A Bad Career Move?


Did you hear Stone Temple Pilots have a new singer? That seems like a pretty dangerous position to me. Kinda like being a fisherman in the Gulf of Alaska, fronting a band with Pat Smear on guitar or serving in the Trump administration. I gotta hand it to Jeff Gutt, it takes some balls to step into a position held by two people who have died recently.

All joking aside though, I do think the new track sounds great and wish STP the best of luck. They definitely deserve it as they’ve been through a lot and weathered more than their fair share of bad luck.

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The Descendents at House of Blues


17 November 2017

House of Blues; Cleveland, OH

Public Squares, Frank Iero and the Patience, The Descendents

The best news I’ve gotten this year was that the Descendents would be on tour and be stopping in Cleveland. These guys have been my favorite band for a few years and I keep hoping to make it to a concert, but I’ve only seen them playing at Riot Fest and my budget doesn’t allow me to go to Chicago for a long weekend.

I haven’t been to a show in about a year, so it was time to get to one. Music is best experienced live, but there’s that damn job thing that keeps me from going to shows every night… and also provides me with money to buy concert tickets.

The night began with Public Squares, a trio from somewhere not of this earth. I’m a sucker for extraterrestrial bands in matching outfits who tell us the only reason the rest of the universe hasn’t destroyed us is that we gave them rock and roll. Is there a way to not love that? If there is I haven’t discovered it.

Their music is great too. It’s your basic punk rock, which is exactly what I was hoping to hear. Things did sound a little too classic rock for my taste by the end of their set, but I’m still looking forward to checking out their album. They’re the best local band I’ve seen in quite a while.

I’ve gone on record about my dislike of emo music many times so it should come as no surprise I’m not a fan of Frank Iero and the Patience. I tried to give them a chance, but when I saw the long hair and incense burning on stage I had a feeling it wasn’t for me. On the bright side, I’ve finally realized what I dislike about the genre: it’s too serious. I can’t help but think that this might not have been the best group to open for a band who has written so many songs about farts.^

The lady friend wanted to head to the balcony for the Descendents to get away from the crowd, so we made our way up. I like checking out bands from a different vantage point, but the balcony at House of Blues isn’t the greatest. You have to pay more than double to get a seat and since I’m too cheap for that we were back in the standing room only section. I’m happy to say we still managed to get a good view.

They opened with “Everything Sux” and “Hope.” Both great tunes, but it took Milo Aukerman a minute to warm up. After the first few songs the band was the well oiled machine I expected. I was a little surprised Milo is such a great frontman. I suppose I should be, he’s been doing it for longer than I’ve been alive. But I’ve heard him described as an ‘Uber nerd” and didn’t see anything to make me think anything else (especially the Camelbak he wore). When my girlfriend said “He looks like a college professor” I had to reply “I think he is.”*

I believe I pointed out in my review of Cool To Be You that the Descendents are the least cool band I’ve ever come across and that’s just as apparent live. Not that they don’t rock, but they definitely resemble the caricatures from the cover of the Live Plus One album. Except for Bassist Karl Alvarez who’s hair has moved from his head to his face and turned gray, making him look like a punk rock Tommy Chong. Caveman Bill Stevenson is the only drummer I’ve ever heard a crowd chant for. With good reason, he’s the main songwriter and quite a few of those great songs we heard sprang from his head.

Cover illustration for the Descendents’ “Live Plus One” album by Chris Shary

I was surprised to recognize so many of the songs they played. It wasn’t until I started researching this post that I realized I own 7/9 of their full-length albums. I’d love to just post the entire setlist because it contained so many great tunes. “Clean Sheets,” “Silly Girl,” “Pervert,” “Suburban Home,” “When I Grow Up,” “Weinershnitzel/No All” and about a million more. Most tracks came from the new Hypercaffium Spazzinate and I Don’t Want To Grow Up.   

The biggest highlights were the resistance anthem “Who We Are” which I wasn’t familiar with, but I’m pretty sure I like better than anything off the most recent album, and Milo running into the crowd for “Thank You.” There were definitely a few ecstatic fans that got to sing that chorus with him on the floor. I managed to get in the pit for the encores and do a bit of slam dancing for “I’m the One” and “Bikeage.” It was a good thing I took my girlfriend to the balcony. I forgot how intense those punk rock pits can get.

