I literally just finished my review of “Calling All Stations” by Genesis and was looking through a folder on my desktop called “Relisten” and saw an album I forgot I recently downloaded: “Tales from a Lush Attic” by I.Q.
Yes, it’s progressive rock. How could you tell?
As a matter of fact, it’s the 1983 or so neo-prog semi-debut by a band named after the term “Intelligence Quotient.” That’s how you know they’re serious and very good: they’re literally the concept of intelligence.
Hey, you ever notice how “neo” usually prefaces things that either outright suck, blow or are even somewhat totally terrifying?
Neo-conservative. Neo-Nazi. Neo-prog. See what I mean?
I mean come on…Marillion…Dream Theater…Ayeron…Anglagard…I’ve heard so much of that “neo-prog” crap that I could just about fucking puke blood on a bag of recently orphaned kittens.
Only two out of say 1,000 of those neo-prog bands ever did anything for me. Anglagard sounds so much like an exact mixture of every major prog band that I find them fascinating. They’re hardly even “neo-prog.” More like “regressive prog” but that contradiction is just strange enough to excite me.
Neo-prog is by it’s very nature completely and utterly derivative. That’s kind of the fun of it: to spot which bands they’re stealing from, what ideas they’re stealing, how they’ve masked the ideas, whether they’re capable of writing original melodies and how dramatically over serious they take themselves.
Anglagard is still my best band for band in this category because they don’t sound like anybody: they sound like EVERYBODY. One moment, it’s a pastoral fantasy ripped right from early Genesis, the next it’s stern, semi-comic, snare drum marches straight out of “Thick as a Brick” and suddenly they’re Gentle Giant with convoluted guitar and keyboard interaction.
Perhaps best of all, almost never sing and they almost never take themselves too seriously. They seem to play their music out of a sincere love of progressive rock which is a heartfelt enough to avoid trashing their intentions.
I.Q. is a bit different. It’s not too hard to see who they are modeling themselves after: Peter Nichols is a stunning Peter Gabriel mimic. Actually, I take that back: Nichols is mostly very good at performing the “stern” Gabriel vibe. Everything he sings is dark hued, smoky declamations or important sounding shouts. Nichols never touches on the delicacy of “The Carpet Crawlers” or the hilarity of “Return of the Giant Hogweed.”
Nah, it’s all just “Look at me! Look at me! I’m saying something very important about the world!” when they are, in fact, saying the same old “important thing about the world” that everybody else has already said a thousand times.
Bollocks. Can’t fault his singing in a technical sense (as he is a technically good singer) but the effect is rather dull.
Musically, the band is Genesis if they had resisted the urge to progress into their art-electro-pop stage after Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett left and had continued to write progressive music. In this universe, Gabriel and Hackett never left but integrated 80’s sensibilities, production techniques and playing styles into a 70’s progressive rock format.
So, the playful sense of humor is mostly gone as is the wonderful diversity of approaches that Genesis touched on in the past. So is their pop sensibility which infected even their most convoluted prog “masterpiece.”
That’s not entirely true. I.Q. doesn’t eschew pop sensibilities completely or focus on dissonance. After all, it’s not like I.Q. is playing John Zorn. Each song has a logical build, with several recurring melodies and rather straight forward song structures. Yes, the band gets busy on the arrangements but that’s mostly to hide the fact that they’re more-or-less playing pretty simple songs.
This is the common bane with neo-prog (simple music but busy arrangements to sound more “complex”) but I.Q. pulls it off better than others simply due to the quality of their music. These guys will never knock any of the prog greats off their thrones but everything is well written, occasionally catchy and at the very least highly melodic in a forgetable way.
That isn’t an insult: the album is pleasant while its on and some melodies may even stick in your head. But nothing is hard hitting, unforgettable or truly memorable. It’s all simply “pleasant” and “fun” without being too annoying.
20 minute opener “The Last Human Gateway” (see what I mean about the seriousness of neo-prog?) tells you all you need to know about the album and the band: simple, but engaging build up from organ led chants, complex, busy drumming, wild guitar soloing, Nichols preaching it up like archangel Peter Gabriel and the bass player laying down complex, busy, constantly shifting melodic bass lines.
As a result, “The Last Human Gateway” is a lot of fun for the prog fan that wants some background music but is sick of hearing “Close to the Edge” or even “Land of the Grey and Pink” for the 100th time. Everything they play has been done by better bands but they tweak just enough of the ideas to stay as original as possible within the limited confines of the neo-prog rule book.
Hell, they write their own melodies. Isn’t that neat? And they name a classical piano interlude “My Baby Treats Me Right Cuz I’m a Hard Loving Man” so they can’t be all that bad.
Sure beats the stuffing outta Dream Theater.
The big reason these guys get a pass from me when other, more famous and highly selling bands make me puke is that they never seem to be taking everything too seriously. Sure, the song titles are a little pretentious and Nichols seems much too serious for his own good, but there’s a sense of fun in what they’re doing, a playfulness in their approach and playing (they were, after all, barely teenagers when this came out) that makes it much more infectious than Dream Theater’s latest operatic musically myopic masturbatepiece.
But don’t lose your mind trying to collect this band’s work. I’d say you could get this and maybe the later “The Wake” which is more “pop oriented” by including more tracks with shorter song lengths and you’ll get a good idea of what this band represents.
I know I didn’t review every single song on the album: for the most part, it all sounds exactly the same from one second to the next. Everything is constantly shifting, the arrangements stay the same and nobody ever plays anything truly memorable. The style is very uniform throughout the album in a way that makes it hard to discuss in depth.
Seriously, you’ve literally heard it all with “The Last Human Gateway.” Youtube it if you’re curious.
p.s. This reviews sounds like I hate the band. I don’t. I’m just being honest about their potential. They’re a lot of fun. But nothing mind blowing if you’ve heard the prog greats already.
