Staind “Dysfunction”


(13 April 1999 Flip, Elektra)

One of the coolest things about writing this blog for the past several years has been going back to albums I loved as a teenager and hearing whether or not they’ve stood the test of time. I think I made mostly good decisions back then, but there have been a few that made me wonder what the hell I was thinking.

Staind’s Dysfunction is one that I don’t even want to go back and listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I remember really liking it. It was different. “Just Go” was the first song of theirs I heard. It came on the radio at some point and was weird and powerful enough to leave an impression. I don’t remember first hearing “Mudshovel” or “Home,” but both were the type of songs I would hear later and think ‘I know that song… I’ve heard that before.’

I always liked Mike Mushok’s guitar work. He didn’t play like any of the nu-metallers and really had his own, unique style. Aaron  Lewis also seemed a little out of place because he could actually sing and didn’t just rely on growls or spitting rhymes.

But… well… “It’s Been A While.”

For fuck’s sake, you could not avoid that song when it came out. If you turned on the radio for 20 minutes in 2001 you would hear that song. And every fucking song they came out with after that was the exact same bullshit. I remember hearing a tune from them in college that I enjoyed – I assume it came from 2011’s self-titled album – but when I listened to the album on Spotify it didn’t impress me much.

And don’t even get me started on Aaron Lewis. That guy has one helluva screw loose. Every time I seem him in the news it’s on MetalSucks.com because he did something extremely birdbrained like comparing Fred Durst to the Dalai Lama or storming off stage after telling the crowd he doesn’t speak Spanish because he’s an American. * It’s like he hired Donald Trump’s Public Relation’s Guy.

Honestly, Dysfunction may still be a joy to listen to. And it may be possible for a washed-up metal singer to go country without turning into a MAGA hat wearing numbskull, but I’m not going to answer any of those questions here.

 

*I also occasionally use the “I don’t _____, because I’m American” thing occasionally, but I’m always joking. There are lots of things people from other countries enjoy that I just don’t get like drinking hot tea, playing futbol and not having to take out second mortgages to pay for costly medical procedures but I hope you know that I respect you all.

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Alice in Chains “Rainier Fog”


(24 Aug 2018, BMG)

I purposely waited a while before tackling the review of this album. I kept hoping it would grow on me, but I’m still not a huge fan.

There are a few good tunes on the album. My favorite is “Maybe.” It starts off with those patented harmonized vocals and carries them all the way through the track. It’s weird because they don’t really give the song a heavy metal or hard rock feel, but more of a country vibe.

It seems so strange to put so much emphasis on one word, but I love the way they say “yeah,” in the chorus to that song. It reminds me of what Layne Staley did in “Grind.”

I also really like “Never Fade” which sounds unlike anything Alice have ever done. This probably has something to do with the influence of new(ish) singer William DuVall. This is his third album with the group but one of his first major songwriting contributions. And it’s about damn time! I really enjoyed the stuff from his previous band, Comes With The Fall, and have been waiting for him to contribute more to Alice in Chains.

“So Far Under” is great also for being unique. This one is solely written by DuVall, features his lead work and starts with the best riff on the album.

The title track is another standout that drives the album along. I think it should have been the opener. I’m guessing one of the things that killed enthusiasm about this record was the lead single “The One You Know.” It’s definitely not the track I would have picked to fill that role. I honestly think I would have liked it more if I’d gotten a vinyl copy and mistakenly started with side two.

“Fly” features some interesting guitar sounds unlike anything else in the Alice canon, but feels like too much of a departure for me. “Drone” is perhaps the best example of the term ‘Doom Metal’ on the album, which is both a positive and negative for the track.

In some ways, this is sad for me. This feels like the Alice in Chains album where they cement their status as the elder statesman and spend the rest of their career putting out mediocre albums with a few gems scattered here and there. Before this, I had to buy every album they put out, but the next one I might pass on.

Maybe that has something to do with the lack of enthusiasm surrounding it. I remember being pumped up when The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here came out because I was hearing songs on the radio and watching great videos on YouTube. There really wasn’t any of that with this one. I don’t even listen to rock radio much anymore. I tend to go for the mix station.

