These Arms Are Snakes - "Easter" (Jade Tree Records, 2006) [key tracks: Horse Girls, Perpetual Bris]
Friday, March 30, 2007
These Arms Are Snakes - "Easter" (Jade Tree Records, 2006) [key tracks: Horse Girls, Perpetual Bris]
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Black Oak Arkansas - "High on the Hog" (ATCO Records, 1973) [key tracks: Happy Hooker, Jim Dandy, Moonshine Sonata]
Okay so I am finally back in business. School and work conspired against me, then I went through a short spell where production of posts was halted by a missing memory card (digital cameras...). In better news, I have a new dream girl. Have you seen the new Gap commercial, with the "I can do better" song? W - O - W. That is probably the hottest commercial ever, if you measure in Carl Standard Thermal Units (CSTUs). On with the show...
There is a "unified theory of everything" when it comes to rock and roll. You can't undo it and you are helpless to disagree with it. I'll share it with you so you will be a wiser modern human; to reach epic rock status you have to hail from one of two places... the American South or Great Britain. That's it. Anyone else who achieves any success beyond the chains of their geographical conscription is an anomaly and should be celebrated as such. Black Oak Arkansas is one of these southern rock bands, epic in every way... in sound, in legend, and in personality. Led by the raunchy pre-Ronnie Dobbs hillbilly rocker Jim "Dandy" Mangrum, these boys languish in relative obscurity. In my life, I have seen the so-called "resurgence" of Southern Rock at least 3 times... and yet BOA fails to get any props or revitalization.
The story behind BOA is as epic as the music... the story is told that as a young rock band (known then as the Knowbody Else) they needed PA equipment to start gigging (as we all know, it is useless to be in a band if you aren't going to gig... that's how chicks know you are a rock god!). To get their equipment, the boys decided, in true Dukes of Hazard (or Cops) fashion to steal it from a local high school. They got away with the goods, and began gigging... but the law found out. They were found guilty of the theft, although not present at the hearing, and a warrant was issued for their arrest. In fear of the be-clubbed arm of the southern law, they withdrew to a mountain compound, where they honed their chops and lived off the land. During this time they cultivated both a more mature (musically) sound and a godlike mastery of marijuana farming. They experimented with the popular drugs of the day, as well as the moonshine that was a staple of rebellion in the south, and explored the music of the times; psychedelic rock bands playing with Eastern mysticism. They adapted these new worlds with the very real (to them) world of the simple God-fearing south. When the 26 year prison sentence was suspended, they emerged from their rock and roll Eden, moved to Nashville, and hit the scene and never looked back, releasing one album as The Knowbody Else (which failed to gain any attention), then launched into their dirty, loud, circus-like career as Black Oak Arkansas.
This LP was their opus, their fourth full length album, and the breaking point where they gave up entirely on trying to be another Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd and just gave their stoner-billy fans what they wanted... dirty rock and roll with a nod to their mountain dwelling, God-fearing, southern charm. All of the typical southern themes are here, God, cheating, highways, the beauty of the country unspoiled by tar and concrete, and sex. Some tracks, such as "Happy Hooker" sound as if they could have been lifted from an AC/DC sound check, while others sound much more structured and serious (such as the toe tapping instrumental "Moonshine Sonata"). This LP came with a rather tasty extra... a huge fold out poster of tour snapshots and backstage antics. As always, Kanesville came through and my copy was bought with the poster perfectly preserved, intact, and never hung. If you like your rock with soul, a southern twang, and a little boogie, check out Black Oak Arkansas and help the industry finally do them justice.
Horns up! See you soon!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Last week Matt asked me in the Comments what I thought about a list of the "top 10 albums of all time." Man, I love getting questions like this. The problem is, my answers are never satisfactory for my own obsessed musical appreciation. It would be easier to ask "your favorite LPs" or "best album covers" or even "most influential metal albums." But best 10 LPs ever? Wow.
Well before I tackle that, I will have to share the ground rules. First of all, no greatest hits or repackages of any sort can be considered. Second, I am not going to consider sales or chart position in my decision making. Third, I am voting the LP as an album... not as a collection of singles. That means the total package matters most. Fourth, just my opinions and no ass-kissing... so no Clash, Beach Boys, Bruce Springstein, Elvis, or Van Morrison. Sorry, I just never got into those cats.
