Friday, December 23, 2011

burMONTER - self titled demo '92

(note picture is from early 2000's when we got together for 2 songs during a Plumerai set @ King's Barcade in Raleigh, NC)

burMONTER was my first real band ever.  I had just returned to the States and was intent on starting a band that was representative of the type of music I actually listened to at the time.   Whilst in Deutschland I was playing guitar in what surmounted to a HC/Punk/Metal cover band.  We did a lot of Misfits covers and broke it up with songs by Spermbirds, Slayer, & DRI.  But what I was listening to at the time was the Cure, Lush, Violent Femmes, The Cramps, and bands of that ilk.   So immediately after arriving in the US I began searching for bandmembers and would eventually recruit a drummer that lived a neighborhood over and a vocalist that I met by chance.  We went to the same HS but didn't have classes together...just happened to see each other in the halls on occassion.  Like my current band, my brother took over the rhythm guitar and eventually moved to bass when the bassist we found bailed but for the sake of this recording we captured it as a five piece.  That in a nutshell was how burMONTER began.   Since we were in a podunk North Carolina town, there weren't that many options in regards to playing live shows, so we wound up spending more time writing and making home recordings.

My last Christmas in Germany, my parents had bought me a Tascam Porta-Studio 4-Track.  So it was this device that we recorded our first demo tape, the self-titled burMONTER.  It was the first go at writing songs and recording them as a band I had experienced up to this point.  The year was 1991 or 92.

As mentioned the influences on these songs were mostly The Cure, Mission UK, Violent Femmes, Lush, the Sundays, the Smiths (for vocals) and an assortment of others that the rhythm section brought in and I would probably be unable to recognize without it being pointed out to me.

"Last Breath" was the opener and was proceeded by a brief vocal swell ala "Hero Takes A Fall" by the Bangles before the muted guitar influenced heavily by 17 Seconds era guitar intro kicks in.  Just a heavy kick and the muted guitar.  It then pops with a straight forward rock beat and rhythm with arpegiated guitars for the verses and the choruses burst in with a typcial C-D-G with a Robert Smithy strum pattern.  This was the first original song I had ever written and aside from using such a common chord progression during the chorus I don't think it was such a bad effort.  When we toured Germany a few years later, this song made it's way back into the set and held up just as well if not better than some of the newer material.  What I notice most about these recordings are the bass lines.  Totally not typical of my post-punk/Simon Gallup influences.  Charli Ramos was older and more influenced by music from the 70's and the bass represents that.   Also, this was back when I did a lot of lyric writing which probably made it more difficult for our vocalist to come up with vocal melodies....or did it?  The song doesn't really go anywhere to me,  just some parts that sound good together, smushed together.  The final vocal line today sounds weird to me "i have breathed my last breath" that even proper english?

"The First Rays of the Waking Hour" was probably more solid songwriting.  It had a long instrumental intro definitely influenced by The Cure's "Push"  with single notes played high with a bunch of open strings to fill out the sound.  The drums do that double time beat that's popular in Pop music that I enjoy and once the verses start you can hear a bit more of my Bangles/Cure influence in the guitar.  The song is light and very 90s.  I sort of wish we had keyboards back then.

The other highlight of this demo is the song "Dalia."  More Cure influence with the tribal drums and the guitar solo in the end and also the darker lyrics and use of some Robert Smithisms in both the guitar and the lyrics.  This was a song that never left our set once we started playing live.  Of note are Charli's backup vocals during the chorus.  The really boominess of the drums I think are great and our drummer at the time went on to become a phenomenal player far surpassing the skill level of anybody else involved in this project.

The other songs I don't even want to mention,  full of youthful idiocy and lameness.  But what I do notice is that the sound quality on this demo is much fuller and although very flawed, much better than the demo's that came after it, Hybrid I & II.  I'm not sure what we did right here and wrong on the other recordings.  We basically recorded the drums with three random mic's that we happened to possess and then bounced it down to one track.  Then added the overdubs and did the same until we were done.  Recording all onto cassette tape mind you.  While not something I would say I'm proud of, this recording for the time and method and the place that we were at the time, I think came out okay.   I'm pretty sure the bass went direct and the guitar was a horrible little crate practice amp with built-in chorus and a Charvel Model 4 guitar, so to begin with, we had so much working against us.   As I learned later, what saved this record probably was getting a fairly decent drum sound (for what we were working with).

To hear for yourself:  where you can hear the various era demos burMONTER did.

for more info you can also visit

Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart

I first got this record back in 1998 because I was doing QRD & got promos from Beggar’s Banquet.  In one envelope were my two favorite records of that year, Hefner’s Breaking God’s Heart & Six By Seven’s The Closer You Get.  From the outside there was no reason I would like the Hefner disc as they had none of the elements I was really into at the time.  No shoegazing guitar.  No tribal drums.  No ambient drones. No baritone vocals.  More or less straight indie rock with a little bit of a Buddy Holly edge. But somehow I gave it a chance & it was an instant favorite.

I’m not sure how long it’s been since I heard this record or how it ever got out of my rotation.  It is pretty incredible & I’ve always had a fondness for it.  It’s funny because even now I don’t find any of the many bands that “sound” like Hefner (Built to Spill, Weezer, etc.) interesting at all & there’s something special about Hefner.  I’m not sure that what I really like about Hefner actually has anything to do with the music as much as Darren Hayman’s ability as a storyteller with his lyrics.  All of the songs on here are narcissistic passive-aggressive tales of semi-unrequited love & I don’t know if I’d like them as much if they weren’t so easy for me to relate to them, but luckily enough I can.  I think this might be one of the twenty records I will always want to own & I’d be willing to put it up against Neil Young’s Harvest or Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska & I’m not sure I can think of any band with a stronger debut album.  It may be better to me now than it was all those years ago.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Cure - Faith

Here I go with another review of something from the past updated in the present.  This time it's The Cure's album Faith.

As many of you may have already known, recently the Cure had played a series of shows called Reflection.  The basic premise was that they were playing back to back and in sequence, their first three albums.  Three Imaginary Boys, Seventeen Seconds & Faith.  Unlike their Trilogy concerts where there was a general mood being set by the choice of albums, the Reflection shows were basically a musical journey documenting their transformation from post-punk to goth (or whatever you consider the darker majestic side of this band).   It's the final album in the set that I want to concentrate on, because it's the first time the Cure emerges with the sound that they've become known for.  It's the album where the combination of big keyboards, tribal drum patterns, the melodic yet driving bass lines and the melodies being played on the bassVI all come into play to create a particular mood that the Cure would employ again and again (and again and again and again).

Like I said, it was seeing them play the album in it's entirety live at New York City's Bowery Ballroom on the final night of the tour and presumably the last time they do these Reflection shows, that it all came to me.  Possibly as a result of hearing the three different albums in sequence, I was able to see the metamorphisis of the group.  It wasn't as apparent to me before I think because of the production of Faith being what it is.  While I always felt Faith/Pornography/Disintegration seem more of a Trilogy than Pornography/Disintegration/Bloodflowers, hearing the Faith album live and loud and surrounded by both the atmosphere and the moodiness of songs such as The Holy Hour, All Cats Are Grey and the highlights of both the recorded album and the live show The Drowning Man & Faith really made apparent that this was to be the album that set the tone and informed all the albums to follow until Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me.

A big deal was made of these shows because Lol Tolhurst would join the band for the first time since his acrimonious departure around 88-89.  Although, his inclusion seemed like a gimmick.  He was relegated to playing extra keys and percussion on just the Faith portion of the show and since they were doing a reflection on their past, it would've been great to have him behind the drum kit again since that was what he played on those albums.  I'm sure he would've struggled but it would've been great to see.  Especially since their latest drummer Jason Cooper plays the songs more generically and with a lack of style that both Lol & Boris possessed.  He didn't murder the songs like he does with 'Push' from Head on the Door  but if they were going to make a big deal about Lol being on stage,  it would've been great to have him up there for more than the Faith set and doing more than adding percussion that was never in the original songs or playing minimal keyboards.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Confessor - Condemned

When I was in high school I was into metal. There was a local metal band who were awesome & kings of the scene that got signed to Earache. They were Confessor. The only local heavy band that outshined them was Corrosion of Conformity. My memory is that they had an album come out & then broke up after a European tour, but I don’t know if that story was ever true or not.
My metal roots started to fade towards the end of high school, so I hadn’t listened to this album in almost twenty years. Oddly this band is still popular enough locally that you sometimes hear some of their songs between bands at local shows. Last night I had a dream where I went to see them play a reunion show, so I decided to pop the disc in. I can’t believe I used to listen to this on a regular basis. This is a really dark record lyrically, but not in a way where I can relate to it (as say The Cure or Joy Division) & not quite in a Dungeons & Dragons cartoony way that a lot of metal does that can be fun. I could hardly make it through the album. Also there is some kind of weird phaser stereo expander put on the whole mix (you hear it on a few early 90s albums) that makes me feel semi-nauseated & uneasy & that probably adds to the feeling of dread this record holds. Oh, & here’s the weirdest thing about this band for me, I went to their current website & they sell soap as merch.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Heavy Metal - The Motion Picture

So I first saw this when I was seven years old.  It was on HBO during the annual family reunion & beach vacation at Myrtle Beach.  All of the cousins & my brothers were trying to figure out a way to get to watch it & something happened where one aunt & uncle were at another aunt & uncle’s hotel room & everyone gathered there to watch, but I was five years younger than the youngest of that group of cousins so I ended up for some reason watching it while my parents were in the next room drinking their liquor drinks.  Anyway, the animation totally blew me away (the best looking cartoon I had probably seen up to that point was probably Starblazers as we didn’t have cable at home & the animation explosion of 1983 hadn’t yet happened) & as a Star Wars fan the sci-fi had an immediate appeal.  The nudity & language & violence didn’t strike me as odd or unusual or exciting, just factual.  The next time I saw it I was 16 & amongst the guys in my age range the movie had reached this cult status as a weird childhood memory (it seemed like every one had managed to see it as a kid that summer of 1982) & it was on one night at 3am & my buddy Jason recorded it & I got to see it again.  I was pretty shocked by the volume of nudity that time out & even more shocked by the volume of John Candy doing the voices.  So that takes me up until pretty recently with the movie.

So yesterday I saw Heavy Metal 2000 & thought it was pretty bad.  So I decided to watch the original.  The animation quality I think is still pretty awesome, I’d be willing to put it up against Akira or Avatar or whatever - while not the most computer clean cutting edge it has a style of its own that really works.  The nudity in it for me is weird because the boobs in it look like water balloons about to explode more than actual breasts.  But the short stories of it work really well.  15 minute chunks of self-contained loosely connected stories with little characterization is pretty ideal for sci-fi to me.  All of the segments are great with sections that are film noir, sword & sorcery, Twilight Zone-y, post apocalyptic, & just plain fun.  Of course one of the movies claims to fame is its soundtrack & I think the way the music is put in here is pretty awesome.  So many times I see movies where the music volume is blaring & it all just sits right in this & cuts in & out well.  I mean, clearly this movie is mainly made for pubescent boys into sci-fi, but I stand by it as a good movie & am shocked by how well it stands for being 30 years old & part of my childhood.

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