Saturday, June 4, 2011

Alice, Sweet Alice

I'm a freak. I don't mean that to say that I'm a hippie, stoner, Punk Rocker or some other fad. See, I'm always that one step off. As an example, I've been thinking about how much I loved Alice Cooper. Not so strange? Here's the thing, I kinda sorta hated the 1970's Alice Cooper ( a couple of songs were worthwhile, but otherwise, useless to me) and I definitely hate the sober, resting on his laurels Alice of the 1990's onwards. The Alice Cooper I love is the blackout drunk from the early to mid 1980's. Yup, the totally disowned records: Flush the Fashion, Special Forces, and Zipper Catches Skin. I still listen to those records, but when I mention how much I like Alice Cooper, people think I mean stuff like Only Women Bleed, and School's Out, both of which are absolute drek to me, and were part of the reason I hated music in the 1970's.
So, I mention song I like, such as "Who Do You Think We Are" and "Grim Facts" and "I like Girls", and people have no idea. I think that the reason why I like them, and the reason why Vincent Furnier was so self destructive while making them are two sides of the same coin: this is the point where the wheels had come off- where the pieces were worn out and couldn't be made to work. See, that's right where a shock rocker becomes truly shocking. He wasn't playing at being a monster, he was doing everything he could to stop the monster he was becoming, even if it killed him. The music was furious and thrashing, like the band, even was trying to escape from Rocknroll. That's where it gets interesting to me, because that's an honest tension, and something I can understand- the point at which you cannot continue with where you've been going, but you don't yet understand where you should go next. So, you do fake new wave songs dressed half in drag, and half like Rambo. That clicks with me.I can relate to that. See, that's what I mean by saying that I'm a freak- I've always been on that edge where the past has to be dropped, but I can't see the future, just yet. I've grown comfortable with that feeling. I don't think Alice ever did, and so, believe it or not, I feel sorry for the man Vincent Furnier has become.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Red Fang

So, yes, I like hard rock. I wouldn't exactly call myself a punk or a metal head, though. I just like really loud rocknroll. I think that fits Red Fang, as well. They've been called Stoner Metal, Doom indie, Sludge punk, and (my favorite) Beer Metal. But, really, they just play really loud Rock. They've got an active sense of humour, and a bullet belt of "Hell Yeah!" riffs, to pair up with their love of facial hair and beer. You'll probably think of bands like Black Sabbath, and Queens of the Stone Age, but I'm hearing everything from AC/DC to ZZ Top. They're just damn fine, very loud rock music. With Pabst. And foot long beards. and sleazoid guitars that appear to be welded pieces of other intruments, fished out from the Puget sound. Oh, and Tecate. Maybe some Schaefer.
Look, I was thinking earlier about how hard it is getting to trust anyone or anything, when everybody seems to want to sell you on something. Everybody from your favorite politician to that girl who smiled at you at the gas station, that you thought might be flirting, but then, you realized was smiling that same way to every guy who came in. Rock bands, especially want to sell you on some concept, or some marketing ploy, so's you'll buy an extra T shirt at the merch table. I'm not trying to sell you on anything, here. I make a pretty good salary, enough that I can afford to buy somewhere around 100 CDs a year, and download a bunch more stuff. Between that and the free stuff, I bet I hear about 365 new releases per year. I know most folks can't keep up with that. Most folks I know maybe download 20 songs in a month, if that. They might buy 6 CDs in a year. So, if you went out and bought everything I suggested, you'd be pretty poor, pretty quick.
All that having said, if you do buy just 1 CD per month, go stream some Red Fang, and decide for yourself if you want to buy it. I'm seriously happy I bought the new one Murder the Mountains. I wasn't the biggest fan of their first record, but it had some moments. This one is an instant classic to me. I'm getting the same joy from this that I did when I heard Rated R by QOTSA: a band that I sorta liked suddenly was awesome. So, yes, I think Red Fang are awesome.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Only Partly about Music: White Zombie