Of course, there were a few songs I was disappointed to not have heard, but I’m guessing just about every attendee could say the same thing. When you have as massive a catalog as these guys there’s going to be a few that don’t make the final cut. If I had it my way I’d just go see them the next day and hopefully they’d play “Cool To Be You” at that show.

 

^As always I say this with the caveat that they were playing to a much larger and more interested audience than I’ve ever entertained.

*He was an adjunct professor at the University of Deleware. I can’t help but wonder what his lectures were like.

 

 

Rammstein “Sehnsucht”


(22 Aug 1997, Slash)

Today is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the protestant reformation. It has now been half a millennium since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church of Wittenburg.

What does this have to do with anything?
I was reading the Economist¹ and it said: “To Luther music was a divinely inspired weapon against the devil.”

That struck me as somewhat odd, having listened to the music of such artists as Glenn Danzig, Ghost and Luther’s countrymen Rammstein.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Rammstein. But they’re about as far from “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” as it’s possible to get. I love heavy industrial music and these guys are up there with the best of them. Not only do they have brutal, punishing thrash-metal guitar riffs driving the songs and great danceable beats, but this album features some of the best keyboard work I’ve ever heard. Some of the sounds had to have been placed in a time capsule because I swear they came straight from the eighties but they don’t sound dated.

And singing in German just goes to help establish their heavy metal bona fides. Is there any better language for metal than German? I love the language because no matter what you say it sounds like you’re really, really angry. The coolest thing about listening to singing in another language is being able to focus on the melody instead of the message. And from what I’ve heard, the message in most Rammstein songs is horrible.

I’m embarrassed to say the first time I’ve listened to this entire album was for this review. I still remember seeing the terrifying video for “Du Hast” which I think is still they’re biggest hit in the US, but I enjoy other tracks just as much. “Engel” has a whistled intro that makes me think of that other German metal band, The Scorpions. “Klavier” is notable as being the lone ballad on the album. Most of the other tracks blend into each other, but they all have those great vocals, driving riffs and beautiful keys.

This might not be the kind of music Luther was talking about when he used the term “divinely inspired,” but it’s not as evil as other bands Germans like… such as David Hasselhoff.

 

¹.  Anonymous. “Nailed it.” The Economist. 7 January 2017: 45. Print

 

Insane Clown Posse “The Great Milenko”


(12 August 1997 Psychopathic/Island)

I hold several very unpopular opinions. There are issues that I find myself on the unpopular side of with just about everyone. My enjoyment of the Insane Clown Posse is probably the most unpopular view I take.

Everyone is entitled to their guilty pleasures, but I probably go too far with this one.

The strange thing is that I enjoy ICP for the same exact reason most people hate them: they are completely ridiculous. I’ve always enjoyed the shock rock of Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper, but ICP are on another level. Whereas Marilyn Manson presents himself as a very intelligent social satirist, ICP dress up like scary clowns and rap about things that are impossible to take seriously.

Which is kind of a shame because they do touch on some important topics. Death, morality, rape, police brutality and greed. Of course, this album also features the lyrics:

“What is a juggalo?
A dead body
Well, he ain’t really dead, but he ain’t like
Anybody that you’ve ever met before
He’ll eat monopoly and shit out connect four

What is a jug..?
What the fuck? Connect four?
Man that shit is whack
Don’t worry about my shit
Just rap motherfucker”

But isn’t the purpose of shock rock to knock us out of our comfort zones? Maybe.

I’ve come across some hardcore juggalos who don’t care much for The Great Milenko because it’s the album casual fans like me tend to go for. This is an album that blends rock and hip-hop in a way that would become extremely popular over the ensuing years. They didn’t shy away from the standard rap practice of having guest musicians all over the album, but the inclusion of Sex Pistol Steve Jones on “Piggie Pie” and Slash on “Halls of Illusion” entices me in the way a Kanye appearance never would. I just found out that it’s Alice Cooper’s voice on the awesome introduction.