We at Culture Fusion are going to open up our doors and our interests a bit more fully. Music reviews are great and all but we also love movies and to show this off, I’m starting a new series called “Tinseltown Thursday.”
Every Thursday, I (or another writer) will explore a random A or B movie (although I’m sure to delve more deeply into the “D” aspect) trying to highlight the strange, the unusual, the unique, the fun and the fucking weird.
The first entry into this new series is “Sore Losers.”
I can hear you all now asking an understandable question: what the fuck is “Sore Losers”? It’s a movie I discovered about 10 years ago on a “Four Freaky Movies” (or something to the effect) compilation from a Sam Goody in Marquette, Michigan. I don’t think I’ve watched the other three movies (two of which are Witchcraft sequels).
In fact, I actually bought the box set because of the description FOR this movie…and the tag line in particular. “They wanted meat…so they ate the flower children!” It’s a movie so obscure I could barely find pictures for it.
Made in 1997 by writer and director John Michael McCarthy it stars nobody at all. There’s some dude that looks and dresses a lot like Prince as well as a girl who, I swear, is Divine’s son i.e. she looks like a fat guy in drag.
She’s the femme fatale of the movie.
The plot is elegant in its simplicity: an intergalactic serial killer named Blackie returns to Earth to complete his mission of killing 12 random people. He killed 10 people 42 years ago but was unable to finish his mission, earning the status of a “sore loser.” Somehow (it’s never explained why) he has a second chance. He busts out his buddy Mike (the Prince-look-alike) and hooks up with psychopathic Kerine (Divine Junior).
Blackie realizes that any kills done by his buddies counts towards his total. However, Kerine screws up and kills both her parents (when he only needed one more kill, after a strange magazine inflicted death of a store keeper) and he may be trapped on Earth.
However, this sore loser has the chance to “take back” the 13th death by killing somebody the elders choose. But they gotta bring Kerine’s loathed mother’s corpse along with them until they snag their last death…which turns out to be Mike’s love interest Goliatha who has no attention span but has the strength to lift a motorcycle over her head.
However! The Men in Black (guitar noise rock group Guitar Wolf) show up and take Goliatha and frame her for the sore losers crimes. Now, it’s a race against time to stop Goliatha’s execution and kill her (as Blackie must kill her himself).
YOU GOT ALL THAT?!
I only go into so much depth with this plot (something I probably won’t do again) to try to detail the insane and ridiculously intricate nature of this movie’s plot. I swear to Goliatha, I’ve tried to watch this movie a solid…10 times but I always lose track of what’s going on half way through and begin losing interest.
It’s usually when Guitar Wolf shows up and starts killing old farmers, who’s daughters turn into angels and banish the proud punk paranoid psychos.
This movie is insanely ambitious and insanely low budgeted: there are scenes of severe “under dubbing” (as my friend Jeff “dubbed” it) wherein all sounds from the scene drop out while two characters talk. Film stock (they used film! My God!) suddenly becomes drastically, drastically poor.
Nobody can act. The dialogue is sub-Tarantino (if Tarantino was trying to write like Troy Duffy) and filled with dozens of fan service scenes of nudity.
I can’t even begin to explain half of the insane, pretentious shit that happens in this movie. I already mentioned the angel. Well, there’s another scene where Kerine and some random girl just start…having sex with each other. On top of Kerine’s mother’s corpse.
Intense close ups. Looped laughter. Lines like “I don’t do it for the money…I do it for the kicks!” as well as the worst hippie impersonation you’ve ever seen. Say hello to an immortal nurse from the 50’s with double D’s and punk rock tattoos and mascara! She is chocked to death for no good reason. The mother’s corpse screams random insanity and somehow causes the city to blow up at the end of the movie simply by screaming (SPOILER ALERT!).
So yeah, it’s stupid. Incredibly stupid. It’s technically inept, poorly scripted, ridiculously acted and a failure on all levels…but is it fun?
This is a tougher question to answer. The first…half of the movie is definitely a lot of fun. The whole opening scene which introduces Blackie with the worst CGI this side of “Feeders” features a hilarious monologue that describes the basic plot and ends with the line “get away with murder!” echoed a dozen times.
Blackie walks into the shittiest gas station ever, where a weird old man strums an acoustic guitar and sings a sad folk song. Blackie kills the gas station owner by shoving a magazine in his mouth (ostensibly because he had no “Tales from the Crypt” comics). The old man playing guitar just keeps on playing.
Suddenly, Goliatha is sitting on the counter but she “don’t remember nothing” as her attention span is shot. That’s a plot point, by the way. In fact, just about every other half mumbled non-sequitor in this movie somehow becomes a plot point.
Blackie and Kerine fall in love after almost running each other off the road and taking pot shots at each other.
Guitar Wolf attacks by shooting lens flares at everybody. Blackie receives regular visits from “An Elder” (Florida exploitation God David Friedman) who smokes a cigar, cackles and tries to explain the plot some more.
Everybody goes to a carnival where Blackie explains to Mike that they gotta kill Goliatha. Mike doesn’t like that so they run away but Guitar Wolf takes her and…fakes her death? And then frames her for it?!
On Goliatha’s execution day, Kerine seems to simply waltz into her execution chamber (in a leather bondage suit for no reason) and gets into a fist fight with her. While the execution is taking place. Both die, as the governor frantically pleads over the phone to stop the execution.
Somewhere off screen, a heroin dealer ties off the director’s arm and gives him his daily dose of “inspiration.” Hell, the director probably paid him back by putting him in the movie (my guess is that that’s him underneath the horrendous “old lady” make up on Kerine’s mother).
