Tuesday, January 30, 2007



He opened with "Roll Me Away" and closed with "Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets," and that's probably true, even if these days it needs a night off between gigs and a 10-minute intermission to break up the set. This might well be Bob Seger's final tour; he'll turn 62 in May, but his new comeback album Face The Promise is surprisingly muscular, and I wanted to hear how such hard-rocking new songs would mix with the more soul/r&b-styled (though still punchy) classics. They harmonize quite well, as it turns out. [Read the rest here.]

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The video for "Le Disko" is a goth-industrial creepshow, but don't let that fool you -- Shiny Toy Guns are as playful as their name. "Don't Cry Out," the opening cut on We Are Pilots, is pure Pet Shop Boys disco-revival bliss, except that half the vocals are by sexy/smirky Carah Faye (remember, "dorks + mouthy babe = $ucce$$ " since Blondie, if not earlier). [Read the rest here.]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Cradle of Filth has been polarizing metalheads for 15 years. While the British band's fan base goes rabid for its symphonically pomptastic black/thrash song-suites, others just loathe the group. Hardcore black-metal fans resent them for getting lumped in with their hermetic and surly genre, accurately claiming that no band with such an obvious sense of humor and showbiz aesthetic could be "true" BM. [Read the rest here.]

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I was digging in a box looking for AA batteries and found a copy of the soundtrack to Taal, a Bollywood movie I've never seen. I bought this at a local Indian grocery in 1999, on cassette ($4, I think), after seeing a commercial for it on this show that used to run on one of the cable channels - musical numbers from the movies, shown like music videos. Most of the female vocals are by Alka Yagnik (quickie research indicates she won some kind of award, and indeed the movie was a big award-magnet the year it came out), though there's one track featuring Asha Bhosle. The music is generally mellow and kinda dubby, heading almost into Wordsound territory on a couple of tracks. Very rhythmic throughout, with some unexpected bursts of melody that'll pop your ass right out of the chair if you're not paying attention - or even if you are. Plus, the J-card folds out with lots of very nice pictures of Aishwarya Rai, always a huge plus. I might have to dig this one up on CD; it's available from Amazon damn cheap.


...and that's why I don't like it.

I do most of my music listening a) through headphones and b) while working, or while striding purposefully or otherwise traveling from place to place. Doom doesn't help with either of these things. Try listening to Electric Wizard's "Supercoven," never mind something like Orthodox's Gran Poder (which arrived in the mail the other day, and which inspired this post), on the train - you'll fall dead asleep. As I type these words, "Geryon's Throne," the first track on Gran Poder, is finally ending, just shy of 28 minutes after I pressed Play. It's not bad stuff - the vocalist sounds a lot like Buzz Osborne, and the guitars are pretty great, even if the drummer is, like many of his doom brethren, way too cymbal-happy. (I hate cymbals, but I understand the impulse to hit 'em, especially when the beats are so slow and sparse - you gotta remind the listener, and maybe even your bandmates, that you're back there, right?) But it demands to be played through speakers, so it can properly fill the room. And if a song's 28 minutes long (or 75 minutes long, in the case of, say, the second disc of Corrupted's Llenandose De Gusanos), that demands a passivity from the listener, a willingness to surrender to the music, that frankly my lifestyle just doesn't permit. I'm a busy guy. I want short, fast, punchy. I want Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Or Ornette Coleman's Atlantic albums. Or anything else that's gonna keep me up, up, up. Perhaps I'll hang on to all these doom records I keep getting in the mail - and one day, when I've made enough money that I can loaf around all day and crank up the stereo, I'll slap some of 'em on and drift away for hours on a sea of booming downtuned riffage. But right now, I just don't have the time.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Today at PTW:

"The Fall Of An Empire"

Who says the French are cowards? Even Rob Halford hasn’t got the kind of balls it takes to name a metal band Fairyland. Fortunately, these whacked-out Frenchies bring the rock—well, sort of. Their brand of keyboard-slathered power metal is so anthemic, it ought to be an anime soundtrack. [Read the rest here.]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Hyphy Hitz

It's easy to guess why TVT would start pushing Oakland's hyphy style after the label's success with Southern crunk—both styles share big synth lines, thudding stripper-friendly beats, and a general ig'nance. But where crunk gets over on raw, balls-out energy, hyphy rappers frequently sound enervated, exhaling at the end of each line like rhyming really takes it out of 'em. [Read the rest here.]

Friday, January 12, 2007


Blue Cheer, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
Napalm Death, "Messiah"
Three 6 Mafia, "Tear Da Club Up '97"
Iron Maiden, "Montsegur"
The Clash, "Clampdown"
Miles Davis, "Perfect Way (Live)"
Judas Priest, "Hot Rockin' (Live)"
Mariem Hassan, "La Tumchu Anni"
Agoraphobic Nosebleed, "Clawhammer And An Ether Rag (For Bill)"
ZZ Top, "Blue Jean Blues"
Trivium, "Suffocating Sight"
Bow Wow Wow, "I Want Candy (Kevin Shields Remix)"
Yoko Kanno, "Spider Bites"
Wilson Pickett, "Engine Number 9"
KaitO, "Nobody Could Be Alone"

Monday, January 08, 2007


Blood Libels
The Ajna Offensive

The Work Which Transforms God


Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice

The Ajna Offensive

Near Death Experience

I’ve been listening to a fair amount of black metal lately, and it’s clear that the Scandinavians have lost control of their creation. The ancestral home of second-wave BM might be Norway, but in 2007, the torch is being kept ablaze in France. Yes, France, the country that for decades has been a rock wasteland (Magma being the sole, debatable exception). The four groups listed above have made some of the most compelling black metal of the last three years (the two Deathspell Omega releases are from 2004 and 2005 respectively, and Blut Aus Nord’s The Work… is from 2003, but the others are from 2006), inhabiting and incarnating a darkness that should make US lo-fi half-wits like Xasthur and Leviathan fill their jeans with hot, wet shit.

Antaeus are the most conventionally “rock” of the new crop of French black metallers that I’ve heard. Their first CD, the demo collection Cut Your Flesh And Worship Satan, has one of the greatest titles in all of metal, and lives up to it with blazing, fuzzed-out guitar riffs, screaming so harsh you can almost hear the vocal cords snapping, and drumming so relentless and minimal it’s worthy of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Blood Libels, their third disc (I missed the middle one), features slightly better production but no slackening of their utter sonic and lyrical misanthropy. Occasional sound-effects and/or electronic touches only serve to accentuate the fundamental atavism of their work. Fans of Craft or early Immortal will very much enjoy this stuff.

Blut Aus Nord, by contrast, have ambition. Their 2003 release, The Work Which Transforms God, combined traditional black metal elements with industrial (but not of the Ministry/KMFDM guitars-on-the-dancefloor school) noise and effects—disconnected voices, drones and ambient sounds, etc., etc. Quite a few tracks were instrumental, most notably the 10-minute closer “Procession Of The Dead Clowns,” and some were simply short electronic bridges with no “metal” elements to them at all. Their latest disc, 2006’s MoRT (it’s an acronym for “Metamorphosis of Realistic Theories,” not a nod to death or Feldman), is even weirder. At times, it reminds me of Main’s Hz, but with extra surliness and psychedelia. The tracks are labeled as chapters, I through VIII, and they all blend together into a seamless47-minute whole. Chants and whispers drift past as ever-more-dissonant guitars seethe and wail, and the programmed drums seem mostly there to frustrate anybody searching for a rhythm. Anaal Nathrakh blend industrial with black metal, too, but they do it in a much more brutal and unsubtle way—they’re Ministry to Blut Aus Nord’s peak-period (Too Dark Park, Last Rights) Skinny Puppy. Folks who find most black metal too sonically and philosophically reductive should give these guys a listen.

Same goes for Deathspell Omega, particularly in the philosophy department. Their 2004 CD, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (reissued this year), was somewhat schizophrenic; while they had some very good ideas regarding the use of medieval-style chanting for eeeeeevil, they kept losing their nerve and reverting back to the bash ’n’ screech that had dominated their first two albums. It was only on the follow-up EP, 2005’s Kénôse, that their art truly blossomed. Its three songs unfold over nearly 40 minutes, and the music has all the complexity of progressive rock, with enough riffs in each piece to fill a whole album by a less ambitious band. The first, near-16-minute track begins with five minutes of slow, un-distorted guitar over a doomy rhythm (and ends with three more), before the band catapults into gear and the ranting begins. The lyrics, like the music, are way over the top; Deathspell write in paragraphs, not verses, their vocalist croaking out endless lectures on the nature of divinity which the listener is encouraged to follow in the ultra-thick pamphlet enclosed within the digipak. (You know you’re in for it when the first word of each song is “Therefore…”) It can be a little hard to deal with over the long haul, but these guys are quite obviously very serious about what they’re doing, so “fun” is really beside the point.