I enjoy the music on the album more than other hip-hop. I find a lot of that genre to be too simplistic and beat-oriented for my taste. There are tracks without a lot of stuff going on, but many of them have great guitar riffs or other strange instrumentation. I love the keyboard melody on “The Neden Game.”

I’m more embarrassed to say I’m a fan of ICP than any other guilty pleasure I have. With good reason I think, have you ever seen their fans? They tend to ruin the whole experience by taking it way too seriously. I probably just like them because they make me laugh. I have the juvenile sense of humor that led to belly laughs when I read the headline “Hubble just spotted something massive coming out of Uranus”

It’s hard to shower a group like the Insane Clown Posse with praise. When you come down to it they’re ridiculous, juvenile, misogynistic and impossible to take seriously; just like Donald Trump.

 

 

Days of the New S/T (Yellow)


(3 June 1997, Outpost/Geffen)

I started getting into music at a really inopportune time.

The genre of rock that first appealed to me was grunge. I’ve written about the profound effect Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” had on me and it was truly life changing. Before that, I listened to whatever my parents handed down to me. After that, I was eager to set out on my own.

So why was it a horrible time? By the time I heard that song, Kurt Cobain was already gone. Soundgarden broke up just a few years later. Alice in Chains never officially broke up, but they went into hibernation shortly after my conversion. Pearl Jam is the only grunge band who continually released new music, but they put a lot of effort into remaining obscure.

It was almost like I discovered something I really loved and as soon as I did it was stolen from me by the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls.

When I first heard Days of the New it was a breath of fresh air. There was finally something for me to get excited about. An unwashed, detuned, yarling ray of sunshine.

They never really dominated the airwaves, but “Touch, Peel and Stand” has become a rock radio staple. I’m even hearing that track on the local non-profit station. “Shelf in the Room” still pops up occasionally, but “The Down Town” seems to have faded into the ether.

I always loved how hard this album rocked. You wouldn’t expect a tune like “Freak” from a band with acoustic guitars. It’s a dumb gimmick, but it really helped to create a unique sound and establish a place on the map.

A lot of the other stuff is more experimental. “Face of the Earth” and “Solitude” are a bit too droning for me to get it down off the shelf very often. A few are good, but not really groundbreaking. The highlight for many tracks is the lead guitar work of Todd Whitener.

I was always a much bigger fan of their second album, which I found much more interesting.

Unfortunately, by the third album they were all out of tricks and produced a lackluster effort I didn’t buy. I think this will conclude my Days of the New series, but it won’t be the last time I load these albums on my MP3 player.

 

 

A Good Haul


I had to take the girlfriend to a doctor appointment in the big city on Friday. You’d think this would be a pain in the ass, but I love having an excuse to stretch my legs and see something new. Aside from the appointment only taking 10 minutes it was also nice to check out a different Mexican restaurant and get caught up on my comic books.

I’m not sure if the last minute decision to stop by the music shop was good or bad. I spent way more than I intended to, but I made out really, really well.

I ended up buying four CDs. Three were only $1, so it’s hard to complain. I have come across a few discs that were a ripoff at that price, but I don’t think that’s the case.

I bought a School House Rock! album with a bunch of nineties artists playing “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just a Bill” for my girlfriend. We listened to it on the way home and it’s pretty cool. I’ve never been a big fan of Better Than Ezra or Biz Markie, but this is good stuff.

I also bought Slick Idiot’s DickNity. This is the band singer En Esch and guitarist Günter Shulz formed after KMFDM disbanded. I’m not as big on the industrial/electronic music as I was in high school, but this has more than enough guitar on it to keep me happy. It sounds like KMFDM but without a lot of the snobby industrial attitude and a lot more riffage. 

Plus, how could I pass up an album called DickNity? Not only am I a fan of horrible puns but I also possess the sense of humor of a 13-year-old boy.

I bought Spin Doctor’s Pocket Full of Kryptonite mainly for the song “Two Princes.” I’ve been sharing romantic songs on my girlfriend’s Facebook page for a while and that was the most recent one. Plus, it always makes me think of the scene from the Sarah Silverman program with Brian Posehn frolicking through the playground and how can anyone not love that?

