Thursday, May 27, 2010
Before we start, let me reiterate from the jump: Unkut is the best hip-hop site on the web. Today it's because there is a bananas episode of East NY Radio featuring your boy PF Cuttin for free there. Here. It's a tribute (of sorts) to Guru called Rest In Power and while it makes little sense as a title, the 32 tracks are all fucking killer. If you come away with anything from the download, it will be that Sean Price is one of the best MCs ever. P proves this point over the three tracks he appears on, straight bodying all comers with his verses. As contemporaries go, only Joell Ortiz can even hold a candle to his skills (and spare me your Ruck carping, I know the history). The Diaz Bros Guru tribute track is probably the best tribute track, but the contributions from Redman, Colon Spitz, St. Laz and Special Ed (with Chubb Rock) are pretty banging their own selves.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
It's sure been a banner Spring for death aficionados. Guru, Dio and now Paul Gray have passed on. Tragic all around, but somewhat more (or less, depending on how you look at it) this time, as it appears that this was another needle-driven passing. Why guys can't just be rich rock stars anymore, I'm not sure, but Gray had been known to have been battling with drugs before, having passed out behind the wheel of his Porsche at an Iowa intersection with needles in open view a couple years previous, but to the best of my knowledge he had stayed off the crime radar in recent times.
Other than that "Fuck You" song off the first record, I was never the hugest fan of Slipknot, but they seemed to be decent dudes and certainly brought it. Nine masked guys going apeshit on stage with pyro for days soundtracked by mental cased music is the best way to enjoy the young peoples metal, and Slipknot were pretty unfuckwithable with theirs. Gray was one of the only original Slipknot members and the only one to play the same instrument for the duration of his tenure. He had chops as well as signature Peavey (based on the ATK) that was actually designed for B tuning. Cool, and So Hideous friendly (although I/We rep for A#...) His death came two days before he was due to to join Ripper Owens, Andreas Kisser and Paul Bostaph to tour Asia and Europe as metal cover project Hail! (replacing Dave Ellefson upon his return to Megadeth) but has been replaced at the 11th hour with the suddenly thrash-ocentric James Lomezo. According to TMZ, Gray was found dead in an Iowa hotel with pills and a syringe nearby and left behind a pregnant wife. He was 38.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
So in commemoration of their 30th Year, Bad Religion have decided to offer up a free live recording from earlier this year called, appropriately enough, 30 Years Live. While there is some new material, know that if you like Bad Religion in any incarnation other than possibly Into The Unknown era, you will probably dig this. Plus, you really can't beat the price. Grab it here and listen have a thesaurus ready.
Friday, May 21, 2010
I was hanging out at the Chelsea Hotel on a rare rehearsal-free Sunday when I heard the news that Dio had passed. Needless to say, it was a bummer to hear that one of metal's pre-eminent vocalist and nicest guys had lost his battle with stomach cancer. He had been on That Metal Show in the last couple months with Geezer to promote the Heaven And Hell record and was his usual charming, funny self, trading top-notch banter with the TMS guys and doing a hysterical job of skewering most recent drummer Vinny Appice.
During that same episode, Jamieson related the usual story you would hear: Dio talked with his middle-aged not-especially-metal brother-in-law at length and was as charming as he would be for his record company president. I never met him firsthand, but have heard hundreds of variations of that same story since I was a kid. He seemed to be a genuinely great guy and its a shame that he passed and douches like Weiland still walk this Earth.
That douchely pointed out, I first saw Dio in the Holy Diver video when I was but a wee bairn. It was probably on MTV, although there is the slight chance it was on HBO Video Jukebox. Either way, it was a big moment for my young aspiring metalhead self. Vivian Campbell was playing his ass off and while the video was silly, it was much more so in retrospect, but still pretty damn cool. I was ignorant of Sabbath (or Elf, for that matter) at that point, but managed to see him live soonish afterward where I both marvelled at how small he was (an epiphany on the level of Halford's homosexuality that was and is staggeringly obvious that I question my powers of perception) and saw him fight a laser dragon to my great delight.
Later on I saw him headline at Irving, as well as playing on a staggeringly awesome show at The Garden sandwiched between Motorhead and the headlining reunited Bruce Dickinson-helmed Maiden. The show was arena metal at its finest and translated well to the late-century era. The only shortcoming was that technology had reduced the time honored double rows of keyboards to a single improbably small MIDI controller that really took a lot of the visual effect off of songs like Rainbow In The Dark, but still rocked your ass soundly. Craig Goldie was in the lead guitar slot and I'm embarassed that I'm not sure if it was Jeff Pilson in the bass slot. Dio was in ridiculously good vocal form for a man his age and had the crowd in the palm of his devil-horned hand like he was the top dog of the proceedings. I hadn't seen of heard his last couple Dio records, but was pleasantly surprised to find the reunited Heaven And Hell actually weren't all that terrible. The tour did well enough that Heaven And Hell seemed to be the top priority for all the parties for the next couple years.
Internet and That Metal Show had reported Ronnie's cancer six months or so ago, but Eddie Trunk had reported that Ronnie had booked shows for the upcoming Summer and recent bassist Rudy Sarzo had reported pretty much the same on TMS a couple months ago, but evidently things took a turn for worse and he passed at 7:45 on the morning of 5/16. It's a shame. Ronnie James Dio was one of the true masters of metal and one who deserves to be inducted posthumously into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in short order. There being very little justice in this world, I can't see it happening, but we can only hope. Keep him and Wendy in your thoughts and be sure to play Dio, Sabbath and Heaven And Hell in his honor for years to come.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Jeff has been occupying his time not spent as a Twilight Singer of late with his My Jerusalem project, so it was news to me when I got an e-mail offering the new Death Of The Fox EP. I snapped it up in short order and have been pretty impressed. It reminds me a lot of The Hustler and the aforementioned Dulli/Lanegan helmed indie choir. There are percolating beats and lots of reverb, along with the quality songcraft that I'm continually amazed springs from Newburgh. My favorite is I Just Want My Fucking Life Back, but all of the tracks are pretty quality. Buy it here.
Further investigation reveals that this is but one of two EP slated to come out this year from Klein. There is evidently also a full-length from My Jerusalem, so if you're a fan, things look promising for 2010. Keep track of the possibilities here.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I like Propapandhi ok. I have **ahem** acquired the lion's share of their catalog over their years but have failed thus far to really fall head over heels for their brand of positive political punk. How To Clean Everything has long been extolled as a high water mark, and I figured the John K./Weakerthans connection would be more than enough to at least have a song or two that would be a go-to. I've seen the boys live a couple times in recent years and had a good time, so all hope is not lost, I guess.
I like Recovered more than I liked a lot of the Propagandhi that came before it. I'm not sure what this says, but in digging deeper I find that of the three songs, two are recent covers, and one is an outtake from How To Clean Everything, with John K. Samson on vocals. I was most pleased to find that said track was in fact an outtake, as it sounded enough like someone mocking Samson enough that I was prepared to troll the interwebs for word on some heretofore unknown beef between the parties. As the track dates from 1993, the reedy Slips & Tangles vocal makes a lot more sense and reading the (digital) liner notes, the track was initially vetoed by Fat Mike, who claimed Samson's voice sounded like Kermit The Frog. Relistening afterward, I had to laugh out loud, but make your own call. As regards the covers, the Code Of Honor is the more political of the two (shockingly enough). On the other side of the coin, Propagandhi neatly avoid a quiet word from The Pixies camp by covering Gamble rather than Gouge Away. Both covers had rhythm tracks recorded during the Less Talk, More Rock era with new vocals and guitars added by Chris earlier this year in his home studio.
