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Archive for the ‘Guns n’ Roses’ Category

[ATTENDED: August 9, 2014] Dead Daisies

daisiesTwo years ago, I went to see Kiss in Scranton.  I had seen them a few times by then, and since Paul’s voice sounded pretty bad, I didn’t think I’d go again.  But I love hanging out with my friend Matt and don’t get to see him enough, so when he invited me up for this year’s extravaganza, I decided what the hell.  And it turned out to be a very good show indeed.

The first opening act was a band called Dead Daisies.  Last time, they had an opening act that I didn’t investigate at all.  But this year, I had my phone out and figured that Dead Daisies was a local Scranton band, and I’d see if I could find anything about them.

Well, it turns out that Dead Daisies is from Australia and that the lead singer, Jon Stevens, was the guy who sang for INXS after Michael Hutchence killed himself (but before they did the reality show to find a new singer).  I never heard INXS in that version, but the way he was singing for this band, I can’t even begin to imagine him as a good fit.  Because he has a big old powerful voice and sings in a very un-Hutchence way.

When they first came out I was kind of unimpressed.  The first song sounded a ton like AC/DC.  And the second song sounded like Bad Company.  As it turns out the band is a kind of retro rock band, with connections to Guns N Roses (guitarist Richard Fortus has played with GnR and Dizzy Reed plays keyboards for GnR).  And it turns out that Slash co-wrote their song “Lock ‘n’ Load.”  The other guys in the band are Marco Mendoza on bass (he’s played with Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake and many others) and David Lowy on guitar.  (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: CRYPTOPSY-“Slit Your Guts” (1996).

cryptI had never heard of this band until I saw the song mentioned in the article.  The song is impossibly fast with speeding guitars, super fast (inhuman) drums and an indecipherable growl as vocal.  In other words, a typical cookie monster metal song.  And yet, there is a lot more to it and, indeed it took me several listens before I could even figure out what was happening here, by which time I had really fallen for the song.

There’s a middle section which is just as punishing and fast but which is basically an instrumental break–not for showing off exactly but for showcasing more than the bands pummel.  It has a short guitar solo followed by a faster more traditional solo (each for one measure, each in a different ear). Then the tempo picks up for an extended instrumental section.  The melody is slightly more sinister, but it sounds great.  There’s even a (very short) bass solo that sticks out as a totally unexpected (and fun) surprise.

Then the growls come back in, staying with the new melody.  The vocals are so low and growly that they are almost another distorted instrument rather than a voice.

After that there’s a lengthy proper guitar solo.  As the song comes to a close,  it repeats some previous sections before suddenly halting.  It’s quite a trip. And it definitely makes me want to hear more from them (whatever their name means).

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Destroy Your Safe and Happy Lives”

Robbins, who is a poet, but about whom I know little else, takes us on a sort of literary tour of heavy metal.  His tone is interesting–he is clearly into metal, like in a big way (at the end of the article he talks about taking his writing students to see Converge (although he doesn’t exactly say why)), but he’s also not afraid to make fun of the preposterousness of, well, most of the bands–even the ones he likes.  It’s a kind of warts and all appreciation for what metal is and isn’t.  many people have written about metal from many different angles, so there’s not a lot “new” here, but it is interesting to hear the different bands discussed in such a thoughtful (and not just in a fanboy) way.

His first footnote is interesting both for metal followers and metal disdainers: “Genre classification doesn’t interest me.  Listen to Poison Idea’s Feel the Darkness followed by Repulsion’s Horrified and tell me the main difference between hardcore punk and metal isn’t that one has a bullshit positive message and one has a bullshit negative message.”

But since Robbins is a poet, he is interested in metal’s connection to poetry.  And in the article he cites William Blake (of course), but also Rilke and John Ashbery and (naturally) Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as Shelley, Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire.  He talks about them not because they are cool poets, but because they have also talked about because of metal’s “most familiar trope…duh, Satanism, which might be silly–okay, its’ definitely silly, but has a distinguished literary pedigree”.  Besides, he notes that Satan has the best lines in Paradise Lost (and I note that just as Judas has the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar).

But sometimes this Satanism turns into a  form of paganism which then turns into nature worship.  From Voivod’s “Killing Technology” to black metal’s romanticism of nature (sometimes to crazy extremes–but that’s what a band needs to do to stand out sometimes).  Metal is all about the dark and primordial, a”rebuke to our soft lives.”

And yet, as a poet, Robbins has some quibbles with metal: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SERENA MANEESH-“Sapphire Eyes” (2005).

I used to keep a list of songs and albums that I would try to find.  On this list was a single or a B-Side by Serena Maneesh.  I’ve lost the list, but someone just donated their debut album to our library.  So I’m excited to check it out.  In the meantime, I found the video for this track so I’ll start there.

For years people waited for the follow up to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless.  And if David Shields ever does release a disc under that name again, it will be more scrutinized than Chinese Democracy (and possibly less inspired).

