Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cavity "Somewhere Between the Train Station... and the Dumping Grounds"

Twenty year old me bought this album when it came out in 1997 and it's safe to say it blindsided me like the rusty grill of a garbage truck. And that's kind of how this record sounded... like rust. Grimy, filthy rust covered guitar strings, drums and even throats belting out a melding of hardcore and stoner rock that sounded just a little different from all the other "sludge-core" or "doom-metal" or what have you that I'd been listening to around that time.

For some reason about five years ago I went through one of those purgings of my cd collection that people do from time to time and I got rid of a lot of stuff. Probably about 150 cds. I was streamlining. I was growing up. I was going through a mid-life crisis. Whatever happened I ended up with about a third of my cd collection intact. Over the ensuing years I've honestly not missed hardly any of them... but for some reason earlier this year I started thinking about Cavity. I mean, this was the band that inspired me to pay great homage (read: totally rip them off) by writing many guitar riffs in the vein of what I'd heard on "Somewhere.." for the band I was in during the late '90's-2000. They had floored me, inspired me and rocked my effing socks off. And now I missed them.

Well, living in Dayton, Ohio I of course had no options to buy the cd in person unless I drove about an hour to Columbus or Cincinnati... so I did just that. I went to a couple of record stores in Cincinnati with the singular purpose of finding this disc (or vinyl--I didn't care which)... all to no avail. So I hopped on the internet (during worktime of course) and ordered me a brand spanking new copy for around $15 and waited for it to arrive... wondering if it could possibly be anywhere near the sonic greatness I fondly remembered it as.

Now, let me just preface this by saying that although back when I first heard Cavity I was also really into slower softer music like Low and Dirty Three and Edith Frost... nowadays I'm way more so. I find myself listening much more to bands and aritists like Sun Kill Moon, Clem Snide, and Damien Jurado who most would call "sad bastard" or "sleepy-time" music (they of course are right... but that doesn't make me like them one teardroplet of artsy fartsiness less) than to Slayer or Sepultura (both of whom I also love dearly). That said, I opened up my new copy of "Somewhere..." and put it in the player.

Within seconds my head was banging and I was singing along like I was twenty again. This thing totally destroys... it's like if you locked early '80's Black Flag in a room with nothing but their instruments and the first four Black Sabbath albums (and of course some rations... I mean c'mon, we're not gonna be totally inhumane to the Flaggers are we?) for a year. This is what that would sound like. It's sludgy and heavy at times but mostly it's grindy blood boiling hardcore that makes you want to destroy something. Not in a malicious way though... more like when you watch one of those time elapsed videos of something in nature rotting away... it just feels natural. And so does this disc. Eleven tracks that singe and decay right there in your cd tray like some sort of burning robot made out of junk cars with frayed wires protruding from every crevice. Like I said earlier it's the sound of rust and filth the entire length of the disc.
And as if that's not enough there's a hidden track done in a way unlike I've ever seen (or at least yet discovered) again where you pop in the disc and rewind track one to reveal an entire live show before the track starts! How sweet is that?!?

Anyhoo... check 'em out. Cavity from Florida. Sadly they disbanded years ago (after putting out 4 or 5 albums total) and their sound changed a bit along the way ("Supercollider" ,their next release and probably my favorite of their discography, is similar to "Somewhere..." though cleaner and musically more mature and "On The Lam" was their last and smoothest sounding album although it still delves into the feedbacky rawness of their previous releases on occasion). After thirteen years this thing still holds up to be an amazing record and one that I definitely won't make the mistake of selling a second time despite any financial or space issues. If you have any interest in stoner metal and punk rock give this thing a listen.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Requiem for a Dream

Darren Aronofsky has been in the entertainment news quite a bit lately. He and his longtime something-or-other, Rachel Weisz, are separating (I'm in!); he has been confirmed as the director of the stand-alone sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, called The Wolverine, which will reportedly be based on the classic mini-series by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller (probably my next post for N=D); and his latest film, Black Swan, is gaining accolades, making the festival rounds and opening sporadically across the world. It's being labeled as a horror movie, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. It seems more like a dark drama/psychological thriller. However, if Natalie Portman actually does transform into a gigantic Were-Swan, and goes on a gore-filled rampage, I'll fucking pay twice the amount to see that damn movie.
So all this has made me realize that even though I frequently list Requiem for a Dream as my No. 2 Favorite Film of All Time, I have only seen it once, back in the year 2001. It is a film that haunted me, and moved me, and made me feel terrible. It's a film with such power and rawness that I immediately ranked it as a favorite and decided to never watch it again. I couldn't bear to watch it again.
So, here we are. I'mma do this. I'm gonna go re-watch Requiem for a Dream for the first time in almost 10 years. Then I'm gonna come back to this draft document and review it to see how I feel. Here's the deal. I may not come back.