 

The best CD has to be Nine Inch Nails featuring David Bowie Look Back in Anger. This is taken from a live 1995 performance when NIN were opening for Bowie. There are a few Nails songs I’ve never heard live and a lot of Bowie that I’ve never heard, but the best part is when the two collaborate for “Reptile,” “Scary Monsters” and “Hurt.” I have a feeling this will get a lot of play over the next few months.

And that’s one of the reasons I love browsing around in record shops. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular. I did check to see if they had any cheap Descendents, Dead Kennedys or GWAR, but didn’t see any. Instead I came across a rare bootleg that I didn’t even know existed. That never happens to me on Amazon.

But the biggest purchase was a Crosley Rochester CR66 Audio System. I’ve had my eye on one of these for a while. I wanted something that plays records, but could also play AM/FM radio and CDs and wouldn’t take up a whole lot of space. Every time I saw one the price was a little too high, but this time it was low enough I had to pick it up. I’m sure more than a few of my audiophile friends will turn up their noses at it, but so far I’m happy. I’d say it’s a good beginner record player. The sound is good and I can still enjoy my CDs and radio without excessive clutter.

Now I just need to get more vinyl. All I have at the moment is a NIN single for “The Hand That Feeds” and Richard Pryor’s Bicentennial Nigger.

Thrift stores here I come!

The Wisdom of Rock


I used to really enjoy deep and meaningful lyrics. I’m not sure what changed. Did I mature? It’s more likely that I did the opposite. What do you call that? Immatured? Yeah, I think that’s it.

I’ve immatured to the point where I tend to prefer songs about sniffing glue and smoking banana peels to anything the Eagles have ever done. But every now and again I still come across a lyric, and even in without any marijuana in my system I think to myself, “Wow man, that’s deep.”

So let’s celebrate some of the wisdom that somehow manages to seep through the crack and drip down on us, even though we don’t listen to jazz.

 

“If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”

Rush “Freewill”

 

“You’ve got to lose to know how to win”

Aerosmith “Dream On”

 

“It’s better to regret something you did than something you didn’t do”

The Butthole Surfers “Sweet Loaf”

The Ultimate Driving Mixtape*


I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with my mental state. I’m off in the head.

For the past month and a half, my girlfriend has been in the hospital and I’ve managed to visit her three or four times a week. This is a bit of an inconvenience as she’s about an hour drive away**.

So last week I took a vacation day… to drive two hours in the other direction and take an introduction to solar energy systems and design class in the southern part of the state. It wasn’t until I was cruising back on the highway that I realized this isn’t something most people do. In fact, most people would probably say I’m in desperate need of a psychiatrist.

And after I finish installing these solar panels and save on my electric bill I’ll make an appointment.

The insane part is that I actually enjoy the drive. Southern Ohio/Northern West Virginia is filled with beautiful scenery. It was a gorgeous day, and I got to enjoy it in my own way.

The best part is that my new*^ car has one of those newfangled ‘radio’ contraptions so I was able to listen to music the whole way. When I needed a break from the Creedence CD I brought along I was able to scan through the stations and usually land on something descent that made time pass a little quicker.

This got me thinking “what would be on the ultimate driving playlist?” And because one of my hobbies is blogging I had to turn it into something.

Granted, most of this is low hanging fruit, but give me a break; I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately.


Tom Cochran “Life is a Highway”

The Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”

The Carpenters “Superstar”

 

Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

AC/DC “Highway to Hell”

Elton John “Tiny Dancer”

 

 

Meat Loaf “Bat Out Of Hell”

Heart “Barracuda”

 

Jimi Hendrix “All Along The Watchtower”

Red Hot Chili Peppers “Soul 2 Squeeze”

Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”

 

So I know all of your typing fingers are burning up right now to tell me which I missed. And that’s great! I purposely left enough space on this virtual disc for a little feedback. That’s what comments are for.

Have at ‘er!


 

* I’m sure someone has already done this post in a different way, but now it’s my turn!

**But she’s totally worth it.

*^Actually, it’s a year older than my previous vehicle, but the owner took much better care of it so it’s like a new car.