Helmet “Aftertaste”


(18 March 1997, Interscope)

Helmet are one of those deceptively brilliant bands. A cursory listen will leave one thinking this is a simple, caveman rock band with no depth and a modicum of talent. And the caveman description would be somewhat appropriate. They called their third album Betty and opened it with the track “Wilma’s Rainbow.” I can only assume these were references to the most well-known cave women in pre-history.

Most of the songs on Aftertaste are pretty formulaic. Simple, syncopated riff+angry vocals=Helmet. The strange thing is Page Hamilton’s ability to sing in a tone so close to yelling, but still so melodic. It’s the perfect balance of rage and tunefulness. I haven’t heard anyone else combine these elements and produce such a satisfying product.

Opener “Pure” relies on one chugged chord for the main riff and a strummed octave chorus, but it creates a beautiful wall of sound. This is a band that uses negative space better than any other band in existence. The brilliance is not just in the notes they play or don’t play, but in the spaces between those notes.

The most well known cavewomen in pre-history

It’s easy to let an album like this fade into the background. To be honest, most of the songs sound so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart. But every now and again you hear something like the guitar solo of “Driving Nowhere” or the superb noise of “Broadcast Emotion” and it’s like catching a glimpse some mythical beast rising from the murky depths. The bass heavy intro of “Renovation” is hard to ignore as it hearkens back to “Milktoast” from Betty.

After a few listens light finds its way through the cracks in the stone to illuminate cave drawings I missed on the first pass. I’ve been jamming to Betty in my car for the past few days thinking it’s a superior product to this one, but then I hear “Like I Care” for the second time and I’m amazed that I listened to it with anything other than… amazement.

 

I could go on and on about this album, but mostly I just want to- wait, what the hell? Did you catch that? There’s a string of like four songs that clock in at about 2.5 minutes and sound like they’re cut off in the middle. Is that a problem with my Spotify account? Or is is supposed to be like that?

I’m not even sure how to classify Helmet. Hard rock seems most appropriate. They’re a bit too heavy to call alternative, but not quite heavy enough for metal. And even though Hamilton is an accomplished Jazz player with chops to spare I don’t think prog or fusion fits. Wikipedia calls them post-metal, but I’m strongly opposed to defining any type of music by saying it came after some other type.

I imagine if Goldilocks were to find this in the three bears’ record collection she would describe Aftertaste as just right.

Marcy Playground – Self Titled


marcy_playground_-_marcy_playground_album_cover-1(25 February 1997, Capitol)

I was driving in the car with my girlfriend the other day when the Seven Mary Three song “Cumbersome” came on the radio. She told me she was really into Seven Mary Three when she was younger and listened to their album all the time. That blew my mind. It never even crossed my mind that Seven Mary Three would have an album and fans. To me they were just something that was always there. Like a DirecTV satellite dish that you mow around because you don’t want to take the time to pull it out of the ground. That’s how I thought of Seven Mary Three.

It wasn’t until today that I realized other people must think of Marcy Playground in the same way.

“Sex and Candy” is just as prevalent than “Cumbersome.” I hear it on the radio. I hear it at the gym. I hear it at Walmart. It’s all over the place; just like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Possum Kingdom.” But I actually own the album.

It’s not a bad album. It’s Folksy, Post-Grunge AOR. There are songs that I really enjoy and a few that I can’t tell from one another. Opener “Poppy’s” is held down by quirky guitar riff. Songs like “Gone Crazy,” “One More Suicide” and “Vampires of New York” are simple folk tunes made interesting by the wry vocals.

It’s something I enjoy, but when I listen to it and find it difficult to write more than 300 words about it I understand why they were a one-hit wonder.

Happy Chinese New Year


Cuddly Kittens

According to my Cuddly Kittens calendar, today marks the Chinese New Year. I don’t really have a good song to commemorate China and/or their new year, but I did find a song that has something to do with Indochina and has to do with this years animal.

 

Day of the New – S/T (Green)


Days of the New green(31 August 1999, Outpost)

One of the greatest things about music is its ability to take you places. Hearing a song can make you feel like you’re back in junior high school without a care in the world. A lot of songs bring scenes in movies to mind (think of Forrest Gump). Sometimes it can take you to a whole other world. Days of the New’s second album has the power to transport me from wherever I happen to be back to Hyrule.

My mom met the man who would become her second husband while I was in high school. He was living in a small apartment above a bar with a mattress, a chihuahua/shih tzu mix and a huge stereo from Rent-a-Center. It didn’t take long until he moved in with us; and brought the dog and the stereo. It’s easy to date when he moved in because he only had four CDs: Ozzy’s No Rest For The Wicked, Yngwie Malmsteem’s Facing the Animal, Godsmack’s debut and DotN’s second album.

“Enemy” was a big hit at the time and he loved it. He would play that album over and over while drinking at the kitchen table with his buddies. Being in high school I wasn’t old enough to drink and probably spent at least a little bit of time studying. But when I wasn’t studying I was sitting in front of the television with my little brother because around the same time he moved in with that huge stereo we got a Super Nintendo and A Link To The Past. I have no idea how many times we played through that game together, but I can remember having a lot of fun with him. I think that may have been the best bonding we ever did.

And the great thing is that whenever I hear Days of the New’s second album I can think back on those days.

the_legend_of_zelda_a_link_to_the_past_snes_game_coverIt probably helps that the album starts off with the sound of horse hooves. How else can I get from the water level to the desert level quickly? I’m a huge fan of all the segues that blend the tracks together. I honestly can’t name most of the songs on this album, and probably couldn’t tell you where most of them begin or end because it works as such a great cohesive whole.

