Sunday, December 31, 2006

I will build a T-Wreck in his honor

One of my hobby gurus died on Saturday, December 23rd, 2006. Ken Fischer was the Strativarius of the guitar amp world.

He worked for Ampeg in the 60's and got his business going by hot-rodding guitar slinger's Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Messy Boogers (Mesa Boogie) amps. In the early eighties, while his fix-it and mod-it business was booming, a guitar slinger came into his shop and needed his Marshall Plexi Super Lead 100's sweetened up. After getting that sorted, the dude wondered if just having Ken make him an amp from scratch would be better. It was. Ken made him the finest guitar amp that he ever played through. That amp's name was Ginger, after the buyer's wife. If someone is selling Ginger right now and you are an interested buyer, plan on taking out a mortgage on your home. I know that some of his original amps go for tens of thousands of dollars now.

Anyway, Ken started up his own amplification company Trainwreck Circuits, after his biker nick-name "Trainwreck". His first model was the "Liverpool", second "Express", and third "Rocket". Ken carried on the tradition of giving amps names instead of serial numbers. Seeing how he worked with each client to make an amp according to his client's specific needs, all these different named amps are in fact unique. So, collectors are looking not just for a Trainwreck Express, they are looking for a Ginger, a Rose, a whatever.

Ken had developed many health problems since the late '80s and his amp building pretty much ceased in the '90s. This is when his willingness to share his knowledge really helped the world of music. So many great amp builders were inspired by this man and his knowledge, resulting in a renaissance of tone. Ken spent the last years of his life as resident Wizard for Komet Amplification. If you play electric guitar, you need to sample the sound clips of those amps. Start saving your pennies, though. Those amps are not cheap.

My dream was to have Ken personally make me an amp. I wanted there to be a "The Grunt" amp legacy out there with collectors drooling at the possibility of owning it over my dead body. It wasn't to happen. Well, in honor of Ken, I will learn my craft and build a Wreck of my own. I know it won't be as good, but I will try to channel his spirit when I form those big Mallory capacitors and watch the thing come to life. Maybe I will have a few hundred dollars to spend on a full compliment of Mullard 12AX7's and EL34 electron tubes to really get things cooking. I will start bit by bit. I really want to feel connected. That was Ken's philosophy on what an amp should do: be connected to the player, roar like a mother, have a rich harmonic complexity, and clean up nicely with a roll of the guitar's volume knob.

RIP, Ken.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Will the real Fleetwood Mac please stand up?

Thank you! Thank God for sending the world Peter Green. He wrote "Green Manalishi" after his experience of being "spiked" . To get spiked, in this case, is to be given acid without knowing it. It messed Peter up and he was touched in the head ever since. Judas Priest does an awesome cover of this, but you don't get the haunted torment that this original version has. You can feel the terror that Peter had when encountering a demon dog that was sending him messages of doom. I wonder if it was the same dog as with The Son of Sam? Maybe David Burkowitz should discuss this with Pete.

Anyway, this original lineup of the Mac really was one of the best British blues groups of the '60s. I even feel that Peter had more depth emotionally, with his playing, than Clapton himself. I am now waiting for a lightning bolt to come crashing through my ceiling right now and strike me down.

Peter Green vanished for a long while, but now performs regularly and whatever schizophrenia he supposedly had seems to be gone now. No Syd Barrett fate for this legend. That is one thing that I will personally thank God for tonight. Peter Green, Brian Wilson, and Roky Erickson are examples that it is worth it to overcome being a burnout and coming back to your art. I wish Syd would have realized that.

While I am at it, Mick, John, why don't you guys get the original Mac back together? I think everyone is still alive. You two know that you would not have gotten very far without Pete. You owe it to him. Besides, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks are busy not trying to talk to each other right now, so that lineup is not going to work out. We all love that lineup, but it is way overplayed, and people have forgotten just who ruled in the '60s. I think it is about time you reminded us.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Jon Nödtveidt

On August 16, 2006 front man, Jon Nödtveidt, of the Swedish hardcore black metal band Dissection took his life. He was found in his apartment with an self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, he was encircled by candles with an open Satanic Grimoire in front of him.
A professed Satanist, Jon Nödtveidt is said to have ended his life after "he had fulfilled his self-created destiny". (Take from the band's official website.)

"Those of us who have met him in his last days can assure that he was more focused, happier and stronger than ever. It is our full conviction that he left this world of lies with a scornful laughter, knowing that he had fulfilled everything that he had set up for himself to accomplish. The empty space that he leaves behind will be filled with the dark essence that he manifested through his life and black-magical work. His legacy and Luciferian Fire will live on through those few who truly knew him and appreciated his work for what it really was and still is. As our brother's goal in life and death never was to "Rest in Peace", we will instead wish him victories in all battles to come, until the Acosmic Destiny has been fulfilled.

For the glory of the Dark Gods and the Wrathful Chaos!
(Taken from the band's official website.)

Some would argue that the world is better off without him. Some would argue that his music has been his legacy. Ah, some would indeed say differently. I would hazard to guess that the family members of the man he was convicted, sentenced and served time for murdering, would argue the former. Oh yes, Jon Nödtveidt not only took his own life, but in 1997 took the life of an Algerian immigrant, Josef Ben Maddour. For this, he spent 7 years in prison and was released in 2004. He has been referred to as a "despicable human being" but an "artist" nonetheless.

If you've never heard Dissection, it isn't something I'd recommend you'd start off on your black/death metal virgin ears. The music is wrathful and haunting. Oftentimes dreamy but definitely (definitely!!) vicious. If you wouldn't have known that Nödtveidt was a Satanist by his convictions, you would know it through his music. There is a searing anger and hatred that runs through his music that can only sometimes be described as "satanic".