The last of the bands I’m enjoying lately, Spektr, is much more opaque about intention and mission. Near Death Experience is possibly the most musically broad-minded of everything discussed in this piece, moving from electronic moodscapes to howling black metal to dissonant, almost jazzy instrumentals (“Whatever The Case May Be”). All the tracks are soaked in atmospheric effects, from static crackle to sudden bursts of distortion and digital glitches – far from embracing old-school black metal primitivism, Spektr chooses to create layers of sonic illusion. Indeed, some tracks, like “Visualization,” have little or nothing to do with metal – ghost voices drift in and out, amid clouds of whoosh and hiss, eventually giving way to surges of strings and distant cymbals and dubby drums. Near Death Experience is an argument for black metal as worldview rather than style – the genre’s trademark guitar and drum sounds are only briefly present, one more element in the mix rather than a dominant trope. Yet the feeling of desolate disorientation that underpins all the best black metal is a constant presence. That’s what all these bands have that catapults them out of the pack. Vive la France, and Hail Satan!

Friday, January 05, 2007

15 FOR 1/5

Merle Haggard, "My Hands Are Tied"
Mike Jones, "Back Then"
Café Tacuba, "No Me Comprendes"
Suicidal Tendencies, "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow"
AC/DC, "Have A Drink On Me"
Rammstein, "Spring"
Café Tacuba, "Camino Y Vereda"
Van Der Graaf Generator, "White Hammer"
DJ Krush, "What About Tomorrow (Feat. Abijah)"
Pentagram, "Be Forewarned"
Origin, "Insurrection"
Napalm Death, "State Of Mind"
Katharsis, "Kross Fyre"
Pere Ubu, "I Will Wait"
Peter Brötzmann, "Nothung (Part 1)"

Thursday, January 04, 2007


What would film criticism be without Armond White?


Thursday morning 20:

Jimi Hendrix, "It's Too Bad"
The Doors, "Back Door Man"
Bob Seger, "Tryin' To Live My Life Without You (Live)"
The Doors, "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)"
Black Sabbath, "Voodoo (Live)"
Grand Funk Railroad, "No Lies"
AC/DC, "Little Lover"
Motörhead, "Locomotive"
Roky Erickson, "Nothing In Return"
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Green River"
ZZ Top, "Blue Jean Blues"
Jimi Hendrix, "Once I Had A Woman"
The Rolling Stones, "Soul Survivor"
Priestess, "Two Kids"
Motörhead, "I Ain't No Nice Guy"
Randy Holden, "Fruit & Iceburgs (Conclusion)"
Van Halen, "Top Jimmy"
Pentagram, "Petrified"
Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Who'll Stop The Rain"
Rainbow, "Gates Of Babylon"

And speaking of dudes what bring the rawk, here's a piece I did for the Cleveland Scene on Gregg Allman.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Serious Times

This largely excellent compilation comes in some ethically dubious artwork. Who is the nude black woman on the cover? Not one of the performers. Why is she naked? It's gratuitous and unseemly. Inside the booklet, there are more images of anonymous black people, living their ghetto lives, shot by photographer Andrew Dosunmu. But the CD comes from British electronica label XL Recordings, and it's been assembled by Brooklyn-based critic Knox Robinson, who bought the original 45s in local stores. It feels like cultural tourism, like poverty turned into entertainment. The music conveys a very different message, though. Robinson hasn't chosen to showcase sexist, gun-talking dancehall; aside from a few odes to marijuana, the majority of the tracks on Serious Times are either love songs or spiritual in nature. Vocalists like Morgan Heritage, Fantan Mojah and Rob Symeonn, like the other lesser-known performers here, are all about rising above their homeland's dire economic and social circumstances, not wallowing in them for the voyeuristic pleasure of Brooklyn hipsters. Thus, the music on this set (disc one is a continuous mix; disc two compiles the individual tracks) is a superb showcase for some of the best in current reggae. Shame about the packaging.