunch of other people from his church were going to see Stryper at the venue that would eventually be deemed the "safe" one and I begged my mother to go. She decided it was ok because I was going to a concert with a church group and this band came out on stage and threw bibles in to the crowd, so how bad could it be? Well, I loved the concert and it was the first taste of something that would become a huge passion of mine. My mother and I continued to butt heads over the concert issue the next couple of years, but she relented more and more and more (there were still some pretty serious battles, but what teenager doesn't have heated exchanges with their parents) and we even wound up going to see a couple concerts together. This year I've seen 38 shows already and couldn't even begin to guess how many I've seen in my life thus far, but of all of them, that Stryper/Hurricane concert is one of the ones I will never, ever forget.

"Free"



"Calling On You"



"To Hell With The Devil"



"Honestly"

Ouch



Dante Wesley is going to get a WHOPPER of a fine from the NFL for that hit and he deserves it. I realize the Carolina Panthers are having a miserable season, but don't take your frustrations out on another player when he is completely defenseless. That's how necks get broken and lives take unexpected and terrible turns for the worst.

That being said, that hit could be in the cringe inducing video for Unsane's "Scrape":

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Keep Your Fingers Crossed For Buddy

My girlfriend and I adopted a cat this past weekend. His name is Buddy and he is 5 years old and weighs in at a not so slim 15 lbs. He is a really docile, chill cat, so we were pretty bummed to learn from the vet last night that it looks like he has a pretty bad case of pneumonia. As with humans, this can be fatal, so I'm asking people to keep their fingers crossed for the poor (not so) little guy. Even if you hate cats, you still have to agree that it sucks when an animal has to suffer (and if you disagree, then you are lower than dirt). I'm going to catsit today and play him some Megadeth, Scorpions and Yeah Yeah Yeahs and see if that perks him up a bit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I..I..I..I..I Went To Tokyo

As 2009 winds to a close, I have started to think about what my "Best of 2009" album list is going to look like. It has been a stellar year for new releases and I'm basing that statement on just the 85 albums I've heard and liked. I cannot imagine how many more are out there that I haven't heard yet that I would probably like as well. As part of my year end list assembly, I was also making a list of the best/catchiest songs of 2009, which led me to think of one album that I've listened to a few times and enjoyed: the self-titled release by Seattle's Telekinesis! (the name is actually spelled with an exclamation point lest you think that I'm that excited about telling you about them). Telekinesis! is essentially a dude named Michael Benjamin Lerner who records in the studio and then has a backing band when he plays live. I haven't listened to the album enough to give it a proper review simply because there have been so many new releases this year that it is hard to give all of them a lot of attention, but again, the few times I've listened to it, I enjoyed it. What prompted me to buy the album in the first place was the single "Tokyo". I heard it once and was walking around singing it in my head non-stop for days. I did a quick preview of the other tracks on Amazon and decided to take a gamble and buy the whole thing. The rest of the album is good, but "Tokyo" (right now at least) is by far the stand out track. I dare you to check out the video and not get the chorus stuck in your head:

The Flaming Lips + Cat Power + Black Sabbath = Flaming Cat Vomit

I dig The Flaming Lips. I dig Cat Power. I LOVE Black Sabbath. All three combined? Not so much. Here are The Flaming Lips doing a cover of the Sabbath classic "War Pigs" with Chan Marshall aka Cat Power:



Awful right? I mean this is The Flaming Lips, so I would expect them to do some bizarre, innovative, messed up version of the song in an attempt to make it their own, but instead they just played a straight cover and neither Wayne Coyne nor Chan Marshall's vocals are suitable for covering such a heavy, powerful song that was originally sung by one of metal's greatest vocalists, the (once) mighty Ozzy Osbourne. Terrible call on their part to even attempt this. If they had turned it into some slow, ambient, spaced out rocker, then it could have been cool...maybe. I bet a bunch of dufus hipsters think this is terrific though (yes, I'm being a metal snob and I don't care).

Now if you want to hear "War Pigs" covered correctly, then check out Faith No More doing it properly:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Al Bundy Is Back (Sort Of)

I loved Married With Children, so when I heard Ed O'Neill who played Al Bundy on that show was returning to TV on a sitcom called Modern Family, I set my DVR. I was a bit skeptical because the show is on ABC, who haven't had a sitcom that I've paid attention to in as long as I can remember, but after seeing the first two episodes, I am hooked.