The secret weapon is Nicole Sherzinger who would later achieve mega stardom as the lead singer of the Pussycat Dolls. It feels really weird to write that because the musical styles of the two groups couldn’t be more distant. But Sherzinger does have a beautiful voice and uses it to great effect with Days of the New.

Singer/Guitarist/Songwriter Travis Meeks got a lot of grief for pulling one of those megalomaniacal stunts of firing his whole band, but in his defense did you ever listen to Tantric? That was not a band I enjoyed. Sure, they were competent musicians and their stuff was okay, but there was no fire behind it. It always sounded like safe, middle-of-the-road rock to me. I just imagine them bringing the songs to him and him saying “No. You’re all fired.”

The acoustic guitars are still front and center but there’s plenty of other instrumentation to shake things up. The acoustic guitar thing was a good gimmick that definitely got them attention with their debut, but I’m guessing that wouldn’t have kept peoples interest if they’d just repeated that formula.

I’m not sure what all the instruments were used on this album , but I’m guessing there’s an ocarina in there somewhere. It really takes me back then.

 

Happy New Year


Statler and WaldorfI don’t know if there’s reason to believe that this year will be better than the last, but let’s hope.

2017 can’t be much worse than 2016. Please Universe, don’t make me eat those words.

Seriously though, 2016 can suck a bag of dicks.

Don’t Dwell On What Is Passed Away…


Leonard Cohen "The Future"When I first got my copy of Leonard Cohen’s album “The Future” I remember thinking that the cover image would make a really cool tattoo. Hearing the song “Anthem” reinforced the idea. “Bought and sold and bought again, the dove is never free.” I think that’s one of the most beautiful lines ever written.

But like a lot of ideas I filed it away somewhere in my mind and didn’t think about it for two decades.

Then a few things happened this year that brought it up again. Of course, the death of Leonard Cohen had me thinking about “Anthem” more than any other song. The line “Don’t dwell on what is passed away, or what is yet to be” is one that can be appropriate when anyone dies. I think I’m going to update my will to include that track along with Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as tunes I’d like played at my funeral.

But more than that, I’ve suffered from a really severe and long lasting depression for the last quarter of this year and that line is one that I really feel is good to latch on to. I mean, I’m depressed because I’m dwelling on what has passed away and what is yet to be. I suppose that’s probably what makes most people depressed.

Anthem TattooSo with that perfect storm in mind I walked into a tattoo shop last week and had someone mark me up. It was done more to help me get over the depression (which it seems to be helping) than as a way to commemorate Leonard Cohen, but I think it’s the best tattoo I have.

I think it’ll help me to live in the moment, and if I ever forget I just need to find a mirror.

 

 

 

 

The Best (Or Worst) Description of a Band Ever


Life of AgonyAs a writer I’m interested in the written word. I’ve been an avid reader since I was young. I read Stephen King’s The Stand while I was still in grammar school. I remember wanting to be an archaeologist at one point, but that dream fell by the wayside pretty quickly and I started writing. I’ve been writing most of my life, whether in a journal, a short story or this blog. Even if I never make any money from it, I’m not lying when I say I’m a writer.

I’m hypersensitive to the way words go together as well as punctuation. One of my biggest pet peeves is using punctuation correctly. If you use an exclamation point in a text with me I assume you’re excited. If you end the message with an ellipsis I assume you have more to say. I don’t mean to be a Grammar Nazi, but I feel it’s essential to use the tools you have to communicate effectively, especially when using a medium where you cannot use voice inflection and body language. So that’s why IT’S VERY important to CORRectly Use punctuation and GRAMMAR to convey intentions!!!!

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” So whenever I come upon a really great way of describing something it gives me the greatest feeling in the world. I’ve noticed a few people like the “Smoke on the Water Principle (SWP).” I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to notice that, but I managed to give it a simple, clever name that’s memorable (much like the main riff to “Smoke on the Water”).

I’ve also coined terms that haven’t really stuck like “Mask Metal” (the sub-genre of heavy metal where the masks are more important than the music (Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Lordi)). I was also really proud of the term “slut pop,” but I managed to piss at least one person off with that. That describes music like Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus where a girl’s figure and risque behavior is more important than the music. I can’t remember if I didn’t consider that the term would be offensive or if I considered it and just didn’t care.

Type O NegativeIt’s always fun to try to perfectly describe a band’s sound. It’s a challenge I engage in on a near weekly basis. I remember a long time ago I was having a few beers and listening to some tunes with a friend and we put on Life of Agony. Have you ever listened to Life of Agony? Wikipedia describes them as an alternative metal band. I’ve also heard them described as New York hardcore, but neither of these descriptions really hits the nail on the head.

We were trying to come up with a great description for Life of Agony. I wanted to compare them to Soundgarden. This probably has something to do with the video for “This Time” and the singer’s haircut. Yes, both bands were popular in the early-to-mid nineties, but the similarities end there. LoA has more of a stripped down punk vibe while Soundgarden were a Zepplinesque riff machine.

We kept brainstorming, but nothing was quite right. Then we got it. I can’t remember which one of us said it, but we found the perfect sentence to describe this band.

“Life of Agony sounds like Type O Negative would if they didn’t suck.”

That sent both of us into laughing fits and hysterics. Not only does it perfectly sum up the sound of the band, but it’s also hilarious. It’s important to note that both of us are fans of Type O Negative. I really enjoy Type O Negative. But lets face it they are a little goofy. However, if you take away the goth, the keyboards, the enormous penis, the song about hair dye and insert the original drummer: you get Life of Agony.