Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Proto-metal report - High Tide - Sea Shanties

One of the things that followers of proto-metal and the birth of all that became heavy love the most about their music was the sudden dissolution of the rules. Following the pop sheen of the sixties 3-minute singles and the twee acoustics of psychedelic explorations into a happier time and place, proto-metal found music crashing back down to an earth brutalized by the Vietnam War, poverty and heroin addiction. Suddenly, the old standards no longer applied. Music was darker, edgier, rupturing at the seams, more dangerous than ever, and no one could tell you what the fuck you were supposed to do.

Perhaps no band better sums up this attitude than High Tide.

Imagine if you will the unholy bastard child of the Doors psychedelia and early Sabbath heaviness with an electric violin tire-ironed into the mix in the place of Ray Manzarek's organ. Now if that sounds a little hard to put your finger on, imagine that violin not being content to hang out in the back ground, playing gentle atmospherics and fey melodies, but instead going head to head with the lead guitar, flying off on epic battles of searing leads while the bass and drums pound out a relentlessly heavy bottom end, all mixed in with Jim Morrison on vocals.

That's High Tide.

I can't imagine anyone knew what to make of Sea Shanties when it was first released in 1969. While the Beatles were happily singing that they all lived in a yellow submarine, and CCR was releasing their first three albums, High Tide unleashed this ungodly, glorious mess of a record onto the English public. "Futilist's Lament," (see 1st video) sets the stage beautifully, foretelling the brutal cacophony that was to follow. Starting off with a devastatingly heavy doom-guitar riff then drum and bass intro that predates Sabbath by a full-year, the song flies off into a swirling maelstrom of piercing guitar and slicing electric violin. On top of it all, Tony Hill's bleak lyrics leak out in the most sincere Jim Morrison-like delivery I've ever heard. Simon House's violin slices through the mix, a searing torrent of doom psychedelia clashing against, and at times ramming through Tony Hill's effect-laden guitar. Through it all, drummer Roger Haden and bassist Pete Pavli pound on as if they're completely unaware of the monstrous cacophony exploding before them.

"Death Warmed Up," (2nd video) is a nine-minute instrumental heavy metal assault of violin and electric guitar trading licks and fuzzed-out effects. Prog never got any heavier than this, with House's violin refusing to step back from the forefront, matching Hill's guitar lick for lick. "Pushed, But Not Forgotten," slows tone temporarily, adding a softer, jazzier, dare I say beautiful moment to this catastrophic album. Again, Hill's Morrison-baritone emotes over a softer violin, piano passage until the 1:30 mark when hell is once again unleashed on the earth in the form of scorching violin and mind-melting bass. To House's absolute credit, his violin mastery is so profound and his tone so unique, sometimes it's impossible to tell the lead violin riffs from the guitar. It all blends together into one unholy schizophrenic rush.

"Walking Down Their Outlook," follows a similar formula before the next epic-du-metal, the nine-minute "Missing Out," belches out of the speakers, an impossibly heavy, bass distorted dissonance of guitar/violin bestiality. There's no denying it, friends, this is metal. Just not any metal you've ever heard before or since. Finally, the album winds to a close with "Nowhere," leaving your brain a poached, steaming mess of coagulated white and grey matter.

Rightly so, Sea Shanties has been regarded as an absolute classic of dark, doom-laden psychedelia and proto-metal and has a ravenous cult following. Many argue that this was the heaviest rock album of 1969, blowing Zeppelin away, and who am I to argue? Original pressings of the LP's sell upwards of $1000, if you can find 'em. Fortunately for us, or unfortunately for the rest of the music hearing public, Repertoire Records has re-released Sea Shanties on CD and it can be readily found without too much of a dent in your wallet.

But be warned, oh faint of heart, High Tide isn't for everyone. But for those deep fans of hard psychedelia mixed with blistering Sabbath riffs, blues and prog metal, give it a try. Pop it into your player and listen as the gates of Hades open before you.


Buy here: Sea Shanties

Monday, April 28, 2008

Farflung - A Wound in Eternity

Hop aboard the Great Space Coaster, y’all! Yeah, you’re about to go on a journey through the cosmos of inner and outer space. The conductors of this train? Farflung. Part human, part alien, and all right!
This one took me by surprise because it started off as what sounded as your average punk thing, but then something magical happened. These punkers decided to take their music to another dimension (enter bitchin’ Rod Serling voice) and weave an intricate pattern of sight and sound that tickles the back of the eye. On A Wound in Eternity two genres that were never intended to mix, punk rock and prog-rock, collide with enough force to shift the space / time continuum. Progressive punk rock? Work with me on this, people . . . musicians who work more than three chords into a song and then blast you with wave after wave of delay drenched feedback. Spacey and droney, and all kinds of good fun!

