SOUNDTRACK: HELLBENDER-Footprint of the American Chicken (1996).
This disc opens with a funny quote from a movie I have never heard of called Highway 61 (thank you, internet, back in 1996, know one would have known where “Lady, you can’t cheat at bingo. If you could, I would, but you can’t. I won because I was lucky – lucky to wind up in a town full of losers!” came from).
This disc fees like a progression from Hellbender’s debut–mostly in production values, but also in song textures and vocals. The band is still angry, still aggressive, playing choppy punk (although with most songs clocking in at over 3 minutes it’s a different kind of punk). Al Burian, the lead vocalist is still angry–and still hard to understand, he sounds very much like California punk circa the mid 80s.
But the thing that impressed me is that on some songs there’s another singer (I assume Wells Tower, or maybe it’s Burian’s “other singing voice?”). He is more melodic, less screamy and he really lets you hear the lyrics.
So the first song (shouty singer) has a great title “Unsolicited Anthem for the Portand Hipsters,” but I have no idea what the words are except the chorus of “It’s raining again.” But “Tourist Trap” has some great lyrics (as well as more melodic sound):
“The quiet Americans who are my friends/ laugh at the loud ones on the other end/ of the room/ and watch them spend and spend/ acting rude/ being defeated by foreign food/ being defeated by waiters who pretend/ not to speak/ a word of their language. We draw the line between us and them as best we can
It goes on like this with some more great imagery and then it ends with a cool detuned chord. This song is a major highlight on the album.
The disc continues with a mix of faster, harder songs and slightly more melodic ones. As on their debut, they throw in some nice drums breaks and great dynamics to keep the songs from becoming predictable.
“New Wounds” is more melodic, almost, but not quite, poppy with a cool guitar riff and interesting lyrics “Stay up all night counting cancers as if the counting could cut them out”
“Until It Peaks” sounds like yet another singer (man I wish I had liner notes…or could find anything about this album online anywhere…come on people!). “Half Driven” has some interesting backing vocals and some cool “ticking” sounds instead of drums. “Pissant’s Retrospective” has a new sound for the disc: scratchy guitars. That “third” vocalist is also singing again. And at 5 minutes long, it stands out for having a slow instrumental section for the last minute or so.
I also really like the lyrics to “Dumb Waiter.” It opens with a false intro (I love that) and more cool lyrics: “cross the street which separates losers from jocks…this is just like high school again.” I also like the chorus “I’m not lighting candles. I curse their darkness.”
The final song “I Thermostat” features three vocals at once–a harmony vocal and another voice singing a third line. Very cool. This album shows some major progress for the band. They released one more disc before breaking up.
[READ: January 31, 2012] Rachel Rising
My subscription to Terry Moore’s Echo ran out with issue 27 and I never got around to renewing it. So I totally missed the ending. I ordered the last issues from him but, gah, 28 is sold out, so I need to wait to finish it. But when I was on the site I saw that he has a totally new series cooking called Rachel Rising.
There were very dark tones in Moore’s most famous work, Strangers in Paradise. And Echo is all about nuclear annihilation, so he’s clearly no stranger to darkness. But wow, Rachel Rising a dark, dark work.
The opening sequence (a stunning words-free nine pages) shows a woman rising from the earth. She’s beautiful and not at all zombie-like, although the whites of her eyes are dark and she has clearly been strangled. She stumbles home (actually she gets a ride from a concerned guy whom she totally ignores) and tries to figure out what the hell happened.
We see a brief flashback of her visiting her friend Jet at the garage where she works. But when she goes to visit Jet’s house, her housemates (or whatever they are) not only say that Jet isn’t home, they say that Jet is out playing a gig like she does every Thursday. But Rachel thinks it’s Tuesday. So what the hell happened to her?
In Issue two she visits her Aunt Johnny who works at a mortuary. Terry doesn’t hold back with some of these scenes. Johnny thinks that Rachel is a figment–she gets visited by lots of ghosts in her line of work. Rachel convinces her to go look at the site where she was buried.
In the meantime, we get another storyline. A young girl in pigtails is visited by a woman in white. I have to say that this is a confusing development. The woman in white looks a lot like Rachel and I can’t decide if I’m suffering from “a lot of Terry’s characters look alike” syndrome or if this is supposed to be Rachel in another incarnation, or what. Anyway, we don’t see what the woman tells the girl, but several pages later when that storyline resumes, we see that the woman has had a powerful impact on the girl’s behavior.
In Issue 3, Rachel visits Jet at her gig. While they are all in the bar, Rachel and the woman who looks like Rachel but is in white both interact with a couple who are getting married soon. Both women say things that are not very nice about the institution of marriage. Although Rachel’s seems unintentional, the woman in white’s seems deliberate (and we notice smoke coming off of her finger).
A little later when there is an accident, Rachel is involved and the woman in white is a witness.
In Issue #4 the storylines collide somewhat. Rachel is at the hospital after her fatal accident. But she soon wakes up–to the astonishment of Johnny and Jet who saw that she was dead. Doctors said she was pronounced dead at the scene. But Rachel has a pulse, a very faint one, and Jet and Johnny are simply at a loss.
Meanwhile, the young girl (who we find out is named Zoe) is finishing up the act that she started in Issue #2 (which includes stealing her sister’s car even though she is waaay too young to drive). She drives out to the field where Rachel was buried. There she runs into the man who was supposed to get married. As we’re starting to get into the plot here, I’m not going to say anymore, except that violence abounds and it’s fairly clear now that Zoe and the woman in white know each other from some kind of past experience.
Issue #4 came out in December. I have no idea how long the series is expected to run, but it seems like it’s got a long way to go.
This is a very dark series…Terry seems to be exorcising some demons here. But man is it good. Terry’s art is (as always) beautiful. And (as always) he creates real women and gives them good roles. And as with everything that Terry has done, I cannot wait to see where he goes with this series.
My only word to Terry is that for as long as I have been reading him, he uses “it’s” instead of “its” I hope someone will correct him someday.
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