Lastly, I cannot avoid considering sentimentalism but I will try. As proof, notice Queensryche "Operation Mindcrime" is not on the list. Please post comments on my list about albums or the list itself. As I said, even I am a little wary of this list... but it is what it is. Boatdrinks...
1. Led Zepplin "IV" (I sort of hate to do this, but it is such a great album. Overplayed, over lauded, but great. It set the tone for all metal, hard rock, and crossover rock to come since. And as an LP, there is not a single low spot. My favorite track, and one of the few on the LP that still captures my attention, is "Battle of Evermore.")
2. The Beatles "Rubber Soul" (You could fight that the whole top 10 be littered with Beatles LPs, and no one would agree which was better than another... but to me "Rubber Soul" is the last great Beatles record before drugs took over. The album is rock, pop, balladry, and even some playful foreshadowing to the psychedelia to come. My favorite track here is easily "In My Life" a song that chokes me up most of the time.)
3. Radiohead "OK Computer" (Radiohead saved mainstream music with this LP. It completely lacked formula or genre and appealed to indy fans, wanna-be indy fans, critics, and the pop listening public all at once. Someone once wrote to save rock and roll, Radiohead had to tear it down. That is exactly what this LP does. Favorite track is "Paranoid Android.")
4. Guns 'n' Roses "Appetite for Destruction" (G'n'R didn't crossover from gritty streets and seedy clubs to rock radio, they drug rock radio into their gutter. Unapologetic, aggressive, dirty, and technically sound... this rock album in many ways is better than the best offerings of much better, and more respected, bands. Where AC/DC was seen as brash and incorrigible, G'n'R was raunchy, but could still write hooks. Their songs are as memorable and combustible as they are because the bandmates themselves bordered on cartoon characters; out of control. I will figuratively spit on anyone that says this ranks lower than "Nevermind" on any list! This LP changed rock and roll, and no one has ever repeated the epic nature of this LP. Not even G'n'R. Favorite song is arguably "My Michelle.")
5. The Mothers of Invention "Freak Out" (No one seems to want to give Frank Zappa any props, so I will. Not only was he one of the best rock and roll guitarists ever, and an incredible musician in every way, he was also a social commentator of the bravest type. It would be a long time before rock songs would be this critical of government, society, fads, and religion. He also ushered in an age of creativity and continuity that was unheard of prior to "Freak Out." Zappa created a vibe that allowed future bands to exist, such as Mr. Bungle, The Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Coldplay, The Residents, The Mars Volta, Beck, Butthole Surfers, Radiohead, and Dave Matthews Band. And he would have hated all of those bands. Best track on here is probably "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here," but it changes every time I hear the LP.)
6. Minutemen "Double Nickels on the Dime" (The Minutemen made it cool to be smart if you were punk, and cool to be DIY if you were smart. This album sounds like anything but punk, but at its very core is the essence of punk rock... DIY, strong work ethic, and a lot of questions that the system needs to answer. The music is surprisingly tight, the words alarmingly poetic, and the band is vastly under appreciated. This is why I hate The Clash. My favorite track is "Two Beads at the End.")
7. Bob Dylan "Highway 61 Revisited" (Dylan did the right thing by going electric. Even at its peak, the folkie movement was a self-referencing joke. Much like the criticism leveled at jam-band fanatics, the fans so rarely took the message and put it into action. So to add some artistic growth, some power, and to throw off the trappings of stale "folk" he went electric. This album, in my opinion, is his best with or without electricity. Best song for me is the title track, but "Like a Rolling Stone" is a monster in its own right.)
8. Stevie Wonder "Talking Book" (Wow. Almost everything he did was magic, but this LP really stands out to me as special. My favorite track is "Superstition." Nothing that groovy has ever been recorded since. The ballads break your heart, the jams make you completely rock out.)
