||FROM THE VAULT
Live In Glasgow (DVD/CD)
Eagle Rock Entertainment
The world should be forever grateful for the talent that is Paul Rodgers. With nearly 40-years experience as a singer, songwriter and compassionate human being, the voice behind such influential bands as Free, Bad Company, The Firm and now Queen continues to astound and mesmerize. With Live in Glasgow we get the feeling that even with all his accomplishments this is only the beginning for what Rodgers has in store. His youthful energy is on full display as he bounds through a jukebox of greatest hits from the trademark “Bad Company” to “Radioactive” and “Can’t Get Enough.” Backed by his seasoned solo band that features guitarists Howard Leese (Heart), 17-year old Kurtis Dengler (Electric Shades of Blue), bassist Lynn Sorensen and drummer Ryan Hoyle (Collective Soul), Rodgers ignites the crowd with unmatched stagecraft and professionalism. Drummer Ryan Hoyle said it best in the DVD’s bonus features when he stated, “Paul is so high level in every aspect, his musical performances, the way we travel, the shows, the crew, the production. He knows how to conserve his energy and how to spend it in the right areas. He brings everyone around him to the next level.”
Those impressed by the quality of the Queen & Paul Rodgers “Return of the Champions” DVD will be equally delighted in Live In Glasgow. The production is superb and captures a stunning retrospective concert spanning Rodgers’ illustrious career. The disc pulls heavily from the Free years with nine of the 17 songs taken from Rodger’s first pro band including a bass-driven “I’ll Be Creepin’, “The Stealer” and “Ride On Pony.” Free was far more successful in the singer’s homeland so it only makes good business sense for Rodgers to cater to his UK fan base. It also gives the listener a chance to re-appreciate these songs in a fitting arena. Rodgers is in particularly good voice raising the hairs on “Be My Friend” and the emotional new single “Warboys (A Prayer For Peace).” It’s here Kurtis Dengler showcases his blues chops stealing a bit of the spotlight for himself. The middle of the set tackles Bad Company and Rodgers’ solo years to the delight of the Glasgow crowd. “Maybe this is the answer to the world problems,” says the singer from the stage as the band jump into a spirited version of “Feel like Makin’ Love” complete with Rodger’s foray on the harmonica.
A real surprise is the addition of “I Just Want to See You Smile” a reggae song Rodgers recorded with the Maytals in 1972. The single is so obscure it sells for well over £600. There is even a reference to it in the fan interview segment under the DVD’s bonus features. Lest we forget, it is the blues where Rodgers really lights up. His very countenance and body langue embraces the medium so the inclusion of “Louisiana Blues” from his Grammy nominated Muddy Water Blues is personal. “Fire and Water” properly follows as a tough, aggressive, soaked in attitude mainstay. The band fuse together for a run of “Wishing Well”, “All Right Now” and the obscure “I’m A Mover” leading the encore. Free always ended with “The Hunter” so it’s no surprise the Albert King standard complete with a Leese/Dengler solo comes toward the close of the show with only “Seagull” tagged on at the end. Live in Glasgow is a stunning performance of a legend approaching icon status with so much more left to go. Check out our feature story with Paul Rodgers by clicking here.
Rodgers continues to make headlines even as we go to press. His name has now been added to the musicians invited to join Led Zeppelin in their distinguished reunion December 10th, 2007 for the Ahmet Ertegun foundation at London’s 02 Arena. Also check out the new Queen/Paul Rodgers song “Say It’s Not True” by clicking here.
Website: Paul Rodgers, Eagle Rock Entertainment
Seattle band Queensrÿche is celebrating their long and illustrious career with one of their most prolific years to date. 2007 has seen their continued tour behind the epic Operation Mindcrime II (’06) followed by the release of the double live Mindcrime at the Moore then the inflated ‘Best Of” package Sign of the Times. Their long-time friendship with Ronnie James Dio landed them the opening slot for the second leg of the Heaven and Hell summer tour, which had them playing well into October. Though their set was cut to 45-minutes, they rallied for a tight, meticulous powder keg that delivered many of the hits and including a spine-tingling cover of the Pink Floyd classic “Welcome to Machine.” Now in shops and ripe for Christmas we see Take Cover, the band’s ode to influences, oddities and favorites. “I guess we have a lot to say this year,” said singer Geoff Tate as we spoke backstage on the Heaven & Hell tour. “Some years are busier than others and this year there is a lot going on with us.”
Queensrÿche were never one for covers. They would noodle around with jukebox hits during sound check but never really put it on the table for mass consumption. However with the release of Sign of the Times, the one track that seemed to blow everyone’s mind was the reworking of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.” Their record company suggested that maybe a cover’s record might be in order so they tossed around the idea and came up with eleven very eclectic tracks that not only pay homage but elicit admiration. Opening track “Welcome to Machine” has already been established as a sure winner fitting comfortable into the band’s Promise Land/Hear in the Now Frontier timetable. Its progressive lure is haunting and familiar and the double lead is riveting. Some songs are straight forward like the inclusion of Black Sabbath’s “Neon Knights” and U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” Others are more ambitious like Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” and the Italian opera number “Odissea” leading the pack.
Surprising is how keen the band adapts to the individual “emotion” of each song. Singer Geoff Tate matches the challenge of the Jesus Christ Superstar’s “Heaven on Their Minds” and Queen’s “Innuendo” with virtuoso technique. Guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone embrace Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Almost Cut My Hair,” and the folksy Buffalo Springfield number “For What It’s Worth.” a song they often play acoustically on morning radio shows while touring. Bassist Eddie Jackson and drummer Scott Rockenfield enjoy every moment of the O’Jays R&B classic “For Love of Money.” The only unconvincing moment is with the Police’s “Synchronicity II” which is a challenge for even the Police to pull off. Most fans will find the collection easy to digest with plenty of chunky guitar and throbbing bass. A couple tracks take repeated listening to fully embrace such as “Red Rain” and “Odissea,” yet Take Cover makes for a fun listen and is over all impressive. For our full feature and interview with Geoff Tate click here:
Website: Queensrÿche, Rhino Records
What Doesn’t Kill You…
San Francisco-based stoner legends Blue Cheer return for their eleventh record in forty years. Few can make that claim and with What Doesn’t Kill You… the power trio prove they are not an irrelevant nostalgia band. Blowing out the speakers with “Rollin’ Dem Bones” they get right to business as founding bassist / vocalist Dickie Peterson howls “I’m a stoner in the first degree…I found out every where I go, well the more I smoke the more they grow.” Unapologetic in both their personal opinions and political expression was what gave the band their initial boost in the first place. That spirit is alive and well throughout the disc’s 10 thunderous tracks including “Young Lions In Paradise”, “Maladjusted Child” and “I’m Gonna Get To You”. Joining Peterson is original drummer Paul Whaley who keeps the heart of this machine alive and kickin’. Long time band guitarist and Syracuse native Andy “Duck” MacDonald rounds out the three. His playing is heavy, seductive and drenched in the blues a perfect complement to pioneering guitarist Leigh Stephens. You’ll also find his name under the production credits.
Blue Cheer is a physical experience. Sure there is the ear candy of “Piece O’ The Pie’ and majesty of the Albert King classic “Born Under A Bad Sign” with MacDonald on vocals, however to know the Cheer is to feel the Cheer. There’s no such thing as dolce listening it’s all the way up or get the hell out. Midway through the disc we land on the sludgy guitar of “Gypsy Rider”. Peterson’s voice is like gravel as he peels out the lyrics to nomad riders. The rumble is unmistakable as it pounds in the chest. An easy sell to the stoner crowd of today and just as easy to see why these guys still pack a following at biker rallies around the country. Then there’s “Young Lions In Paradise” lyrically the best song in the batch. Peterson told us in a recent interview, “The song’s about the friends that were with us back in the day. I stood right next to them and did what they did. I lived and they didn’t. They are the young lions of paradise.” Remember the Cheer were right there in the trenches with Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison.