If it sounds fun that’s only because it is but only in fits and spurts. There are a few amazing D-movie level scenes (such as the scene where Goliatha picks up her motorbike in front of a green screen THAT HAS NO IMAGE PROJECTED ON IT!) but there are also too many slow moments and way too much explaining.
That’s the essential problem with this movie: they wanted to make a trashy, fun, exploitation flick but they delve into too many moments of intensely pretentious insanity. The plot is way too convoluted and confusing to work (my plot description only touched a portion of what happened in this movie) and having characters stop and talk about it for 10 minutes at a time only makes things worth.
After all, you can’t watch Guitar Wolf shoot lasers out of their eyes (or admire the rather sexy Goliatha) if you fall asleep listening to Blackie and Mike babble on about blood transfusions and the Lo-Fi Frequency or how certain kills don’t “count” for weird and not previously established reasons.
But I can honestly say I’ve never seen a movie like this in my life (it’s way too weird to be counted in among the usual “post-Tarantino” waste bin) and I’m definitely glad I own it…I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to finish the damn thing.
Edwin is focused on his site for the day and didn’t want to rush anything so he won’t be posting today. Good thing I had a few articles in the backlog, including this look at what I’ve always considered a rather great example of an Inexplicable Album as it’s shockingly and irredeemably awful…read on to find out why, kiddies!
After listening to thousands of albums in my life, I’ve discovered a listening event I call the “Good Album First” effect.
This occurs when you listen to a band’s best albums first and then move on to their “other” stuff. The “other” stuff usually ends up being a huge disappointment, even if its high quality in and of itself.
For example, I listened to the Cars debut album and I couldn’t get enough. It was diverse, well written, engagingly arranged and surprisingly lyrically apt.
Then I listened to “Candy O.” And “Shake It Up.” And “Heartbeat City.” They were hugely disappointing to me at first. Although I’ve learned to enjoy just about every album by the Cars, I’ve never listened to one I enjoy as much as their first.
I mention this effect because many fans often call out other listeners that they believe are suffering under this “delusion.”
“If you wouldn’t have heard ‘Pet Sounds’ first, you’d think ‘Carl and the Passions-So Tough’ was amazing!” they might say, or “Come on yeah sure, compared to ‘Sgt. Pepper’ it might be weak, but ‘Help!’ is still a kicking album!”
I have made very similar arguments from time to time and I understand the draw of such a simplistic and impossible to dispute (logically) argument.
But here’s what makes that particular argument so insidious: by claiming somebody doesn’t appreciate something because it doesn’t meet their expectations, you are , in essence, arguing that they are closed minded. And how can you disprove being closed minded? By getting angry and defensive and looking like the asshole while the TRUE asshole gets all the girls for defending shitty albums.
Why do I bring up this contentious argument? Because it’s an argument I’ve often run into from certain (rather delusional) Genesis fans regarding their last (and likely to stay that way) album “Calling All Stations.”
“Come on man! You just heard ‘Foxtrot’ first so you think it’s the best thing ever. If this album was by another band, you’d love it. It’s dark, moody, mysterious and oh so ‘arty’ after all the pop crap of the Phil Collins era!”
I’d like to take this opportunity to tell all “Calling All Shit-Stains” defenders to “fuck off” for that argument: this album, objectively (from my point of view) and in fact quite subjectively (almost mathematically) is not only the worst album produced by Genesis but may be one of the worst albums ever made.
Short, short Genesis history: weird prog band with Peter Gabriel loses Peter Gabriel and makes synth pop music to make it big. Phil Collins was their drummer and singer for the pop period and he had his own crappy solo career.
Collins left in 1996 after the simultaneous success of the “We Can’t Dance” Genesis album and his “But Seriously…” solo album in and around 1991.
Do you get the humor of Phil’s timing fully? I mean, the guy left the band to “further his solo career” right when it was at the point of complete implosion and just moments before the guy became a decades long running joke. But hey, even if Phil did make crappy Disney soundtracks…he never made this album. So he still comes out smelling like roses in the metaphorical pile of shit.
All right that’s enough stalling: let’s get started.
Here’s a fascinating yet true fact: one second into the album is all it takes for you to know it’s going to second. Seriously. One second into the opening title track is all it takes. Don’t believe me?
I was right wasn’t I? The second that stupid dive bomb heavy metal guitar riff comes in your toes curled a little didn’t they? And then the stupid, unimaginative and plodding drum beat started giving you bad flashbacks to early Van Halen moments before Tony Bank’s cheese ball keyboards jumped in to remind you of his…mixed history of success with picking tasteful, non-shitty keyboard tones.
And then the ringer…I’m sorry, I mean SINGER…Ray Wilson starts bleating in and you simultaneously feel intense anger and pity for Genesis.
You see, before the release of this album, they billed Wilson as a second coming of Peter Gabriel. There’s…a very, very small grain of truth to that. Basically, Wilson is rather raspy. Or “smokey” or perhaps even “dramatic.” Kinda like Gabriel.
That “kinda” is the smallest and least honest “kinda” you’ve ever heard in your life. Kinda like the “kinda” you whisper when your mom asks you if you’re smoking pot again.
Wilson gets only minor blame for this album: all the music on the album is written by Banks and Rutherford. Wilson doesn’t even write the lyrics as the album was written and partially recorded before he joined. The band planned on integrating his creative input on a second album that never came to be due to the mass of either outright indifference or rage at this album. Thank heavens.
But then again, pity kicks in because you know part of them probably really believed that Wilson was something like a return to Gabriel. Sure, he lacks Gabriel’s sense of humor, raw power, songwriting talent, stage presence, charisma, sense of theatricality, enunciation, diversity, and…well…
Okay he’s nothing like Peter Gabriel. They were fools for trying to pull that one off.