9. The Doors "s/t" (The first Doors album, to me, launched a great tradition in rock and roll... the frantic shaman unleashed upon pop listeners. It was dark and edgy but embraced. When nice little Jr. High girls sported Korn shirts or Eminem beanies decades later, it was thanks to Jim. It wasn't the first time a larger than life, dark prophet was let loose on Top 40 listeners...which were not yet officially invented yet..., but it was one of the strongest events of this type in my opinion. The songs were both "of the day" and original, but the personality cult that would be built around Jim would rarely be matched. He was on another level than most of us, both in the gutter and in the stars... and yet he managed to win acclaim with the lay people. He introduced the masses to philosophy and poetry and art of all sorts, as well as the dangers and thrills of self medicating. Because of The Doors, there will always be that one rock idol you hate that your innocent daughter is into. Best track, hands down, is "Break on Through.")
10. U2 "Achtung Baby" (U2's greatest miracle... they saved pop music. In a time when the majority of the youth culture decided to become neo-hippies, complete with horrible dress, fake social agendas, fads, and distrust of industry and adults, U2 showed that true musical talent and attitude can exist outside of grunge. In pop music, there is no selling out... as the goal is to sell out. While fingers were being pointed at bands who were getting too big, U2 decided to go all out and be the biggest band of all time. Every song on this LP was a grand spectacle, and it was all minuscule compared to their subsequent tour. Bono was a rock and roll icon before this LP, he was a god afterwards. In my summation, "Achtung Baby" is probably a better LP than The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." which gets too much sentimental lip service. Sorry Brian. Favorite track on this LP is easily "One.")
So there you have it. Not my favorite LPs of all time, but my guess at what a top 10 would look like. I feel bad that I left off Public Enemy, Loretta Lynn, The Ramones, Paul Simon, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Kyuss, Bjork, Marvin Gaye, Pixies, Black Sabbath, Johnny Cash, The Cure, Steely Dan, Beck, and many others. That is why it is hard to do a cross-genre list like this. And frankly, stuff that is too old has to be pretty great to still seem magical, and stuff that is too new suffers from not having enough wear and tear.
So why no Rolling Stones? None of their LPs really stand out to me as "great" even though their library is stuffed with rock and roll greatness. Why no Pink Floyd? Well, I just haven't spent a lot of time with them. As a cultural phenomena I should list "Dark Side of the Moon" but as an album, I am not very familiar with it. And it kills me I didn't list any Prince, but every one of LPs has both the best and worst songs ever recorded. The guy was just too prolific. And why no Metallica? Because they suck. Any given Iron Maiden LP would be a better choice than anything Lars and James have done. Hell, Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" would rank higher than any Metallica LP in my book.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The Bronx - "The Bronx II" (Swami Records, 2006) [key tracks: Three Dead Sisters, History's Stranglers]
"L.A. lady, you always look so uninspired when you're hanging around... living with creeps and loving with liars. And everyone knows it's true, that all you're ever gonna be is entertainment, so entertain me..."
If I was going to make a list of the albums I most wanted on vinyl, which either do not or I cannot confirm exist in record format, it would look like this;
25. Bright Eyes "Fevers and Mirrors"
24. Camarosmith "s/t"
23. The Haunted "The Dead Eye"
22. Butthole Surfers "Independant Worm Saloon"
21. Polyphonic Spree "Begining Stages of the Polyphonic Spree"
20. Frank Black "Honeycomb"
19. Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments "Straight to Video"
18. Vengeance Rising "Once Dead"
17. Trouble "Manic Frustration"
16. Anthrax "Sound of White Noise"
15. Fireball Ministry "Their Rock is Not Our Rock"
14. Atreyu "A Deathgrip on Yesterday"
13. Chiodos "All's Well That Ends Well"
12. The Lost Dogs "Scenic Routes"
11. Melvins "A Senile Animal"
10. Ministry "Psalm 69"
9. King's X "Dogman"
8. Dead Milkmen "Soul Rotation"
7. Swirling Eddies "Outdoor Elvis"
6. Deadboy and the Elephant Men "We Are Night Sky"
5. The Crucified "Pillars of Humanity"
4. Burn Witch Burn "s/t"
3. Neko Case "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood"
2. Adam Again "Dig"
1. Scaterd Few "Sin Disease"
The Bronx is one of those rare bands that comes from nowhere and becomes a gem in your collection. And because you have no pre-conceived hopes or expectations, you have no recourse but to be blown away. Like most objects that deserve cult-like following, I was turned onto this by a devotee... a cool dude that works at Drastic Plastic over in Omaha. He played a track, and at the time I thought "that is pretty cool." He also played some other stuff, Boris and something else, so my palate was washed pretty clean. Then I got home and popped this on... wow! Its like a breath of fresh air and a punch in the nose at the same time. Take the energy and garage attitude of any band making a scene in this century... and then amp it up a million times over. This is what Red Bull sounds like. The Bronx, proudly hailing from Hollywood, kick rock and roll square in the teeth. Full of attitude and pure rock and roll riffage, there is no way to categorize what this band is doing or sounding like. Stoner? No, its too upbeat. Metal? No, it's too structured. Punk? "F**k that." No, The Bronx is a new creature that sounds very familiar... like a cross between McLusky, the Ramones, Jet, and AC/DC all wrapped up, spoiled rotten, and living on Island Records' cash. They leave it all on the stage, and that somehow comes through on the LP. I would be shocked if even the most casual rock fan couldn't find at least one song that would burn up their iPod... great stuff, and I can't wait for their next LP... and at the rate they work (and milk the label), it will be a while. Let's hope they tour through the Midwest sooner or later...