In fact, it was the ’68 Monterey Pop festival when Cheer saw Hendrix, that inspired them to book studio time and record their bar set eventually turning their debut Vincebus Eruptum (’68) into a bona fide hit. Homage is paid to Hendrix in the axe-work of “Maladjusted Child” where MacDonald rides his wah wah like an Indy car gas pedal. The bass is subtle allowing the vocals and guitar to dominate a sticky chorus that falls inline with Kiss meets Grand Funk. Similar effects are found in the acid-crazed “I Don’t Know About It” and the drum bashing of “Just A Little Bit (Redux),” the later coming off like an Iron Butterfly outtake. “No Relief” closes the record with MacDonald’s blues soaked soul. Reminiscent of “The Hunter” (Albert King) the song rides a dirge of charred ashes that are the toxic cocktail that make this band work. Part Mississippi mud, part psychedelic hash give Blue Cheer all the potency they need to grind out another 40 years. To check out our feature story and interview with Blue Cheer founder Dickie Peterson click here.
Website: Blue Cheer, Rainman Records
Fire for Hire
Kings of Kung-Fu rock, Louisiana boys Supagroup are back with a set of 12 high-octane rollers produced and mixed by no other than Iron Maiden’s Kevin “The Caveman” Shirley. First thing Shirley did for the band’s third outing was pluck “What’s Your Problem? From their highly praised debut, rev it up and release it as their current single and video. The gritty garage makeover boasts a bigger bottom end, crisp guitars and pounding drum with the groove still intact. It’s that Bayou groove which sets Fire for Hire at the top of our list this month. Instant classics “Born in Exile”, “Lonely at the Bottom” and “Jailbait” enforce the band’s Bon Scott-era AC/DC infatuation with one mighty hook after another. Baking the disc in the car for a couple weeks had us primed for their local college gig where they peeled away the layers and laid bare the essence of the crowd pleasing “Promised Land,” “Long Live Rock” and “Bow Down.” Nothing like an intimate, in-your-face show, to add that touch of magic to an already tightly constructed set of tunes.
Distant cousins of screen legend Bruce Lee, brothers Chris and Benji (Lee) maximize their custom-built twin guitar delivery with the sonic pounding of a streetwise tag-team. Chris snarls his way through rejected love in ‘Sold Me Down The River” and “Roll in Smokin’, moves to reflections on the current state of the music biz in “Hey Kiddies” then to the emotional loss of friends post-Katrina in “Mourning Day.” His Bon Scott styling in tone and humor are the ideal chemistry to Benji’s Angus Young flare. Reminiscent of the noodling of other brother pairs, the Lees find sibling harmony in a balance of pyrotechnic expressions and soulful dynamics. Benji’s quick fingering and thunderous guitar etch away a signature sound that inspires and promotes a solid foundation ten years in the making. Rhythm stalwarts bassist Leif Robinson Swift and drummer Michael Brueggen squeeze their way in to ensure there’s plenty of thump, bump and grind.
Several classic lines make great bar room sing-a-longs. There is the first line in “Fire for Hire” that goes “I see her coming, coming in fast / you know she’s one grade A piece of ass.” Then there’s the reference to pop-stardom in “Hey Kiddies” with “Hey little mama, what you got there? / a smile on your face and bubble gum in your hair.” But best of all is the chorus to “Promise Land” - “Oh, Lord take me to the promise land / I been down in the valley so long, playing in the devil’s band.” Song construction is key with Shirley pushing for tight well-crafted tunes that stick like glue. Between the hook and the frayed out solos Supagroup have an album that sits comfortably in 1978 but with the chops and range that give the faithful something to celebrate. Rock is back and fully amplified. Check out our interview with Supagroup vocalist/guitarist Chris Lee by clicking here.
Website: Supagroup, Foodchain Records
Cooking Vinyl Records
Crawling out from the back alleys of Oslo, Norwegian sailors Turbonegro return with what may very well be their hardest hitting slab yet. Punkish double entendres, self-deprecating humor and regurgitated Detroit riffs riddle this shiny gem with all the filth and homoerotic swashbuckling fans could ask for. In a recent online interview lead singer Hank Von Helvete retaliated to critics accusations that Turbonegro always make the same record. He was quick to point out that only the last three records sounded similar beginning with their career high Apocalypse Dudes followed four years later by Scandinavian Leather and Party Animals. Referred to as the three “black” albums, they established the band as hook-friendly retro punk rockers intertwining Alice Cooper, Kiss and The Stooges in a wit-filled deafening assault. That has changed slightly with the introduction of Retox. A parody of detox, the Norsemen are injecting old school punk and hard rock into their usual circus with the crack of the whip leaving a more pronounced welt.