Dissection albums are:
The Grief Prophecy (1990) (demo)
Into Infinite Obscurity (1991)
The Somberlain (1993) (I dare you to listen to this and not be affected)
Storm of the Light's Bain (1995)
Where Dead Angels Lie (1996)
Maha Kali (2004)
Reinkaos (2006)

There are other various live and bootleg albums as well. All with some promise and artistry. I do have to say, like most bands, their earlier work is their best work. Most musicians are prone to musical senility, and although Dissection were a young band (Nödtveidt was only 31 at the time he took his life), I think perhaps they had reached their prime before he was incarcerated.

What moves me the most about Dissection are their lyrics. Personally, I enjoy music as a whole. I don't just look for chunky guitars or heavy bass or death vocals, but I prefer to listen to music in it's entirety. Dissection moves me, but what is pronounced about them, what stands out the most to me, are their lyrics. Nödtveidt had this amazing sense of poetry. He could dance with words. His imagery is powerful and it leaves you with a dichotomy of being filled and yet completely insatiable. Not to mention, it is the closest way you could ever get inside his head.

In The Cold Winds Of Nowhere
(The Somberlain)

[Music: Nödtveidt/Zwetsloot]
[Lyrics: Nödtveidt]

Search for my subconscious
Lead me into myself
A need to discover the dark
A will to enter these gates
Oh, This temptation
to end this empty life
In my dreams I saw my real side
A journey through forever
my visions oh so bright
Watching eternity open
as I turn out lifes light
Oh, this temptation
to leave this earthly shell
Deep inside, the toll of deaths bell

In the cold winds of nowhere

With a sigh I pass away
Falling, into harmonic sleep
Then Ill find my prophecies wasnt lies
Falling, into the abyssI come...

I...I am dying...
Death...Does heal me...

In the cold winds of nowhere

What can you truly say after that?


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Nick Drake: His fruit tree has grown ever since....

...his stalks were put into the ground. Nick Drake wrote a song called "Fruit Tree" that dealt with the subject of how many artists have never tasted success: it is their posthumous entity that gets the recognition, respect, and fame.

Whilst alive, Nick sold only five thousand copies of his three albums that he released from 1969-74, November 25, 1974, being the time of his death. He was only 26 years old. Over thirty years since, his music and legend have grown considerably. Maybe you saw those Volkswagen spots, the one with the Beetle. They used his song "Pink Moon"; a great song, very intimate.

I am not going to go into many details of his life, other than that most of that life was spent learning in excellent institutions, playing sports, and becoming a true musician, learning to master quite a handful of instruments. His main tool in his career was the guitar. This was the last instrument that he learned to play and it wasn't that soon before he was noticed by The Fairport Convention's bass player, Ashley Hutchings.

His sophisticated picking style is unique and not many can duplicate it. It isn't so much pyrotechnics as it is elegance and the thought behind each pluck. The same can be said of his smooth baritone: it's never loud and is beyond many other singers in it's simple, sustained beauty. His albums can range from full to bare, but are never thin, nor are they ever overbearing and busy.

One thing that I have noticed is the presence of his most spare compositions. He knows how to create that thick, negative space in-between his notes, much like how an artist would on canvass or pulp. This is something that is lost on many musicians. I have realized this in my own playing that you need to use that absence of sound to contrast to your manipulations of frequencies. Silence is only absent when you are not listening. What kind of musician doesn't listen? The thing about silence is that it is that reservoir of the subconscious. When you uncover it, even for a moment, it builds mood, because you fill in that void, that reservoir. That pool of subconscious then becomes a reflecting pool. The best part of this interaction between your senses and silence is that it happens so fast. This is what makes your rhythm and time signatures so essential when composing a song.

So what of his death? Well, Nick was not always depressed. He actually was a rather pleasant and joyful young man. It was when demands on his craft threatened his low key nature (he didn't like to perform and rarely did) that it seems he needed psychiatric help. It was in the early seventies on till his death that he was on the anti-depressant Tryptizol. He died from an overdose of this medication. The coroner ruled it as a suicide, but his family and friends believe it was just an accidental overdose. They explained that he was the happiest he'd ever been in three years, and had already completed four songs on an album project. They said that he seemed optimistic and excited to be finally working on a new album.

Well, we can't ask Nick what happened, but let's look at his words for a moment.

"Fruit Tree"

Fame is but a fruit tree
So very unsound.
It can never flourish
Till its stock is in the ground.
So men of fame
Can never find a way
Till time has flown
Far from their dying day.
Forgotten while you're here
Remembered for a while
A much updated ruin
From a much outdated style.
Life is but a memory
Happened long ago.
Theatre full of sadness
For a long forgotten show.
Seems so easy
Just to let it go on by
Till you stop and wonder
Why you never wondered why.
Safe in the womb
Of an everlasting night
You find the darkness can
Give the brightest light.
Safe in your place deep in the earth
That's when they'll know what you were really worth.
Forgotten while you're here
Remembered for a while
A much updated ruin
From a much outdated style.
Fame is but a fruit tree
So very unsound.
It can never flourish
Till its stock is in the ground.
So men of fame
Can never find a way
Till time has flown
Far from their dying day.
Fruit tree, fruit tree
No-one knows you but the rain and the air.
Don't you worry
They'll stand and stare when you're gone.
Fruit tree, fruit tree
Open your eyes to another year.
They'll all know
That you were here when you're gone.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Suicide, the loudest silence: Ian Curtis

Ian Curtis, frontman of the post punk electronic band, Joy Division, took his life on the 18th of May, 1980. I had just turned eight. I remember that month well. Aside from it being my first birthday in Utah, I had just made new friends. I thought I was all grown up because I could ride my sister's big ten-speed bike. I had no clue about Ian or his group, Joy Division. I had no idea that a man who killed himself, while I was discovering secrets in the shady, wooded foothills, would help me later in life discover secrets in the dark forest of my soul.

