Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Soda Shop’s First Compilation Kicks Ass

If you’re wondering what the cool kids across the USA are listening to, chances are that some of it is right here. Last month our colleagues over at the Soda Shop put out a massive free compilation – the first in a series – that you should get your hands on if you like metal or the louder fringes of stoner music. The corporate media are trying as hard as they can to make you believe that anyone over age eight actually listens to Kesha, or that anyone actually enjoys Arcade Fire instead of merely pretending to because they don’t want to seem uncool in front of their trendoid friends. The reality is that metal is bigger than ever, and maybe better than ever, because the new wave of bands who play it have gone back to the source, the motherlode of it all, Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi should be proud of what he spawned here, yet while most of the bands here have the sludgy slow stoner groove, double and tripletracked solos and chromatic riffage, they aren’t ripoffs either. This is a LONG album, sixteen songs, most of them well over five minutes a clip and most of them various shades of excellent. A couple of them are spoofs, but most of them are straight up pure adrenaline.

Period-perfect early 70s style band Stone Axe open this up with riff-rock on the off beat. Is it a Sabbath homage? A parody? Maybe both. Meat Charger, by Boston’s Gozu, sets lazy drawling Skynyrd vocals over crunchy riffs, more artsy than their smoking Meth Cowboy/Mr. Riddle release from last year. Ohio band Lo-Pan’s Dragline works a long psychedelic 1-chord intro into brain-melting, galloping torrents of guitar triplets, while Brisbane band Shellfin get even more hypnotic, proving that you don’t even have to change chords at all, at least until the overtones are ringing so loud it sounds like a guitar orchestra. And when they do, it’s pretty macabre. Seattle power trio Mos Generator also keep it simple and smart, from the War Pigs echoes on the intro, a catchy bass solo and the ridiculously tuneful, too-brief guitar solo out.

Dayton, Ohio’s Blaxeed, “a heavy drinkin’ hard rockin’ no frills 4 man rock-n-roll band” are represented by the swaying, slightly funky Whiskey Warrior, and have the balls to quote the Beatles. Devil to Pay, from Indianapolis, offer the fuzztoned riffs and doomy lyrics of High Horse, with a juicy brief wah-wah solo to wind it up. The best of all of them may be Cleveland band Venomin James’ Cosmonaut, sounding like Pantera covering Sabbath, some cooly ominous backing vocals lurking toxically in the background and a ferociously charging, doublespeed bridge – if you like this, also check out the scorching live version of their song Abu Graib.

There are also some great songs here that don’t reference Sabbath at all. The funniest track here, Brooklyn band Strange Haze’s Straight Dope, is pure early 70s satire, complete with “soulful” blues harp. This band’s lyrics are off the hook – on this one, the singer wants to walk you “down to the marble garden with a buckskin bottle of wine – sometimes I get so drunk I can sing just like a child…” Luder (German for “little shit”) hail from Detroit, springing from the ashes of the band Slot, and add a dreampop/shoegaze vibe with bassist Sue Lott’s ethereal vocals over layers of crunch and echoey swirl. California trio Whores of Tijuana do a funny punk/metal-meets-ghoulabilly number. And another Detroit band, Chapstik, offers a punishing blast of mostly instrumental metal/hardcore a la the Bad Brains but more chromatic. The compilation starts to run low on gas toward the end, with some nu-metal and grungy stuff that stands out like a sore thumb. But the beauty of this compilation is that you can cherrypick the good stuff, and there’s plenty to choose from. Besides, it’s free. Spread the word and keep your eyes open for Volume 2.

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March 18, 2011 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

An Uncategorizably Fun Triplebill at Littlefield

Sunday night concerts are a bitch. The trains are still messed up from the weekend and most everybody who’s not unemployed yet is dreading the work week ahead. But clubs still book shows, antipating a handful of the brave souls who aren’t daunted the prospect of Monday’s exhaustion along with a probably larger crowd who don’t have that problem because their parents’ or their parents’ parents’ money has assured that they never will. From the looks of it, this triplebill drew the braver contingent.

With trombone, trumpet, bass clarinet and vocals, quartet Loadbang loosened up the crowd with a series of jokey little Nick Didkovsky pieces with a skronky free jazz flavor, a couple of improvisations and then a genuinely disconcerting, strung-out version of David Lang’s arrangment of I’m Waiting for My Man, their singer’s anxious vocals channeling the dread of a dope jones far more vividly than Lou Reed ever did.

Loud third-stream rock unit Kayo Dot followed, intelligently aggressive. With violin, alto and tenor sax, keys, bass or guitar (or with the enhancement of a pedal or two and a few tuning modifications, sometimes both) and drums, they shifted tempos and dynamics incessantly. Bandleader Toby Driver’s compositions changed shape dramatically from pounding, inexorably crescendoing passages, to still violin atmospherics. Textures shifted just as much as the dynamics, intricately woven lines passed from one instrument to another. One tricky, fusionesque groove coalesced and morphed into a festive if astringent dance with an Ethiopian feel. Until a plaintively swaying, rather majestic art-rock guitar song with an obvious Radiohead influence emerged, they’d avoided any kind of rock-oriented sense of resolution or hint of where a central tonality might be lurking. So when that moment arrived, it was on the heels of over a half hour of tension and it was a welcome respite. Their last piece seemed at first to be a series of dramatic endings, which went on past the point of overkill to where it started to make sense as a Groundhog Day of sorts, an endless series of calamities ending in some kind of blunt trauma. The crowd wanted more, but after that, there wasn’t anywhere higher the band could have gone.