Not much to say today. I have a toxicology test tomorrow AM. Actually, it's a midterm. It was postponed from lst week when we had the Blizzard of '07 (pronounced "ought seven," thank you). I am sort of ready for it... which may sound odd since I have had an extra week to prepare. The truth is, I let it ride since last Thursday, so I need to do some refreshing. Thus, the 12:30 AM blogging session... me and my distractions. Go figure. So wish me luck, and enjoy whatever it is you do on your Spring Breaks... oh wait, most of you are adults and don't get those anymore. Believe it or not, I am jealous...
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Thursday, March 01, 2007
David Bowie - "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" (RCA, 1983) [Key tracks: the farewell speech]
"So I cried for all the others till the day was nearly through, for I realized that God's a young man too."
In honor of my friend Megan, who just recently saw a movie with subtitles, and the rest of you who may ignore classics and foreign films, I present a mini movie review before the record review! Today being a snow-day, I was over joyed to see that Turner Classic Movies was showing good films! One of my all time favorites, "Divorce Italian Style" was on. It is a classic comedy, filled with the sort of introspection and fantasy that all middle aged married men can relate with. Everything about the movie is impeccable... the acting, the characters, the plot, the settings, the way the shots were set up... everything. In short, it is about a man who covets a young woman (ala Bathsheba), and begins to hate his own wife (at times painted as an unknowing victim of male wanderlust, at other times a relentless harpy). During these time, he fantasizes about the many ways he can get out of the marriage since divorce is not an option in old-world Italy... murder, accidentally falling in quick sand, being launched to the moon in a rocket... hilarious stuff. This is a great "gateway" movie to get you hooked on foreign film... and it has a great lesson about fidelity as well. Also noteworthy is its incorporation of Fellini's masterpiece "La Dulce Vida" into its plot. Add this to your Netflix list and you will not be sorry.
I don't have much to say about the music on the LP, but rather the story behind it, David Bowie had created some personas during his career; role playing as characters was part of his charm. This creation, this Ziggy Stardust ultimately took on a life of its own. The fans immediately fed back into the mythos what Bowie had created, making him a rock and roll messiah... and David himself was sucked into the fantasy, and he needed out before it destroyed him. So at this concert, unknown to even his band, he announced it was the last show he would play. We all know he didn't "quit" for long, but he definitely put Ziggy to rest for good. This LP was recorded in 1973, and filmed, but the album was not released until 1983. The LP pictured is one of the 2003 limited edition pressings which improved the sound and lengthened the set list to include all of the songs and announcements. You can hear the audience collectively gasp and moan when David makes his surprise announcement. A great piece of rock and roll history. The music, by the way, is probably one of the most fun Bowie experiences... a quick vamp through some of his most iconoclastic work, including a tarty cover of "Let's Spend the Night Together." Bowie at his prime, and a beautiful collectible for any record collector.
That's it for today, no 3rd paragraph. Its hard to type about music/life when you watch Italian movies about infidelity and lust all morning while your wife may or may not be stuck at work (thanks to the snow)! Makes me wanna start "drunk" dialing my female classmates... and I can blame it on the snow and the cinema. Salut!
Horns up, and drive safe...