As on previous records the five-piece return to their general proclamation as the saviors of rock and roll in the cinematic anthem “We’re Gonna Drop The Atom Bomb” with keyboardist/percussionist Pål Pot Pamparius and drummer Chris Summers letting out all the stops. Lead guitarist Euroboy windmills his way through monster riffs that pay homage to James Williamson’s Detroit dirt in the heavy set, “No, I’m Alpha Male” and “You Must Bleed.” His influences are all too apparent yet orchestrated with style and finesse. Rhythm man Rune Rebellion is right beside him holding down a general Hives vibe in “Welcome to the Garbage Dump” and progressing into an Eagles of Death Metal / Queens of the Stone Age “Hell Toupeé” all the while a grieving Hank bellows, “The state of my hair is a terrible fate, skin is glowing, dome is showing.” Bathroom lyrics keep “Stroke The Shaft”, “Hot & Filthy” and the Stones meets Johnny Rivers “I Wanna Come” classic Turbo with bassist Happy Tom not only chief lyric writer but topping off his power-fed Thunderbird.
The politically charged “Do You Do You Dig Destruction” is a sure fire hit with a slick production, maybe even a bit too polished for this lot. It heralds back to the general apocalyptic trend of the last three discs with a more menacing distain and the tag line “demolition’s coming back in vogue…mayhem’s knocking on your front door.” Plenty of Ace Frehley fills the air as “Boys from Nowhere” declares, “on the autobahn is where we first found our souls.” Euroboy chugging along with the riff then wails out a hair-raising solo. Woven into a barrage of meaty guitar and bludgeoning bass kicks are the ever-present Spinal Tap moments of pure death-punk. “Everybody Loves A Chubby Dude” is the joker running wild over an 80’s metal backdrop and the priceless line, “Take it up with my expanding leather, this painted boy’s gonna eat forever.” Matching the impact of Apocalypse Dude is the defining track and Carnival mayhem of, “What Is Rock?” Not only do the lyrics hail back to Turbo’s edgy beginnings but they roll out like a bonafide prog-punk masterpiece. Three separate musical styles collide in a cacophony of ear candy that’s “slightly more blues-based than punk” and riding the rails to Kill City. Bonus tracks “Into the Void” and “Back in Denim” give a wink to Kiss and boast the pelvic thrust of AC/DC. Check out our interview with Turbo-guitarist Euroboy by clicking here.
Humanity Hour One
After conquering the world of rock in the mid-eighties and again in the early nineties, I find it all too telling that we still await a release for Humanity Hour V.1. in the US. Throughout Europe and all points in-between the record (released in June) has raced up the charts landing in top positions in Greece, Germany and even the fickle UK market. South American tours are posting big pre-sale numbers while the former USSR has swung the door wide open for the quintet to headline several rock festivals. Has the US become immune to the German’s lethal sting or are we too complacent in our over indulgence of free music downloading to care? Lest we forget, it was on the backbone of In Trance and Virgin Killer that this website was built. So for us, Humanity Hour One is a healthy wake up call for the American market, a tribute to the undying determination of some very gifted musicians.
The record saw controversy from the start. Relocating to Los Angeles in the fall/winter of 2006 the band, under the watchful eye of co-producer Desmond Child (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith), began work on a concept album their first. The calculated effort to revamp their sound kept the song writing equally distributed between singer Klaus Meine, Rudolph Schenker and Matthias Jabs. Five months later they surfaced for a spot on a popular Belgium TV show and launch into the records title track, a biting commentary of political importance that hit straight to the heart of all that watched. Abandoning the provocative themes that gained them notoriety twenty year ago, they have ventured into the man vs. machine scenario with uncanny insight to the world’s current state of affaires. To create a darker more sinister package hinging on Black Sabbath, they hired photo-artist Liam Carl for an apocalyptical setting.
