Did you hear?


Did you hear about L7 getting back together after a long hiatus? They’ve released a few new tunes and are even doing some touring.

I’d really like to go see them in concert, but I’d be really pissed off if I didn’t get hit by a used tampon. That would be as bad as going to a GG Allin show and not leaving covered in shit.

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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.

 

Dead Kennedys @ The Agora


5 May 2018

The Agora Theatre; Cleveland, OH

Stalker, The Snakes, Gay Black Republican, T.S.O.L., Dead Kennedys

I gave a serious pooh-pooh the first time I heard that Dead Kennedys were coming to town. Without Jello? Who gives a fuck? Then I remember how awesome East Bay Ray’s guitar work is. And I remembered Klaus Flouride has the coolest stage name ever. And I want to say something about D.H. Peligro, but who really cares about drummers?

So I plopped down my cash and bought a ticket. I can’t say that I regret it.

The show opened with local act Stalker. At first it sounded horrible, but I think that had more to do with PA problems. Every guitarist on the stage that night looked over at the sound booth and shouted obscenities. The sound guy was not having a good night. I enjoyed their sloppy, high energy punk. It’s neat to see a band where nearly everyone takes a turn on lead vocals and I appreciated the use of full chords on the bass guitar. It’s a sound that doesn’t get used enough and when done right it sounds huge and awesome.

The Snakes were another local act. They had a lot more metal in their sound, but I still enjoyed their fast punk tunes. I wasn’t extremely impressed and nearly wrote them off as a band with a hot blonde singer. When she announced they were going to play a cover I wondered if it would be Blondie or the Runaways, but they surprised me by doing my all-time favorite Ramones tune “Pet Cemetary” and won me over. Like my companion pointed out, they were a lot more put together than the first act. I didn’t disagree with him; I just noted that was the reason I enjoyed Stalker more.

It’s hard not to get excited about a band called Gay Black Republican. They played some great high energy rock without distortion but with a lot of catchy hooks. Sometimes I wonder why bands are on bills together (see Frank Ierno and The Descendents), but these guys fit right in with T.S.O.L. and DK. I’m guessing it didn’t hurt their chances that they let the headliners use their drum set.

I’m not sure why T.S.O.L. never achieved the same levels of popularity other first-wave punkers did. They play good tunes and feature interesting guitar work. They put on a good show with the singer doing a little bit of standup between songs. I guess their downfall might be a lack of good singalong choruses. The only tune I recognized was “Code Blue,” and while it is a humorous ode to necrophilia there really isn’t a great hook.

Dead Kennedys put on the show I expected. It sucked that I don’t know more of their songs, but I enjoyed the ones I didn’t recognize as much as “Looking Forward to Death,” “Kill the Poor,” “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and “Holiday in Cambodia.” Jello’s absence wasn’t felt too strongly as Skip Greer proved to be an entertaining and animated frontman. He did stand-up and political jokes to introduce songs and cheated a little by holding the mic in the crowd and letting us sing the choruses. I meant to stay out of this pit as I’m getting a little old, but at a certain point I said ‘Fuck It’ and slammed into old, sweaty people. Then I found my way to the front and stood in awe of Ray’s guitar work.

 

The strange thing was how the crowd got smaller as the night wore on. I guess a lot of Dead Kennedys’ fans have earlier bedtimes than they did in the early eighties, but I still thought everyone would stay around for the encore. It was a great set and I’m glad to have added this band to the list of live acts I’ve seen.

If this show comes to your town I would highly recommend getting out and seeing them. How many other chances will you have to mosh to “Viva Las Vega”?

 

The Wisdom of Rock 2


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 done. But every now and again I still come across a lyric, and even 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.


“Life is the most precious thing you can lose”

Pennywise “Bro Hymn”

 

“With every mistake, we must surely be learning”

The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

 

“The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older,

shorter of breath and one day closer to death”

Pink Floyd “Time”

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.”

Strange Solace


This is us after the Descendents concert last year.

This will be my first Valentine’s Day without a date in several years. My girlfriend passed away a few weeks ago. I know I’ve written about her on here before so you may have heard about some of her health struggles. Still, it was a shock. Even with all of her medical problems I still expected her to live a longer life.

But enough about that. I didn’t want to write this post to reflect on that, but because it actually leads to a somewhat humorous music story.

I don’t know how many people reading this have lost loved ones, but have you noticed a lot of strange thoughts popping into your head immediately after? Among all the thinking about who I needed to call, how I was now in charge of scooping the cat box and wondering what was going to become of the department store that was her wardrobe I got the Vandals’ “My Girlfriend’s Dead” stuck in my head.

I know what you’re thinking. What the fuck? You sick bastard! That’s so disrespectful! Why would you think of that song! Have you no shame? Or at least I imagine you’re thinking these things because the first day I was thinking the exact same thoughts.

Then I remembered something: She loved that album! We were in the car a while ago and it was playing. I went to take it out because I have listened to it already but she stopped me. There are a lot of great tracks on Hitler Bad, Vandals Good. I remember posting “If The Government Could Read My Mind” on her Facebook wall when we were first dating. And she told me a college friend suggested to her that “F’d up Girl” could have been written about her.*

There are a lot of other songs that’ll make me think of her. I know when I got the Descendents I Don’t Wanna Grow Up she said “Silly Girl” was about her. “That’s about me,’ she said. “I’m a silly girl and you’re in love with me.”