Opening track “Unborn Plant” and it’s follow up, “Endless Drift Wreck,” lead off the disc with all of the urgency of classic alt-punk, but interestingly enough, they didn’t follow the path of lemmings and looked within to create a more spaced out sound. Layers of guitar textures build the sonic landscape, enriching the classic punk sounds with a fresh perspective. The vocals drone in the background and then leap to the front of the mix, spitting a verbal assault on par with your Johnny Rotten’s or Iggy Pop’s. And then, something truly remarkable happens . . . the guitar synths take off and create a wave all warm and aglow around us happy listeners. It’s as if they hollered at us to the point of tears, and then wrapped their big ole meaty arms around us to comfort us past the pain. Pure brilliance!

By the third track, A Wound in Eternity, in a trippy Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey kind of way, cuts the umbilical hose as we’re taking a space walk. Drifting helplessly through the tail of a passing comet, or staring head long into a swirling multicolored starry orgasm of a nebula, we become entranced and, thusly, lost within our thoughts. “Like it Never Has Been,” “IX,” “Silver Shrooms,” and “Precognition” best capture this space walk to infinity (and beyond!) at it’s psychedelic best.

After spinning the disc for more than a week straight, I think I’ve begun to truly understand the brilliance of this work. I’ve found myself rocking in time with the agro-distorted groove of the punk offerings, then suddenly find myself floating through the ether as the band shifts to a more ambient swell. It’s easy to get lost in a semi-meditative state as the tunes coarse through us. A bit droning at times, but never being deterrent. Not virtuosic enough to be truly categorized as prog, but spacey enough, and so far left from center, to ever be considered straight up punk. Farflung and A Wound in Eternity, thankfully, defy categorization to the point that they’ll probably unwittingly create their own sub-genre. The album is cosmic spacecraft that will take you to heights unimagined and if you’re not careful, could leave you floating there all alone. I’ve got my ticket . . . how about you? - Pope JTE

Buy here: A Wound in Eternity

Friday, April 25, 2008

Buckcherry - 15

. . . and then they were back.

After a four year absence, a reformed Buckcherry rages back to the forefront of rock, brandishing their fiery brand of raucous, take-no-prisoners while you fuck-your-brains-out sleaze and roll. Don't forget that this is the band that was once handed the mantle of the new Gun's and Roses after Axl steered that band clear off the rock and roll highway and straight into the trash dump. Believe me, Buckcherry knows this and they relish it, living up to these lofty standards, bringing on a mini-garage/metal, raid-the whorehouse classic, all delivered with Buckcherry's middle finger firmly shoved up the world's collective ass.

While the band has changed, Josh Todd and guitarist Keith Nelson now adding three new members on drums, bass and guitar, collectively, the group sound invigorated and as nasty as ever. This is sneering, snotty-faced street punk, hyped up and glammed-up with a hefty dose of chops and attitude. Josh Todd wastes no time declaring his return, "So Far," blasts 15 off, fierce hard rock chewed up and spit out in the face of all the critics or naysayers who doubted the authenticity of the band's revival. "I didn't do it for money/I did all it for free/I did it all to fill the fucking hole inside of me." One listen to the passion bursting out of the band, and there's no denying it. These guys live rock and roll. Todd's voice is in fine form, if anything, sounding more textured than before. When he digs down into his throat tearing screams, you can hear each individual cell peeling off his vocal chords.

"Next to you," (see video) slams the band back into the garage, tearing out a classic sleazy, totally infectious riff over a pounding beat while Todd states his damned determination to get deep inside some lucky lady's chastity belt. Once the lyrics dig in, you realize, as with all the best sleaze bands, Todd's desire to get a little "play" is more than a passing fancy, its a damn obsession. His determination to get laid factors into almost half the songs. Not that that's a bad thing mind you. We all have our goals in life.

Then, just when you think you've got the flavor of the album summed up, the boys aren't afraid to mix it up, throwing in a few new ingredients. "Out of Line," is full-on alterna-rock, shimmering, stuttering guitars hiding under the pile-driving, AC/DC chord progression and thundering 4/4 beat. Todd's voice shows greater depth and range than anywhere else on the album, ranging between downright subtle and (dare I say, it?) beautiful to esophagus shredding punk wailing. No matter how you slice it, this track is a stand out.