It is a mockumentary about an American family...think The Office, but about a family instead of a work place. Ed O'Neill is once again the patriarch of the family, but this time he is married to a sexy Columbian woman who is half his age and has an 11 year old son from her previous marriage. His children from a previous marriage are married with families of their own. His daughter to a husband who thinks he is a "cool" dad (which continuously results in hilarious interactions with his children) and they have two daughters (one a teenager) and a son. His son, who is gay (and is very self conscience about what kind of gay couple the public perceives he and his husband as) is married and has just adopted a baby from Vietnam with his husband (who is unabashedly, flamboyantly gay). All of the characters are hilarious and likable. This isn't a family friendly family comedy though. It is sharp, witty and liberally pokes fun at stereotypes. Only time will tell, but I have a feeling this will quickly surpass The Office, 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Big Bang Theory as my favorite half hour comedy.







...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Beer Cans

This past weekend I went to my fourth straight Austin City Limits Festival. I'm still debating whether or not to write a post about my experience there because quite frankly this year paled in comparison to previous years. The lineup was not quite my cup of tea (Dave Matthews Band headlined Saturday night and that just put a stink on the whole festival for me) and heavy rain on Saturday turned the festival grounds into a slimy, smelly mud pit on Sunday. That being said, I did enjoy performances from Them Crooked Vultures, The Parlor Mob, The Walkmen, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Toadies (Yes, The Toadies...if you think they are a one hit wonder band, then you are cheating yourself...all three of their albums are great from start to finish!), Clutch, White Lies, The Heartless Bastards and even rediscovered Coheed and Cambria.

The festival attracts about 65,000 people a day over the course of three days. It is pretty easy to get separated from your friends in a crowd that large, so some folks carry around flag poles (or something resembling a flag pole) that tend to be about 10 - 12 feet high or so that they can stick in the ground when they've staked out some real estate to stand on. That way, they can just tell their friends what stage they are by and all they have to do is simply look for their unique pole. This year, ....And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead played the festival on Sunday and one group of people came up with this rather witty signage:

Pretty damn funny if you ask me, but not nearly as brilliant as the plan that my friends and I utilized in 2007 where whenever any of us got separated from the group or the group split in two, one side would shout "MEGA!" and wait for the other side to respond "DETH!" and repeat this until we found each other in the crowd. Think Marco Polo, but the goal was to find each other. There is a story behind this that involves Megadeth (obviously), BBQ, Jameson, hippies and The String Cheese Incident, but I'll save that for another day.

Is Chris Cornell Headed Back In The Right Direction?

Chris Cornell hopped on stage with Pearl Jam this past Tuesday, October 6th to perform the Temple Of The Dog song "Hunger Strike":



That takes me back to the glory days when Cornell was kicking major ass with Soundgarden. Soundgarden is one of my favorite bands of the '90s. Louder Than Love, Badmotorfinger and Superunknown are all superb albums. Their final release, Down On The Upside doesn't quite live up to it's predecessors, but is still a fine album nonetheless. After Soundgarden broke up, Cornell released a solo record Euphoria Morning which I thought was just abysmal and apparently the general public agreed with my take as it was a commercial flop. He then went on to join up with the band members of the recently singer-less Rage Against The Machine to form Audioslave. Their self-titled debut and second album Out Of Exile are both awesome straight up hard rock records (that aren't derivative of the members previous bands' sound), but their third and final album, Revelations sounded like a band that wasn't happy playing with each other anymore. Apparently they weren't since they didn't tour on the record and Cornell split about a year later to pursue his solo career again. That was the point that I completely gave up on the guy. I don't know why, but I had a feeling he would not be creating music I would enjoy. Do you ever get that sense with a band or artist? You just get this gut feeling that an album is going to be awful, so you don't even bother with it? I've had it quite a few times and have been right more often than I've been wrong. Cornell has released two solo albums since leaving Audioslave and I haven't heard either, nor do I care to. By all accounts, anyone who is a fan of his work with Soundgarden and Audioslave would be/was grossly offended by his 2009 effort Scream. As soon as I heard he was collaborating with Timbaland, I knew there was no way it was going to be anything but awful and that Chris Cornell had officially gone off the deep end. No disrespect to Timbaland who is obviously a talented guy, but do I want him producing solo efforts for one of the greatest rock singers of all time? No thanks.

I think there will be a Soundgarden reunion sooner rather than later because Cornell will want to wash the stink of his solo career off. Or maybe he doesn't realize that everybody thinks he sucks now.

"Jesus Christ Pose"



"Loud Love"



"My Wave"



"Gasoline"

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rockin' Out: Them Crooked Vultures @ Stubb's 10/01/09, @ Austin City Limits Festival 10/02/09


Seriously, I hate my Blackberry camera.

I've been excited about Them Crooked Vultures since I first read about them earlier this year, so I was incredibly psyched when it was announced a few weeks ago that not only would they be playing the Austin City Limits Festival (which I already had tickets for before they were announced as part of the lineup), but that they would be playing at one of Austin's most beloved and well known BBQ Joints, Stubb's, the night before opening day. The prospect of seeing the band in a club setting in addition to a festival setting was too good to pass up. Fortunately, I was able to get tickets for the Stubb's show during an online pre-sale.

I arrived in Austin on Thursday afternoon with a horrible head cold combined with a hangover and was operating on 3 hours of sleep from the night before (I can never sleep on airplanes...it really, really, really, really, really sucks), but none of that was going to stop me from seeing Them Crooked Vultures. After getting to the hotel and (sort of) napping for two hours, I was out the door to grab some BBQ at Stubb's and then head to their backyard to see the band. I could write a whole separate review of how delicious my beef brisket, chicken, mac & cheese, sweet mashed potatoes and chili con queso appetizer were, but I'll refrain and instead just say if you have never been to Austin before, if you do go, then definitely hit up Stubb's at least once.

Somewhat awake from a combination of excitement about seeing the band and a movie theater size Diet Coke (you know what I'm talking about...those cups that make Big Gulps look modest by comparison), my girlfriend and I headed into the venue to claim some real estate to watch the show. The venue security warned everyone on the way in that there were no cameras allowed and anyone seen taking pictures with their cell phones would be ejected from the venue. Seemed a bit silly since everyone and their mother would be able to take pics of the band at the Fest the next day, but whatever. I decided not to risk getting tossed out and didn't bother trying to snap any pics. Not that it would have mattered, since it is a well proven point that my Blackberry camera sucks....but, I'm getting off topic. We staked out some territory to watch the band and I was happy because I had a perfect view of the drum kit. Seeing Dave Grohl play drums live was going to be a real treat for me because I never saw Nirvana live and missed out when he toured with Queens of the Stone Age as their drummer. [I did actually see him play drums on two consecutive nights at Roseland Ballroom when Foo Fighters were touring for There Is Nothing Left To Lose, but those were not full performances...just a little drum off with Foo's drummer Taylor Hawkins. Coincidentally, Queens of the Stone Age was the opener on that leg of the tour.]

The band walked out on stage a little after 9pm. For those not up to speed on Them Crooked Vultures, the aforementioned Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighters, Nirvana fame) is the drummer, John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin fame) is the bassist and keyboardist and Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss fame) is the lead singer/guitarist. Alain Johannes who has collaborated and toured with QOTSA, was a member of Eleven and is currently a member of Spinnerette (Josh Homme's wife Brody Dalle's band) is a second guitarist with the band as well. Ok, now that the members' resumes are out of the way, on to the music....