In some ways that makes me sad. I used to love modern rock, but it just doesn’t thrill me as much as it used to. It also makes me happy to know I’m still growing and exploring new things.

Just like Alice in Chains, hard rock will always be a part of my past, but will they be a part of my future?

Static X “Wisconsin Death Trip”


(23 March 1999, Warner Bros.)

I was surprised to see that Static-X is touring this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut, Wisconsin Death Trip. Mainly because their leader died a few years ago. I remember when it happened. It was a huge blow for the hair gel industry and fans of industrial metal.

Sure, they were lumped in with the nu metal of the late 90s/early aughts, but they seemed to have better staying power than most of their peers from that era. I still enjoy their third album, Shadow Zone, that was released long after Limp Bizkit became completely flaccid and I’d done my best to forget about Puya.

It’s somewhat strange to think of how industrial music apes the big craze of the moment and adds electronics to it. Ministry did it with thrash metal in the early 90s, NIN did it with grunge in the mid-90s and Static-X did it with nu-metal at the end of the decade.

I wasn’t sure if they would be fronted by Hologram Wayne Static or just his reanimated corpse. The truth is actually stranger than either of those scenarios.

I was going to make the argument that Static-X wasn’t really a nu metal band, but then I read the Wikipedia definition which said the genre is “heavily syncopated and based on guitar riffs”  and that’s pretty hard to argue with. They were grounded in start/stop guitar riffs and Wayne Static’s goofy growly vocals. Just because I enjoy their music doesn’t give me any right to make excuses and call them something other than what they are.

Which is somewhat horrible, but they were never nearly as bad as Crazy Town. That group is also touring, which is strange because I thought that the entire band was dead.

Jerry Cantrell “Boggy Depot”


(7 April 1998, Columbia)

Boggy Depot is my favorite albums in the expanded Alice in Chains universe because it is the most unique. I really think this is the only album from AiC or Cantrell that doesn’t have Layne Staley on it anywhere.

I know what you’re thinking: “Staley died in 2002. He can’t be on any of the new Alice in Chains material, you fool!” but hear me out. See, Staley made a few appearances on Cantrell’s 2002 album as inspiration for the songs “Bargain Basement Howard Hughes,” “Pig Charmer” and “31/32.” Likewise, he appeared on the title track of the reunited AiC’s first album Black Gives Way To Blue. He’s not as noticeable on the more recent releases but I still hear him occasionally. It’s subtle. He appears in the harmonies and the phrasing. There are no more drug-addled demons being exorcized in the lyrics, but Staley still is and will always be a part of Alice in Chains. Much like Brian Johnson, Jason Newstead and Zakk Wylde no matter how great William DuVall proves to be he’s always going to have that shadow hanging over him.

The only song on Boggy Depot I could see working for Alice in Chains is “Jesus Hands.” It has the dark feel and guitar work that put them on the map. But even though it includes bassist Mike Inez and drummer Sean Kinney, I still can’t imagine how Staley would fit into the picture. Maybe he couldn’t either and that’s why it was skipped over during sessions for the Dog Album.

Much of the songs on that album are like that. “Dickeye” and “Cut You In” are both driving hard rockers. “Breaks My Back” is very similar to something AiC would do as a ballad. But the real treat is the songs that are unique to this particular album. “Between” has the most country feel. I’m not a huge fan of Country and Western music but I do enjoy Cantrell’s take on it in “Devil By His Side,” “Keep The Light On” and “Hurt A Long Time.” Sure, none of them are going to get him inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, but it’s always nice to hear someone do something different.

My favorites are the piano-driven songs. Something about that simple lick in “Settling Down” really gets me and “Cold Piece” is a great closer. I don’t think pianos make a whole lot of appearances on Alice in Chains material so it’s always nice when they pop up.

I would highly recommend this album as something everyone should listen to. If you’re a fan of Alice in Chains it’s a neat detour into another side of their primary songwriter. And if you’re not a fan of Alice in Chains this will give you a softer version of what you’re missing.