A computerized female voice welcomes listeners to “Humanity Hour One” followed by a barrage of alternative guitars (courtesy of former Marilyn Manson’s John 5) that power through an air raid structured warning. The blitzkrieg breaks down into the first of several glorious melodies filled with layered harmonies that capture poignant lyrics. “The Game of Life” has frontman Klaus Meine in perfect voice. Pushed by Child into vocal training, 59-year old Meine is singing at his all time career best. The song builds to a swelling chorus that sticks like glue bringing back the rich harmonies of Blackout and Love at First Sting. Joined by “We Were Born to Fly,” the orchestrated “Love Will Keep Us Alive” and piano-tinged “The Future Never Dies” the winding road of mid-tempo rockers keeps the pacing steady and memorable. Matthias Jabs really comes into his own throughout, first as a writer and second as a soloist. His contributions makes this the heaviest disc the band has produced.
The thrust of the Scorpions has always been their balance of passionate balladry and titanic rock. Here, the balance leans more to the aggressive guitar with the Zakk Wyld-like stroking of “321” and the frenzy of “We Will Rise Again.” Both put Rudy Schenker and Matthias Jabs firmly in the driver’s seat with bassist Pawel Maciwoda and drummer James Kottak revving the engine. The momentum heats up with the atypical double entendre “You’re Lovin’ Me to Death” and the reflective “Your Last Song,” both hailing the lyrical nuances of Animal Magnetism and Lovedrive. Given the strength of the twelve tracks and the bonus cut “Cold” they are solid standouts. Two songs, “Love Is War” and “The Cross” (featuring Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan) push the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from this band with delightful results. Complex arrangements, sinuous melodies and a remarkable fire from deep inside lift the tail end of this well crafted effort to soaring heights. For our exclusive interview with Scorpions singer Klaus Meine click here.
Latest Version Of The Truth
Mustasch sprang to life in 1998 from the ashes of Sweden punk band Grindstone. Their Detroit diesel approach to metal had them compared to Metallica, Danzig and The Cult as battle-worn riffs thundered over a menacing rhythm section. We first became aware of the four-piece on the release of their The True Sound of The New West EP in 2001. They were often lumped in with the stoner crowd even though their assault was much more biker rock in the vain of Orange Goblin than anything else. What’s refreshing about the band is they never stop working. Between each full-length release, of which there are four including the new Latest Version Of Truth, they churn out single EPs in constant succession - all with immaculate production and tremendous song quality. Last year they wrapped up their contract with EMI, released the stunning Tobias Lindell-produced Parasite EP on their own and set about building what the band members are collectively calling “The Record.”
Latest Version Of Truth is a surging leap forward both in sound and song craft. The press release boasts that instead of keeping up with current trends or styles they cleansed all that didn’t match their conscience. If it felt good, well then it was! They took no care about weather the riff was up-to-date and since it was all about shaking it up, weighing it down, and eventually building greatness they fought to keep it - anything that would make the body take control of the mind. Again Tobias Lindell was at the production helm creating more of a soundtrack than a single tracking long-player. From the roaring engine noise that launches “In The Night” to the orchestrated instrumental refrain of “Scyphozoa” to the James Bond-like “Forever Begins Today” the group are out to prove they are much more than just your average run-of-the-mill metal band. An unchanging lineup consisting of Ralf Gyllenhammar (vocal, guitar), Mats Johansson (bass) and brothers Hannes Hansson (guitar) and Mats Hansson (drums) has created an unbending vision and force to be reckoned with.
Rock solid from beginning to end, the record proves they are unified in their direction and hell bent on becoming a sleek rumbling machine, even if that includes disco. The Golden Earring-inspired “Double Nature,” the album’s first single, maybe not be full-on disco but its orchestrated dance beats are certainly groove oriented. The risk of using a stringed orchestra only capitalizes on what Metallica did with S&M. Here Mustasch make it a part of the musical texture adding a certain class to the relentless volume of guitars. Lyrically the songs pull at contrasts. “The Heckler,” “Spreading The Worst” and “I Am Not Aggressive” all speak about dichotomy, distinctions and comparisons. Yet, it’s still all about balls, big, hairy, meaty balls and these boys got ‘em from the bass-heavy “Falling Down” with the anthem “The higher they fly/the harder they’re falling down” to the Cult-stained “I Wanna Be Loved” and “Bring Me Everyone” all hailing the melodic crooning of Ian Astbury. From their humble beginnings on the island Orust in Sweden - rehearsing among mice, vipers and harvesters, they sought to brew led-heavy riffs, big drums and expressive vocals. On “The Record” they have nailed it to the wall. Check out our interview with the band by clicking here.
