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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Rockin' Out: The Murder City Devils @ Maxwell's 07/16/10

Back in 2000, I used to swap promos (promotional copies of records that record companies [used to?] make to give to journalists, radio stations, etc.) with a guy at Sub Pop. He had sent me a record called In Name And Blood by a band I had never heard before called The Murder City Devils. I listened to the album a few times and LOVED it, but my real appreciation of the album came about when it was a large part of the soundtrack to driving around the South while a co-worker/friend and I spent a week  following one of the bands we worked with on Ozzfest that year. I got to see them live once in October of 2001 before they broke up and called it quits. It was an amazing show and I still have the t-shirt I bought at it buried somewhere. I was disappointed that I hadn't gotten the band on my radar earlier and taken more opportunities to see them live (especially when they were touring with another band who called it quits around the same time they did...At The Drive-In).

As seems to be the trend these days, the band recently reunited and went on tour. I caught their set at Nokia Theater back in February and the band was just as good as when I saw them almost 9 years earlier (and it was the one show I've attended this year that I haven't written a review for...I moved that day and was just caught up with unpacking for a while and forgot to write something about it). When I heard they were playing Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ which is less than 10 minutes walking distance from my house, I bought tickets without hesitation. Maxwell's is a very small room and it'd be really easy to get up close and personal with the band while they performed.

And up close and personal with the band is exactly what I got. The sweltering, brutal July heat followed all of us inside of Maxwell's, so I eventually had to retreat towards the back of the room to catch some fresh air, but the show still ruled from that distance too (the back of the room is maybe 35-45 feet from the stage, so we aren't talking large club distances here). Singer Spencer Moody comes across as a less chubby punk rock Zach Galifianakis, but without the goofy comedic appeal. The guy is all business and he delivers one of those performances that is hard to take your eyes off of. The band is tight as hell in a sloppy way as befits their music. The guitarist Dann Gallucci looks like he could be in Madball or Earth Crisis, but certainly doesn't play anything resembling uninspired hardcore. Drummer Coady Willis is also the drummer for Melvins and Big Business, so his drumming abilities don't even need to be qualified. The rest of the band is awesome as well and put all together they create some beautiful noise. Being able to see the band perform personal favorite songs of theirs like "18 Wheels", "Idle Hands", "Rum To Whiskey", "I Drink The Wine", "Press Gang" and "Midnight Service At The Mutter Museum" made taking a couple elbows to the ribs and getting my glasses knocked off my head and almost crushed by a bunch of stomping feet 110% worth it. Proof of how much fun I was having even made it to the internet as my beautiful mug wound up in 4 shots of the crowd in Brooklyn Vegan's coverage of the show (they also have infinitely better pictures of the band than I do).

I hope I get many more opportunities to see The Murder City Devils, but if they decide to break up again after this tour, then at least I got to experience them at their best in an intimate venue and that might just be the most satisfying memory I could have of them.





Not only could I not resist buying a shirt, but I couldn't resist buying a vinyl (for only $10) so that I could frame it and hang it up in my music room.

Tuesday July 20, 2010 New Music

Early Man - Death Potion
Early Man are one of the handful of bands involved in the '80s thrash metal revival that I actually enjoy. Their latest album Death Potion is a tasteful nod to Killing Is My Business-era Megadeth and Kill 'Em All-era Metallica. Neither of those bands will return to those eras of their sound, so mine as well enjoy a quality tribute.

East Of The Wall - Ressentiment
East Of The Wall were formed from the ashes of The Postman Syndrome who were one of those groups that metal journalists and bloggers seemed to love, but never caught on with a larger audience. Supposedly, East Of The Wall's debut album Ressentiment will be right up the alley of fans of instrumental "metal" acts like Russian Circles, Animals As Leaders, Pelican, etc. Since I like all those bands, it seems these guys might be worth giving a shot.

The High Confessions - Turning Lead Into Gold With The High Confessions
The High Confessions boasts a line-up consisting of members or former members of Sonic Youth, Ministry, Revolting Cocks and Nachtmystium which is enough to pique my interest. Add the fact that they are signed to Relapse into the mix and my interest is piqued even further. Stereogum is streaming the album here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rockin' Out: Heartless Bastards @ Bowery Ballroom 07/15/10

A crappy picture to accompany a review of a crappy show.