"Everything," follows suit, building on a U2-esque guitar opener to launch into a soaring, arena pleasing chorus demonstrating some hefty maturation for the boys in terms of songwriting and craft. After the pleasing and intensely melodic power ballads, "Carousel," and "Sorry," the boys rush back with another ode to Todd's penis, the freakishly, swirling rock of "Crazy Bitch," (see video). Powering over the dual guitar interplay of full-on rock and scattering funk, Todd wins this year's Ripple award for the least romantic lyric recorded. "Hey! You're a crazy bitch but you fuck so good I'm on top of it." Somehow, for Todd it works, but you should've seen the fists start flying when I tried to use it as an opening line in the pub last night.

Rather than stuttering to a close, quality rockers like "Onset," and "Sunshine," the down-home, rising out of the Mississippi muck swamp rock of "Brooklyn," and the devastatingly powerful closer "Broken Glass," keep the passion raging all the way to the end, a fricking jism fest of pounding rock.

In the end, Buckcherry prove with 15 that they can out-motley the Crue boys at their own game of living-on-the-edge rock and roll. And if that statement sounds a little too grand, just check them out for yourselves. We've just been informed by the fine folks at Rock Ridge Music, that Buckcherry will be teamed up with the Crue, leaving their splattered stains across the nation in Motley's first ever annual summer festival, Cruefest '08, hitting 40 cities across the good ol' US of A this summer. Along with Papa Roach and Trapt, this is going to be one freaking tattooed, rock and roll sleaze fest that no warm blooded American would ever want to miss. God bless 'em.


Buy here: 15

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sugartooth - Sugartooth

It wasn’t until very recently that I found myself remembering the joy of hearing the needle drop into a groove of a record before the music started playing. At first, I thought that it was sheer nostalgia but now I realize that it was the expectation, the coming of the sound that I was in secret giddy delight over. Certainly the “white noise” that ramped up to Immigrants Song on Led Zeppelin III was almost a furthering of that.

So it is hard to get the same visceral thrill from CDs or MP3s, at least in the same way. I no longer appreciate the beauty of the perfectly organized side one and two in the same way, since you used to have that forced intermission in the sonic storytelling.

And then there is Sugartooth.

Yes, badass, motherfin’ Sugartooth who single handedly came along and became the band that your mother thought Black Sabbath was. From the first power chord, to the 12 bar intro, to the heavy waves of sound that spill from your speaker, Sugartooth found the proverbial fountain of youth; not their youth, yours. Your mis-spent videogame playing, comic book reading, Playboy sneaking youth, getting hammered by the sound of "Paranoid" and "War Pigs," has led you straight to a band that understood everything that was cool and good about those songs and is feeding it right back to you in its beautiful sounding CD glory.

With riffs that sound as inevitable as powerful, "Sold My Fortune," clocks in at 4 minutes and 35 seconds and only takes about 35 seconds of those to make you feel 13 years old again. Locked my memories away, thoughts I keep by the door, no he’ll never run away, bought a gun to keep me warm Who cares what Mark Hutner’s singing about on "Barrel," once the guitar solo comes in you’re taken away. Joey Castillo is all over the album with drums that recall a less frenetic Stephen Perkins. "Cracks in the Pavement," lodges a chorus in your cortex that will likely be there when they do the autopsy. Well I slipped on the cracks in the pavement, never seen before, and I laughed in amazement, at the smile I wore

"Tuesday Morning," opens with two simple chords that, given the last three songs, drip with menace, because you know, YOU KNOW, that the loom presence of the band is only a few steps away Can’t save my mind, save my mind, can’t save my mind, can’t save what little's left And when they do come in, they are heavy and monolithic, but they never overplay their presence. If there is anything that Sugartooth does so right is to scramble all the things that work in this music and get the balance just right. The light and shade is all there, Led Zeppelin showed the way and even opened the door, but so many bands just won’t go in. “Sabbath with touch” might be a good description. "In Need," "Sheffeild Milestone," and "Gather Me," are all cut from the same great cloth.

"Leave My Soul To Rest," and "3rd Day To Forever," close out side one. Yes, I’m pretending that this is on vinyl so go with me. Leave my soul to rest, watch my body growing old, you may not wonder why is both an aching cry and powerful command before Hutner’s solo sells the whole point home. "3rd Day," smartly, is all acoustic, and the sound is a breath of air to the lungs. Silently I’ve been screaming, no one else understands, I feel nothing A better description of teenage years I’ve never heard.