So, why not let someone else take up the reigns of shoegazing music some fifteen years later.

This track displays many traits that made MBV so great.  It opens with a slightly distorted female vocalist.  She starts singing before a throbbing bass and noisy, distorted (seemingly backwards) guitars bring in a wall of noise.  But that wall only lasts for a short time before it breaks away and the song builds again, slowly, with more and more parts (the video shows a violin although I can’t hear it).

And then about half way through the song it does what MBV always made me do, pick up my head and go, yes, this is great.  A mildly distorted amazingly catchy bridge peeks out through the noise and grabs on to you.  Then more noise and a little backwards vocals and its over.

Other reviews of the album suggest that this isn’t the only kind of music they play, that they are also heavier and darker; I’m looking forward to the rest of the disc.   First impressions (five years late) are very good here.  Check it out here.

[READ: June 25, 2010] A Reader’s Guide

Despite my fondness for Infinite Jest, I had not read any of the supplementary books about it.  I’d heard of them, of course, but I didn’t feel compelled to get any of them.  Then I saw that this one was very cheap.  And I decided to get Elegant Complexity while I was at it (a few cents to the Fantods).  Complexity is a big honking book, and I don’t have time for it right now, but this reader’s guide is very short and a very quick read.

I had an idea of what to expect from the book, but I didn’t really know who the intended audience was.  So, I was very surprised to see the way it was set up.  The first chapter is a biographical account of DFW including his place in the new writers anti-ironic camp.  It was a good summary but nothing new, and I worried about what I had just bought. (more…)

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metalSOUNDTRACK: Hmmm….

There’s so much to choose from to go with this book.  And yet, despite how much I loved metal in high school, I really didn’t like hair metal at all.  In fact, when looking at the bands listed at the end of this book, there were very few that I own or intentionally listened to.

The bands that I liked in this book were: Ratt and Whitesnake.  I also liked Motley Crue’s first two records, but I gave up on them once their makeup went from Kiss to CoverGirl.  Nevertheless, I’m not going to review any of that music here, I’m just going to let you soak in the beauty of this book.

[READ: February 8, 2009] American Hair Metal

My brother-in-law received this book for Christmas. And he proudly showed it to me when we were visiting this weekend. I was immediately hooked, and rather than just flipping through the photos as I thought I might, I actually read the thing cover to cover.

So this book is a loving (or so it says) look at American hair metal of the 1980s and 1990s. The book is basically comprised of three things: outrageous photos, hilarious quotes and occasional comments from Blush. (more…)

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abstinence.jpgSOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-Live at the Gorge 05/06 (2007).

gorge.jpgPROLOGUE: When Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction came out, it galvanized the three friends I had with the most disparate musical tastes. I knew an indie rock guy, a metalhead, and an industrial/goth guy, and all three of them loved Appetite for Destruction. It was the only record that they all agreed on. I thought the same would happen with Pearl Jam’s Ten. But, the goth guy didn’t think it was dark and sleazy enough (like GnR) and the indie guy found it too commercial. And, actually, I only talk to one of the three of them these days anyhow.

I’m usually pretty cynical about celebrities. And, I know well enough that rock stars who say “We love you” and “Hello, Cleveland” are, at best, pandering to us. And yet, there are some who seem sincere enough to be believed.

Eddie Vedder is one of those sincere fellows. Ever since Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster, they seemed to be using their fame and influence for the good of the common man (or at least the common fan). Since then they have donated to various charities, thrown their support behind a (in hindsight, bad) politician (Ralph Nader, a guy whose idealism I supported, but whose reality was less than ideal), and tried their best to muckrake against the current administration. So, when he thanks the audience for letting him share music with them, when he says he’s genuinely glad to be there, and when he acts moved by the show, it all seems genuine. Again, maybe he’s a good actor (although I just watched Singles, for the first time in many years, and Eddie and some of the other PJ guys are in it, and he’s not exactly a scene stealer) but I believe him.

This is all a long set-up to review this recent live collection. It’s a collection of three shows: one set is 3 CDs the other two are 2 CDs each. The first show is from 2005 and the second and third are their tour-ending shows of 2006. All of these shows were performed at The Gorge amphitheater outside of Seattle. From the talking that Eddie does, the Gorge sounds like a great place to see a show, and it sounds like there is camping on the grounds. I only wish they included photos of the show, as I’d love to see it.

The 2005 show starts out with a disc of acoustic songs. The band appears to be in unplugged mode, chilling out before letting ‘er rip in the second half of the show. As with most of their shows, the set list is long and varied. Their shows often clock in at over two hours, with a break at about the midway point. There is a decent selection of tracks from throughout their career, as well as a couple of covers. The notable aspect of this show is that Tom Petty is performing on the following night, and Vedder vows to keep him awake all night. He gets the crowd to chant “Hello Tom, Come down, Tom,” which, sadly Tom never does. But Vedder does a rendition of “I Won’t Back Down.”