Everything on the album is just DRAINING. Everything’s mid tempo…all the guitar tones are HEAVY (or blandly acoustic)…the drum beats are leaden and boring (there are two drummers on this album and you can’t tell them apart)…Ray whines out high school poetry level lyrics…the phrase “take me to the Congo, I’m free to leave” is crooned…and the album is long, I swear to fuck, it feels longer than listening to “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” (a double disc album) two times in a row.
The band seemingly went out of its way to alienate fans. They do everything wrong on this album. They wrote awful music and dressed it up in preposterous “dark” tones to make it “arty” in a misguided attempt to get back to their roots. They hired some bland dude and proclaimed him Gabriel. They eliminated all senses of pop sensibility, something present on EVERY Genesis album up to this point, including their darkest prog nightmares, to politely alienate all their pop fans.
They even refused to let Chester Thompson, their long standing live drummer, participate. I want to reiterate that: Thompson, excited about the possibility of being the band’s studio drummer and participating in songwriting and arranging, was turned down by the band.
Chester. Fucking. Thompson. Do you know that Chester Thompson used to drum with Frank Zappa during his most musically complex period? Or that Thompson played drums for (in)famous fusion band “Weather Report”? Or that he dedicated nearly 20 years of his life touring with a band that ultimately asked him to play little more than crude 4/4 beats to mimic Collins’ pop drumming style?
And they turned him down. They wanted a “fresh new start.” A “fresh new aneurysm” is more like it. I respect Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford a lot. They wrote a ton of great music for Genesis (in fact, they ultimately ended up writing more music for Genesis than anybody else) and helped steer the band through rocky periods of musical and personal changes to become one of the biggest bands in the world.
But when you turn down Chester Thompson (who actually would have been wasted on material this mundane) for two no-name hacks, I lose a little bit of respect. Not a lot. But enough.
I realize I didn’t talk about very many songs. In fact, I only talked about one. That’s enough. Seriously…one second…and you know you’re in trouble.
A Cage the Elephant “Discography” review
Written exclusively for the Culture Fusion Review Blog
by Sean M. Hebner
3 ½ whosawhatsits of 5
So think of two genera’s that don’t really mix; for example, Post-Punk and Psychedelic rock. Then now that you’ve mixed them …put them is the SAME song. Am I referring to some obscure underground 70’s band or 80’s band? Nope. Now take the same band, and write a slide guitar driven pop rock song with folk/rap like delivery. Are you getting warmer? Believe it or not that song I just described you’ve heard if you listen to college radio. OHHH! I hear you say out loud! That SONG that was also in that hit videogame! What the HELL is the name of that band!?! Elephant…something? Sure is! Cage the Elephant is a rock band from Bowling Green, Kentucky and they cross pop genera’s as often as Queen would have; provided that Queen was primarily influenced by The Pixies and being locked in some cabins in the hills of Kentucky.
So if you go and look for what to even call this band as far as genera’s are concerned, you will find the internet hard pressed to find a consistent definition of their music. Let us state for the record that I consider them “indie-rock” and will leave it with that. The reason for this is that an indie-rock band can look like “The Lumineers” or “Muse” so the definition can even be stretched to “Slayer” if you squint a little. Especially when we touch on their second effort, it sounds quite different from their first and this is not a bad thing.
So let’s look at this first album. If Dr. Who were to be translated into music, First it would be the obvious “Caught somewhere in time” by Iron Maiden (my personal favorite maiden album for anyone who cares) second (to represent is SECOND HEART HAHAHAAHAH …ok) would be Cage the Elephant’s self-titled. They are in a constant state of temporal flux. Bouncing from one dead genera to another; sometimes in the same song.
*caught SOME WERE IN TIIIIMMMEEE! While there ain’t no rest for the wicked*
They seriously will sound like The Pixies one minute then T rex the next; it’s both awesome and thought provoking at the same time.
I must say that I heard “Ain’t no rest for the wicked” on Borderlands and fell in love with the song. I find it funny how much that song fits the game with as tongue-in-cheek seriousness of the song. The game is far from serious but the tone of the song gives a great vibe with which to play the game.
I started on their second album so I was taken a back with how “normal” compared to the second this one is. But it’s by no means normal. Like I’ve been saying this whole review, it’s all over the map. But unlike its successor (which I’ll review next) is much more diverse.
(Here chew on this track)
Seriously listen to that…from post-punk to psychedelic!! This is a good solid album and I’d give it a higher arbitrary designation but it’s too accessible. Wow, I just realized they are following a similar arch to Mr. Bungle. I just hope they don’t fizzle out at three albums (which they are recording as of this review). There is a lot to love about this album. It starts off like a slow fused stick of dynamite and explodes. Ironically the first track “in one ear” addresses my complaints about the album and how little they care about reviews and complaints about their album.
Cage the Elephant’s self titled is NSFW so if you like this, AND YOU SHOULD LIKE THIS, you can’t play just anywhere. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews. Lyrics don’t make or break an album for me. I am a “practicing” Atheist and the lyrics to Cage the Elephant’s songs tend to have a Christian/ religious undertones. Those lyrics will give points with some and remove points from others. DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE! Cage the Elephant is TOO FUCKING GOOD to let a little thing like GOD get in the way. Not to mention that the references to faith are fairly well hidden unless you actually pay attention you won’t notice.
I wouldn’t really praise the lyrics of Cage the Elephant as clever so much as blunt. Going back to “in one ear” every lyric is a blunt stab at Haters. That trend continues well into the second album. My wife pointed out that “ain’t no rest for the wicked” was all clichés and some of lyrics to other songs are straight up stereo types. Effective is the best word I can think of to describe the lyrics of Cage the Elephant. Other than the previously mentioned GOD thing, the band probably doesn’t WANT to hide its meanings very much. In a generation of Ironic music, this is a legitimate breath of fresh air.