 

AC/DC “Highway to Hell”


(27 July 1979, Atlantic)

I love how some songs make you think of loved ones who have passed away. What’s even better is when the song also appeals to my warped and depraved sense of humor. I wrote about the odd feeling I had when the Vandals’ “My Girlfriend’s Dead” stuck in my head and my thoughts on AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” aren’t really that different.

You always hear about siblings turning each other on to different bands and types of music. It’s a story as old as families that’s been happening ever since the first cave-older-brother brought home an 8-track by Dinosaur Jr. and turned his cave-little-brother onto it. It would be a heartwarming story if they hadn’t both been eaten by a sabretooth tiger the next day.

My story is a little different. I was never a huge fan of AC/DC, but I liked them a lot more before my little brother discovered them. We grew up in a modular home, one of those tin cans with paper thin walls. This meant that whenever he was jamming to Back in Black or Fly on the Wall everyone else in the trailer was also jamming to it. It was this more than their continuous play on modern rock radio that turned me off.

I’ve been meaning to do a review of Highway to Hell for his birthday for the past six years since he died, but I haven’t really known how to go about it. Looking back at what I’ve written I still don’t. Highway to Hell was the one album of his I kept. I still have several DVDs, Blu-Rays and video games, but his musical taste was just atrocious. I didn’t do a very good job as an older brother in that sense.

It seems silly to try to review an AC/DC album. You’ve already heard the title track, “Girls Got Rhythm,” “If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)” and “Touch Too Much” more times than any of us can count. The other tracks are both instantly recognizable and immediately forgettable. AC/DC has done more with three-chords than others have done with jazz encyclopedias.

Anyway, I’ve always just wanted to put something like this up as a tribute for my brother. I wish I could put it more poetically or deeper, but considering I’m using a post about AC/DC as a way to pay tribute this probably makes the most sense.

Has Anyone Else Heard This?


The other day I was listening to some new releases on Spotify and I came across a version of Pink Floyd’s “Nobody Home,” by Mark Lanegan.

Now, I’m not the biggest Lanegan fan in creation. I have a copy of Sweet Oblivion that gets a fair amount of play and Songs for the Deaf that I love, but other than that I’ve never gotten too into his stuff. I’ve checked some out but it never really grabbed me.

Then I heard this. “Nobody Home” has always been one of my favorite songs from The Wall and something about his voice really does the song justice. There are moments I long for Roger Waters’ phrasing, but Lanegan really does something special.

So I checked out what album it’s from and found a Bandcamp site for Redux Records. I I’m tempted to plop down some money to check this compilation out. It seems like a great idea, but I’m not familiar with any of the artists save Lanegan and the Melvins. Not to mention that half of the free previews are not of the same quality as “Nobody Home.”

So how about it? Has anyone bought or listened to this? Are you familiar with these artists? How about the label?

Any info would be appreciated. At the moment I’m tempted to plop down my buck for a digital copy of “Nobody Home” and go on about my life, but I’m really curious about what other gems might be on here.

 

I also came upon another review of the album last night. It’s a good thing I didn’t post this as soon as planned.

Nine Inch Nails “Closure”


(25 November 1997, Nothing/Interscope)

I’m not a huge collector of CDs and DVDs. As such, I don’t have a huge number of shelves and other areas to store them. This posed a bit of a problem when my last girlfriend was moving in and trying to find space for her movie collection on my tiny storage rack. A friend from work had given it to me several years ago when I moved and it’s served me well ever since. It has enough space that the bottom is nothing but Daniel Tiger and Peppa Pig DVDs for my daughter. But when Darcy moved in it wasn’t nearly enough for both of our collections.

The obvious solution was to remove a few of my ‘questionable for children’ movies and put them in the less-visible entertainment stand cupboard. I suggested moving the GG Allin documentary Hated, GWAR’s Ultimate Video Gwarchive and Nine Inch Nails’ Closure to that area. My daughter hasn’t taken any interest in this sort of thing yet, but it’s good to be proactive.

It seemed like a good idea and we were able to make enough room on the shelves for both of our collections. Nevermind that she replaced Closure with Scarface. I think that’s a step in the right direction.