Website: Mustasch, Regain Records
The title, Republic Disgrace, says it all with acid lyrics and sonic reverberations. The sophomore outing for Thunder Express plays out like a travel log of the Hellacopter’s last US tour. A side project for Hellacopter guitarist Robert “Strings” Dahlqvist, Thunder Express allows him to explore deeper territory than his day job including his own brand of country, soul and R&B. There’s the catchy little ditty “New York Gold,” the caustic “Vegas” and the farewell “Leaving With Ease” that all come together in a very personal very ‘70s-styled groove. Where the first Thunder Express record was influenced by late 60’s Detroit rawk, Republic Disgrace tips its hat more to the Rolling Stones. The same friendly “Dahlqvist” licks are there from the frantic strumming of “Switch” to the manic intro in “Vegas” and Robert Pehrsson (rhythm and lead guitar), Jens Lagergren (bass) and Jesper Karlsson (drums) are there to help get the emotion just right.
In this outfit Dahlqvist sings as well as plays guitar. He makes for a capable vocalist and actually finds his foray in the rhythm and blues-soaked title track “Republic Disgrace.” Joining him is the brilliant Jaqee on duet and backing vocals. She is the soul that makes the song unique. Her quivering high pitched caterwaul defines passion and, mixed with the guitar strut and dirty solo, grinds out a perfect roadhouse classic. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and several songs could easily be Hellacopter outtakes including the garage rocker “Switch,” the catchy “Everybody Knows about a Broken Heart” and the riff-heavy “From Pleasure To Pain.” All have landmark hooks in the chords that keep them around long after they’re gone. Yet, it’s the mold-breaking “Matrimotion” that makes Thunder Express stand on its own. The languid country-vibe of the song is unique to Dahlqvist as he keeps the structure simple with emphasis on the vocals in a Tom Waits/ Nick Cave kinda way.
New Orleans/Nashville songwriter Anders Osborne is Robert’s cousin and recently scored a number one hit with Tim McGraw in “Watch the Wind Blow By.” He lends his pen to Dahlqvist on the mid-tempo “Pick It Up” a raw blues stomper that follows the Jon Spencer meets The Black Keys instrumental “Hellberg’s Lament.” Maintaining his pure love of Kiss the guitarist can’t resist throwing in the slick “New York Gold” with its Stooges surf riff. “Vegas” is obviously the thriller of the set. A story about last year’s Hellacopter’s tour, it pokes fun at every city they played and the woeful mishaps along the way. The song climaxes with the chorus, “Trouble’s gonna follow us down the road / and I need someone to lean on.” At the production helm is Mattias Bärjed (Soundtrack of Our Lives) who find the band’s voice in the Pink Floyd-ish “Panic” - a gem if ever there was one.
Website: Thunder Express
From out of the clear blue yonder (Virginia) comes the new Alabama Thunderpussy. With a new singer, 11-tracks of sonic frenzy and some killer artwork from fantasy artist Ken Kelly, the Richmond-based quintet are more than ready to assault the masses with Open Fire. Part stoner, part metal, part punk with a southern drawl, ATP deliver a complex record with a groove-oriented backbone that heralds back to the swamp rock of the ‘70s. They pride themselves on being intelligent, dense and ferocious - and Open Fire proves they have the balls to pull it off. Their current lineup consists of Mike Bryant (bass), Bryan Cox (drums), Erik Larson (guitar), Ryan Lake (guitar) and recently recruited vocalist Kyle Thomas. Doubling up on the guitars keeps the outfit soaked in melodic harmonies with Larson doing the majority of the rhythm while Lake handles the solos with dangerous precision. Cox and Bryant play to their strengths and pack a wallop as they hammer out a deafening backbeat.