If I don't come back, it's because the movie left me as devastated as I was the first time watching it, and you'll know that it remains in the No. 2 spot of my Favorite Films of All Time. Also, because of that, I will have probably killed myself due to the depressed state the movie has left me in. I am leaving a separate set of instructions for my friends to post this for me after my death. If I do come back to write out my feelings about the movie 10 years later, then something must have changed. So. Let's do this and see what happens.

I'll be back. Maybe?


Alrighty... So. Yeah. This is what my friend Jason refers to as “Thundercats Syndrome”. This is indeed where nostalgia has been distorted. Or something. I'm trying hard to be clever. It never works. It also looks as if I'll be looking for a new No. 2 Favorite Film of All Time, 'cause Requiem for a Dream has dropped out of the top 10. Move on up, Evil Dead II! Juice by Bruce! Juice by Bruce!

While still a gorgeously made film, the emotional impact I remember having from my first go-round was completely supplanted by being distracted by all the “clever” cinematic editing and cinematography. The patented Aronofsky Camera-in-face-while-walking bit. The repetitive montages, shaky-cam, flickering lights, monochromatic color schemes, fast-speed/slow-downs, etc. etc. Basically every little editing trick that has been commandeered by the Saw movies.
Which is fitting, since throughout this viewing, I stopped watching this movie as gritty drama, and started watching it as a horror film. So maybe Black Swan is a horror movie? It seems as if Aronofsky has already had some warm-up playing in that genre. It's hard to label Requiem as anything else, especially now. Horrific, terrible things happen, and – even though it's a hallucination – there are monsters in the movie. And a dismemberment (spoiler). But of course the biggest monsters are the four main characters themselves. And Tappy Tibbons.

That said, it's still a fantastic movie with great performances by Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans. They all achieve everything that is asked of them by the script and direction and each one knocks it out of the park, Wayans in particular, is still a spectacular suprise in this movie, especially in light of his work before and since this was made. However, whatever goodwill he built-up by being amazing in this movie was pissed away the second he thought Little Man or White Chicks was a good idea.
In the end, Aronofsky's cleverness got the better of himself and detracted from his statement by trying to dazzle the audience with his innovative cinematography. Instead of worrying about getting the fish-eyed angle right, he should have focused more on the characters, the situations, the drama. Instead, we get a pre-Saw Saw movie about drugs and addiction, while the characters become unlikeable caricatures.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Jandek: Six and Six

I didn't get into Jandek until around 2002.  I heard the song "Feathered Drums" & liked it enough that I sent in for the 20 albums for $80 deal that was going at the time (this was a time in my life where I was making more money than usual & didn't have a girlfriend to make me live a little nicer off the extra cash).  Maybe it's because the first song I remember hearing by Jandek is on this album that I gravitated towards it, but this was pretty instantly my favorite of his & clearly the one I'd listened to the most times.  It reminds me of what I like to think I would've done if I'd recorded an album in high school on LSD armed with the acoustic guitar I had with broken tuning pegs.  But at the same time it sounds out there & crazy, the whole thing feels intentional & like a letter from a friend on the brink of discovering the ultimate truth of reality.
It's probably been three years since I last listened to this album & I really have no reason why.  Probably because after seeing him live a while ago, it felt like part of the magic was gone (due in large part to the backing band he had).  Wow, this is still brilliant.  Put him next to Bob Dylan as one of the best songwriters of the twentieth century.  Just a man & his acoustic guitar & that's all you need.  When I put the record on it immediately feels like the room is turned into Jandek's home, he penetrates.  But as much as I love this record I know it's not for everyone.  The guitar is tuned to bring a degree of emotional accuracy rather than tonal accuracy.  The same with the vocals.  People want to call this a blues record & I can see it being up there with some of the Leadbelly stuff that I also like a lot.  This is generally thought of as Jandek at his most raw & that's what I want.  Some how undistilled is better than cleaned up & purified.  The lyrics here stick with you, every time I hear someone talking about going to jail I think of the lines "I've been to jail before / Been let out to" & whenever I see two spiders I remember "two spiders meet on a rock / but they're the same anyway." 
I can't really explain what makes this record special.  There is a vibe like it was made from the sole survivor of a cult that committed suicide & I think that feeling is part of what allowed the rise of the Jandek mythos.  This is the second record (or first record if you credit the first album to The Units) & if you only ever hear one Jandek record, this probably should be the one (though I am also quite fond of the much later The Gone Wait).
The strangest thing for me is on this record Jandek is presumably 35, the same age I am right now.  So it gives me a certain degree of hope that I could go on to do something brilliant & start a new career & we all need to have that feeling of hope more often.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

American Music Club: Mercury

There was a period in my life I was obsessed with this album. I have vivid memories of walking, driving and just sitting around – probably drinking, AMC is a drunk’s band if there ever was one – listening to Mercury.