So, as of late, I've been writing a lot about different musical groups, primarily alt rock. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is a music blog. I suppose, it is partially. But, primarily, it's my pop culture blog- operative word being "my"- which for those few who know (I think that's maybe 3 people at this point) means that I don't see the arts as discreet separate entities. Sometimes, the best part of a film is the soundtrack, sometimes the best part of a book are the pictures, sometimes a band looks cooler than their music is, sometimes a comedian is a better dramatic actor, and so on. It all blurs together, for me. To give you some concrete examples, let me present today's subject: White Zombie.
Primarily, they were a band. At times, they were a great rocknroll band. However, if you subtract the graphics, they're greatly diminished. If you further strip away the psychotronic poetry of their endless pop culture references embedded in the lyrics, they're getting to be pretty insignificant. On top of that, if you remove their remixes, they've got only about 60 minutes of decent music. Then, if you want to straight jacket them only to the Alt-Metal sound they popularized, you're left with a handful of singles. So, to appreciate them for what they really were, you've got to re-align how you define the Arts- they were a performance troupe, playing music, making graphics, doing disguised pop culture criticism, constructing sideshow dramas, and creating personas.
So, If I'm going to talk about them, I've got to not only talk about the music, I've also got to talk about the T shirts, the stage show, the references, and so on. For example, the point of their apex, musically, is mixed : some of Soul Crusher, when they played noise rock, is right up there with the Birthday Party and Sonic Youth for skronk with a purpose, and much better than better lauded peers like Live Skull and Pussy Galore. It wasn't until Astro Creep that they matched the musical vision, albeit in a different genre (by now, they were more definite, and played a metallic boogie rock, like the Allman brothers, minus swing but on steroids)Graphically, however, they never topped out- though I think there are several weak points, musically with their breakthrough record "La Sexorcisto..."- graphically, it's a tour-de-force of what we can call "Zombieland", a strange carnivalesque pastiche of Rat Fink, classic Horror flicks, psychedelia, professional wrestling, punk rock, and 1970's tabloid exploitation, and exceeded only by the addition of the dystopian scifi elements of Astro Creep. What I am saying is that I don't think I'd go out of my way to get the CD, but I'd pay decent money to get one of the T shirts from around the Sexorcisto era.The real deal, though would be the live show- a zombieland combination of Kiss and Gwar with a large amount of American sideshow.
What brings it up is that I'm reading Sean Yseult's "I'm in the Band". Like most musicians, Sean is no writer. At her best, she reaches a "teen Beat" style of gushing, and she relies a lot of testimonials from others. However, she's a gifted photographer, and there's some really great photography. Also, her more cartoon-y take on Zombieland is charming, almost cuddly. The graphics are actually much more communicative than the writing: I'd almost prefer to see this as some kind of a PowerPoint presentation, sold on a thumb drive, or something...
So, that got me to dig out the CD/record collection. Yes, Astro Creep, and Supersexy Swingin' Sounds are just as amazing as you probably remember, but I am struck by how complete, and devastating Soul Crusher is. It's truly under-rated: from the weird biker-movie homage-montage of the cover art ( it's like cramming "Wild Angels" into a photo)to the pioneering use of samples, to the completely unhinged vocals ( Rob never sounded quite so psycho, again) to the ramshackle chug of the tunes it neatly sums up the early 1990's... in 1987! The next two records are really tame, by comparison. Make Them Die Slowly is metallic in all the wrong ways- it sounds about like how it would feel to try to actually eat the CD, and the songs are artsy-fartsy fanboy attempts at Thrash metal. It even looks bland. La Sexorcisto, looks amazing. From the super-groovy tattoo flash graphics to the glow in the dark translucent vinyl (yes, I have the vinyl) Yes, Thunderkiss is a great mash up of Kiss and Pantera. But, most of the songs meander about in search of a hook. The guitars sound very shiny and clean, which betrays all the supposed psychotic babble of the lyrics. It's just not right. The EP "Nitecrawlers", allows Sascha from KMFDM to correct the musical flaws, and he (rightfully) turns White Zombie's sound to a kind of metallic disco stomp, which suits the dichotomy of creamy guitars with twisted lyrics. I think it was that lesson that allows them to make Astro Creep- which is a stone classic, and you should already own it.I don't think main man, Rob Zombie has topped Astro Creep until he went into films. So, rather than talk about his solo career, I'd prefer to talk about his films- and by "his Films" I mean House of 1000 corpses and The Devil's Rejects. (Again, see what I mean about how I don't see White Zombie as being complete if you just talk music?) House of 1000 corpses is a fantastic slasher film, that takes a left turn in the last third, into a surreal monster movie. Honestly, I cannot think of another movie quite like it. It's structured just like a classic grindhouse slasher film, until the real mayhem gets unleashed, and then it gets crazier than a Jodorowsky film. You've got everything from respirators to bunny costumes to zombies to mutants, to fields on fire to hallucinatory sound montages. Absolutely amazing. The Devil's Rejects is yet another amazing mash up- this time between Revenge movie (Billy Jack, Standing Tall, etc) Slasher Film ( I spit on your grave) and outlaw biker flick ( think Hell's Angels on Wheels) There are moments in it that are genuinely disturbing (the scenes with Bill Mosely and Priscilla Barnes come immediately to mind) and some moments of beauty not seen outside of Westerns in American films.
See, again- it's not about one form, it's about finding those artistic moments that appeal to you. That's what I'm about. I might concentrate pretty heavily on music, but that's because it's the form that speaks loudest to me. Heck, keep in mind, I'm a trained Cameraman, in addition to being a sound engineer- in fact, I think that there are those who'd argue I'm a better videographer than anything else I've done. As should be obvious, here, I also am not unfamiliar with the English language so I can write, too. Ergo, why would I put all my eggs into a CD basket? That'd be a real Zodiac Mindwarp. (hehehe)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seen the New Jane's Track, yet?

Well, stop delaying. It's right here, and it is awesome.
One warning- if Nekkid Women offend/worry/bother you, it might be a bit much for you.