The easiest description would be to call it stoner rock, but that is somewhat unfair because it is so much more complex (and better) than that. I read a review somewhere that compared it to grunge mixed with prog rock and that is somewhat accurate, but we aren't talking about Soundgarden covering Dream Theater or anything near that. The closest band of any of the members previous or current bands that TMC's sound resembles would certainly be Queens of the Stone Age, but that probably has a lot to do with Josh being the singer and guitarist for both. The songs are longer and much more jam oriented than any Queens material, but without getting repetitive and dull. An urge to nod one's head seemed to take over the entire audience (except for the annoying drunk ditz behind me who was telling stupid stories about her friend who got drunk in Mexico to the equally annoying drunk dufus she was with for what felt like the entire set) and I give credit to the incredible rhythm section of JPJ and Grohl for that. Those two are completely in tune with one another and when JPJ drops the bass to sit at the keyboards (which he did for a couple songs), Grohl holds down a beat perfectly fine on his own. I also have to add that JPJ might have the coolest bass collection of anyone on the planet. Josh sings lead on all the songs with the other guys contributing back up vocals. Of the hour and 20 minute long set, there was only one song that was a lemon and that was when Josh put down his guitar and sang over Grohl drumming and JPJ playing a keytar (although this thing was much more involved looking than a keytar, that is the best description I can give). Other than that, it was about 75 minutes of full on rock n roll. Oh, and there were no covers...it was all original material. At one point Josh Homme said to the audience that he understood that the set was a lot of new music to digest and they appreciated everybody coming out to hear it. At that point, I remembered that this was indeed all new music to me and thought it was a great sign that, with one exception, I had been engaged and intrigued by every song they played and almost forgotten that I was hearing it for the first time.

The following night at ACL was equally enjoyable (especially because the keytar song was cut from the set list) with the only differences being that they only had an hour to play as opposed to an hour and 20 and Josh Homme was clearly and unabashedly a bit intoxicated (but played fine nonetheless). I will definitely buy the album when it comes out and would love to see the band again when I have had time to spend with the material. I'm really happy I got to experience them for the first time in the live setting though. Again, the sound is a bit hard to describe, so if you get the chance, then go see them live for yourselves. If you do, then you'll see (hear) that there sound is really just a complicated way of "saying" rock n roll.

Songs that jumped out at me during both sets included (titles not necessarily 100% accurate) "Elephants", "Mind Eraser", "Scumbag Blues", "Reptiles", "Dead End Friends" and "Caligulove". I've found some OK footage from the ACL set on YouTube (and I really stress the OK part), so check it out if you are so inclined:

"Mind Eraser"



"Nobody Loves Me And Neither Do I" (?)

Rockin' Out: Bruce Springsteen @ Giants Stadium 09/30/09

I really need to start bringing my digital camera to shows because my Blackberry camera is just the pits. Anyway, my friend offered me a ticket to the opening night of The Boss' series of show bidding farewell to New Jersey's Giants Stadium and I gladly accepted. I have a TON of friends who consistently sing the praises of The Boss and his live shows, so I was finally going to see it for myself. I'd seen Bruce Springsteen two times before, but one was a solo acoustic show and the other was when he was on tour for his Pete Seeger covers record, so I had yet to experience the full-on Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band live show. On this particular night, he would be playing Born To Run in its entirety, so that was a big plus as I consider that to be a pretty good album.

We headed to the Giants Stadium parking lot to tailgate for a few hours before the show and even though it was freezing and I was under dressed for the weather, that wound up being one of the highlights of the show. Maybe it was all the hype I've heard over the years from my friends who worship at the altar of Springsteen or maybe it was all the drunken New Jersey-ites in Eli Manning jerseys [I should clarify that I am a huge Washington Redskins fan and therefore hate anything and everything about the New York Giants], but I found the whole experience to be a snoozefest. Bruce Springsteen recently celebrated his 60th birthday, so I give him and the rest of the guys all due credit for still rocking out, but the whole thing just struck me like old guys trying too hard to be younger, rather than embracing their age. I own five Springsteen albums (and enjoy them) and have heard most of the others, so I recognized a healthy majority of the songs, but nothing got me fired up...not even "Atlantic City" which is easily one of my favorite songs of his. I spent most of the show playing on Facebook and texting/BB messengering friends about how boring I thought it was. The best part of the night may have been the conversation with two drunk Joisey women who were standing in front of us in the beer line. They (unsolicited) explained to us that they had just been released from police custody after being detained for (unwittingly) buying beer for minors...and one of them was a school teacher. Classic. The second best part was probably leaving before the encore, so that we wouldn't be stuck in post-concert traffic.

I hold no ill will towards The Boss and won't stop listening to Nebraska because of a bad concert experience, but never again will I bother with seeing him live.

"Dancing In The Dark"



"Atlantic City"



"Racing In The Street"