The thump of tribal drumming sets the mood in “The Cleansing” and is echoed in “Whiskey War.” Both summarize the band’s path to their current standing and gives Thomas full control over lyrics that personify the group’s attitude. His voice is raw and husky akin to Pepper Keenan of C.O.C. He takes full control of the words and brings another level to the passion of the song. Case in point is “The Beggar” and “A Dreamer’s Fortune” - songs about redemption and trying to do what’s right in the face of adversity while powered by the chug of guitar over a bludgeoning bass line. Riffs are king with each song boasting one mighty hook after another. Like the Viking warrior depicted on the cover “Valor”, “Open Fire” and “Brave the Rain” lead the charge into battle like a metallic killing machine. “Words of the Dying Man” and “None Shall Return” have that baked in the kiln of Maiden-meets-Sabbath dirge that looks over a conquered field with bloodstained eyes. Check out our interview with Erik Larson to big deeper into Open Fire and the stories behind the warriors of Viking rock. Click here for our feature.
Website: Alabama Thunderpussy, Relapse Records
As of right now we’ve been assured the new Mooney Suzuki will be out June 19th, 2007. There’s been massive confusion since the demise of the band’s label (V2 Records) after the first of the year, but fear not, they promise to have it in your grubby little hands soon. Last week the boys were tearing it up at SXSW and have a full tour scheduled through ‘till May. Says their website, “Despite the band experiencing several professional and personal problems, lead singer Sammy James Jr. says their hard times are not reflected in the sound of Have Mercy. “It's amazing to me that this is still an upbeat record,” he says “When I was writing these songs, I was not in a good place. We were in debt, we didn't have a band, and it seemed like this potential career that had for so many years been dangling just out of reach was finally gone.” In the interim, the group reprinted its 1999 self-released first CD The Black EP now called The Maximum Black EP last fall with bonus material and stickers to fill in for the delay.
We’ve sat on this infectious slab of riot-filled rock and roll for two months waiting on the street date, but feel the time is right to spread the word since their New York/Philly dates are just around the corner. At first run through Have Mercy, it might be suggested the band have mellowed a bit, but on repeated visits the guitars become edgier, the drums more dense and the haunting familiarity of their sub-sonic garage medley will have you reaching for the volume knob. Passionate open chord riffs illuminate “First Come Love” and “99%” with hand-clapping and “nah, nah, nah’s” setting the rhythmic beat into a raunchy fade out. A ragtime shuffle adds it’s magic to the fuzzy, drum thumping of “This Broke Heart of Mine” which paves a subtle groove that blossoms into an organ-laced hook. Taking it a retro step further is “Good Ol’ Alcohol” that stumbles out of a New Orleans-styled barroom complete with honky-tonk rollickin’ swagger.
Mid-tempo rockers “Adam and Eve,” “Ashes” and the ‘60s-influenced “Rock ‘n’ Roller Girl” all borrow from a closet full of past nostalgia. There is the nibble storytelling aspect with flute, piano and organ added for color, but within the hook are nursery rhyme jingles “We all fall down” and for the latter, The Beach Boys “Little Surfer Girl” riff predictably working it’s way into the song. The record is built around “Mercy Me” as it anchors the vibe of all ten tracks. A melodically crafted, catchy number, it fashions a bit of Michael Hutchence-era INXS complete with piano kicks and amusing lyrics that parade, “You’ll never be older than the Rolling Stones, older than the Ramones or older than dinosaur bones.” The disc closes with the balladry “The Prime of Life” and “Down but Not Out” which makes for a quite melancholy even introspective ending.
Website: Mooney Suzuki
We Must Obey
Holy heavy Batman! Returning after a three year hiatus and their departure from DRT Entertainment, Fu Manchu looks to be back on track with their tenth album. Immediately hailed as a return to their harder rock sound, We Must Obey does offer some serious riff returns complete with wooly thunder. Over a decade of grinding out stoner-fused southern California punk, the Fu have tried it all in their dedication to the bong and beard crowd. Skaterheads freaked over In Search Of and Action Is Go then the commercial elements in King of the Road and California Crossing won a larger audience. Go For It… Live! is still one of the most bone-crushing live records ever and a tribute to the pureness of the band’s sound. 2004’s Start the Machine was one of this websites highlight records of that year. Stung by critics who haven’t a clue about the band, the record remains a mainstay in our office playdeck. Now we celebrate another chapter in the band’s illustrious career and a showpiece for drummer Scott Reeder.