Newspeak were celebrating the release of their potent new album Sweet Light Crude, an equally diverse mix of politically-charged music by an A-list of rising composers. Early on, they followed the album sequence. On the cd, the opening cut, B&E (with Aggravated Assault), by Oscar Bettison takes on a blustery, Mingus-esque tone; here, it swung mightily, stampeding percussively to the end in a cloud of dust. Stefan Wiseman’s I Would Prefer Not To contrasted plaintively, a subtle tribute to civil disobedience, cello and violin mingling with singer Mellissa Hughes’ vocalese. The title track, a cautionary tale about the perils of addiction (in this case to oil), emphasized volume and texture rather than the tongue-in-cheek disco pulse of the recorded version, amped to the point of crunchy rockness. Likewise, they took Missy Mazzoli’s In Spite of All This to a swirl of intricately inseparable counterthemes that grew from wounded and damaged to a dizzying series of crazed crescendos. The angst went up another level on Caleb Burhans’ requiem for the padlocked GM plant in his depressed hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, a sort of harder-rocking Twin Peaks theme driven by guitarist Taylor Levine’s twangy, ominous, reverb-toned southwestern gothic lines. Then they threw all caution aside, with a savagely punked-out cover of Taking Back Sunday’s If You See Something Say Something – a raised middle finger at gentrifier paranoia – and then a full-length, pretty much note-for-note cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs, Burhans’ violin delivering all Tony Iommi’s showiest fills with lightning precision as Hughes alternated between a sneer and a smirk. It was better than the original and probably more in touch with its molten-metal antiwar core.

November 19, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, experimental music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poobah’s Classic 1972 Stoner-Metal Debut Is Back in Print

In 1972, Poobah, a high school rock band from Youngstown, Ohio recorded Let Me In, a fuzzed-out stoner metal album that became a cult classic: copies of the original vinyl go for hundreds of dollars on the collector market. Little did teenage guitarist Jim Gustafson, bassist Phil Jones and drummer Glenn Wiseman know that they’d created a psychedelic, proto-metal masterpiece. Originally reissued in 1994 on a small, now defunct label, Ripple Music’s newly remastered re-release contains the original album’s seven tracks as well as twelve bonus cuts featuring additional band members (ten of the songs included on a limited-edition double gatefold black-and-white vinyl album). The obvious influence is Black Sabbath, right down to the catchy simplicity of the hooks, the way they’ll hang on a single chord for minutes on end, the heavy echo on the vocals, the fat midrange tone of the bass and Wiseman’s busy but absolutely brilliant drumming. Gustafson’s sunbaked, bluesy playing is shockingly terse, especially for this kind of music. As long and convoluted as some of these songs are, he doesn’t waste notes, tossing off one brief, incisive riff after another with a heavylidded leer.

The band’s signature song, Mr. Destroyer motors along on an unstoppable midtempo groove, Gustafson’s doubletracked solo phasing back and forth between channels, and a conga break with screams echoing in the background: Spinal Tap central! It’s quite a contrast with what follows it, the surprisingly gentle, folk-tinged ballad Enjoy What You Have, Wiseman’s amazing drums picking it up little by little. The slow ba-bump boogie Live to Work is a workingman’s anthem: “You know I can’t stand this hell.” Bowleen, the eeriest number here, has a Syd Barrett feel, the sample at the end providing an irresistibly funny answer to the question of what it’s about. The fifth track, Rock n Roll is unhinged Chuck Berry rock as Uriah Heep might have done it, except with better drums; the title cut is a 7-11 parking lot riff-rocker with a long In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo – all that’s missing is the crowd noise! – and a gleeful solo guitar break.

Most of the bonus tracks are strong as well. Make a Man Outta You, one of the few here that was previously issued, layers one delicious, reverb-drenched sheet of wild tremolo-picking on top of another. A one-chord stoner jam, Upside Down Highway has Gustafson’s guitar echoing around a catchy, circling bass riff, finally delivering a long, wild, Tony Iommi-style wah solo. The closest thing to Sabbath here is the hilarious Walk of the Bug: “When you’re asleep in your bed you’ll feel his legs on your head.” The bass walks on your face, the guitar injects the venom and it’s over. There’s also a couple of tasty bluesmetal instrumentals, a late MC5 style metal-pop number manufactured specifically for a car radio audience, and a lone attempt to weld funk to a blotto metal groove. The whole thing ranks with Flower Marching Band, the original Iron Maiden and Sir Lord Baltimore as one of the classics of early metal. And if you like these guys, you might want to check out their labelmates and early 70s contemporaries the JPT Scare Band, a Kansas City outfit who split their time between skin-peeling acid-metal and a more commercial Allman Bros.-style sound.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Song of the Day 10/5/08

Counting ’em down all the way to #1…today’s is:

 

660. Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral

Dismiss this song as part of the soundtrack of every 13-year-old stoner’s life and miss out on the fun. Sure, Geezer Butler’s lyrics aren’t exactly poetic, but they make a point – this is an antiwar song! The various parts of the suite are loaded with those eerie chromatics that early Sabbath loved so much. Sure, there’s that brain-dead guy from that reality show singing, but this song came out thirty years before he became synonymous with dubious tv instead of dubious music. And as just about anyone who’s ever been in a band knows, this song is a blast to play (and just about everyone can – that’s what makes it so much fun).

October 5, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment