Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review #74: The Melvins - Making Love Demos (2007)


THE MAKING LOVE DEMOS

Year: 2007
Genre: Heavy Metal, Punk Rock
Sub-Genres:
Sludge, Hardcore, Post-Punk
Label:
Bifocal Media
Tracks:
8
Length:
21 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style:
Weird/Mysterious
My Rating:
6/8

This album is a sort of joint effort between the Melvins and cartoonist Brian Walsby (who often did art for their more obscure records). It iz part comic book and part album. The comic book is called "Manchild 3" and it comes with the album (or maybe the album comes with the comic). Here's the scoop on what was up with the Melvins when these demos were recorded -- these were the last recordings done with Matt Lukin, the original bassist. The band was writing new songs for what would be their next album, "Ozma". So, these sound slightly different. Some of the songs are faster than their studio versions, and a lot of the names are different. The Melvins were still a very unpopular band with the punk rock scene, because their music was so slow, weird, and unpredictable. Brian Walsby was an early fan who actually enjoyed their music during this phase. As a result, Brian and the band have always been good friends, and as I said before, he did a lot of artwork for some of their less-known records (such as this one). Well, let's take a listen.

1. Creepy Smell
Great pick for an opening song. I like this version better than the studio version, to be honest. It's faster and more energetic than the Ozma version. Great drumming. Everything in this song is cool.

2. My Small % Shows Most
This version is longer than the Ozma version. It's a quirky song similar to the sort of songs that were on Gluey Porch Treatments. The song starts out pretty slow and starts to speed up towards the end.

3. Dime Lined Divide
Another faster song (barely a minute long). The guitar is heavy, the beat is powerful. As far as I'm concerned, this iz a song that didn't even get to be on Ozma. What a shame.

4. Excess Pool
Another song exclusive to this album. It ranges from kinda slow to VERY slow. Towards the end it reaches a doom-metal state. The song begins to fade out...

5. Vile Vermillion Vacancy
Another very slow song. It's also much longer than most of the other ones: over five minutes long! Strongly varying tempos. The beat that goes on while Buzz is singing sounds great with it. The vocals sound real good, too. A lengthy faster instrumental section. Buzz sings (more like talks) more in the end part. The song later became "Vile" from Ozma -- but this version of the song is different in a lot of ways. Longer, too. My favorite one on this album.

6. We Got Worries Here
Real slow. Beautiful chords. Soft but sinister vocals. Another song exclusive to this album.

7. Let God Be Your Gardener
I like both versions of this one. Starts with an ominous slow beat and riff. It eventually changes to something slightly faster which seems to just repeat until it just abruptly shifts to the main tempo in a creepy way with a creepy riff. This part is fast, especially compared to the original version. The song ends with a slightly different version of intro riff and beat.

8. Repulsion
This one was later renamed "Revulsion". The song starts semi-fast, with a mid-tempo thing going on, then with only the guitar sounding like it's going to get faster. That part ends and then shifts to a new riff and a very slow beat. This version of the song is a lot longer than the later Ozma version, this one being near six minutes long and the studio version being only three.

The sound-quality is poor (sounds like it was recorded to a single tape player), but the songs are great. To be honest, I like these versions better than the ones on Ozma. Shortly after this was recorded, Matt Lukin was kicked out of the band and replaced with Lori Black (also known as Lorax), the punk rock daughter of Shirley Temple (yes, THAT Shirley Temple). The band struggled to get an album out for a few years but finally got a deal sometime in 1988 by Boner Records, a label that the Melvins has released some of their most notorious work on. The comic that comes with this album seems pretty interesting too, though I haven't gotten a chance to read it, yet. But if you want to hear some older versions of songs from Ozma or just some of the ones you haven't heard before, check this out. Well, the snow outside is slowly beginning to melt (may not be the last of it, though), and it's one day away from the beginning of March. I'm fucking ready.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Review #73: Ween - The Live Brain Wedgie/WAD Excerpts (1988)


THE LIVE BRAIN WEDGIE/WAD EXCERPTS

Year: 1988
Genre: Punk Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Sub-Genres:
Hardcore
Label:
Bird O' Pray Records
Tracks:
11
Length:
19 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style:
Funny/Weird
My Rating:
6/8

I discovered and fell in love with Ween nearly two years ago, now. One hot summer night, while taking a short break from roaming the redneck infested street shirtless on the hunt for stray beer to steal, I was on his laptop watching videos from one of my favorite YouTube channels, CringeVision. The channel posts up all of the horrible things that have come out of Texas public access television. Mostly 4th-rate children's educational programs, drunken baptist sermons, horrible Christian shows, really bad "talent" programs, racist commercials, and a demonic straight-to-video show from the '80s called "Peppermint Park". However, on this night I saw they posted up a whole bunch of videos of a lil' band called "Ween". They said "if you don't own a Ween album, you are missing out" -- with a name like 'Ween' and a music video called "Push th' Little Daisies", how could I go wrong with this? Well, I watched it and got something even greater than I expected. Stupid-as-hell lyrics, a squeaky sped-up voice, two guys with guitars making weird faces, and a fucking catchy but weird riff. I laughed my ass off the first time, but while I thought it was hilarious, I also actually liked the song a lot. I tried showing it to my friend (who was an emo at the time), and he wrote it off as stupid. It took a few more listens, but it grew on him and for the rest of the year we would regularly sing the lyrics because we loved it so much. At the time, I didn't know what to think. I was so amazed. It didn't sound like anything else I'd ever heard before -- at the time, my musical diet mainly consisted of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Y'know, music that was pretty serious and angsty and sung about heroin a lot. But because of my alternative tastes, I was pretty open to weirder music. I listened to the song all morning the next day after our all-night adventure (which also included listening to my friend watch "Deliverance" while trying to sleep and forking some fucker's yard at 4:45 AM). But I STILL hadn't truly known of Ween's potential. I seriously at first thought this was just some stoned high-school kids with a camcorder and some chick decided it would be funny to make a music video and put it on local public access or something. I was wrong. Turns out the band still plays today. I tried listening to some of the immediate links in the 'related videos' section. Wasn't too interested. I didn't make a real effort to check out Ween's other music for awhile, but "Push the Little Daisies" was something I listened to OVER AND OVER. Around December of that year, me and my friend Joseph (same kid as I mentioned earlier) decided to look up some more Ween. I was hearing other songs from "Pure Guava" -- "Sarah", "Little Birdy", "Pumpin' 4 the Man", among basically every other song on the album... I had found my niche. These songs were hilarious, druggy, bizarre, but also with an innocent charm to it... perhaps it's just because Gene Ween sounds 12 years old on half of that album. Whatever the case, though, I realized that this was not just the work of a bunch of high school stoners doing it for a laugh which accidentally turned out to be something brilliant. This was the work of GENIUSES.

However, at one point, they actually WERE high school stoners doing it for a laugh. Back when Ween formed in 1984, they were two 14-year-old punks that met at a typing class. They initially hated eachother but soon became friends. They played and recorded music all of the time, releasing a series of relatively unknown albums on the now defunct Bird O' Pray Records. These tapes are now out-of-print. However, by the late '80s, Ween was touching upon a new wave of brilliance. A lot of people consider "God Ween Satan", the album that came after this to be Ween's first album, but that is not true. This album sort of bridges the two eras along with that album, because it has songs from older albums AND God Ween Satan, and it's their first ever vinyl release, moving past mere cassette tapes. It's actually a double-album of sorts, not because it uses two discs, but because the two sides are different "albums" in their own right. Side 1 in a live record. Side 2 is a studio record. Actually, to make it even weirder, both sides apparently are supposed to be played at different speeds... weird, huh? Well, let's talk about the album. I don't have all day...

1. You Fucked Up (Live)
Originally from the Crucial Squeegee Lip. Begins with Gener cackling and laughing like a maniac. Suddenly, the main riff can be heard and the song pretty much goes into its thing. My favorite line is "YOU FUCKING NAZI WHORE". It alternates between more speedy parts and slightly slower parts. It's a violent, screamin'-like-a-demon anthem to fucking up.

2. Jelly (Live)
A song about jelly and putting it on your toast. It's a little slower than the song before it. Sometimes the vocals are screamed, sometimes they're roared.

3. The Refrigerator that Wouldn't Close (Live)
Similar tempo to the previous song. It's very short. It's a song about a refrigerator that wouldn't close and Deaner starts going on about South Africa before the song begins. "Open my ears, and open my nose..."

4. I Like You (Live)
At the beginning of the song, Gener encourages everyone in the audience to hold hands. It's a song about being friends with someone and liking them and playing in the park. More psycho-goofball vocals. Hee hee hee.

5. I Drink A Lot (Live)
Another one taken from the first album. Gener gets the title wrong and Deaner tries to explain to the audience that Gene "hasn't learned to read, yet". It's a more straightforward punk song about an apathetic trainwreck of a man who just doesn't care about anything, listens to jazz-fusion, and of course, drinks a lot. His wife is fat and his brother is thin. The song ends with some weird noize and more screaming, to which Gene explains "that's how it ends."

6. Nippy Wiffle (Live)
The last live song. As Gene introduces the next song, Deaner sings his praises to the almighty Boognish in the background. Also the longest song on the Live Brain Wedgie half of the album. Mainly a mid-tempo beat, a one-chord riff and some screamed gibberish vocals. There's a bridge section with a solo in it, too. Dean and Gene scream on as the song fades out after it's all over. And that's the end of the Live Brain Wedgie.

7. In the Node of Golgothia
Now we're on to the WAD Excerpts. Starts with a weird voice (it could be either one of them) talking in an echoey/metallic voice saying something weird. After some more weird noises, the next song begins. It's extremely fast accompanied by fuzzed-screams and other garbled vocals. The in-between parts are slower. The vocals here are just fucking HILARIOUS.

8. I Gots a Weasel
This one got on "God Ween Satan" later on. Deaner sings in a low-pitched gravelly-soundin' voice, as a nice little beat plays and there's no rhythm guitar here, just bass guitar. Gene supplies the frantic background vocals. It's pretty laid-back. At the very end, Gene asks "you got a weasel?"

9. Hippie Smell
A song making fun of modern-day hippies, asking questions of why anybody would want to live in the '60s when "a lot of shit happened in the sixties", and "your hippie little ass would've probably gotten killed" -- also calling modern hippies "not real" and "not surreal". Ends with a lot of screams. This song sounds a lot more like the kind of stuff that would be on the albums after this ('The Pod', for example). It's a happy-sounding psychedelic-rock song. Longest song on its half of the album.

10. Stacey
A song about having a crush on a girl named "Stacey". Great solo. In the final verse, the vocals are screamed like a maniac.

11. Gladolia Heartbreaker
A '70s rock-sounding song. You can actually hear the background instruments and vocals walk from the left to the right speaker. Adds a nice touch. It sadly ends here, though.

Must say, it was a pretty neat-o album. After this they released an album called "Prime 5", a "best of" compilation which contained their personal picks from this album and all of the ones before it. After this one, they were finally signed to a higher-profile label, Twin/Tone Records. On that label they released their first "real" album called God Ween Satan. It had a lot of re-recordings of songs from the older era as well as forays into a new direction for Ween. Starting with that album, the band would begin to move past their initial punk phase to a more psychedelic, weirder one. This is epitomized on "The Pod" and "Pure Guava" -- eventually they just started doing everything, including a country album at one point. But this is a good listen, and it gives a coherent look into the days of Ween that you likely missed out on. Side one is an early live show, and side two sounds like they just did some new songs in their room. Recommended for all true Ween fans, who would call this record "brown". Oh, and it's my birthday today. Yay...

VIDEO OF WEEN PERFORMING "I GOTS A WEASEL"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review #72: Pandora - Melancholic Freedom (2010)


MELANCHOLIC FREEDOM

Year: 2010
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres:
Post-Punk, Hardcore, Grunge
Label:
Xochipilli Records
Tracks:
14
Length:
46 Minutes (Long)
Style:
Emotional/Angry
My Rating:
6/8

Once in awhile, you come across a group that's pretty special. Pandora is a Belgian rock band that formed around 2006. The group fuses hardcore punk, grunge, and some other style that I'm not even sure what it is together to create their own sound. It's pretty cool. They released their first EP sometime in 2008, and when I first heard it, I could tell this band had a lot of tricks left up its sleeve. Well, after that, in late '09, they released a single called "Breed My Dye", which was basically a sort of demonstration of what was to come when they finally did their first album. When they were about to release it, they did this thing from January 1st up to January 15th when it finally came out -- they let you hear a track of the new record each day (just about). That was pretty nice. Well, the album is pretty diverse. In a sense, you could say it has nearly every Pandora song in one album, except for maybe "Fall" and a few one-offs that I've heard snippets of in videos of their live shows. But it has three of the four songs from 'Breed My Dye', re-recorded versions of the songs from 'Shoot Me I'll Pay You', a song that was on a compilation, and some great new ones as well. What are these songs like, though? Let's review the damn album and find out!

1. Rock N' Roll
This one was originally from the OX Fanzine Compilation #86. What I love about this one is how the melody is pretty upbeat and happy-sounding, but the vocals are very aggressive and snotty. It's pretty fast. It delivers what the title promises. I imagine it would sound pretty cool if played acoustically, actually.

2. Sophisticated Attitude
Another fast one. This one's all-new, though! I guess it's about someone with a sophisticated attitude. I don't even know the lyrics to this song, so I don't entirely know what any of these songs are about. But that's okay, 'cause then I just get to make up my own stupid meanings for the songs. But if you are the band and reading this, you should post the lyrics to these songs somewhere. It would be pretty cool.

3. Breed My Dye
This is the one they made the music video for. And it was released as a single months before this album even came out. So a lot of Pandora fans know about this one. I guess it actually got mildly popular where the band is from when it first came out. That's pretty cool. The song showcases the band's more downbeat, twangy style. It starts out cold and calm as Annika sings "You Breed My Dye". And I don't even quite know what that means. But that's alright. The song picks up a little bit starting with the drums, and then the guitar gets more loud and fuzzed-out in the chorus part. After the second chorus, there's an outro section, which I consider the best part. There's a solo in that part and it's also the part in the music video where everybody starts puking up that goopy stuff. The tempo for this one is a lot slower than the first two songs.

4. Like a Pissed Flower in Spring
Now before I even talk about the song, I think I'm understanding why this flower's pretty pissed. Okay, put yourself in that flower's shoes. Think about... it's real cold outside. A lot of snow (just like today, dammit)... you're taking a nice, long nap. Real nice. Real long, too. And then all the sudden, the sun just shines right into your fucking face and all of these people are expecting you to get up and make them happy so they can rip you out of your neck and display your corpse in their homes. The pressure's on. Now you have to GET UP, and just STAND THERE all day! Damn, that'd be lame. So I KNOW why there are pissed flowers in Spring. Now, the song... it was originally the first track on the band's first EP, "Shoot Me I'll Pay You". This version is re-recorded, and I like it a little better. Except for the intro. I thought the intro of the original version sounded better. Y'know, the part where it's just the guitar at the beginning. The vocals sound a little stronger here, but that could always be due to a complete lack of budget in the original version. In the original version Annie sounds like an actual pissed flower in spring (hehe, get it?), but in this version she sounds like some sort of mysterious angel. I also like the little kick of feedback that pops up right before the chorus. It's a pretty happy-sounding song. The riff is sweet-o. And it iz fast.

5. Breakfast Saturday Night
One of the various b-sides to Breed My Dye. Starts with the twangy intro and a soft, calm verse, complemented by a hard, punky chorus. The chorus has sort of this adventurous feel like ya don't exactly know what's gonna happen next. It's a good feeling. Remember what I said last time I reviewed this song about having breakfast on Saturday night? Yeah, I'm gonna ask that question again. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Guess we'll never know... maybe they should solve that problem in the next album or something.

6. Cup of Poison
This one's more mid-tempo like Breakfast Saturday Night and Breed My Dye. The verse vocals have a nice flow to 'em. The solo in the middle is really cool and differs greatly in the different parts of it.

7. Post-Vomit Lines
I'm not even gonna ask what a post-vomit line is. I get an image of little lines of vomit everywhere but then I realize that these lines are POST-vomit! What's a guy to do? The song opens with Annie screaming and a discordant stroke of 'lectric guitar 'cause she's so stoked that she wrote another awesome song. Something like that. Yep, it's another fast thrashy song. It's good. It sounds like it's over for a moment, but then a soft part can be heard. THEN it sounds like it's over. BUT IT IZN'T! The band makes one final return as Annika screams "FUCK YOU" a few times. Fuck who? Fuck me? Geez, I hope I didn't do anything to piss you off THAT much! Nothing that couldn't be solved with some damn LYRICS!!! kjafjsdhfkjsdfshdfhdsgfhdf
8. Dark Milk
Easily my favorite one on the whole album, but there are so other contenders for that sorta thing. Hmm... Anyways, it's one of the slower songs. The verse part is sad and soft, but the chorus is a lot louder. The chorus is my favorite part of the song. I really like the vocals on that part. It's pretty hooky (to me, at least) in that part. The chorus ends with a little "PING" noise that sounds like a hammer hitting a nail really hard or something. There's some silence, and then the next verse begins. Etc. Like the name suggests, it's a very dark track, but it's one of my favorites on the whole album. It just feels good.

9. Bored
Also originally from the first EP and re-recorded. The song's called "Bored", but it's pretty energetic. It's a lot more upbeat compared to "Dark Milk". The drumming is really cool, here. The chorus is sung, "My Enemies Should Stay, I Want My Friends to Get Out". Not sure what it means, but I thought it sounded pretty clever.

10. Bottle of Wine
From the first EP. Slow, calm, but also upbeat in a way. I think it might be about alcoholism, but I'm not entirely sure. The vocals are great. The bass guitar is a nice touch. Just a nice relaxing song, still. Every band needs a few of those.

11. Rad Masturbation
I'm gonna be honest with y'all. I masturbate. A lot. So I think it's pretty cool that they wrote a song about it n' stuff. Before it was on here it was on the Breed My Dye single. Gotta love the little splash of distortion right at the beginning. The chorus reassuringly goes "You Don't Need to Masturbate, I Will Fuck You Anyway" -- I got the lyrics wrong the first time I reviewed this song. It's their shortest song, and appropriately, it iz also fast. I really like this one.

12. Born In My Eyes
The song begins sort of wry -- not quite happy but not quite sad. It sounds neat, though. The vocals are softer and calmer than anything else in this album... like a lullaby. Her voice sounds just as sad and sincere as she did in the original version. Slowly, the drumming and bass is coaxed into the song. Kinda like waking up. My lyrical interpretation: there's a literal fetus getting born in Annie's eyes. Don't ask me how or even why. Well, it all builds up to a heavier, raspier chorus with this sort of pessimistic optimism. Yes, I know, that made absolutely no sense. But is good music necessarily supposed to? I know what I'm saying, anyways. Kind of like "Bottle of Wine", it's one of the more delicate points of the record. Longest song, also.

13. Bohemian Dust Cakes
Some of these song titles are just plain goofy. And I like that. It's one last hardcore song from the album -- but this one has a more distinct noize-punk influence to it. And by that I mean it sounds abrasive and lively. Definitely a cool song. Really like the chorus vocals, once again. The bassline for this is really cool. The song really starts to get fucked up at the end, with an improvised (I think, at least) noize-fest between different strings on the guitar as the bass and drums just keep chuggin' along like it's not even happening. The final seconds of the song just sound like Space Invaders.

14. Rays Light Our Last Day
And one last song... it's easy going and quiet with softer vocals. It's not very long, though. Still, a nice way to end the album. The poetry is good, here. Unfortunately, that's all.

The album really is a beautiful experience. My one gripe is the fact that it does suffer from the whole "loudness war" thing -- it sounded a little too jarring on the first listen. However, I found a way to remedy this. I ran a high-pass filter through all of the songs and they all sounded so much better. It does considerably turn down the bass levels (sorry Michelle), but it DOES restore the dynamics of the sound... I recommend they should be more careful about this next time, though. But with that, the album's sound was then much more listenable and I could truly appreciate the songs for how good they really are. Every song on this album is different. Each one is unique. There are fast, thrashy songs. There are mellow, twangy songs. There are dark, grungy songs. The album seems to be based around depression, loneliness, and trying to find happiness in life. I don't know the lyrics to the songs (as I said too many times before), but the music does speak for itself. It just sounds very different from other things I've heard before. Nirvana IS a strong influence to the band, but the music has a feel of its own. And the people in this band are friendly people. Listening to this one the whole way through, though, I realized this is a better record than I thought. It has its ups and its downs, almost like a person. I dunno, maybe it's just 'cause I was tired when I reviewed this record. I'm just saying that it's an interesting album and I like it. And I'm real excited to hear what they're gonna do next. So... penis.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Review #71: Teen Idles - Minor Disturbance (EP) (1980)


MINOR DISTURBANCE (EP)

Year: 1980
Genre:
Punk Rock

Sub-Genres:
Hardcore

Label:
Dischord Records

Tracks:
8

Length:
9 Minutes (Short)

Style:
Rebellious

My Rating:
7/8


Ian MacKaye didn't invent the D.C. punk scene, but he certainly did revolutionize it. Before he made it big (in the underground, at least) with Minor Threat, he played in a band called the Teen Idles. And before that, he was in a band called the Slinkees. The Slinkees played one performance. At this time, Ian was just a bass-guitarist. However, most of the songs they wrote at that time were still used when the Teen Idles formed. So, this was Ian's first recorded band. Once again, Ian played bass, Nathan sang, Geordie played guitar, and Jeff drummed. Their mission was to return to what they believed punk rock was really about. Around the time that the Teen Idles formed, New Wave music was creeping into the punk rock scene, and was famous for its flashiness, use of synthesizers, and all-around glitz and glam. They wore mohawks, shaven heads, leather jackets, and stuck thumbtacks into the bottom of their shoes to make their appearance more intimidating and rugged than the pretentious New Wave style. The music was hard, fast, and short. For this reason, they were pretty influential in the early hardcore scene, even though they lasted for a total of less than a year! In that short lifespan, though, they did manage to squeeze out one 7" EP. Let's hear what it sounds like...

1. Teen Idles
A fast, short song. Describes feelings of teenage boredom, hating school, going to concerts, and being a bored teenager (wait, I just said that).

2. Sneakers
This one's about kids who act like they want to grow up too fast. The first line refers to a sixteen-year-old girl "going on thirty two", smoking a cigarette, wearing lipstick, and dating an older man -- even neglecting the song's protagonist when he tried to say hello her. The song encourages kids to "let their teenage ignorance last" and just have fun being a kid 'cause it doesn't last forever. This song has a really cool riff. There's a solo, too.

3. Get Up and Go
This is the kind of song I want to play for my parents. It sings about the fact that you don't HAVE to learn 'music theory' and learn all of this complex stuff to play in a band -- the band sings that while some kids would rather do that, they'll just "get up and go".

4. Deadhead
This one's very fast with a slow section in the middle. It's a song about a hippie kid who does drugs and listens to the Grateful Dead, while the band sings about how the 'deadhead' will soon be dead and goes on to call out his musical tastes as being "really lousy". End of Side 1.

5. Fleeting Fury
Starts out with a happy, slow intro, but it ends in a few seconds and makes way for a FLEETING FURY of fast punk rock! The first verse of the song sings about the old days of punk rock and the "cries of freedom in the United Kingdom". The rest of the song is based around how punk rock has become for many little more than an image that has "lost its sting" and how a lot of punks want to be seen in the public eye acting mean and tough.

6. Fiorucci Nightmare
A song singing about "an asshole's dream", and snobby rich people who spend their money on expensive fancy clothes and "learn their fashion from a magazine". My favorite line of the song is "do you really think you're in our dreams?" -- who WOULD want to be like THAT? Shortest song on the EP.

7. Getting In My Way
This one's about a person trying to find his way home at night when he gets beaten up by a mugger.

8. Too Young to Rock
This track's taken from a live performance. You can hear the crowd cheering at the beginning. It's a song about the anger of kids who are too young to see their favorite bands at concerts ("it's hard to rock when you can't see the band"). The chorus goes "we're too young to rock", a sarcastic jab at how they feel that age is all that matters to the clubowners. Because it's live, the sound quality is significantly worse than the rest of the album, but if you know the lyrics, then this one rocks just as much as the other songs! The record's title, "Minor Disturbance" comes from a line in this song.

If I didn't say it already, another interesting thing the band did as well was the fact that they did a very cool thing and started their own label. This label is called Dischord Records, and it's still around today. This EP was the first Dischord release ever. Maybe in this review I gave Ian a little too much importance -- well, the other band members didn't go on to anything else significant except for Jeff Nelson; he became the drummer for Minor Threat when they formed and helps Ian MacKaye run Dischord Records today. He also played in a short-lived band called "Egg Hunt" with Ian in the mid 1980s. He has played in lots of other bands as well and currently plays in one called "Fast Piece of Furniture". And we all know what sorts of things Ian did next -- A LOT!! At the time that this 7" record came out, along with "Pay to Cum" by Bad Brains, "Nervous Breakdown" and "Jealous Again" by Black Flag, and "(GI)" from the Germs, there was another new sound coming around, more powerful than the sound of punk rock from the mid '70s... this sound still lives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review #70: School Jerks - Nothing Else (Single)


NOTHING ELSE (SINGLE)

Year: 2009
Genre:
Punk Rock

Sub-Genres:
Hardcore

Label:
Riff Raff Records

Tracks:
3

Length:
3 Minutes (Very Short)

Style:
Angry

My Rating:
6/8


I discovered and fell in love with the School Jerks on Sunday this week. There's a certain freshness to them. Enraged youthful slurred vocals, simplistic but hard-hitting instrumentation, and a sweet analog sound, they're one of the elite few bands of today that I willfully click the repeat button on when hearing a song. They're pretty new also, been around for just two years. They have released a demo tape and two 7" records -- this being the first 7". It has three songs on it.

1. Nothing Else
Fucking awesome riff. Great, loose vocals that resemble a live Darby Crash performance. All-around good song -- best one on the record! Exemplifies everything good about "normal" hardcore.

2. Stray
Fastest and shortest song. A little bit of guitar lead in this one.

3. Passed Out
A tempo similar to the first song's spliced between a pounding beat. The vocals are more easily heard in this tempo than in the second song. Longest song on the single (being about a minute and a half long).

It's very short, but well-worth the listen. Better than a ton of the other music that's out now! It's total classic, snotty, fun hardcore from another great Canadian band. The line-up for the band currently is: Luke, Ben, Ivan, and Matt. I'm not sure who does what. I just read it off the back album art of their other 7" EP. Someone please tell me who does what! Well, I don't know a whole ton else about this band, so I'm not going to keep going on like I do. So get and listen to this record... you won't regret!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Review #69: SoundGarden - Ultramega O.K. (1988)


ULTRAMEGA O.K.

Year:
1988

Genre:
Heavy Metal, Punk Rock

Sub-Genres:
Grunge, Post-Punk

Label:
SST Records

Tracks:
13

Length:
42 Minutes (Long)

Style:
Mysterious/Political/Funny

My Rating:
7/8


As the whole hardcore thing was dying down (at least compared to what it was a few years earlier), something new was happening just a little bit north. Punk rock bands were starting to play slower, heavier songs. This was a new sound, combining punk and metal to create an interesting new genre. And while I'm going to be the one to say that OTHER bands in the past had already done this (Butthole Surfers, Flipper, etc), the occasional slow thing was turned into a whole fucking genre. Early practitioners of this style included the Melvins, Green River, Malfunkshun, and another lil' band called SoundGarden. Out of all of the earlier 'grunge' groups, SoundGarden would be the only one to directly experience mainstream fame. And so, shortly after the band formed, a friend of the band since their high-school years started a label to help release their first album on. The label was called Sub-Pop Records. And while nowadays it's mostly a breeding ground for sterile hipster garbage ('cept for Pissed Jeans), at one point it was one o' the best damn labels around! Anyways, the band managed to release their first record, "Screaming Life" on that label. The next year, though, SoundGarden signed to SST Records, home of weirdo punk! This is the second SoundGarden album. Their sound didn't change a ton from their days before this one, but keep in mind that this was a really fresh sound. Hell, it's still a fresh sound, how many times other than early SoundGarden do you hear a guy fucking WAILING over slow hardcore? Well, speaking of which... time to REVIEW!


1. Flower

The most well-known song on the album. Begins with a bizarre guitar noise which is supposedly Ben Shepherd blowing across the strings of his electric guitar. Hard-hitting with a more median tempo and great flowing vocals. The lyrics are according to the band about a young girl who grows up and invests in beauty and "burns out quick" due to the obsession. There's probably a reason this one got on the 'A-Sides' compilation -- this song seriously sounds like it would fit on any SoundGarden album! There is a music video for this song.

2. All Your Lies

Totally one of my favorites. Though it's a little cleaner-sounding than the "Deep Six" original version, most notably the guitar and the vocals. I like guitar on the older version better. But it STILL kicks ass! For those of you who haven't heard this song, it's a high-power fast song with composition similar to a hardcore punk song from the '80s, with echoey, strong vocals and just about strong everything else. Totally a driving song. One little solo -- NO, TWO somewhere in the middle.


3. 665

A slow, noisy, Butthole Surfers-inspired song. Lots of backwards screaming from Chris can be heard. If you listen hard enough, there's something sinister about it. Sounds almost like a... Satanic message? Let's see -- play it backwards and turns out that Chris Cornell is declaring his love of SANTA [Claus]. This track along with "667" is based on Chris's own musing that if the number 666 is so evil, then the numbers surrounding it must be equally bad. This one's mainly appealing for it's weird quality, so some might see it as filler.


4. Beyond the Wheel

A fucking epic song. This isn't the "grunge" your lame trendy parents listened to (if they are lame and trendy or listened to grunge -- mine were a little too old for it). This song is sinister, dark, slow, and hopeless. Very mysterious-sounding. However, it really gets good when Chris just starts BELTING out those vocals like you've never heard it! The lyrics seem to describe society and civilization as a "wheel" which steers all humanity. Really noizy distorted solo in the middle by Kim Thayil.


5. 667

This song is the other "book-end" to Beyond the Wheel. Very similar to 665, except shorter, and Chris is not speaking backwards (though he's still real hard to understand).


6. Mood for Trouble

Another really good song on the album. Begins with an acoustic intro before the first verse begins. The verses are very adventurous-sounding and loud, while the chorus is also hard, but serene and more relaxed at the same time. The chorus is my favorite part.


7. Circle of Power

This one just sounds like straight-forward hardcore. Hiro Yamamoto (the bassist) sings this song, in a crazy, goofy voice that somewhat resembles the guy from the U-Men. Halfway through, the song like it's gonna end, but then Hiro says something at a speed-of-light pace and then the second half the song starts, with an insano solo. End of Side 1.


8. He Didn't

Sounds a lot like something from "In My Head" by Black Flag. Interesting tempo and guitar. I thought the solo was real neat, especially the first part with the feedback-y sounds.


9. Smokestack Lightning

Cover of the 1956 blues song by Howlin' Wolf, in a grunge style, of course. Chris really shows off his vocal abilities here. He even harmonizes with HIMSELF!


10. Nazi Driver

Weird but cool beat! According to Kim Thayil, it's about killing Nazis, cutting them up, and cooking them in a stew. Very morbid but humorous lyrics. And of course, the music is really cool!


11. Head Injury

This one's really cool too! Just listen to the riff... the riff is great, and pretty inventive. It's a fast song. In the end, Chris repeatedly screams "HEAD" until ending it with an "INJURY" just before it all stops.


12. Incessant Mace

Longest song on the album. Slow, with very poetic lyrics and ridden with guitar-leads and it's pretty bass-driven. Chris keeps screaming "MACE" at the end and you can hear some speedy harmonica just before the song is over.


13. One Minute of Silence

A "cover" of "Two Minutes of Silence" by John Lennon... SUPPOSED to be anyways, but the silence seems to be unable to suppress the group's unwanted chatter back and forth, which Chris blames on Kim Thayil. Over the "silence" is a layer of thick static and some minor sounds from the amps. Not really that silent. Anyways, it ends pretty shortly.


For the SoundGarden fans out there, the band is allegedly reuniting to play new shows in 2010. However, the evidence used to back up wether or not this is true or false in itself can be conflicting, so I'm not completely sure what the REAL plan with that is. We can only hope. Anyways, this was the album that prompted A&M Records to approach SoundGarden and sign them to their label (all of their subsequent LPs were released on A&M), so it's neat to see that this was around the time that the mainstream was FINALLY beginning to recognize the sheer actual talent that resided in the underground... we need a moment like that now -- we've got an entire fucking GENERATION of new bands (some of which are actually quite talented), and the mainstream doesn't even acknowledge them... instead, the focus is placed on third-rate pop garbage and so-called "indie" crap, both of which sound more and more unified every day. You gotta wonder when we're gonna have another SoundGarden -- something that's from & for US, but with enough appeal to mainstream sensibilities that it just might get noticed by some corporate fatass looking to make a buck (hey, sacrifices need to be made sometimes). But yeah, off that topic for now... it's a good album, the last one with their "early" sound before they started shifting towards the more metal-oriented one that the mainstream was more familiar with in the '90s. It's legit.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Review #68: Scream - Still Screaming (1983)


STILL SCREAMING

Year: 1983
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Hardcore
Label: Dischord Records
Tracks: 17
Length: 36 Minutes (Long)
Style: Political/Rebellious
My Rating: 6/8

Scream was a hardcore punk band from the Washington D.C. scene. The band was formed with the original lineup of Peter and Franz Stahl, Skeeter Thompson, and and Kent Stax. They are regarded as being influential in the hardcore genre along with other early D.C. bands, and in my opinion, they're pretty good. This iz their first album. I couldn't find the lyrics to any songs on this album, so I'm just going to make up the interpreted meanings based on the titles of the songs, so just bear with my stupid bullshit.

1. Came Without Warning
Sometimes "came" is the past-tense of the verb "cum". Maybe it's a song about somebody cumming and not warning the recipient in advance. Can't find the lyrics so I guess I'm just going to have to come up with the song meanings myself, and you can't even blame me! Huahahaha. The song starts with a laser-beamy blast of feedback. Alternates between fast and slower sections of the song.

2. Bedlam
This song's about the American Summer of 1981 when Peter Stahl woke up with a lamb in his bed (get it??). Heheheheheheh. It's hard to hear, but the bass is pretty entertaining in this song. Fast, but not as fast as the song before it.

3. Soliditary
This song's about when you take a dump and your poop comes out really solid (like concrete, almost!). This one's pretty melodic and fast. A lot of background chorus vocals... It's really good.

4. Your Wars/Killer
This is a medley of two different songs. The first one is "Your Wars"; A song about not wanting to fight someone else's wars. Peter names a bunch of parts of the army such as the Navy and the Marines. The second one is slightly lengthier, called "Killer". I liked it a little better. It's probably about some guy who kills people.

5. Piece of Her Time
Okay, this one's fast but not as fast as the last few. More "oooh-ooooh-ohhh-ohhh" stuff goin' in the chorus section. What iz it about, you might ask? Well friends, it's about this one chick. She had a bunch of time. Like, a lot of hours worth of it. Some dude borrowed it and dropped it on the concrete. It smashed into little tiny pieces. And he has to pick them all up. What a shame.

6. Human Behavior
Starts with a spoken section which abruptly just EXPLODES IN YOUR FACE into a fast thrasher. Pretty short.

7. Stand
Opens with only bass which sounds real cool alone. It's a song beckoning its listens to 'take a stand' as we're encouraged to "get up". For some reason, just about every other line said in the song has this little ring to it. Gotta love the bass-n'-drum-roll in the middle of the song that just precedes a full letting-it-out which is definitely the best part of the song. The song gets really beautiful at the very end.

8. Fight/American Justice
Another two-in-one track. Fight is just another super-fast song. Not very long, though. The standout here is "American Justice". "American Justice" is a song about law enforcement and police brutality. It's a bit slower, and it a slight ska feel to it. End of Side 1.

9. New Song
This is a new song. It just came out. In 2010. And totally not 1983. And Scream is still around. Totally (actually, they did play a reunion show just a couple months ago!). This song is actually really cool. Starts a little mellow with bass and drums, but it all builds up into something packed with energy and youthful rage. There's even a really cool solo, here!

10. Laissez-Faire
Whether or not they're talking about Laissez-Faire government or the French phrase for "Let it Be", unsure of. Anyways, this is the best song on the album for me. It has an awesome extra clean, happy-sounding guitar added to all the chaos and distortion, really adds a new flavor to it. I love it.

11. Influenced
Begins with the sounds of a dude walking through a hallway and a few various false-starts before the song actually begins. It's fast. The chorus goes "you're influenced... to ignorance!".

12. Hygiene
The intro dialogue almost sounds like they're talking about a guy with a bump on his two-inch wang. Or maybe it's discussing the importants of anal hygiene. Sounds like I'm hearing a lot about some chick in this song. Has a pretty funky feel to it. I think it's the bass... I like it.

13. Cry Wolf
Either about a crying wolf or about the boy who cried wolf. Or about false paranoia-sparking propaganda. Your call. Shortest song on the album.

14. Total Mash
They say the modern term "mosh" (for slam-dancing) comes from the title of this song. Pretty neat intro... doesn't last too long, though... gets pretty fast and intense -- describes the appropriate force of a slam-dance.

15. Who Knows? Who Cares?
The first half is a creepy, sinister intro mostly driven by bass. The second half is another hard-driven punk-rocker. Great vocals, etc. Nothin' to complain about. Another highlight of the album.

16. Amerarockers
I guess this was the second take. Where was the first take? We'll never know. Once again, this song has a blatant ska influence on its sound, which is really cool and probably seemed really fresh n' such at the time. Of course, it's easy to ignore nowadays because the ska-and-punk combo is such a commonly used musical cliche -- not that there's anything wrong with that, but sometimes when a new band does it it just seems more like bandwagon-jumping than anything else. Peter tells us that we are "amerarockers" and so are they.

17. U. Suck A./We're Fed Up
"Umbrellas Suck Ass?". Another two-for-one-er. After a semi-lengthy bridge-piece, "We're Fed Up" starts, and it's a song about the youth of america being fed up with the government and the in-sight future for them. And that's the end-io.

Scream are still more cutting-edge than a lot of bands today. They also lasted pretty long for a hardcore band -- nearly ten years! Pretty cool, huh? As I said before, the band actually performed a reunion show at the Black Cat in D.C. two months ago. I really wanted to go! Oh well... anyways, this a pretty good album, full of top-notch hardcore thrash and some experimentation with other genres as well. So, check it out, friends.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Review #67: Minor Threat - Out of Step (1983)


OUT OF STEP

Year: 1983
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Hardcore
Label: Dischord Records
Tracks: 9
Length: 21 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style: Rebellious/Angry
My Rating: 7/8

Minor Threat was a hardcore-punk band from the early '80s. And while they only lasted about three years, they were really influential. As a result of one of their songs, they unintentionally sparked off a movement known as the Straight Edge Movement, and they were notorious for playing very fast, short songs like no other band at the time. The music was aggressive but good-natured, mixing their brash, uncompromising instrumentation with positive lyrics. Hell, they had their 'Minor Threat' EP's cover ripped-off by Nike and a hot sauce named after them. Minor Threat are a very memorable punk rock band. But it just goes to show, they were only around for several years, they could release two EPs and just one fuckin' full-length album and be as influential and remembered as they were. For a band nowadays that's near-impossible (sadly). But I'm not here to talk about how many people like Minor Threat or the impact they had on the punk rock scene. I'm here to review this album. So let's do that. Right about... now. No, actually, not then. I review this album after THIS sentence.

1. Betray
A song about a friend who "betrays" you by outgrowing a friendship and becoming "too mature". Very fast for most of the song, then at the end there's a slow bridge-section, and after that a fast but not-as-fast-as-the-beginning outro. My favorite song on the album. I really liked that slow section. I could relate to this song and it helped me a bit when I was having a problem with my friend who I felt like was growing apart from me. It's all fixed now, though. But trust me, this song's really good.

2. It Follows
A song about how the ways and silly social patterns of life never really end. It's fast. The chorus sounds a little like the song before this one.

3. Think Again
Slightly less fast. Like the two songs before it, it's really good. While in "Betray", the magic is in the tempo-shifts and rhythm, and in "It Follows", it's in the vocals, here it's just plain in the riff (all of them have amazing riffs, though). This song questions stupid behavior. Second-favorite one on here.

4. Look Back & Laugh
Slow intro, but most of the song is fast. It's about being in a bad situations with friends and the friendship getting ruined by it, when you should've really just looked back and laughed. Longest song on the whole album (over three minutes). End of Side 1.

5. Sob Story
A song dedicated to all depressing crybabies who just can't stop complaining. Maybe more emo kids should listen to this -- oh yeah, nevermind, when they get happy they just turn into even bigger assholes. I forgot. Ends with a "boo-fuckin'-hoo". Heheh.

6. No Reason
A song about pointless grudges.

7. Little Friend
A song about Ian's "little friend", a mixture of intensely negative feelings that rages on inside of him. This song is kinda slow (which I like).

8. Out of Step
A song that further elaborates on Ian's 'straight-edge' philosophy, and how (at the time at least) he is 'out of step with the world'. Ian talks about how he simply does these things because he doesn't find them very important.

9. Cashing In
For some reason the album doesn't credit this track as being on it, but it's there. Ian sings about stealing peoples' money through playing shows and how they just don't care or pretend to pose. A few references to "The Wizard of Oz" such as "I'm taking a walk on the yellow brick road" and the repeated phrase "there's no place like home...", which he ends with -- "So where am I?", in a sung voice rather than screamed or yelled. And, that's the end.

So with all that said, that was Minor Threat's only true LP. Not too long after it was released, the band broke up (and Ian went on to form countless other bands such as Fugazi). And for a full-length of Minor Threat, it's pretty good -- I liked the first half the best, but all of the songs are good in their own right. It's considerably a tad bit more melodic than the two records before it, but not by too much of a stretch. But, if you're a fan of Minor Threat or punk rock and haven't already heard this, go and check it out!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review #66: The Melvins - Sludge Glamorous (EP) (2010)


SLUDGE GLAMOROUS (EP)

Year: 2010
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Post-Punk, Noise
Label: From the Nursery
Tracks: 3
Length: 22 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style: Mysterious/Weird
My Rating: 6/8

In 2008, the Melvins released their latest all-original LP, "Nude With Boots". This is a 12" 3-song EP containing out-takes from the Nude With Boots sessions. It has been released on the new label, "From the Nursery".

1. Dies Iraea (Long Version)
A four minute version of this was on "Nude With Boots". This song is more or less a "cover" or the theme to the classic horror film, "The Shining", which itself is said to be an adaption of the 13th-Century hymn, "Dies Irae" (I wonder why they added that extra 'a' to the end, gee whiz). This version is over seven minutes long. It starts out ambient and spooky-sounding, but then it turns into a calm but slightly sinister instrumental song. This one's twice as long, however.

2. It Tastes Better Than the Truth (Alternate Mix)
This is just a remix of "It Tastes Better Than the Truth", the song that was at the end of "Nude With Boots". It's an avant-garde punk song using soundclips of a radio broadcast as well as singing by the Melvins and a repetitive but neat-sounding beat. End of Side 1.

3. Youth Of America
Originally appeared on "Electroretard". This is a cover of a song by the Wipers. It's a fast-paced punk rocker starting out with a lot of guitar-lead, but it's done in a way that doesn't sound corny and just sounds cool. After the intro, the lead-guitar turns into rhythm, and it has a great beat. Like the original song, this song is over ten minutes long, making it the longest song on the EP (seeing as it occupies an entire side by itself). The second half of the song is instrumental, with a long guitar solo. And that iz the END!

While it's nothing extremely new, at least the album gives us one last taste of what 'Nude With Boots' had to offer, as there weren't any new Melvins songs to hold us over in 2009 (which is abnormal for the Melvins) other than the Chicken Switch remixes (which aren't even songs). In a few months, we will be heading into a whole new era of the Melvins, with their new LP which hasn't been named yet, but from what's been said by the lucky few who HAVE heard them in the studio, it is going to sound different from anything they've done before. So, if you like the Melvins or noise-punk in general, you should check it out, especially if you liked the original versions of the three songs on this EP. Stay legit.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review #65: The Distillers - The Distillers (EP) (1999)


THE DISTILLERS (EP)

Year: 1999
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Hardcore
Label: Epitaph Records
Tracks: 4
Length: 7 Minutes (Very Short)
Style: Angry/Rebellious/Happy
My Rating: 7/8

Few bands of the recent era of rock n' roll have interested me more than the Distillers. While not quite extremely innovative or anything like that, they made up for that in honest emotion and songwriting skills. But I've said that all before. This is their debut 7" EP. It is very hard to find (only 500 pressings were ever made) and hardly anybody's ever heard of it. It contains early versions of four songs that would later appear on their first LP, and it was published on Epitaph Records.

1. Old Scratch
This one is a criticism of churches and organized religion that suck individuality out of their followers and fill them with fear for their lives. This iz the shortest song on the album (under a minute long).

2. L.A. Girl
Brody's voice sounds like Courtney Love's a little in this one. I think it is about the struggles of living in Los Angeles, that leads her to believe that "God almighty" is "NOT red, white, and blue." I like the vocal harmonies in the chorus to this one.

3. Colossus U.S.A.
I for one think the two songs on the second half of this EP are better than the two on the first half. This iz a song on the second half. This song is about poverty and the difficulty of finding employment as a poor person in the United States. My favorite part of the song is the "What ya live for, when you're no-one, what you do and where ya come from?" part... just hooks you in, ya know? Brody's voice sounds awesome, here. For some reason it really gets me when she says "dissipated understanding"... just sounds really fuckin' cool. It alternates between mid-tempo sections, and fast, hectic ones.

4. Blackheart
This is one of the best Distillers songs ever in general. I love it. A lot of people probably see it as filler, but I just really like this one. It's chock-full of rage, energy, and excellent vocal harmonies. I don't really know what the lyrics mean here, but the main line throughout the later part of the song is "Don't I Need This?". The chorus takes up most of the song, and it starts with Brody and Kim simply harmonizing the lyrics, until Kim just keeps going, and Brody is screaming her lungs out in punk-rock fury. The vocals sound a little more awkward here, which is a plus to me. I listen to this one while driving a lot. (Yes, I'm copying most of the stuff I say from my review of the debut LP).

It's real short, but a fun listen. You get to hear the Distillers in more 90's-esque production values, early takes on some of their songs, and you could tell they were already going to be great by this point. It's just a shame they didn't put another song or two on here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review #64: Black Flag - T.V. Party (Single) (1982)


T.V. PARTY (Single)

Year: 1982
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres:
Hardcore
Label:
SST Records
Tracks:
3
Length:
6 Minutes (Very Short)
Style:
Funny/Angry
My Rating:
6/8

Without a doubt, "TV Party" is the most famous Black Flag song. It's catchy, funny, and has lyrics misinterpreted by frat-boys unlike any other. There were two versions of this song... the one on "Damaged", and this version, which is a re-recorded one. This single contains three songs, the latter two of which cannot be found anywhere else, and these songs are the only recordings that were allowed to even be released in between "Damaged" and "My War" for legal reasons regarding SST, MCA, Unicorn Records, and the first Black Flag LP (Damaged). Anyways, here comes the big review-part that y'all have probably been waiting for. Here it is. I just said that. And I'll say it again... here comes the review part. dlkfjdsgfdklshdjdsvfjdsk,nfvdsksdb

1. T.V. Party
The famous one. Basically a satire on people who waste their time doing nothing but watching television all day and drinking beer. A lot of references to popular television shows of the time are made, such as 'Saturday Night Live', 'Quincy', and 'That's Incredible!'. There's a funny music video they did for this song.

2. I've Got to Run
This is a song by Black Flag a lot of people haven't heard. It's pretty fast (compared to the first song, at least), and has crazy bass. Extremely aggressive, fucked-up vocals from Henry -- sounds just like something that could've been in "Damaged".

3. My Rules
This song's really short. Pretty noisy. Overall, it sounds similar to the song before it, but it has a lot of musical pauses punctuating a lot of the sung lines. You hear a final rugged yell from Henry fade out just as the song ends.

It sucks that this one's only three songs long. But, that's what you expect in a single. Hell, a lot of singles only get two songs. Some even have just one! But still, this one is more of the kind of stuff that was on "Damaged" -- wild, angry, and noisy. All three of the songs are equally enjoyable, so there's nothing to regret about this one. I personally like this one's version of "T.V. Party" better, but some might disagree. Regardless of whether or not you actually "get" the lyrics, this little record should rile up any party where some punks (or people with just good taste in music) are involved, so what the hell, grab a couple of brews, sit around on your couch... and listen to THIS!

MUSIC VIDEO FOR "T.V. PARTY"



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review #63: The Germs - (GI) (1979)


(GI)


Year: 1979
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres:
Hardcore
Label:
Slash Records
Tracks:
16
Length:
38 Minutes (Long)
Style:
Mysterious/Political/Weird
My Rating:
7/8

As one of the first hardcore bands I got into, the Germs are considered to be one of the originators of that style of punk, along with X, D.O.A., and Black Flag. Finding out about them from the fact that Pat Smear was at one point a guitarist for Nirvana, and learning that this was his main band, I was curious to see what these Germs guys were about. And I liked it. They made great music. Their performances sounded insane (in a good way). But beyond the drunken performances, the peanut-butter smearing, and the supposed ineptness at playing instruments, were well-written, artistic lyrics which provided somewhat of a look into the philosophies of Darby Crash, the band's mysterious and dangerous frontman.

While the more famous songs from the Germs all come from the "Lexicon Devil" single, the great majority of under-appreciated Germs songs can be found on this album (not as under-appreciated as "Sex Boy", though). The music is in a faster, harder, more abrasive direction and is often considered the first hardcore punk LP. It's also the last "official" Germs release that came out during the life of Darby Crash.

1. What We Do is Secret
Shortest song on the album. Amazing lyrics describing the "secret police" employed by the government and those in authority who eavesdrop on citizens. It's short, but the music for it is really cool-sounding and energetic and captivating (like most Germs songs are).

2. Communist Eyes
The Germs were (and probably still are) one of the few bands in the punk rock scene to be critical of communism (it is said that Darby had fascist leanings). The lyrics describe from a hypothetical insider's point-of-view the flaws of communism and why it fails to deliver what it promises. I love the backing vocals during the chorus part. A great up-beat riff in the verses and the choruses. My favorite song on the whole album.

3. Land of Treason
This one's faster than the previous two. Very complex-sounding lyrics. Kind of depressing-sounding riff.