So over all, as far as first efforts go I’ll say this one is a winner. Every complaint I have about it is minor and overlookable based on the quality of the music and musicianship. I’m left with an overall good feeling and an entertained sense of being. Overall I recommend that you go out and buy this album. Unless your taste in music doesn’t allow for a chance at Cage the Elephant. Then in self-title’s case you aren’t missing THAT much. More on that next review.
Songs you should look up: James brown, Ain’t no rest for the wicked, the whole album
Culture Fusion has a new writer, Edwin Oslan, who will be contributing on Wednesdays. This is where I would normally go in-depth on what the writer is going to cover and their own style but Edwin helpfully provided this solid little self introduction. Tomorrow, I’ll post the first part of his epic Hawkwind discography review. That’s right: he’s doing all of them. He’s nothing if not incredibly ambitious (and he and I share a name: one of my middle names is Edwin…)
Without further ado…
I’m Edwin and I like weird music, old horror, cult and exploitation films and reading old E.C. comics like Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, Weird Science and Weird Fantasy along with Warren magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland, Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella. I collect things and like drinking. People think I need to write about something just so they don’t hear me talking about it so much.
The name “Savage Hippie” comes from a Melvins song. When asked about this in an interview Buzz Osbourne said that the song was a reference to Alice Cooper, Charles Manson and other long haired freaks from the late 60s and early 70s who may have emerged from the psychedelic era but did not share in the hippie ideology. After all it was Alice who said his group put the stake in the heart of the love generation. Also my friends Sarah called me a hippie once because of all the “psychedelic rock” I listen to.
You know there was punk rock once but the most unfortunate thing about it is that certain journalists give the impression that before the first Ramones album came out, the musical landscape was completely baron (excepting the Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, etc.) and that, I feel is utter nonsense.
Aside from the bizarre notion that the punk rockers only listened to five bands, it’s clear just from John Lydon’s vast musical taste that there was so much interesting music available at the time. Sure, there were was corporate rock and arena rock and bands that played 20 minute guitar solos and sang about nothing but that doesn’t paint the whole picture, does it?
Thanks to John Lydon and Mark E. Smith name dropping their favorites, I got into (in no particular order) Hawkwind, Can, Captain Beefheart, Miles Davis, Lou Reed, the Pretty Things, the Monks, the Move, the Creation, the Other Half and the Groundhogs. And through those I found about so much more in the sub-sub-genres of psychedelic, prog, Krautrock, early heavy rock, proto punk and proto metal and who knows what else. There is also something called Zuul, which is seems pretty cool.
I like a lot of music but one thing that I’m absolutely addicted to are nicely packaged CD reissues – I know vinyl rules, blah blah, I buy a ton of that as well – but I love when you get a really nicely designed package with extensive liner notes, photos and extra tracks, so that the original issue of whatever is expanded to like three times its length with b-sides, outtakes, demos, live versions and the whole thing. And thankfully reissue labels like Castle/Sanctuary, Akarma, Cherry Red/Esoteric/Reactive/Atomhenge do this beautifully, making a bunch of old, obscure and ultimately weird bands available again.
Anyway, I digress. Although, I don’t know what from since this all seems like one long rambling piece with no particular direction but, I guess, the point I want to make is that I like music and writing about it. Also that I find the pre-punk era often times more interesting than the punk era. The old idiom holds true that in the spirit of “no rules,” they created lots of rules, didn’t they? That’s probably why I lean towards the weirder side of punk and post punk and experimental stuff.
So, then, it seems weird that punk introduced all of this chaos when prior that, the late 60s seemed a lot wilder and weirder. Plus, again, there’s a notion that the 60s was all peace and love. But, come on; biker gangs, satanic cults, bad trips and well, you get the idea.
Again I don’t really know where I was going with this. According to Frank Zappa the freaks in Hollywood were way freakier than the hippies in San Francisco. Oh, and I don’t plan to talk about the Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, T. Rex (though I might write about Tyrannosaurus Rex) and New York Dolls too much since that’s been covered ad nauseam. These are all great mind you but you don’t need another blog telling you about this stuff. If you don’t all three Stooges and MC5 albums, both New York Dolls albums and the classic Alice Cooper band stuff, then I really can’t help you. In fact, nobody can; you fail.
Editor: Sorry for the rather slow influx of reviews lately. Work has been steady. This summer will include way more reviews and even an expansion in our writers. I might not have to write every article every day any more! Anyways, here’s Sean M. Hebner’s latest, dipping his toes into his expansive metal music mind.
Top Ten Most Underappreciated Thrash Metal songs/bands/stuff
A list by Sean M. Hebner
The more I think about Thrash Metal…the more I LOVE it. The bulk of the communication about Thrash Metal revolves around “The Big Four.” For those not in-the-know, they are: Metallica, Megadeath, Slayer, and Anthrax.
However, a metal list recently counted Testament as a fifth member of this core group. The Problem with this list is that the Thrash Metal Universe is MUCH larger that five bands and it has evolved over the years into something quite different.
Thrash Metal takes many forms and bands of all shapes and colors make Thrash Songs. Metallica for example hasn’t written a Thrash song since the 80’s and Megadeath’s most recent album (‘13’ at the time of this review) is a Thrash Metal Masters course in what Thrash is/was/can-be.
There songs will be in no particular order. The only number that matters is Number one. I spose, I’ll get out of the way now.