So why release this at all, you ask? Well, as it is on G7, there is a higher minded cause. All proceeds from The Recovered EP will go to the non-profit Partners In Health. This little chestnut is digital only, but there are extended digital liner notes for your perusing pleasure. Window-shop or out and out procurement can take place here, courtesy of your friends at G7 Welcoming Committee.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Springtime, a Friday and The Figgs at 8pm are a pretty unbeatable combination. I went straight from work to find a surprisingly large crowd present to see America's Finest Rock Band. Not a lot of spring chickens (or hens for that matter) but I was able to grab a couple minutes with Casino Hayes before things jumped off. The Brothers Johnson arrived in short order and things could easily said to be on.
The reason for the show was that there's a new Figgs record called The Man Who Fights Himself. Given the short lead-off set, they played the record in it's entirety, with only two dips into the back catalog, but please be informed that your Figgs brought it and the crowd gave it right back. The new songs sounded good and it seemed like they almost knew them, with Gent managed to play some serious clammage into an interpolation of Big Log that was almost a set-stealer. I think I like Happy Hour Figgs shows and the rest of the rooms sure seemed to as well. It was definitely one of the bigger shows I've seen the boys do in recent years. Hopefully they can also tag onto some of the Soul Asylum dates now that Donnelly is playing with them. 400 years in, The Figgs will still rock your ass in a pronounced fashion if you let them. Pick up The Man Who Fights Himself here and have the good sense to check here regularly to see where you can get your dose of their live show.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Drag The River are one of my favorite bands, and undoubtedly one of the best in America on the roots end of things. With the help of Suburban Home, they have definitely raised their profile exponentially in the last couple years, having released easily a dozen releases between DTR records and Snodgrass or Price solo material. It's won me over and hopefully will win over the greater population at large. I bought their entire catalog the first time I saw them, but the less compulsive among us probably would find it easier if there was a compendium of their best material to peruse.
Well, it's your lucky day, as Primer is now out and ready to make sweet, sweet love to your earholes. It would be hard for me to limit my favorite DTR songs to 20, but the ones that have made the cut here are more than pretty aces. Things kick off with Brookefield and close with a Thin Lizzy cover. It's one hell of a ride and one that you would do well to take over and over again. The collection asserts plainly and loudly that Snodgrass and Price are two of the best songwriters out there, and their Cooley/Hood -esque chemistry is one to be extolled loudly. Buy Primer here from Suburban Home. Maybe also buy an extra for a friend or loved one, so maybe we can see a proper full band Drag The River show on the East Coast.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Freak show that he was, it's hard to dispute the musical legacy of Michael Jackson. I can't say that I throw Ben or Off The Wall on with much regularity, but I'm a sucker for most of the Jackson 5 ouvre. While I'm dropping caveats, I can't say that Robbie Fulks would be the first guy I'd pick to hear interpreting the MJ catalog either. On the other hand, his cover of the Cher superhit Believe (complete with Dave Smalley-esque faux-auto tune vocal hook) is absolutely stellar and he sure knows his way around a hook, so here we are.
Initially, I wondered how Fulks would approach the songs. A wacky tact would get old pretty quickly, and while Robbie has a great voice, I'm not sure he could pull off playing the standards card. For the most part he doesn't. All fourteen of the tracks are definitely approached with respect for the song, but if it takes reworking Billie Jean as a brooding murder ballad or Going Back To Indiana as a bluegrass number, Robbie Fulks has no qualms going there. Whether or not you do is up to you, but the wiser JS-NYC fan would do well to pick up happy here.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
It's an interesting time to be a fan of The Hold Steady. Heaven Is Whenever is the first in some time not to feature the keyboard stylings of Mr. Franz Nicolay and was rumored to be a simpler, more guitar-driven affair. In the days before the record came out, I had more than a couple interactions with the HS massive where the general consensus was that our heroes had jumped the shark. I felt kinda the same way after hearing the first singles off the record, but still bought tickets for both of their home town shows last month and had a ball.