There are pics on the web of him hanging from an electrical cord in his kitchen. They are rather disturbing and I will not sink to that level. He had Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" on his record player and a cut out pic of a grey sky lying on the album cover. The pic was one of David Horvitz's.

The last song he performed live was "Digital". Just a few verses:

"Feel it closing in; the fear of whom I call; every time I call; I feel it closing in; day in, day out."

Who was Ian, besides an artist?

He was a husband to Deborah. While they started out happy, eventually Deborah wanted a divorce. She felt his recurring themes in his songs were solely about him and she could not bear to share that load. Ian always stated that his songs were more than just his feelings. He wrote those songs for the many alienated souls that he felt he was tapped into. I feel that the rejection he experienced through Deborah's misunderstanding was a heavy blow to Ian. While maybe not the sole reason for his suicide, it surely didn't help.

He was a father:

A little girl left behind: Natalie.

Now all grown up and bearing her father's likeness and ever the artist, herself.

I listen to "The Eternal":

Procession moves on, the shouting is over
Praise to the glory of loved ones now gone
Talking aloud as they sit round there tables
Scattering flowers washed down by the rain
Stood by the gate at the foot of the garden
Watching them pass like clouds in the sky
Try to cry out in the heat of the moment
Possessed by a fury that burns from inside
Cry like a child, though these years make me older
With children my time is so wastefully spent
A burden to keep, though their inner communion
Accept like a curse an unlucky deal
Played by the gate at the foot of the garden
My view stretches out from the fence to the wall
No words could explain, no actions determine
Just watching the trees and the leaves as they fall.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cheap Trick hits the nail right on the head: Auf Wiedersehen!

Au revoir, auf wiedersehen
You won't see another morning
You won't see another evening
Good night Buenos noches
o senor Senorita see ya later
Buenos noches bye-bye

There are many here among us
You feel that life is a joke
And for you we sing this final song

For you there is no hope

Sayonara oh suicide
hari kari Kamikaze
you won't See another evening
Goodbye Bye-bye
so long, farewell See you later....suicide

It was real fun doing this blog, but I just don't have it in me to really care about this for now, so

Auf Wiedersehen!

(Update: This was just my dramatic way of introducing the suicide theme leading into Fall.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


My first introduction to Opeth was to the song "Advent" from their second album "Morningrise". For the near fourteen minutes that "Advent" played, I was enthralled. A definite decible cranker! I next heard "Black Rose Immortal" from the same album and I, honestly, have never been the same. The music gets into your veins. It breathes a life into you and becomes a part of you. It flows under your skin and through your heart and touches places inside you that you didn't think anyone else knew.
What is prog-metal you ask? My answer is: Opeth. A mix of many different elements and genres of music from blues to 70s prog-rock to death metal influence the very unique sound that is Opeth. Formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1990, the current band members are Mikael Åkerfeldt - Vocals, Guitars; Peter Lindgren - Guitars; Martin Mendez - Bass; Martin "Axe" Axenrot - Drums; Per Wiberg - Keyboards
Here's why I love Opeth. Mikael Akerfeldt's voice can turn from a melodic and lilting to a hardcore death growl within the same verse; this brings an eerie and intense essence to the music which can cross over into many different sub-genres of metal, making Opeth a chameleon among it's peers. The "Opeth Sound" can carry you from the soft melodic, drawn-out and dreamy to the heavy, banging and thrashy, a vertiable manic journey through a dark and beautiful musical landscape. You listen because you just have no idea where this music is going to take you. It isn't of the usual metal formulas like "chunky chunky chunky bridge chunky chunky" or "thrash thrash thrash thrash". It is atypical, to say the very least.
Two albums back to back.that show exactly how different Opeth's sound can get are Deliverance and Damnation. Hardcore metal versus acoustic prog; roaring growls versus resonant vocals.

The album that mixes both of these sounds together in perfected harmony is their latest release "Ghost Riveries". I was very fortunate to experience Opeth live this past spring on their "Ghost Riveries" tour. I was able to experience the magic of their sound in person; a line directly into my veins. A phenomenal rush!
Basically, the bottom line is that you either love Opeth or you don't. You just "get it" or you don't. And if you don't well... I guess you can just turn down the volume and put in Barry Manilow.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Turbonegro: Perfect for screwing up those quiet moments

These guys are a riot. I have a couple of albums of theirs and really enjoy cranking up the decibels to them. I have "Party Animals" and "Apocalypse Dudes". Party Animals is more in the vein of naughty heavy metal, with a twist of Alice Cooper. Apocalypse Dudes is the recommended one for those who just want to be pummeled and it features better song writing, too.

This is just some skim off of the cream. Don't know a whole hell of a lot else about these crazy Scandinavians, other than their claim to "Death Punk" or "Black Punk". Whatever. It is pretty awesome stuff, though. Check them out.

Oh, and
Play it loudest!

Monday, July 10, 2006

You're Gonna Miss Me: Roky Erickson, my favorite cracked genius. (Updated)

Roky was born on St. Swithin's day; the same day that Vlad Dracula was born. He's the man. A satanic Buddy Holly. I mean, I don't like Satan, personally, but you somehow got to admire Roky's dedication to him (explained in the update). His reality (or unreality) makes poser wannabe evil dudes, say Slayer, look like Quakers. He believes that he is an alien. I forget the alien's name, it's either Glieb or Blieb. I'm just running off the top of my head here. He has been institutionalized and in prison. He did copious amounts of drugs, namely acid, and  at one time it was rumored that Jack Black would be playing Roky in a biopic flick about his life.

Roky got his start with a band that eventually became the 13th Floor Elevators, in the later part of the sixties. My favorite song of theirs is the haunting orgasmic holler fest that is "You're Gonna Miss Me". Here, Roky sounds like early Van Morrison, circa "Them", only with two-ton balls casting his hell fire vocals upon your ears. But the amazing part of Roky is that his voice can go from this sulfurous rage to Buddy Holly hiccup, then to sweet and tender croons, that drip with heartache.

Rocky has a new compilation of his best 13th Floor Elevators and his solo work, entitled, "I Have Always Been Here Before", of which is also a title of a "Buddy Holly" like tribute to Old Scratch. Underneath his sole acoustic guitar and Texan-tongued vocals, there is a dark, eerie undertone that just haunts you on this tune. His other songs also talk of zombies (Creature With the Atom Brain), serial killers (Bloody Hammer), political paranoia & conspiracy with a reference to the identity of the Anti-Christ (The Interpreter), the list of off beat and wildly interesting songs continue. I never tire of listening to him sing "Starry Eyes" or "Stand for the Fire Demon", and "You Don't Love Me Yet" is a lovely tune with sincerity beyond most other songwriters.

Check him out sometime. Just be prepared to open your mind a bit. We are talking about a guy that formed a band while in an insane asylum. He is still around, writing, recording, and performing in Austin, Texas.

Update: Dell computers is using "You're gonna miss me" for their new add campaign. Plus, Roky's song "Anthem" is probably one that I should have mentioned in this post. This line may not be something that is true in mathematics, but metaphysically...."The square root of zero is something smaller than zero, which keeps getting into light. I promise. I promise my green and blue eyes to you." Oh, check out his album "Gremlins Have Pictures". It has some of the stuff mentioned already, but alternate and live versions, too. Plus, really great material not included on the compilation mentioned prior.

In "I Am" he is surrendering himself to the perfect love of Satan. In Roky's case, Satan is his mental illness. He wasn't a Satan worshipper, but was courting his illness, trying to understand it, then break it's heart and leave it.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Set your sails and let me take your ship to foreign shores...

For my first post, I thought, "Vera, you have to find a great album!"

Bathory's Hammerheart is one of those great albums.
This is a definite Must Have™ in any metal collection.
Bringing forth Norse Mythology into the lyrics of albums such as Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods, Bathory is seen as the pioneers of Viking Metal. Now, admittedly, not everyone that is into metal is into the whole Viking/Norse Metal scene, but if you were to own ANY album of this genre of metal, this is the album to own.

The album starts off with the sounds of water lapping onto a shore. "Shores in Flames". A soft, almost lulling sound begins as the melodic voice carries you into a voyage set off by Norsemen to conquer foreign lands leaving shores in flames and cities in ruin. The chanting "Shores in flames... shores in flames" draws you in, like the rhythm of the paddles of dragon boats on a choppy sea; and the power of the ocean, the voyage, the pillage can be heard deep within the guitars and vocals.

Continuing on to "Valhalla" the vocals are much more raw and desperate. A screaming homage to the God of Thunder, Tor (Thor). A warrior's fate is met. The constant crashing cymbals is reminicent of clashing swords and shields in battle. The roar of thunder echoes in the background, calling out to the God of Thunder. This must be listened to very VERY loudly.

In "Baptised in Fire and Ice", the chunky guitar riffs in this song continue to drive your heartbeat to the rhythm of some unseen force. Quorthon's voice tells a tale of a child growing up and learning the ways of Norsemen, the powers of nature, the wind, the sea and of course the power of fire and ice. The continual story of values passed from father to son. In this song, the music seems almost secondary to the vocals and until you can really get a handle on Quorthon's singing style, I recommend you keep the lyric sheet handy.

The next song, "Father to Son", takes "Baptised in Fire and Ice" from the point of view of a father . It starts off with the sounds of home-life in what we could imagine to be a normal sort of village. The sound of a blacksmith clanging steel, a dog barking, a baby crying. The slow chanting when the music starts is a paradoxical prelude to the amazing guitar and drums to follow seconds later. The mixing of vocals and guitars has met a balance like it did in opening song.

"Song to Hall Up High" is an acoustic. Falling on the heels of the heavy melodies this song is almost like a psalm to Oden.

Immediately, Quorthon brings your back into another heavy song. Vvornth's hypnotic drumming in "Home of Once Brave" almost sets you to flight with the beating wings of one of Oden's ravens; flying over the vast land that he is said to have ruled. The open guitar chords and long riffs send you soaring over mountains and forests tall and wide. A majestic feeling echoes as the song trails off into a distant horizon.

"One Rode to Asa Bay" begins with the sound of galloping hoofs; an almost ominous sound. The lyrics sing of the coming of Christianity to the Norsemen. The guitars almost cry in pain as Quorthon sings and the churchbells ring in the background. The chanting throughout is foreboding and as the last line of the song is sung the screaming guitars wail in a very sad and tearful way.

Listen to this album up to … ELEVEN!

Bathory's line-up for this album:

Quorthon-vocals, guitar, electric guitar, backing vocals and fx

Vvornth-drums and percussion


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Everybody, Welcome Vera to The Grunt Army: 120 dB's Division.

Yes, it's true. I finally have a contributer. Grunt Ahoy! will likely never have one (just a girlfriend), since it is such a unique animal. But this blog kept bothering me, asking me if it could get married. I relented and let 120 dB's loose into bloggerland to find its mate. Vera accepted the call and is now baring the next generation of Babylon for 120 dB.

My idea was that my love for metal wasn't hardcore enough to really offer a serious look into good and obscure bands. I could do Priest and shit like that, but Opeth and Venom, etc., that's Vera's baby, totally. I will focus on my punk, garage, and hard rock/rock'n'roll tastes--that are loud. This is the key, it has to be good loud music. I cheated a few times, but got away with it because only five people have ever read this blog.

I'm glad to have Vera on board. If you are now sulking, wondering why you didn't get picked, well, I reward loyalty, dedication, and a little thing called good taste. Plus, Vera doesn't blow me off and is not flakey, so I can depend on her to really contribute here.

Everybody give Vera a big 120 dB's welcome. Turn your Marshall stacks up to 11, your Hiwatt heads up to Townsend, your Fender Deluxes up to Hurricane, and your Messy Boogers and Bogners up to now.

Crikey, that's fuckin' loud!!!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Okay, these guys are just plain noisy: Blue Cheer.

Blue Cheer's debut album "Vincebus Eruptum" is Latin for control of chaos. I can't think of a better way to describe this album. It is Heavy Metal, circa 1968. Just listen to "Parchment Farm", or their cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". You will find objects burst from the sonic power of this breakthrough album. This is not pretty; it is ugly and intense, so it is not for just anyone. If you like extremely loud music, however, you'll love it.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Humble Pie: A great choice for rocking out old, old school.

Pretty much all I have to say about Humble Pie is two words: Steve Marriott. He is this pint-sized, mod-turned-rocker, whose voice just oozes ballsy, high-pitched soul. Having axe man extraordinaire, Peter Frampton, on board didn't hurt either. Frampton is better known for his solo career, ironically, one that was launched from another live album, the biggest selling live ablum ever, "Frampton Comes Alive". While there are no "Frampton" sized hits on Humble Pie's featured album, this is one of those listening experiences that you can file under: "I felt like I was in the freakin' front row!"

Quick history lesson: Steve Marriott came from the legendary mod/soul/psychedelic band The Small Faces, which after he left became, simply, The Faces. The Faces acquired Ron Wood and Rod Stewart and essentially were starting to steal The Rolling Stones fire, in their ability to bring the house down. I guess that's why The Stones stole Ron Wood away from them. The Faces are the superior group to Humble Pie, but Humble Pie did a better live recording, in this offering, than anything that the Faces put live on wax. Why? Well, it's not the performance, rather, this one has a certain voodoo charm about it that's hard to explain.

So, back to our little history lesson. Steve Marriott, singer/guitar player, decides to quit and grabs a fresh-faced teenage Frampton to form a harder version of the Stones. When it worked, it was divine. However, it never seemed to really take off where it should have, given their talent. I still can't peg just exactly what it was. Maybe the fact that the two leads in Frampton and Marriott cancelled each other out star-wise. They both played massive boogie rock guitar and both had great voices. Who knows. I think that for casual listeners, a best of would be the way to go with these guys. But if you like real live rock'n'roll, that does not backslide, pull punches, or lack raw energy, then this one ranks with some of the best live albums ever.

Eddie Kramer is the man you want producing your live album. That is a fact. Not only has he worked on various Led Zeppelin records (you can credit him with the far out bleed through mistake/cover-up on "Whole Lotta Love" where Plant sings, "Woman you need it!"), Hendrix (He built the Electric Ladyland studio at Jimi's request), and so many more huge things. But his live credentials are astonishing: "KISS ALIVE!", "Frampton Comes Alive", Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" record and movie, The Rolling Stones "Love Ya Live", and Humble Pie's performance here. The list goes on and on with this man.

The first song on this album is Ida Cox's "Four Day Creep". It starts out with a single riff, then a double, then Frampton goes off on a melodical guitar run that floats off like an electric butterfly. Frampton is the first in singing and has a lower, smoother voice than who comes in next: Marriott! Marriott comes in tag team style and raunches up the stage. Great tune.

"I'm Ready", starts with Steve Marriott testifying soulfully to the audience asking them, "Are you ready?" and I'm guessing that Peter is the one doing the call and response on the guitar. Marriott shouts, "There it is...Oh, God Yeah! Pick it up!" while the drums kick in and the whole house comes tumblin' down. "I'm drinking T.N.T.", Marriott sings. No shit! Frampton comes in a little later and it just feels so right. The band gets right in that groove and all you have to do is lay back and enjoy it. Frampton's solo work is so beautiful, it doesn't rock like you think it should. It has this lyrical flutter that contrasts to Marriott's unflinching rhythmic power that really makes it special. Frampton sings, "I've been drinkin' gin like never before". Marriott joins in, "Feelin' good. You ought ta know. One more drink--wish you would. Take a whole lot of lovin' to make me feel good. I'm ready!!!" I do believe that KISS ("Cold Gin") owes these guys and Willie Dixon some royalties, or at least a nod.

"Stone Cold Fever" this one really exhibits Marriott's vocal prowess, and has the best shit-faced riffs this world has to offer. Beer companies, you should be stealing this one for your adverts. Frampton delivers an out of this world jazzified guitar spurt. Only Jeff Beck does this better. Marriott makes a little comment on his girl that cracks me up, "She's got two arms, got two legs, got two titties, got one nose..."

The next tune is a cover of Dr. John Creaux's "I Walk On Gilded Splinters". This thing runs 23 minutes and 25 seconds and never gets dull. It burns slow, then just rages out of control in certain points, and turns to embers near the end. In Peter's quiet intro, you can hear someone in the audience drop a beer bottle on the floor and it goes rolling down. "Gris gris on yo door step", Dr. John's Creole English mix gets treated to a full on electric drama treatment of reverent, yet spooky, hushed spell, followed by sublime outbursts of pure ecstasy. At the end, I believe they mix in another piece in there of a blues artist. Who, I don't know, but it blends in seamlessly.

Muddy Waters is tapped here as well, in, "Rolling Stone". This one is a slow, yet muscular track that pounds and trills it's way into your bad thoughts--on part I. Part II: Marriott gets dirty. A whore offers her daughter but with one caveat: "You can have her all you want, but don't forget me--'cause I haven't had any in a long, long time!" At the end of this long track, they do a boogie send up that gives you that little reward for sitting through dirty story time.

In "Hallelujah (I Love Her So)" Humble Pie does Ray Charles. It is my least favorite track on this album, but I guess you had to have been there. Hey, they all can't be winners. It's actually pretty good, but, meh.

"I Don't Need No Doctor" is my absolute favorite Humble Pie song. This live version is so powerful. Steve Marriott's voice and Frampton's guitar's, buttressed by Marriott's axe, just peels the paint off the joint. I don't need to say anymore that this, "I don't need no doctor, 'cause I know what's ailing me....all I need is my baby!" The return on this number is the orgasm. Trust me, if you like this kind of music, then you'll have a happy ending.

Play it Loudest!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Just Get This One, Now!

Pete Shelley is the consummate Pop/Punk lyricist. These are some of the 20 (or more, if you get the newly remastered version) most catchy and brilliant songs from the punk and post punk era, ever. Steve Diggle and Pete Shelley also provide plenty of twin guitar action with good taste and no wanking. Of course, wanking has it's place, just not in this genre. Also, Pete Shelly provides most of the quirky lead vocals with a real addicting tenor. Diggle handles the harmonies and some lead vocals.

Every song is a pleasure here, with plenty of great guitar hooks, melodies, and superior drumming by John Maher. My fav's are "Orgasm Addict", "What Do I Get?", "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)?", "Everybody's Happy Nowadays", "Harmony In My Head", "Oh Shit", and "Autonomy".
There's too much here to go into at length. You just have to trust me. If you like loud and fast with a touch of sensitivity, humor, and MENSA level pop smarts, buy this album, now.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dinosaur Jr: You're Living All Over Me.

J. Mascis, Murph's, and Lou Barlow's three album stretch as the original, pre-grunge hype, Dinosaur Jr., created a sonic canvass of mayhem, to which perverse pop accents were added. Unfortunately, this also contributed to the next big thing phenomenon--something critics and music journalists slobber on 'till it loses its potency. The fuel for their innovation was the conflict between the two that came to a head here, their second record, and only got worse on the next record, "Bug".

While Bug may have the anthem in "Freak Scene" that prepped the alternative rock movement for Nirvana's reign, "You're Living All Over Me" is superior in my opinion. Here's why: Take three guys, give them influences ranging from Black Sabbath to The Cure, in that combination J. Mascis' Neil Young vocals and effect saturated, hyper-gained guitar frenzy, and what you get is another SST breakthrough album. But, this was more than a breakthrough, it was one of the first masterpieces for alternative hard rock.

The first track "Little Furry Things" has the typical Mascis laconic vocals being beat to shit by his own screeching wah guitar and Barlow's thundering Rickenbacker bass. I can always tell it's a Rickenbacker bass just by it's trademark punchy thunder: Old Geddy Lee (Rush) tracks, Lemmy Kilmister, and Chris Squire to name a few. Mascis starts singing about bunnies and other unintelligible stuff, but it's cool. It's probably about getting hurt by somebody.

"Kracked" is a punky ditty that goes from minor keyed riffing, to laid back verses, to soft minor keyed riffing again, then into a whirlwind of drums and guitar that scorches your ears. Then Barlow's bass hops on you to beat your brains, solo style, followed by earnest, pleading, vocals by Mascis. This leads into "Sludge Feast", a hairy, sonic mud ride that flings you right into the stratosphere. Of course, Mascis starts to sing in his lazyboy voice about a girl, which then leads into, again, sonic mayhem, twin guitar solos, and terrific drum bashing by Murph. Mascis works his way back to the soft singing, then, pow, they snap your neck into again.

The next track, "The Lung", is quite pretty, despite the hard playing involved. The song is about the frustration of not being able to "collapse the lung that breathes the doubt in everyone". The thing that makes these guys stand out is that their songs have several different movements in them, almost progressive.

"Raisans" is where you'll be able to hear the Neil Young bastard son comparisons, that J. Mascis gets, in full bloom. I absolutely love this song, even though it is faulted in a couple of its transitions. This song is about the torture of being around someone that you can't get along with, but care about deeply, I think. As stated before, J. Mascis has this lazy yobbing voice that makes it hard to decipher some words.

"Tarpit" is a sunny, sludge-drenched, if that's even possible, tune that kind of hangs in the air, stoned and spacey like. That's about it on that one.

"In a Jar" is Dinosaur Jr.'s best tune in some ways, and my favorite tune of theirs. It's just funny, but sweet. I know what this song is about. The only thing I can say is that I just want someone to pat me on the head and tell me that I've been a good boy. Women only, please. I'll lick your hand in return and graze by your window. Keep the scar/scab jar away from me, though. But, I'll try to understand your pain and make you feel better.

"Lose" is an emotional, crying-out tune, that is short but pretty. Similar to what I said earlier, this is The Cure meets Neil Young.

"Poledo" is a Barlow creation that is so odd and out of place on this album. Kind of like The Beatles "Revolution No. 9", it is disjointed and full of tape edits, but it does have some actual song moments in it. If you haven't checked out Lou Barlow's group "Sebadoh", then do it now. They rock my lo-fi world.

If you have the SST version, I think that this is the end. If you have the Merge records reissue, then, you are treated to a cover of The Cures' "Just Like Heaven", only punked out with a hardcore chorus. It rules!

Play it loudest!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How many of you have listened to this album, Zen Arcade? If you haven't and liked Nirvana and similar bands, then you owe it to yourself to check this one out. First off, this album was originally released on the SST label family. Husker Du was a hardcore band that took innovation past the threshold within a genre not known for evolving beyond loud and fast. The alternative rock concept was yet to be conceived in 1983, as well. So what in the hell were they, then? They were originals, the vanguard, practically unknowns.