Let’s deal with the Car’s cover “Moving in Stereo” first. In the past, the band has appropriately covered Blue Öyster Cult’s “Godzilla” and Devo’s “Freedom of Choice” to rave reviews. Their pick of “Moving in Stereo” may be confusing at first however; having heard the revised Todd Rundgren version of the Cars and their surprisingly heavy treatment of the same song the Fu stand equally proud. Sonically dense, guitarist Scott Hill’s driving fuzzed-out crunch merges effectively with Brad Davis’ punishing bass while Reeder sits in as the co-pilot on the bottom end. They tear the hell out of “Land Of The Giants” and return to pummel the catchy “Shake It Loose.” Hill and guitarist Bob Balch pay tribute to their old 8-tracks in the full-throttle “Knew It All Along” and the brief but beautiful “Between the Lines.” Sparring like Kung Fu mates, they swap power-chords for riff glory in the title track, “We Must Obey” and the Sabbath-like, “Let Me Out.”
Co-producer Andrew Alekel (Weezer, QOTSA) gives the true depth of the We Must Obey in the nuances. Like the analog windup that kicks the record off and the hallucinogenic soundscape in “Sensei Vs. Sensei.” The declared single “Hung Out To Dry” as heard on Guitar Hero 2 has the trademark Reeder intro with the guitarists splitting into rhythm and lead for plenty of muscled feedback. The single 7” version was released a couple months back in a nicely packaged gatefold slip cover along with a CD featuring a killer cover of Van Halen’s “D.O.A.” Hill’s voice maintains its cosmic bellow in the groove of “Lessons” and cow-belled frenzy of “Didn’t Really Try.” He still holds on to that angry snarl magnified in Start the Machine but uses it more for tone and texture. No real new ground being broken here, but then again why mess with a chemistry that works so well? Their pioneering spirit still finds its essence in the volume of the guitar. Though bloated at times, it rocks harder than most and is always consistent.
Website: Fu Manchu, Liquor and Poker
THE CHELSEA SMILES
Thirty Six Hours Later
Welcome to 2007. No better way to start the year than to pop in the new Chelsea Smiles, grab the broom, and air guitar your way into the living room. Fronted by howlin’ Todd Youth (of Danzig, Motörhead, D-Generation fame), the New York City quartet roll up their sleeves and deliver 12 new tracks just right for the pickin’. Cutting their teeth in 2005 with their Capitol debut E.P. Nowhere Ride, the band hit the road and work feverishly to get the word out. However, relations with the label went sour and last fall they were released from their contract. Thirty Six Hours Later they signed to Acetate Records plugged in and started stoking the fires with twin guitar harmonies and a full-throttle rhythm section.
The urgency of their efforts is heard in the record opening chords as Todd Youth bellows into the mic, “I just want some satisfaction as I begin the year / I need a new main attraction one that I can wear.” The guitars jump to attention in a gritty haze of fury while bass and drums freight train through two and a half minutes of punked-up garage rock. Fans of Social Distortion, The Backyard Babies and The Datsuns will find “I Want More”, “Nothing to Lose” and the cover of The New York Dolls’ “Chatterbox” highly addictive. Chugging riffs and a punishing bass line retro-fit the band’s MC5 styling as the amps get louder and the feedback burns through a wall of meshed anarchy.
A spackling of Detroit piano seers “Heart Attack”, the most compulsive track on the record. It gives it a nice nostalgic edge, soaked in sweat, with a memorable hook. The same holds true with their unearthed cover of The Joneses “Pillbox” a track which captures the danger of the Ramones with fresh vigor. Both “Feeling to Kill” and “News for You” forge a toughened up pop stance that’s as endearing as early Cheap Trick. The satisfied customer will be drawn to the band’s trademark Chuck Berry-like intros which sizzle through the smoking “Alright, Alright”, the pelvic thrust of “Built To Last” and the crushing “Something’s Gotta Give”. Just for flavor, a nice hollow guitar sound brings “You Can’t Give Me Anything” into the spotlight as the premier cut off the entire disc.
Website: The Chelsea Smiles, Acetate Records
ARCHIVES: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002