Number One MOST underrated Thrash Song of all time:
GWAR- Crush, Kill, Destroy
Written and sang by Beefcake the mighty it contains 100% thrash metal and fucking KILLS at it. Second it contains 100% GWAR making it the Jesus of the Thrash Metal world. Can you HEAR how FAST this song is?!?!!? How Bone-Crushingly heavy it is?!!?! How it contains a reference to GOLDEN SHOWERS?!?!?!!? FUCK.YEAH. and that SOLO!?!? That BASS line?!?!?! Sweet Mother of FUCK. I LOVE this song. Add it to the list of shit you want your tomb stone to blare after your dead! They eat fucking Slayer for BREAKFAST, Slayer has not written a Thrash song this good. They. Just. Fucking. haven’t. Yes I know 2nd best trash album of all time. You heard me. But still.
Under Rated Thrash Stuff two-
That brings me to Kreator, the writer of the best Thrash Album of all time. That album is Enemy of God. The student ATE the masters HEART OUT with this album, as this album clearly would not exist without the original best Thrash Album of all time. For those being introduced to Thrash Metal with this article, that album is Slayers- Reign in Blood which I will touch on later. Some will disagree with me, saying that “there is no room for melody in Thrash Metal”
Counter point to that argument, go listen to the other 3 of the big four, then Testament, THEN listen to fucking Municipal Waste! ALL are (or where) Thrash as fuck, ALL use melody. Your argument is invalid. Can you point to a Thrash Album that flows better? Can you point to a band that has better musicians? Can you point to a band who rips THEIR OWN MUSIC a NEW ASSHOLE LIVE BETTER THAN KREATOR?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!?!? no. Ya can’t.
Under Rated Thrash Song Three:
Iced Earth-Disciples of the Lie
The first album I ever bought was Ministry-The mind is a tribal thing to taste the SECOND album I bought was Something Wicked This way comes. You wouldn’t have said before this “I bed I can make the Iron maiden gallop FUCKING EVIL!” now you can! I used to skip this track out of guilt for liking it so much it was so Goddamed GOOD. How Awesome is this song?! SOOOO GOOD! Thrash Metal’s range of Anger got alittle wider with pot shots at organized religion. Iced Earth was Hateing on Pedophile priests before it was cool and for that ALONE do they deserve more credit than they get. They helped push Thrash Metal in an Epic Direction and make the idea that Thrash Metal and Heavy Metal are truly one in the same.
Next Under Rated Song Four:
Ensiferum – Slayer Of Light
Ahhhh! Folk-Thrash Metal, does a body good. The album Iron is a must own for any metal head, budding or otherwise. It’s not clogged up with satanic imagery so the parents only have the LOUD music and Growling to complain about and you get just Great fucking music. Even Folk metal can OUT SLAYER SLAYER!! See where I’m going with this!?
Under Rated Thrash stuff Five-
Slayer Covers that FAR exceed the original, case in point:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4JqY1vgIdE this is a pop punk band by the way…
I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Under Rated Thrash Song Six–
Testament- The Preacher
Dat Distortion. Long live Testament!! I can’t say enough about this song…first time I heard it…I COULDN”T HEAR FAST ENOUGH!!! The song was FASTER than my Brain could FUCKING PROCESS what I was hearing. I was listening to a lot of Slayer at the time too, to put it in perspective. I don’t want to rag on Slayer TOO much since Jeff has recently died. Jeff is truly a great loss for the Metal community and it sucks as a fan when one of the Gods fall. I have however been of the opinion that Slayer was over rated. Because when the best song you can write in a good 17 years is ‘Bloodlines’….there is a problem. Anyway back to Testament. When their lead Guitarist isn’t making the gods weep blood tear with joy, he is a well known jazz guitarist. The Alex Skolnick Trio plays the best version of Rush’s ‘Tom Sawyer” I’ve ever heard!
Under Rated Thrash Song Seven –
TV II by Ministry
I’ll be touching on the album and its influence on the Industrial Metal Scene in a future review. But in the mean time, CONNECT THE GODDAMN DOTS! This is Trash Metal REBORN I wish more bands would cross Thrash and Industrial, I can’t think of any off the top of my head; I mean yeah KMFDM the OTHER big Industrial Metal outfit. OOHHH I thought of two others!! Gravity Kills on the album “Gravity Kills” and Stabbing Westward. Both bands mentioned are fallen too far from grace to be called relevant but are CLEARLY ripened from Ministry’s seed.
Thrash Metal Underrated Song Eight –
Annihilator – Sonic Homicide
This whole BAND needs more love. This song is such a good cross section of what a) Jeff Waters can do on Guitar and b) Just how much they DESERVE to be in the conversation about great thrash bands. I heard that eairly on in his carrier that Jeff Waters thought he was the best Guitarist ever, so his ego was not in check. But the same has been said of Alexi form Children of Bodem as well as Danzig and that doesn’t subtract from the fact that they write phat tracks! Word! Anyway, the standards of Thrash Metal are both high (Dew-Sentenced) and Low (Metallica). Annihilator is defiantly in the former category don’t believe me?
Welcome back to the palace!
** Now Go Buy Alice in Hell**
Thrash Metal Under Rated band Nine –
I don’t own a Voivod album, though I need to buy RRROOOOAAARRR cause that’s the best title for a metal album EVER. I saw them and meet them before I saw Kreator Live. Let me tell you they still got it even though they got older. Like the band that they opened up for, their intensity and sense of humor poured off the stage. What songs I can remember from their set are KILLED live. They just need the kind of rallying cry that Anvil got a couple years back. Voivod was just as much an influence, if not more so than Anvil and to help me with this Dave Grohl!
Thrash Metal Under Rated Song Ten –
Strapping Young Lad- Dirt Pride
Devin Townsend is my favorite musician, he fronted a band, LOVE THEM.