Here's what you need to know: Bob Mould is a guitar wielding beast. Need proof? Just listen to his solo album "Black Sheets of Rain" and the album "Copper Blue" from his group Sugar. He also has a keen lyrical sense and infuses his white noise raging with melody. This is why I can listen to "When Pink Turns to Blue" and feel the horror and the sadness of discovering the girlfriend dead from an overdose. Variety is the word: most hardcore can get "samey" real fast. Not Zen Arcade, however. The album needs to be taken in as a whole. It changes with fluidity and where the seams get ripped in transition, it feels appropriate. It is a concept album.

The feeling of never getting to leave your hometown. That loneliness of being left behind. The defeat of moving away in spite, then realizing that you're screwed. The pain of being abused, drug addiction, and settling for the safe hometown job and girlfriend, only to see all your dreams go down the drain. It is depressing as hell, but it is an emotional journey. One that many kids have gone through in one way or another. I have had a portion of this story played out in my life. I can feel it, touch it, and taste it. It is bitter, but the music and the words console me. It calls out to me with understanding that someone knows, and the loneliness is shared. It says to me, "A shared burden is less heavy".

What is a Zen Arcade? It is a place where you play and get played. A place where peace is for sale, but at a price unattainable. Where the games that you play take you further away from your best intentions, with every quarter spent. It is, in every sense, Pleasure Island. I hope you come back.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Meat Puppets

This is one of those records that you'll either love or hate upon first listen. For those whose Meat Puppets experience has been limited to the song "Backwater" and the appearance with Nirvana on MTV's Unplugged, then this record will be a shocker. For hardcore enthusiasts, this will be a must buy record. In fact, if you buy the newly-reissued CD, it features the mega-necessary "In a Car" EP. I have the LP, so I still need to get that EP. The one cool thing about this LP is that it is a 45 and not a 33RPM, which means you can slow it down and make them sound like monsters.

The Kirkwood brothers and their friend Derick Bostrom, formed the Meat Puppets in 1982 and hailed from Phoenix, Arizona. This the place of my formation as well, so it's all rather cosmic--wow. Back to our story, The first song hits you hard in the head, which is either good or bad. You either come to the conclusion that this is not for you, or you go, "Hell yeah, I can't understand what this guy is screaming about, but it sounds like he's vomiting his guts out on to the floor." How can I describe it in more contemporary terms? It's like if Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon, singer) was killed, buried, then brought back to life as a zombie, then started singing in a hardcore-punk band.

(Meat Puppets, from left: Derick Bostrom, Kurt Kirkwood, and Chris Kirkwood)

The guitars, courtesy of Kurt Kirkwood, are fantastic. He did something different, incorporating humor and atonal jamming into hardcore. His brother Chris' bass has a bouncy quality that just wants to come out and play around with his brother's guitar. This is the key relationship that makes the Puppets' magic. The overall sound fluctuates. You can hear the origins of their sound to come, with a nugget of country hidden in all the noise.

My favorite tracks on this record would have to be "The Gold Mine", "Saturday Morning", and "Walking Boss"--a classic track. I also love the two instrumentals: "Our Friends" and "Milo, Sorghum, and Maize". Another thing that I always look forward to when taking out my Meat Puppets albums is the artwork, done by the Kirkwoods.

In addition to the humor and country influences, the Puppets weaved elements of psychedelia into their songs. Most of this album sounds like a few guys in a garage thrashing away after dropping way too much brown acid. So, go forward with caution on this one. I warned you. You just might find that you're sick enough to like it.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bad Brains

I've been listening to Bad Brains self-titled debut album lately. This is not their SST label contribution and I know that I promised SST label stuff, but what the hell. This album is from the ROIR label. I don't know enough about that label to comment any further.

Bad Brains are hardcore, and often fused reggae with their hardcore, or just regular old reggae. Bad brains are one of the best hardcore-punk groups ever. They are also black. Not your typical punks. They started playing jazz-fusion and are accomplished musicians. Why in the hell would they start playing the hard, loud, fast style hardcore that was all the rage with the white boys in the late 70's? Simple, they had aggression, they had anger, they had something to say, and they needed to say it loud.

So, what do a bunch of rastas sound like playing hardcore-punk? Well to put it short, ungodly awesome. HR, Joseph I, or the "throat" (as the band called him) was a yelling, yelping, and grunting (I like the grunts) dynamo. The rest of the band kicked as much ass as anyone ever did before and after them. They were masters of the hardcore riff, thanks to Dr. Know and his massive guitar work. Just listen to "Pay to Cum", "Big Take Over", "Supertouch/Shitfit", or "Banned in D.C." and you'll be converted.

I like "Attitude" and "Sailin' On" personally. On Attitude, HR sings about having a PMA (positive mental attitude), so these guys weren't about gloom and doom, but being effective and positive. My favorite track is "Right Brigade". All I can say about that track is holy shit on a ham sandwich! I just want to keep turning it up and up, 'till my ears start bleeding.

Bad Brains did include some pretty decent reggae on this album, but if you want their best hardcore/reggae or just plain reggae offerings, then get "I Against I" on the SST label. But this one, Bad Brains, is the essential hardcore album along with any Minor Threat, Black Flag, Misfits, or Germs album. It was first released only on cassette, but now has been re-issued on CD. The sound quality is not top notch, but this was the 1981-82 underground D.C. hardcore scene. So, this CD still has a underground demo feel to it that finds a way to explode through its technical limitations. If you really care about hardcore, or if you need a lesson (because your punk vocabulary is limited to Greenday), then get this album right now, Bad Brains.

Play it loudest!!!