Heaven Is Whenever leaked soon after, and I wasn't really into it all. It was kind of a bummer, frankly, but after a week of bike rides, the songs started hooking me in. The bridge of Hurricane J was the first thing that grabbed me, followed soon after by the icy riff that drives The Weekenders. After a couple weeks, I'm pleased to say that I'm now pretty into Heaven Is Whenever. The boys have been making the late night rounds, switching up the song each time, and all of them seem to translate pretty well. The new guys seem pretty decent, but seem to be chosen for their lack of overall personality to the point of being extraneous.
The core four are in fine form here. Tad definitely seems poised to take the Rick Nielsen torch, both in rock riffage and sheer volume (literally and figuratively) of Gibsons owned. Craig still brings much to the table lyrically. That's a pretty big understatement, but rather than dance too much about architecture, know that Husker Du are referenced, as are Heavenly and the sheer pleasure of staying indoors with significant others and listening to records. These are truisms that warrant your embracing their philosophy and buying Heaven Is Whenever. I can state whole-heartedly that I miss song-driven makeout sessions. Know that JS-NYC will go the distance to bring this back as courtship material. Do your part and buy Heaven Is Whenever here from you friends at Vagrant.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I have been exposed to a lot of bands since the inception of JS-NYC, but few have made an impression as big as Richmond, VA's The Riot Before. They sent their last record, Fists Buried In Pockets to me last years and I fell for it in a big way. Their singer Brett Adams knows his way around a hook, but doesn't get all cheesy and Asslight Anthem with it. Think a less irritating version of same combined with Against Me if the front guy stopped tying to be Joe Strummer for once. If it's easier, just consider The Riot Before a better, more earnest, version of both.
Rebellion was recorded with J. Robbins and is out as of last week on Paper and Plastick. The opening track gets a little out there, but not in a totally bad way. The rest of the record is more along the lines of their previous stuff and steps up with nine more tracks that are all pretty damn great. If The Oregon Trail doesn't get to be a big song for them, I'm going to lose all faith whatsoever in the youth of America. Then again, I'm really feeling that new Paramore track, so I could be worse off than I even suspected. My issues aside, pick up your copy of Rebellion here in a myriad of forms, then revel in its awesomeness. Once bitten, check the TRB blog here and harass them incessantly about when they are going to make it to NYC.
Up the punx!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
So I got Unfun for the first time when I asked for the new Jawbox at the Music Shack on Central Ave in Albany. It wasn't until I got home that I realized the mistake, but one listen to the opening track (Want, for the ignorant) was enough to make me consider the switch divine providence. Unfun was the first full-length for our heroes, initially released on the now-defunct Shredder Records. The cd that I bought back then appended their Whack And Blight EP on the end for good measure.
As it has been 20 years since this dropped, the Adam Pfahler curated Blackball Records has remastered and reissued Unfun, with the W&B ep and 7" mix of Busy added for good measure. In the event you were wondering: yes it holds up just fine and no I won't be offended if you stop reading now to purchase this immediately. In fact, here's a link to Blackball to expedite the process. Thank me (and them) later.
Recent times have found Blake helming forgetters. Chris is Olympia and plays with Mutoid Men. Both have lots of post-grad education under their belt. In addition to being a Dad and running Blackball, Adam still runs Lost Weekend Video in San Francisco and has played in J. Church, Whysall Lane and The Moons. In somewhat related awesome esoterica his wife Lydia worked at the DC Haagen Dazs with Ian MacKaye and Henry Garfield. Small world, the punk world. Despite their untimely passing over a decade ago, the legacy of Jawbreaker is one to be learned, loved and respected. Buy their records old and new and pray that they don't ruin that legacy by reuniting.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Ladies and Gents:
My review of the new (sorta) Sizzla record, Crucial Times, is currently up at PopMatters. Here's a link.
Thanks to Sarah Zupko at PopMatters and Greensleeves Records!