Devin Townsend formed the heaviest band I ever heard and he did it IRONICALY! He’s Metals most precious jewel and he needs to be left to make whatever he wants! With the album City (which I am also inclined to review in earnest) is the heaviest album of all time(so far). While Dirt Pride comes from the album S.Y.L. Devi’s contribution to Thrash Metal is felt today in the ‘Djent’ movement. Along with Meshugga Strapping rewrote what Thrash Metal sounded like as well as Heavy Music in general. Devin gets it. He understands that this nebulous thing we call METAL is a ruse, its fucking hilarious. Just listen to “Far beyond Metal” a song ABOUT HOW AWESOME SYL IS!
I will just leave this here!
Its also about how much metal takes itself too fucking seriously. And it does. But that’s whats FUCKING AWESOME about!!! Let Devin take us home with this interview I found of him. Goodnight everybody!
The world can only contain so much…stuff…there’s only so much room. You cannot cram 50 pounds of horse shit into a 40 pound bag. Buildings can grow taller and we can civilize more and more areas of the world; bulldozing trees, swamps, grasslands, prairies and creating new and bigger parking lots. All our cars need a place to live and all our stuff needs a place to lie.
Sooner, rather than later, we’ll have to ascend into the straosphere and find a place to settle in space. And I know the album I’ll listen to on the way up: Ash Ra Tempel’s debut album.
That’s right: I’m snubbing the obvious choice, Pink Floyd (love them, but too obvious) and even more obscure yet still popular groups like Hawkwind (kick ass but way too cheesy, even if in a good way).
No, I’m sticking with the Ash Ra Tempel debut album. Not because it creates an accurate space sonic sensation (as that would be complete silence so severe your ears would burst) but simply because its one of the best pieces of Early space rock I’ve ever heard.
After all, if one is traveling in space, space rock IS a requirement.
What about this album entices me so much over the non-pedestrian sounds of early Pink Floyd and Hawkwind? Is it simply the fact that is is German?
Not quite though I do obsessively enjoy way too much 70’s German rock. Being German doesn’t automatically make it better but it does serve as a draw for me.
The musicianship on the album is vital to its appeal: the pedigree of the players is unmatched in the space rock genre. I don’t mean to knock early Pink Floyd as Syd Barrett and (eventually) Roger Waters were great songwriters but their musicianship (especially Syd’s) was somewhat…rudimentary sometimes.
Manuel Gottsching is a guitar God (mixing a 70’s hard rock style with near-shred levels of technicality mixed with experimental guitar textures and real emotion) who possesses a nearly unlimited level of intelligence and unmatched imagination.
Drummer Klaus Schulze is another German rock legend, known for his epic synthesizer symphonies that have inspired entire generations of trance and pulse electronic music. Here, he serves primarily as a drummer and he is an even better drummer than he is a synthesist.
The bass player is very solid too (I forget his name) as he holds down the fort, plays Entwistle level runs and who serves as a solid grounding for the rest of the band.
The other reason this stands out so firmly for me is the lack of vocals and vocal melodies. Of course, this is a draw back in many ways: you won’t be singing along to any of the “melodies” on this album. Ever.
But the lack of vocals dehumanizes the music in a way that makes it starker and more alien than the scraping landscapes of early Floyd or the heavy-metal-thunder of Hawkwind.
No vocals also means no lyrics which were always, always incredibly weak in Hawkwind. It never gets much better than “I got an orgone accumulator…and it makes me feel greater!”
Ash Ra Tempel doesn’t annoy you with trite space themed lyrics or inane fantasy poetry: instead, they just play. For 20 minutes at a time.
The epic lengths of the average Ash Ra Tempel composition will be a problem for many listeners but that’s part of the appeal for me: the band explores various textures, melodic ideas and rhythmic motifs throughout each track in a way that is naturally flowing and never, ever seems forced.
It’s always amazing to hear Gottsching and Schulze play together: they seem to have a near-telepathic ability to read each other’s musical thoughts and to predict where the other is going without fail.
There is always the chance, of course, that these tracks are heavily edited and pieced together. It wasn’t above Miles Davis (in fact, it was his whole fusion aesthetic) but somehow I just don’t sense that same kind of editing here.
The album follows a basic format that many “side long track” albums have in the past: the first side is the hard rocking side, while the second side is the “contemplative” side (Terry Riley influence?).
The first side, “Amboss” is a track that Ash Ra Tempel never really beat: they came close on “Freak N’ Roll” on Join Inn but they never matched this track’s dark, pulsing mood.
It starts out slowly, with some guitar drone and light cymbals and a bass moan but gradually builds up as Gottsching starts to solo and riff like a demented (and dangerous) version of Early Clapton. Schulze smashes and bashes like Keith Moon but generally keeps a better beat.
Describing tracks like this is a fruitless, thankless, nearly impossible endeavor: there are countless build-ups, fall downs, moments of climactic ecstasy and impeccable interplay and musicianship. George Starostin astutely compared it to “Live at Leeds” era Who in its interplay and that’s very accurate. There’s just no Roger Daltrey.
However, the second side is something the Who never would have done: a 20+ minute, nearly ambient tune that simmers at a lower level than “Amboss” but which still has its own sense of intensity and purpose.
Beyond the lower tempo, there isn’t any real way to tell apart the two tracks which is fine: it creates a more unified mood of space exploration that no band (including Ash Ra Tempel) ever topped.
After this album, Schulze left and the band floundered through a solid, but more conventional second album and a collaboration with Timothy Leary that never really caught fire.
The Schulze reunion album “Join Inn” (as previously mentioned) has the same structure and the same basic fire and drive of this album but without the carefully created atmosphere. After Gottsching created the fun, diverse and completely out-of-left-field pop-like album “Starring Rosi” he created a solo album, formed “Ashra” and explored more synthetic textures.
As a result, this album stands somewhat apart from the rest of Gottsching and Schulze’s discography, making it an even more worthy addition to your collection.
Songs to YouTube:
There are two songs. Listen to them both.