The two 2006 shows are back to back two nights in a row. It sounds as if people camped out overnight. And there is some good-natured banter between Vedder and the crowd. What is especially interesting to me about this two-night event is that they play 61 songs over the course of the two nights and the only ones they repeat are “Alive,” “Corduroy,” “Even Flow,” “Given to Fly,” “Life Wasted,” “Severed Hand,” “World Wide Suicide,” and “Yellow Ledbetter.” It’s quite apparent that the band knew there would be lots of folks for both shows and they designed a nicely diverse set list for both nights.

There’s also an interesting shout out to the previous year’s show. On the last night he mentions the Tom Petty taunting from last year, and a large portion of the audience begins the “Hello, Tom. Come down, Tom.” chant.

If you’ve been a big fan of Pearl Jam (as I am) you probably have this. But if you’ve been a mild fan of Pearl Jam over the years, this is a great set to get. You’ll get all of the hits, you’ll get a bunch of songs you’re unfamiliar with, and you’ll get a band playing at its peak. The live renditions of their songs are typically fast and furious. There’s also a lot of room for improvisation. And, it’s a chance to see the lighter side of such a “serious” band. A lot of people used to like Pearl Jam but feel their works since Ten have gone steadily downhill. I disagree, but I think that’s because listening to the live versions of the songs makes you appreciate them even more. So, check it out, it’s well worth it.

[READ: January 8, 2008] The Abstinence Teacher.

My first book finished in 2008! And, I can only hope that this is a good portent for future books this year. Wow, this book was great!

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Barenaked Ladies Are Me (2006) & Barenaked Ladies Are Men (2007).

Barenaked Ladies decided to forgo a major label altogether and just use Nettwerk as a distributor. They called their own self publishing “label” Desperation Records. [There was a fascinating article in Wired way back when this was happening, which made me want to get their CD, and it’s still online here.] The details are sketchy to me now, but it seemed like they thought they could make it on their own, and Nettwerk seemed pretty innovative as well. So, they released two albums in the span of about five months, and the results are below.

areme.jpgBarenaked Ladies Are Me. As I said, I was excited that BNL were basically doing the whole thing themselves, and wouldn’t have any label pressure to release the next big thing. So, I was a bit disappointed at first that the album stayed in the same “mature” vein as Everything to Everyone. There’s nothing crazily exciting on the CD except for the last song “Wind It Up,” which is the rockingest thing they’ve done in years.

The one song that really stuck out for me though, was “Bank Job” a really catchy Ed Robertson sung song about, of all things, a botched bank job.  It is funny without being silly, and it is so catchy! The song gets stuck in my head for days and days.

As for the rest of the record, once I started listening a few times, and now having listened to it again for the first time in a while, it’s a very solid outing. Again, “Bank Job” and “Wind It Up” are the two tracks that really stand out, but the rest are solid, well-crafted songs. And, here I pay my respects to Kevin Hearn and Jim Creeggan. Usually I don’t enjoy their songs as much, but (and maybe it’s because they don’t sing them themselves) “Sound of Your Voice” is an up tempo singalong, “Everything Had Changed” is a pretty, mellow ballad, and “Peterborough and the Kawarthas” is a pretty, slow song, that really gets into your brain. These are real highlights of the record. Oh and what is Peterborough and the Kawarthas? Why not see for yourself.

So, I give the BNL Are Me a big thumbs up.

aremen.jpgBarenaked Ladies Are Men. Five months after Are Me, came this follow up. The packaging and styling of the disc is very similar to the other one (as you can see by the covers). I wasn’t even sure that it was a new record. Well, it turns out that these are more songs from the same recording session. And, rather than releasing a double album, they did a Use Your Illusion I and II type of thing (there, how many reviews of BNL refer to GNR?)

The problem, such as it is, is twofold: there are really too many songs on this record. Are Me had 13, and this one has 16, which may just be 3 too many. The other is that several of the songs sound like other songs, both from Are Me and from Are Men. There are at least two songs that start out with the same vocal melody line as “Bank Job,” and they’re both sung by Ed Robertson. And the very first song, “Serendipity” sounds an awful lot like one of the songs on Are Me. Fortunately, the songs are catchy, and removed from Are Me, Are Men is probably just as strong a collection. But really 29 songs is a bit much.

The allmusic review suggests that this one is a bit more rocking and diverse than Are Me, and that’s true. The first 8 or 9 songs show a nice breadth of style and feeling. I still think the record runs a bit too long, but overall these two records together are a very good sign of future things from BNL.

And good luck to them and their Desperation “label.”

[READ: December 27, 2007] Ella Minnow Pea.

Sarah read this book over the summer, I think. I sounded great, so I put it in my Amazon “order later” cart, and promptly forgot about it. (This was before I used any kind of reasonable system for keeping track of books). Anyhow, I stumbled upon it while placing holiday orders, and decided to check it out. And, hurrah, our library had it! (more…)

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