I've seen the Heartless Bastards multiple times. Twice in Austin and twice in the New York City area. They are a fine band and always put on a quality performance. I suspect that they might have done the same last evening, but it was hard to tell because I couldn't hear the band over all the meaningless drunken conversations happening while the band was playing. I might be old fashioned, but I am of the opinion that one goes to a rock show to watch and LISTEN to the band. I don't understand the point of paying for the ticket (and Ticketmaster's obnoxiously high service fees) to stand around and have a drunk conversation that you could have with your friend at a bar before and/or after the show. Sure, of course you are going to talk a little bit when you are watching a band because you want to share opinions on the show and/or band or simply say "I LOVE THIS SONG". A show doesn't demand complete silence like a trip to the movie theater does, but chit chatting through an entire show disrupts the people around you and their enjoyment of the show.

The worst part about last evening was the drunk hipster in his trucker hat intentionally bumping into people with (I presume) the hopes of getting into an altercation. After he tried to provoke me three times, I had to go to the downstairs bar and call it quits on the evening. Missed the last eight songs of the set.

So, in closing, great band, but this show was ruined by a rude, inconsiderate audience. And this is the third time I've had a similar experience at Bowery Ballroom this year. I am done with this venue. The good news is that their sister venue in Brooklyn, Music Hall Of Williamsburg, usually books the same bands that play Bowery when they come through town, so I will simply go there to enjoy a show.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Love It, I Love It Not, I Love It, I Love It Not...

I'm not particularly impressed by the '80s thrash revival that is currently happening in the metal scene. It is hard to say if this is because the bands aren't particularly good or because I grew up listening to the bands they are honoring (ripping off) and feel as if I wanted to hear '80s thrash, then I'll just listen to the original bands. Or perhaps it is a combination of both. That being said, there are a few thrash revival bands that I do find appealing for reasons that I cannot quite make clear to myself. I simply hear the music and enjoy it rather than cringe. Early Man and Evile are two of those bands and they coincidentally are touring together later this year. They have a third band on the tour with them called Bonded By Blood. Since their name is the title of the classic thrash metal album and debut by Exodus, there is really no second guessing what the band is going to sound like.

I heard Bonded By Blood for the first time today with the below song "Protoype: Death Machine" from their forthcoming album Exiled To Earth. As the song started, I was ready to dismiss them as the generic rip-offs I had guessed them to be. Then the vocals kicked in. Terrible. Definitely terrible. But sort of appealing just like Paul Baloff (Exodus), Steve Souza (Exodus), Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth (Overkill) and John Connelly (Nuclear Assault) who this singer no doubt idolizes. Then I found myself nodding my head and tapping my feet. Maybe I do like this? No, it is definitely terrible. But I want to hear it again. And once more. Maybe just two more times. I think I might like this. No, I don't. Yes, I kind of do. I don't know. I'm just going to keep listening until I figure it out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Maidens Of The Lost Alien Wars

While Iron Maiden's performance at Madison Square Garden this past Monday was amazing, I can't really say the same for the video for the title track off of their new album The Final Frontier. It is a combination of Aliens, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars which in theory sounds like it could be pretty fantastic, but in practice is not. The video also looks fairly expensive and I'm not sure why Maiden would drop this much money on a music video that will never really get played anywhere except possibly VH1 Classic. It isn't like MTV is going to play this in between Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber videos....that is when MTV actually ever plays a video.

But perhaps they see it is a savvy promotional tool to promote the new album. I don't know. I was going to buy the album regardless of whether or not there was an entertaining music video to accompany it or not. The good news is that the song itself is actually fun (when it isn't being interrupted by sound effects and talking).

Judge for yourself:
The Final Frontier - Director's Cut

Iron Maiden | MySpace Music Videos

Speaking Of Rush....

Have you seen their excellent documentary film "Beyond The Lighted Stage"? If not, then I highly recommend seeing it if you are a fan of the band. I think even folks who aren't particularly interested in Rush, but enjoy a good documentary would get a kick out of it. With excellent archival footage, interviews with the band and testimonials from Gene Simmons of Kiss (who unbeknownst to me actually gave Rush their big break in America by taking them out on tour on their first record), Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, Vinnie Paul of Pantera, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Kirk Hammett of Metallica and others, you get a good look at the band from their humble beginnings in Canada up until their last release, 2007's Snakes And Arrows.

Check out the trailer below:

I Go To Nebraska To Find Mr. Bulbous With Faith Hope Love

As of late I have been on a huge King's X kick. I've owned Gretchen Goes To Nebraska and Faith Hope Love for many years and enjoy them, but about two months ago really started to dig deeper into their catalog. This may or may not be related to my current obsession with another power trio known as Rush, but before I get off track, let's get back to King's X. I started off with their debut album Out Of The Silent Planet (which at the time of my purchase was maddeningly only available in MP3 format on iTunes...nothing irks me more than paying their higher prices and then getting charged sales tax on top of that) and then moved on to their self-titled fourth album. The first album is great just like the two that followed it, but I was struck by how many songs from the self-titled that I actually remembered from the early 90's when it was released. "Lost In Germany" and "Black Flag" are particular stand outs, but the whole album is pretty great.

I've since gone on to pick up Dogman, Tape Head and Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous from their catalog which leaves me missing only 5 of their 12 studio albums. What I'm finding with King's X is that they are one of those bands who might have a few misses in their catalog, but overall they are a band who I want to hear all of their recorded work because I will at least like it a little bit. They are often heralded by rock crticis as a phenomenal band that is criminally underrated. I will certainly agree that they are a phenomenal band, but I can also see how their music has never quite reached the masses. Back when they first debuted and were receiving the most attention, they simply weren't metal enough for the metal crowd and weren't mainstream enough for audiences who eat up whatever is played on rock radio. They seem to have done alright with their niche though and people I know who love King's X are diehard fans. While I'm not quite diehard, with a few more spins of these records, I think I'll just about be there.

"Over My Head"



"Black Flag"



"It's Love"

Rockin' Out: Iron Maiden @ Madison Square Garden 07/12/10

I've been an Iron Maiden fan since I was in junior high school in the late '80s. The first time I ever saw them live was in high school on the No Prayer For The Dying tour (which is often criticized as one of their, if not the, worst Bruce Dickinson-era records, but personally I love it) with Anthrax opening. The show was absolutely amazing and one of the fondest memories I have of my early concert going experiences. I had the pleasure of seeing Iron Maiden perform yet again this past Monday at Madison Square Garden (I've seen them a couple times in between as well). Almost 20 years later and the band hasn't really lost a step in terms of their ability to put on a knockout performance. Sure, Bruce Dickinson's hair might be shorter, their might be a couple extra pounds on Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain and a few more wrinkles on Steve Harris' brow, but damn if they aren't still absolute juggernauts when it comes to playing live.

The last time I saw Iron Maiden was on their "Somewhere Back In Time Tour" in 2008. That tour saw them concentrating on songs almost exclusively from their '80s catalog with the one exception being the concert staple "Fear Of The Dark" from the 1992 album of the same name. I think it is fair to say that when Maiden tours, that is the type of setlist that the majority of fans want to see, so it wasn't a big shock that when they announced that this tour would concentrate more heavily on albums released in the '00s that most fans were disappointed. Personally, I think Brave New World, Dance Of Death and A Matter Of Life And Death are all great records and have no problem hearing songs from them played live. Would I prefer a more '80s centric song selection? Of course I would, but the fact of the matter is that Iron Maiden is awesome live, so I'm happy to see them when they come to town regardless of what era of their career they are concentrating on. [For the record, I saw Maiden when they toured on A Matter Of Life And Death and they played that album in it's entirety followed by four or five classic songs. That was not a fun show and while the band defends the decision, I still maintain it was a bit much to shove a brand new album down the audience's throat before they had had any time to get familiar with it.]