I feel a little content at the moment…rather contemplative and relaxed. I got all my “work” online writing done and I’m sitting at the coffee shop listening to “Friendship” by Ash Ra Tempel, the reunion album between Manuel Goestscling and Klaus Schulze from 2000. Ain’t nothing special but it’s chill and easy to relax to while I people watch.
Lots of beautiful girls out in town this summer. Normally, this town is completely void of any interesting and engaging females (not completely but damn close) but college is out and they have all come back to town. They fill up the coffee shop. They fill up the bars. They steal my hats and tickle my belly at bars on my birthday (true story and good alliteration).
I have a desire to review the first Ash Ra Tempel album right now. It’s a good album; hard hitting space rock with real fire and an edge to it that sits well with the modern generation. But I haven’t heard it in quite some time, so I don’t think it’s fair that I should review it.
Honestly, I’m feeling a bit PJ Harvey-like at the moment. A bit fiery and confrontational. Beautiful and mournful. Angry, happy, melancholic, depressed, elated and most importantly as free and refreshing as a God damn swam dive into a 50 degree pond on a 100 degree summer day.
“Rid of Me.” Not the first Polly Jean album I’ve ever heard. Perhaps the first Polly Jean SONG I heard…the slow build up of palm muted guitars, a near whisper of a voice, curling around a purr of a vocal melody and a lyric that contains all the rage of all the women who have ever been discarded like a candy wrapper in the wind.
Climax. Scream. “Don’t you wish you’d never…never met her don’t you…” Singing through a distortion pedal. “Lick my legs I’m on fire.” Whatever that means. A 5’1” ball of fury and English rage and semi-incoherency coalescing into a slow burn groove that threatens to fall apart under the eye of Albini.
I haven’t heard this album in ages but I can always come back to it and remember the songs that have always stuck out in my head: I can also re-live the songs that have never made an impression on me and make in-grounds on appreciating them more and more. It’s a slow process: I probably listen to this album less than once a year.
Albini casts his careless “production” eye towards this album, helping set up the instruments, pushing “record” when the band starts playing and hitting “stop” when they’re done, cutting up tapes to arrange songs into the right order. Refusing to touch up the tapes in anyway, leaving them as they stand on the performances and on the songs. After all, it was “recorded by” not “produced by” Steve Albini.
Forgive her, then, if the songs sometimes sound similar. The arrangements are usually just pounding/grinding guitars with a solid rhythmic bass and drum groove that pounds home the ideas, arguments and sensibilities of one Polly Jean Harvey who pulled back from such underproduction almost immediately on her next album and explored deeper sonic sensibilities with each subsequent release.
Deeper doesn’t always mean better but it doesn’t mean worse either. Deeper is just different.
“Man Size Sextet” comes before the tune its based on, which I always found amusing. It is highlighted by a grinding, plucking, frightening string arrangement played entirely by Harvey (unless I’m wrong). It stands out due to its sonic difference from the normal guitar, drums bass racket raised elsewhere on the album. And also due to Harvey’s frantic, pleading vocal…”I’m man size…” she despairs, chanting about her birth rite and creeping me the fuck out. In a good way. In a GREAT way.
The original “Man Size” isn’t quite as good to these ears: those scraping strings set the mood better than her relatively simple guitar playing. A whole album of “Man Size Sextet”-style tunes wouldn’t be my bag but on this album it’s poyfect.
Her cover of “Highway 61 Revisited” is also a stand out: not necessarily better than Bob’s original (I miss the wild whistle) and definitely not as easy on the ears. However, I believe it captures the intense, neurotic and apocalyptic vibe better than Bob’s take.
“HIGHWAY!!!! HIGHWAY!!! 61.” Not to hell. Sorry Bon, but as a wordsmith you’re no Bob Dylan. You ain’t even an Alice Cooper (who Dylan called an “underrated” songwriter) but at least you’re better than Brian Johnson (who never met seven metaphors he couldn’t mix) or the Young brothers (I’m sorry, but “you’ve been…THUNDERSTRUCK!” is NOT a good chorus).
Bon Scott is also no PJ Harvey but that’s only because she’d probably loathe his guts for being a sexist pig. But then again, it’s always hard to tell with PJ Harvey: one minute, she’s bashing out a song called “Dry” and bemoaning the fact that her man can’t get her wet and the next moaning about “Ecstasy” (not the drug, kiddies). She doesn’t hate men, as such: she just hates specific ones.
Some songs don’t really make much sense lyrically which is cool. It just means I haven’t listened to them carefully enough to decipher their meaning and it gives me something to focus on with my next listen.
For example, while I love the drive of “Yuri G” I have no idea what “I wish I were a Yuri G!” means? Is she speaking of Yuri Gregarian? The first man into space?
I hope so: I’d love to think that PJ Harvey was singing about her desire to be a cosmonaut.
Naturally, that desire to be a cosmonaut is most likely a metaphor for some other desire or dream, perhaps indicating Harvey simply wants to be a pioneer or a similarly important person. Great song, great album, strange, strange, strange…
What I like most about PJ Harvey and this record in particular is that she is a very small person who can create very hard hitting music while screaming incredibly loud (and on key) in a way that is emotionally moving in exactly the way she intended.
In that regard, she has a lot in common with AC/DC. Sure, they’re singing about how being cool and doing it instead of accurately detailing one woman’s rage in a harrowing manner. They seem worlds apart in that regard.
But what I like most about AC/DC is that they’re very small people (about 4’0” on average), who create hard hitting music while screaming incredibly loudly (on key) in a way that is emotionally moving in exactly the way they intended.
Sure, they mean to make you giggle and dance awkwardly while hitting on chicks in bars while PJ wants to touch your heart and make you think about the female condition. But then again, the devil’s in the details.