Her dad asked if there were any good songs we could play at the funeral and I had to pass on any suggestions.

But even though it’s about a guy lying about a breakup I think “My Girlfriend’s Dead” will probably be our song. Strange as it may seem, I think she would have wanted it that way.

 

*He was right.

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.

 

 

Soundgarden “Telephantasm”


(28 Sept 2010, A&M/Interscope)

Somewhere near the top of the list of jobs I’d never want is to be the guy who has to spend the next few weeks combing over Chris Cornell’s body of work to compile a hits album that is set to be released in ten… nine… eight…

I shouldn’t say that. It probably won’t be that bad. I’m sure there’s a team of people crunching numbers, scanning YouTube and Spotify stats and flipping coins deciding what will go on and what will be left on the cutting room floor.

Telephantasm is as close to a perfect Soundgarden retrospective album as you’re going to get for the price and length. 2 CDs/1DVD makes for a great overview of the band’s career and helps point to albums one may wish to explore further. Plus it’s not so long that it’s a chore to listen to and attention starts to wander.

“All Your Lies” does not start things off well. All tracks are in chronological order and this comes from a 1986 compilation featuring other popular bands from Seattle. I’m not sure if it’s poor production that turns me off from this track or a horrible guitar effect. Either way, I’d much rather skip to…

“Hunted Down” which is the first track featuring the Soundgarden we all know and love. Those screeching vocals and crazy guitar lines are all there. But before we can build momentum and get on a roll we have…

“Fopp” is a cover of an Ohio Players song. I’m not a fan. Funk is not something I find myself getting very heavily into and Soundgarden do not do it well.

“Beyond the Wheel” is just so-so. I can’t really feel strongly about it one way or the other. It’s definitely heavy and unique but has too slow a pace to really rock too hard.

“Flower” is the first song on this compilation I love. It has an odd main riff that worms it’s way into my head and is unique enough that I still haven’t gotten sick of it. This is the beginning of Soundgarden becoming a powerhouse.

“Hands All Over” picks up where “Flower” stops. It’s similar, but this is more of a good-time party rocker.

“Big Dumb Sex” has a title that fully explains itself. It’s big. It’s dumb. And the word fuck is used many, many times.

“Get on the Snake” is a good, groovy rocker, but it’s not quite great.

“Room a Thousand Years Wide” is the beginning of mega-stardom Soundgarden. This is one of the lesser known tracks from Badmotorfinger, but I’m not sure why. I enjoy this track a lot better than…

“Rusty Cage” isn’t a bad song. I always think of a motorcycle racing game for Sega that it was used in. Did any of you ever play Road Rash? It was pretty fun.

“Outshined” is the perhaps the biggest track from Badmotorfinger. The strange thing about it is how much it’s just a grunge version of the hair metal Soundgarden replaced. It’s just much sludgier.

“Slaves and Bulldozers” is another great deep cut. Why a track like this isn’t heard on the radio every hour is beyond me, but that’s probably why I can’t find a job as a station manager.

Disc Two starts off with a stellar live version of “Jesus Christ Pose.” This song has a ton of urgency, power, and speed on its album version, but the live version kicks all those elements into high gear. If you never hear another Soundgarden track, this is the one to hear.

“Birth Ritual” comes from the Singles Motion Picture Soundtrack. It’s another so-so song. It sounds like a stock track that they had lying around so they threw it on there.

The next five songs are taken right from Superunknown and are mostly the same tracks that appear on the album. The only alternate take is “Fell On Black Days” which is the video version. I think I enjoy this version better than the album version, but it isn’t extremely different. The only difference comes from Kim Thayil’s guitar lines. The rest has a nice laid-back, live-in-the-studio vibe.

Then there are four tracks from Down on the Upside. This time there are two alternate tracks. I remember when they performed “Pretty Noose” on Saturday Night Live. It’s a good version, but not stellar. “Blow Up The Outside World” is taken from an MTV Live ‘N’ Loud performance. It’s nice to have different versions instead of the same thing I can get on the other albums in my collection, but these tracks aren’t must hear like “Jesus Christ Pose.”

The album ends with “Black Rain,” an outtake from the Badmotorfinger sessions. Not a bad track, but I can see why it was left out.

 

All that’s missing from this collection is “Loud Love” and “The Day I Tried To Live.” The latter makes an appearance on the DVD, but it would be nice to hear while I’m listening to this cruising down the highway. If they were to add those tunes and a few more alternate/live takes I would call this collection perfect. As it is, I’ll have to give it 3.5/5 stars.

I just wonder how many discs the Cornell tribute will be. Telephantasm provides a great groundwork for the Soundgarden stuff, but there’s nothing from Temple of the Dog, Audioslave or any of his solo work. It’s going to have to be a box set, with (hopefully) a truncated version for us cheapos.

I just hope it does justice to a stellar career.