Eventually I moved on to something else and it’s been years since I’ve wanted to listen to Mercury. It was imposing. It seemed too dark, bleak, too utterly devoid of hope. Not a place I wanted to revisit.

So now, 10, 15 years on, how does it sit? Well, it’s still an alcoholic’s oblivion of an album. It’s still not something I ever want to listen to with any great frequency.

Still, this has to be one of the most beautifully recorded and mixed major label albums I have ever heard, which I guess with Tchad Blake in the mixing chair and Bob Ludwig mastering should come as no surprise.

The supporting instrumentation is beautiful. The piano calls, the martial drumming, especially Vudi’s gorgeous guitar leads and textures. Vudi was later roped in as a live member of Swans, which seems like a natural progression to me. That this guy is driving a bus somewhere right now is a crime against humanity.

More than anything, though, shines lead guy Mark Eitzel’s writing. This guy makes me wish I was a better lyricist. This review really could be nothing but song quotes…

The album opens with this chipper salutation, from “Gratitude Walks”:
Why don't you be good for something
And draw down the shade
On a sign that sat up all night shivering
On a sign that sat up all night afraid

…and later…
Take a number for your big lament
They sold the rules of dreamland
in cotton, wool, and cement

…in “I’ve Been A Mess”, Eitzel ponders Lazarus’ disposition upon being reanimated by Jesus Christ:
What were the first words that crowd heard him speak
I bet he was cursing at the sky
I bet he wasn’t turning no other cheek

You know how when you were young and dumb, you could sometimes find yourself getting wasted with people you actually actively despised? “Hollywood 4-5-92”:
My revenge against the world
Is to believe everything you say
Balanced as you are on a pile of empty bottles

“Dallas, Airports, Bodybags” nails the horror of being hungover in an airport:
Shuffling through people like cards
Oh let ‘em blow around like sand
Maybe it’ll uncover some beauty in their eyes
Maybe it’ll give me a place to breathe
Maybe give me some room to stand

There’s so many more – you could pull great quotes from any song on here. Eitzel is as great or better a writer as any of your Dylans, your Neil Youngs, your Leonard Cohens. Sure, those guys are masters. Eitzel is in the same class.

The only complaint I have about Mercury is that at nearly an hour long, it’s, well, too long. But I’d be hard pressed to choose a song to cut, save maybe the instrumental “More Hopes and Dreams”, which would give us back what, 2 minutes?

I’ll leave you with my favorite line from the album, from “The Hopes and Dreams of Heaven’s 10,000 Whores”

You were a scarecrow looking for a bonfire to sleep on

...seriously. Read that again:

You were a SCARECROW looking for a BONFIRE to SLEEP ON

Blur: Parklife

Blur hasn't aged very well for me. The only record of theirs that I've played, well, since the 'end of the century' so to speak, has been their singles compilation, so I thought it was time to revisit one of the supposed classics of the era. Nothing has really changed in my opinion of Parklife. The best songs such as the the Kinks-inspired "End of a Century," the Syd Barrett rip-off "Far Out," and the beautifully glamorous "To The End" (should have been a Bond theme) still sound amazing. As does the epic "This Is A Low," perhaps Damon Albarn's finest moment as a vocalist and lyricist. Pure genius. For a record that was aiming to be a timeless concept album, however, Parklife is just too damn spotty. Village Green Preservation Society or Odgen's Nut Gone Flake this ain't. There's being clever and just plain smacking of effort and too often Blur falls in the latter camp. Here's hoping I never have to hear the cheesy Euro disco smash "Girls & Boys' ever again or "Clover Over Dover." Yuck. In contrast, I've probably played something by Blur's 'rival' Oasis every week for the last 16 years. Noise and melody never gets old.  I'm starting to think that as a scene, '90's Britpop was my generation's Studio 54—you had to be there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

U2: War

U2's third album War was my favorite record of 1983. I had heard songs from their previous records, but "New Year's Day" really sold me on the band. Besides, they looked so much cooler posing in the snow than they did goofing around on the Dublin docks for the "Gloria" video. What really impressed me most, however, was The Edge's guitar sound. I had grown up listening to classic rock (it wasn't called that then), but as the '80's kicked in, I started getting exposed to newer sounds. U2 proved that bands didn't need to include ridiculous guitar solos to be relevant. Remember, this wasn't too long after pompous albums such as Frampton Comes Alive were multi-million sellers. As I got older, I started to like U2's 'weirder' albums like October and The Unforgettable Fire the most, but when revisiting War, I'm reminded how relevant this record still is. Sure, the Cold War is over and the situation in Northern Ireland has certainly simmered, but the world is still a fucked up place, so there is always room for a kick ass post-punk record, which makes you think. War finds Bono being political but not overly preachy as he sometimes can be. His passionate vocals still give me goosebumps on  "New Year's Day," "Sunday Bloody Sunday," and "Two Hearts Beat As One." The Edge adds to the mix with a staggering combination of effects pedal wizardry and simple, yet potent power chords, while Larry Mullen, Jr.'s militaristic drum sound adds to the icy atmosphere of this record. When listening to War again, I'm reminded how great the non-singles are, like the heavy hitting "Like A Song," or  the all-too-brief down tempo pieces "Drowning Man" and "40," which ended Sides 1 and 2 in the pre-CD days. U2 seemed to get a little silly and too much limousine rock post-Joshua Tree, though I do love Achtung Baby (at least I think I do, it's been awhile!), but their early records still remain post-punk treasures. Speaking of, I always thought it was a shame that "Treasure," the 'edgy' "New Year's Day" B-Side wasn't included on War.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Realpeople: Holland aka Beirut March of the Zapotec disc II

I bought this disc at a Beirut show in Brooklyn a couple years or more ago and naturally listened to the two included EPs on the ride home to Boston.  The Beirut portion of this two EP set found it’s way into my stereo a few more times after that but the Realpeople disc was never listened to again. That is until today.
For those not in the know, prior to Zach’s discovery of Balkan jams, he apparently had this band Realpeople that relied on synthesizers and for some reason he put together an EP for this release, possibly to prove he wasn’t just a one trick pony or perhaps he thought he had some songs laying around that didn’t fit the Beirut mold or maybe he just missed synthesizers.  It’s probably safe to say that I’ll probably never listen to it again. While it’s not a bad disc, it doesn’t do much to warrant more attention than as just a curiosity.  Basically it’s a Beirut record with different instrumentation and as the disc progresses it becomes more and more exactly like a Beirut record with the addition of horns and accordions while the more synth reliant songs just wind up making me wish I was listening to Sebastian Tellier instead.  They actually wind up sounding like dance mixes of Beirut songs more so than a separate project altogether.  Not sure what he was going for with this release, but he probably could’ve saved the label some dough with the fancy packaging and just released the single EP and included the songs that were exactly like Beirut and had a stronger release.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Cure: The Cure

I did a review of this album a few years ago for QRD and since not all memories are good memories I thought I'd revisit.   Check It Here.

Well, basically I feel exactly the same as that review back then as I do now. Although I’ve warmed up to the opener “Lost” and the closer “Promise”, mostly this album is unmemorable and in my mind it doesn’t really exist and then I’ll see the album cover pop up on the internet someplace such as Amazon or something and I remember it existed.  In the spirit of this blog this time I decided to go back and give it a listen much to my dismay.  It’s sad really, because the B-sides and unreleased songs are so much better than the actual album.  Usually there’s a balance with the Cure. “A Letter to Elise” versus “The Big Hand” comes to mind.  More importantly though, I noticed that my review/writing style (more like the lack thereof) in regards to reviews has also remained intact and that I should put more effort into spelling and grammar.  I’ve never claimed to be a writer or a blogger or any of that but if I’m going to put forth effort I should actually put forth effort.  We’ll see how that goes.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Samhain III: November's Coming Fire

How appropriate. Samhain has always been Glenn Danzig's most underrated project, neither as catchy and fun as Misfits nor as mainstream as Danzig, the band fell somewhere in between. And even amongst Samhain albums, November's Coming Fire stands out as something unique. I remember being in Germany and a big metal fan just getting into punk (which is weird since most punk bands morph into metal), we would travel from our little village to Frankfurt to go to the WOM. At the time you were able to find all sorts of unofficial releases on vinyl, many coloured Misfits vinyl were purchased and eventually that lead to the purchase of Samhain. Everything about this release fit exactly where the imagery Glenn tried to keep up should be. The music was dark, morbid, intense and fit the mood of dark autumn nights lit only by open fire, sort of like a goth camping trip. The back cover photography was exactly the mood the music on the record conveyed. Having seen some bootlegs of the band during this era, it's safe to say that what they captured on tape was something more special than their live set which emphasized the energy more than the mood of the songs. It was goth, not metal, not punk and definitely not the blues rock that Danzig became. For a couple years straight I'd listen to this record what seemed like a couple times a week. Songs like "Mother of Mercy," "Let the Day Begin," "To Walk the Night," and "November's Fire" were all favourites. To me this is Glenn at his peak and it's all been downhill since then. I think the opening instrumental could have been left off but aside from that it's pretty much a perfect record. Well aside from that and the drums being overdubbed, at times you can hear where the beats aren't exactly synched to each other.

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