I had seen setlists for a few of the stops on this tour so knew what to expect or thought I did at least. By all accounts, the first 12 or 13 songs of the set were going to be from the three '00s albums and then they would close out with 4 or 5 classics. So, I was thrown for a (happy) loop when "Wrathchild" was the third song in the set, but the the majority of the songs were still newer. I am admittedly not as familiar with the '00 material as I am with the older stuff, but tunes like openers "The Wicker Man" and "Ghost Of The Navigator" as well as "These Colours Don't Run", "No More Lies", "Brave New World", "The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg" and "El Dorado" (from the forthcoming new album The Final Frontier) were all incredible. "Fear Of The Dark" and "Iron Maiden" closed out the set and the encore was the three undeniable classics "The Number Of The Beast", "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Running Free" (which I'm still humming in my head two days later). It is truly hard to believe Bruce Dickinson is in his early 50's the way he moves about the stage, but I guess all those years of fencing are keeping him in shape. Speaking of the stage, it was designed to look like a space station or spaceship which is in keeping with the theme of the artwork for the new album. The light show was fun and there were plenty of cool Eddie backdrops. And of course it wouldn't be a proper Maiden show without an appearance from their mascot Eddie who came out and chased the band around the stage (I use the term "chased" loosely because it implies that the person in the Eddie suit had a degree of mobility which they most certainly didn't). Another stand out moment (and perhaps THE stand out moment) was when Dickinson had the crowd make the devil horns and raise their hands to Heaven in salute to Ronnie James Dio. Definitely a touching and happy moment for every metalhead in attendance.

All in all, a very satisfying evening of metal courtesy of one of the best in the genre.

















Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rockin' Out: Faith No More @ Williamsburg Waterfront 07/02/10 & 07/05/10


Having already seen Faith No More this past April in San Francisco, I wasn't as excited for their appearances at Williamsburg Waterfront as some of my fellow NY'ers. That in no way means that I wasn't really, really, really psyched to see them live again, it is just that my cherry had already been popped on their reunion shows in the U.S. What I did have to look forward to was hearing a ton of great songs each night. I realized after the Friday night show that Faith No More doesn't have a single song from the Mike Patton era that I dislike. The Real Thing, Angel Dust, King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime and Album Of The Year are all fantastic albums from beginning to end and since both night's setlists drew heavily from those albums, both nights were subsequently absolute winners.

Comedian Neil Hamburger was once again in tow and was just as annoying (and mildly amusing) as he was in San Francisco. Rahzel was direct support on Friday night and while some of my friends were very excited to see him, I simply didn't get it. I am almost 100% certain that I saw him perform with The Roots years ago and thought he was amazing, but at that show he was performing with a full band. Just seeing him performing solo doing his (admittedly impressive) beatbox routine didn't really do much for me. He joined FNM on stage on both nights for a few songs, but didn't really add anything spectacular to the songs.

On Friday night, I stayed to the right of the stage in the "beer garden" and soaked it all in. On Monday night though, I had promised myself that I would do no casual observing from the side and would fight my way up as far to the front as I could. I eventually wound up about 4 rows back from the stage and managed to get some decent shots with my digital camera (included at the top and bottom of this post). This subsequently made the Monday night show a little more exciting, but you can check out the setlists below and decide for yourself which was better. Personally, I think they were both 110% solid and I'm very happy that I went both nights rather than just one.

Friday night's setlist (courtesy of setlist.fm):

1. Reunited (Peaches & Herb cover)
2. From Out of Nowhere
3. Land of Sunshine
4. Caffeine
5. Evidence
6. Surprise! You're Dead!
7. Last Cup of Sorrow
8. Cuckoo for Caca
9. Easy (Commodores cover)
10. Midlife Crisis
11. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
12. Ashes to Ashes
13. I Started a Joke (Bee Gees cover)
14. King for a Day
15. Epic
16. Just a Man

Encore

17. Chariots of Fire (Vangelis cover)
18. Stripsearch
19. Be Aggressive

Encore 2

20. We Care a Lot

Monday night's setlist (courtesy of setlist.fm):

1. Midnight Cowboy (John Barry cover)
2. The Real Thing
3. Be Aggressive
4. Land of Sunshine
5. The Crab Song
6. The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
7. Last Cup of Sorrow
8. Chinese Arithmetic (with Rahzel)
9. Easy (Commodores cover)
10. Midlife Crisis
11. Digging the Grave
12. Ashes to Ashes
13. Ben (Michael Jackson cover)
14. King for a Day
15. Epic
16. Just a Man

Encore

17. I Started a Joke (Bee Gees cover)
18. As the Worm Turns
19. We Care a Lot (with Rahzel)

Encore 2

20. Stripsearch