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Perfect Band for a Horror Movie Soundtrack:

Do you think it might be possible to re-unite The Cowsills to do a 70's throwback style horror flick, say in the vein of "The Last House on the Left"? I bet you're all wondering, "WTF, did he just mention the real life Partridge Family?" You heard me correctly, The Cowsills. I couldn't think of anything more terrifying than a brutal slaying being accompanied by that rain-in-the-park song, or whatever the hell it is, "And I knew she could make me happy...happy...HAPPY!!!" The SST label round up is one ROIR label review. Guess which one that is. SST labels will include Husker Du, Meat Puppets, and Dinosaur Jr., so stay tuned.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Beating the Blahs With the Zombies

I've borrowed the Zombie's classic "Odessey & Oracle" from my big brother. I've had a hard time with the winter blahs lately--who am I kidding--it's been pretty rough for me. This blog was intended for loud music: rock 'n' roll, hard rock, punk, garage, and heavy metal. It has started to drift in purpose. I have not been able to get into the hard stuff lately due to my mood being in need of lifting. So here's Odessey and Oracle spinning in my player. I wonder if it's got what it takes to get me out of the dregs.

The first song is "it", the mood lifter: "Care of Cell 44". It is a love song of sorts about a man looking forward to his girl getting out of prison. I don't know why she is in prison, but this was in the late sixties, so let's say it was dealing drugs, demonstrating against the war, or both. All I cared about was the opening old-timey, upright piano plinking out metallic notes and chords, shortly accompanied by a crisp snare and stiff bass drum and this vocal, "Good morning to you, I hope your feeling better baby." That's exactly what I needed.

If you are wondering about what the Zombies are most widely known for, that would be the singles "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season." Rod Argent was their keyboardist and had a great deal to do with the complex--for rock--arrangements. He later went on to form his band, Argent. The other part of the band that contributes to its distinct taste is the vocalist, Colin Blunstone. His voice is ultra smooth and stays at a limited tenor sweep that rises and falls coolly like a saxophone. The bass (Chris White) likes to play counter to his vocals. The vocal arrangements and harmonies are on par with that of the Beach Boys, Moody Blues, and The Mammas and the Pappas. The rest of the album is serene and somber, pretty; distilling quiet sorrow from hope. It is this process of extraction that lifts me.

I could put Care of Cell 44 on repeat and bliss out, but I need to realize a bigger experience. I want to spend a day listening to this album, the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds", The Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society", Beatles' "Sgt. Peppers", King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King" (to frighten me a little), The Small Faces' "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake", Love's "Forever Changes", and The Moody Blues' "In Search of the Lost Chord". I think a sick day is in order.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

What would happen if... listened to Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" while sitting at this grave?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Favorite Song of the Moment: Shake Some Action!

The Flamin Groovies are a group that I discovered a few years back. They got their start in the mid-sixties and hailed from San Francisco. They really didn't fit in with the times then, eschewing the hippy movement for a real rock'n'roll revolution. Roy Loney, their original lead singer, was a maniac. If you check out their Fillmore performance on the live album "The Flamin Groovies in Person!!!!", especially the song "Slow Death", then you'll know what I mean.

Roy Loney left the group in 1970 and lead guitarist Cyril Jordan was left with the task of getting the band on their feet again. The first thing they did was add an apostrophe to "Flamin", then the group moved to England. The group teamed up with rocker/producer Dave Edmunds in the early seventies and started to record. This material didn't get released. It took years before they got out a record. This first record of the new Flamin' Groovies was the Dave Edmund produced "Shake Some Action". This was in 1976 during the Brit punk heyday. As usual, they were out of place with the times.

Back in the Roy Loney era, they played around with traditional 50's rock'n'roll and even country, adding what could only be called an "alternative" twist to it. Of course, I started out with their classic "Teenage Head" album, and this is where this "Loney" era sound is best represented. The new Groovies record "Shake Some Action" features some of that kind of sound, too. But without Loney there as resident psychopath, those tracks don't have that same energy. The parts of "Shake Some Action" that really stand out are their sixties "Anglo" revival attempts. This stood in direct contrast to the Punk movement, because Punk was basically throwing down against all the dinosaurs and establishing the new rule. I love Punk, but I love my Beatles, Stones, The Who, and especially the Kinks, even better. The Groovies did their own take on these groups (and even late sixties BeeGees) and came out with songs that don't come across as either pastiche nor mere tribute, but are still fresh, original statements on the genre. This new material didn't take off right away, but the Groovies eventually got back some respect in Europe.

My favorite song, period, right now is the title track from this album "Shake some action". This is the only track that I'll elaborate on. This song starts off with a lonely guitar riff sequence from Cyril Jordan. Then the drums crash in along with a two-note bass thud, then the song takes off galloping into a fast-paced emotional ride of lust, longing, and rowdy passion. From the chorus: "Shake some action is what I need to let me bust out at full speed. This is surely what you need to make it alright." Simple lyrics, but their phrasing and execution of them makes you feel something more complex is going on, and sung with a tone best described as earnest desparation. The harmonies are excellent on this song, and only get better throughout the whole album. Sometimes on this album, you swear that you're hearing a lost Beatle song, but like I said, they go beyond that sort of thing.

One caveat for those who might like "Beatlish" tunes is the more American rock'n'roll, Chuck Berry type numbers. Sometimes I'm in the mood for that kind of thing, but most times I just select the next track. One thing of note: I, unfortunately, bought the old edition CD of this album. If you think that Shake Some Action is up your alley, then do yourself a favor and get the newly remastered version of this album. It's the one (pictured above) without the yellow text and black border. Also, the Flamin' Groovies have since had many different incarnations and have released a lot of sub-par material and look out for bootlegs as well. So, find out what's good before you buy their stuff. As for Shake Some action, the song alone has been playing over and over in my players for the past two months. The rest of the album is a bonus.