4. Richie Dagger's Crime
An under-appreciated but catchy song (even has a little solo in it). It's a song about a social outcast who lived a bad life, "but he was satisfied".

5. Strange Notes
A fast one. A song about a character named "Billy Druid". I really don't know what he's really singing about too much, but it seems to be either depression or insanity. Somethin' like that.

6. American Leather
I like the chorus for this one. I think the lyrics are supposed to depict street life among American youths or something like that, but I'm not great at interpreting complicated lyrics, so I wouldn't be so sure...

7. Lexicon Devil
This is a lesser-known re-recorded version of the old classic. It's faster, harder, and more brash than the original version, so it's really a matter of taste which you like better. Both are pretty catchy and energy-filled, still.

8. Manimal
Starts with a slow intro. After about twenty seconds, the song speeds up, and Darby opens the first verse with the immortal line, "I Came Into This World, Like a Puzzled Panther..." -- the song mainly seems to draw analogies between human life and animal life, concluding that humans are no more animals themselves. Good song.

9. Our Way
A slow song. I always liked this one. A low-down, trippy riff from the guitar of Pat Smear. The first thing Darby says in the first verse is "Clara would be proud to know us..." -- Clara who?? Dammit, I want some sort of citation for this. Or at least a last name. Hell, even a middle name will do. Still, it's not as long as it should've been. The lyrics are pretty insightful, about society's plight for but slight reluctance to true freedom.

10. We Must Bleed
Another really good one. The riff is simple, but really effective and sinister-sounding. The combination of the words "We Must Bleed" and the chorus riff with the pounding drums... just sounds good. And then the final chorus is Darby continually yelling "I Want Out Now" (something he did achieve about a year later), and after he stops singing, the rest of the band keeps playing for another minute. It's great. End of Side 1.

11. Media Blitz
Another song I really like. "GOT TELEVISION. GOT SUPERVISION." -- the song really takes off from then, and it's a great song about the behavior-control tactics employed by the media and the government (kind of an extension of the theme of "What We Do is Secret"). Lyrically sounds a bit like something the Dead Kennedys would write. My favorite line: "forget the truth and accept your curse". A little sound clippets of radio programs are played inbetween the last two verses.

12. The Other Newest One
Once again, great songwriting from the Germs. The charm of this one really comes from the bass (played by Lorna Doom). Love the chorus. I think it's actually supposed to be a love song, too. Somewhat slower tempo.

13. Let's Pretend
A little faster. It's a good song. I can't think of anything else to say. Good lyrics. Good riff. Good beat. Good bass. Good vocals. It's a good song. Wait, I just said that.

14. Dragon Lady
I like how they threw the brief solo-guitar injection into the chorus of the song. Pretty up-beat sounding. Sounds like in a short section they play a riff that sounds just like the one of the bridge of "No God". Not sure if that was an intended self-reference or not, but it still sounds cool.

15. The Slave
This one's very fast and pretty short (only slightly longer than the first song). I think it's supposed to be about drug-addiction or something. A bizarre noisy rhythm guitar solo is made by speeding up and slowing down a track of a single chord being played on a guitar in one ear.

16. Shut Down (Annihilation Man)
The last song on the album. This is the longest song on the whole album (about 20 seconds short of being a whole 10 minutes long!). It was recorded from a live performance rather than in the studio like the other songs. It's kinda slow but not too slow. Sort of stream-of-consciousness improvised lyrics. Towards the end you can even hear a little bit of piano in the song. Very long and messy. Unfortunately, it all ends there.

So that's "(GI)". By the way, did you know why it's called (GI)? The band used to get banned from a lot of fucking clubs back when they were first starting out, so they would sometimes book themselves gigs as (GI), which stands for "Germs Incognito" (ha ha) so that the club-owners would think they were a different band. After this album, the band didn't really release anything else too notable in Darby's lifetime, but there were a few self-released EPs here and there. Of course, after this album the Germs became even more well-known than before, having an LP to prove that they could do more than just make noise on the stage. However, as a part of Darby Crash's "plan", he committed suicide by heroin overdose on December, 1980. While this would have likely resulted in a large public notice, John Lennon's assassination took place the very day after he died, so his death did not garner as much recognition as he had hoped. Still, the Germs are remembered and adored by fans today. Many people don't believe there will ever be another band like them again. You never know, though...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review #62: Sonic Youth - Sonic Youth (1982)


SONIC YOUTH

Year: 1982
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres:
No-Wave, Post-Punk
Label:
Neutral Records
Tracks:
5
Length:
24 Minutes (Medium-Length)
Style:
Mysterious/Depressing
My Rating:
6/8

I consider Sonic Youth to be one of the greatest bands of all-time. They started in 1981 as part of the New York No-Wave scene; even older than hardcore, No-Wave is an intentionally abrasive, non-commercially-accessible, pretty much big 'fuck you' to traditional song structure and elements within. And still, Sonic Youth is the most well-known descendant of this movement. This is their first album, so it's far from what you might hear on some of their later albums, but it certainly is interesting to listen to, even if it isn't one of their most accessible works.

1. The Burning Spear
The most well-known song from this album. Begins with crashing drums and bizarre guitar noises that sound like the chiming of bells. This seemingly aimless chiming eventually is carried off by a mid-tempo beat which sounds pretty cool. Soon enough, the bass comes in, providing some semblance of a melody to the song. The lyrics suggest a dependence on religion or something like that. Thurston sings this one.

2. I Dreamed I Dream
Very cool bassline accompanied by eerie lead-guitar tones. Slow tempo. The vocals are interesting in the fact that Kim and Lee both sing the same lines alongside eachother in this song, but Kim just says the words and Lee softly sings them in the background. Kind of sad-sounding. The lyrics seem to be about the hopeless situation of the working-class youth. My favorite one on here.

3. She Is Not Alone
A song led by bongo drums and more weird guitar sounds. The only lyrics are "she is not alone today". End of Side 1.

4. I Don't Want to Push It
This one starts with the shredding of two different chords. Sounds like some sort of ice-thing, for some reason. More weird bongo-type beats and a two-note bassline. I think the lyrics are supposed to be about hitting rock-bottom in life or dying in poverty or something like that. Thurston sings this song.

5. The Good And the Bad
This one is pretty long (almost eight minutes in length). A mid-tempo bass-driven tune with lots of fleeting swoops of tuneless guitar chords and notes. The drums sort of fade away into softer drumming and the song's tune changes during a lengthy mid-section which slowly builds up into a repeat of the "main" part of the song again. Well, that's the end.

That's "Sonic Youth". They actually re-released this album in 2006 to have 13 tracks instead of just five (most of them are live tracks, but there is also an early studio recording of a song called "Where the Red Fern Grows" from 1981). The band would continue to play this style of noisy No-Wave on their next two albums, "Confusion is Sex" and "Bad Moon Rising", each with a mysterious, but youthful vibe to it. Eventually they would begin to become more of a post-punk/alternative band and experiment with more melodic and traditional songwriting, but they have always still kept the noise/weird approach, making entire mini-albums based on that concept, often collaborating with other musicians for it. "Sonic Youth" is a pretty good album to listen to, but I personally prefer the string of albums after it over this. Still, it's a pretty decent beginning for the band, and I definitely suggest it to any Sonic Youth fan who hasn't heard it yet (or one who has only heard their "hits" that earned them a bit of popularity during the early '90s).

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