I’ve always loved the music video format and Nine Inch Nails were definitely at the top of the game. They were edgy, artsy, creative and controversial all rolled into one. The best part of this double VHS package is the tape that features all of their videos up to that point (with the exception of “Burn” from the Natural Born Killers soundtrack and “Gave Up” from the unreleased Broken movie).

Some of these videos I was familiar with from MTV and other stations: “Closer,” “The Perfect Drug,” “Head Like A Hole.” I even saw “Pinion” late one night. But a lot of these weren’t made to be aired on American TV. I was blown away by the strap-on clad, joint smoking guys in “Sin” and just a little disturbed by the torture machine in “Happiness in Slavery.” Throw in the musical snippets and electrocuting an elephant footage between the videos and you have the best music video collection ever released.

The other tape wasn’t nearly as good as I remembered. Which was strange considering this was one of the biggest musical influences on me during my teen years. Sure, there’s plenty of cool stuff on there: Backstage antics and destruction, celebrity/tourmate cameos featuring Lou Reed, Marilyn Manson, Jim Rose and David Bowie and live performances. Maybe in the DVD age, 60 minutes isn’t long enough for something like this and I would just like to have some more.

There are some great performances, “Terrible Lie,” “The Only Time,” and the “Hurt” duet with David Bowie are all great, but “Down in It” and “Something I Can Never Have” fall short. Plus, I’m unsure why “Wish” should appear on this tape when it appears on the other as both a live video and the official video. I guess I just would have liked to have seen more.

The best part is that we now live in the age of Youtube and all I have to do to see footage from early NIN shows, Lollapalooza or interviews is to open a tab on my browser and click down the rabbit hole. That’s never the same as having a nice physical copy of a video album. And this is one I’ll always cherish.

(I was going to post the NSFW “Happiness in Slavery,” but that’s not available on Youtube.)

Fuel “Sunburn”


(31 March 1998, 550, Epic)

A recent swimming trip with my daughter left me thinking about this album. I have the title all over my back! But it’s a good album to be thinking of. This is one that has survived numerous trips to the used record store to be sold. They never made an offer, but I liked it too much to send it to the Goodwill. So it’s remained in my collection.

It’s not the greatest album I own, but it’s far from the worst. It’s easy to lump Fuel in with all the other post-Grunge groups of the late nineties who only saw 15 minutes of fame, but Fuel has stuck with me through the years. Probably because my Mom loves them so much. But it could be that there’s some great songwriting here too.

“Shimmer” and “Sunburn” are both great tunes and obvious for singles. Both are the kind of semi-ballads that I can imagine listening to while dealing with a breakup.

What makes the album unique are the strange sounds that come in places like the into of “Bittersweet.” I have no idea what chord that is. The rest of the song is a great stereotypical hard rocker, but then it breaks to a really weird atmospheric guitar sound. There’s a great sense of balance there.

I’ve always loved “Jesus or a Gun.” It’ like American Psycho; there’s a message hidden in there. I have no idea what that message is, but I know it’s there.

Looking back on the singles it’s weird that these guys didn’t hit it big for another two years, but even the other tracks have some great stuff. I suppose a lot of it may come off as derivative though. A lot of other bands were doing stuff like this at the time. “It’s Come to This” makes me think of the Smashing Pumpkins for the experimental, atmospheric guitar tones. “Song For You” reminds me of Candlebox with the single-note intro. Not that Fuel was trying to ape these groups, it’s just a hazard of sharing a genre.

There are some other great hard rockers in there too. Opener “Untitled” is a great attention getter. “Ozone” is another that makes my ears perk up.

While some groups seemed to just jump aboard the grunge bandwagon as a way to fame, Sunburn scorches with authenticity. It’s not so much grungy as it is a solidly written album that just happened to be released when that was the sound you got.

You’d obviously be forgiven in 2018 for writing these guys off and not paying any attention, but you’d be missing out.

I’m Glad Trump Isn’t Making America Great Again


I’ve gone on record saying I’m not a fan of Donald Trump. Still, there is one part of American Culture I expected him to make great again: Music. I keep waiting for hardcore punk bands to pop up like they did in the eighties when Cowboy Reagan was in charge. I don’t think any of us would be hearing much about bands like Black Flag, DOA, GWAR or Reagan Youth without the moral majority being in charge and giving the youth of the day something to rally against.

Maybe they’re all still just working on their record contracts.

The good thing is that I still have time to catch up on some great music I’ve missed over the past 35 years. After seeing the Dead Kennedys a few weeks ago and not recognizing an embarrassing number of songs I decided to make a trip to the record store. I think I did pretty well for myself. Five purchases for under $50.

Of course, I was predominantly looking for DK stuff. I have Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death. I had In God We Trust, Inc. but it’s been lost to the ages so I wanted to fill in some gaps.

I managed to get Frankenchrist on vinyl for $20. That was the highest price for anything on this trip, but I think it was worth it. I justified it by wondering how much I would have paid if it had Giger’s Penis Landscape insert. (But now that I think about it, how odd it is that I would pay more to get a poster of that particular painting?) I also bought Plastic Surgery Disasters/In God We Trust, Inc. on CD. Now my collection is only missing Bedtime for Democracy.

They also had the 25th anniversary of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables featuring a 55-minute documentary. I found that really tempting for but passed on it for now. Hopefully, it’s still there when I make it back. Does anyone have a copy of this? Is it any good? Is it worth the $16?

The benefit of going to a brick and mortar store instead of Amazon is I was able to browse and see what else wanted me to pick it off the shelf. I didn’t have to look very far to find the Dead Milkmen’s Eat Your Paisley. At $8 and with tracks like “Where the Tarantula Lives,” “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies” and “Beach Party Vietnam” it was a no-brainer.

I also grabbed The Lords of the New Church’s self-titled album. I first heard of these guys after reading 1537’s review. After checking out a few tracks on Spotify I immediately added them to my Amazon wishlist. This is a great album. It has a gothic, new wave feel to it. Not new wave as in ‘we’re adults now,’ but new wave as in ‘I wonder if this album influenced Pretty Hate Machine.’

My last purchase was Machines of Loving Grace’s self-titled debut. This was on the $1 rack and since they contributed one of the best tunes to The Crow Soundtrack I figured it would be worth taking a chance on. Jokes on me. There’s a reason I never heard anything from these guys other than “Golgatha Temple Blues.” I’m sure I’ll take it down again eventually, but I don’t imagine it will get much airplay before I try to sell it back.

I also came across a Scott Stapp CD I thought about buying. I have a few coworkers that keep singing “One” whenever they pass by and I thought it would make a good gag gift. In the end, I decided $1 is too much money to spend on a Scott Stapp CD no matter the reason.

 

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack “Tommy Boy”


I don’t usually buy albums based on one track. I’ve been burned this way a few times in the past and thanks to Spotify, I can now listen to an album multiple times before deciding whether to spend my hard earned money on it. But when I saw this album for $1 and it contained the track “Fat Guy in a Little Coat,” I knew I have to have it.

Aside from the classic “Fat Guy,” you also get “Jerk Motel,” “My Pretty Little Pet” and “Housekeeping.” It’s a little disappointing to not have “Every time I drive down the road I want to jerk the wheel into a bridge abutment!” or the pitch where he was lighting model cars on fire, but there are still a few great additions to my library.

The music is all middle-of-the-road rock from the nineties. Paul Westerberg, Primal Scream and the Smoking Popes all make appearances with tunes I still can’t pick out of a lineup. The Goo Goo Dolls are on here with a song from their early days before they were truly horrible. Soul Coughing does a song they wouldn’t have release post-9/11. It also has R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” which I remember from the movie and “Come on Eileen” which I don’t.

Yet again, I feel like the tracklist could have benefitted from the inclusion of Chris Farley and Brian Dennehy doing “What I Say,” but they didn’t consult me when preparing this.

The best song on the album is a cover of Kiss’s “I Love it Loud” by a band I’ve never heard of called Phunk Junkeez. It’s pretty hard to screw up a Kiss song and they really knocked it out of the park by adding some Public Enemy samples.

 

This isn’t the kind of an album you’d want to immerse yourself in with great headphones. I usually listen to it as background music on road trips. But if you do that make sure you remove the oil can before you cue up the Carpenters’ “Superstar.”