"Black Queen," opens up side two in a frenetic blast where Castillo shines bright on the drums with time and tempo changes, but the second side is a quieter side as well. "Between the Illness," is reflective, while "Sound of Her Laughter," brings things to a close with quiet beauty.

Nancy Reagan take note: there is a reason that the CD cover has a picture of the two hemispheres: this is your brain on Sugartooth.

- the fearless rock iguana

Buy here: Sugartooth

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rumors Heard in Myspace, Episode 3

Hey, hey Waveriders! Welcome to the third installment of all that I’ve heard during my journeys through Myspace. There’s quite a bit going on out there, so grab your cup of java, sit back, and read on.

We heard from reliable sources that the Melloboat Festival put together by the wonderful people at Mellotronen, and held over the weekend of March 8th & 9th, was a successful endeavor. Remember, this was the floating music festival that featured the fabulous talents of Opeth, Katatonia, Trettioariga Kriget, Anekdoten, Leaf Hound, Bo Hansson, and the legendary Comus, to just name a few. Hopefully, they’ll be able to it all again next year, and even more hopefully, The Ripple Effect will see fit to send this music starved writer to cover the event for a field report.

In the last episode, I mentioned that Kataklysm’s new album was set for release in May, and now the Northern Hyperblasters have accommodated their fans with a sneak preview by posting the new track, “The Chains of Power.” It’s positively brutal!

Mos Generator are taking their fuzzed out stoner vibe and hitting the European highways through the month of April. You lucky Euro fans, you! They’ll be returning to the states in May . . . not sure if they’re planning any more gigs for later this year. But as soon as I hear something, well . . . I’ll let you know.

There are a couple of quality releases floating around out there that we’d like to point out. First, for those of you who love to rock, but also want something that will get you moving on the dancefloor, bop on over to and dig on the Red i Clan's electronic blend of Korn style metal, hyped up with jungle/bass'n'drum beats. To celebrate the release of their debut album, Killohead, the Red i Clan boys are offering free downloads of their first dancefloor/metal single, "Jack the Sound." While you're there, check out the other songs on offer, "Arsenal," and "Superstar." They’ve already made the big leap from the Killohead CD to the Ripple ipod, which says a lot for where we value these guys. Talent to burn. We're expecting big things from them in the future.

The second is from the lovely and talented Tiffany Apan. After being yelled at by countless metalheads, it was refreshing to listen to her rich vocals as she soothed us to a sweet come down. Her album, Poet, is a vocal driven disc that flutters around the “beauty and beast” style of symphonic metal, but never becomes as bombastic as that genre can get. Magical and uplifting, this album will do nothing but enrich your spirit.

Speaking of spirit enriching music, word has it that The Dooberies are writing for their second album. Word in cyberspace has it that there is going to be more guitar and less harmonica than on Omens. As long as lead vocalist Georgie Butt is writing the way she did on the previous effort, it should be another enlightening piece of music.

The CD release party for Braintoy’s first full length album was held on April 2nd and from what we've heard from The Braintoy boys, it was a massive success, filled with tons of Braintoy fans, here and forever after to be known as "Brainheads." If you haven’t picked up a copy of Vehicles yet, you’re being silly. We’ve been hyping the hell out of it, and we’re being told that we’re not hyping it enough. See? Go on, get outta’ here and buy it already!

Word has come down for the soundscape artists, Dream Aria, that their new album is nearing completion. We don’t have a release date yet, so hold onto your magic carpet. You’ll know as soon as we do.

Experimental black metallers, Enslaved are in the process of mixing their next album and it should be ready for our ears near October. Hee hee . . . that’s an exciting tidbit! These guys are getting better with every album, so this next one oughta’ be awesome.

One last heads up for ya'll is the fine acoustic, soul-flavored pop coming to us from Ron Greene. His new album, Sketches has just been released and its a pleasing blend of acoustics and his deep rich voice. The overall sound reminds me of artists like Jeffrey Gaines or one of my favorites, Roachford. Most of the songs are inspiring, uplifting and just downright beautiful. Check it out at

Finally, Racer and I want to take a couple of minutes to thank you, the readers, the Waveriders, the bands, blogs, and labels for your continued support. We do The Ripple Effect because we love music, and we have fun sharing the music that makes us happy. The end of April will have seen The Ripple up and running, officially, for six months, and we’re blown away by the response from y’all. Thank you for being a part of our lives and allowing us to be a part of yours.

Best successes!
Pope JTE and Racer X

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Automatic - Not Accepted Anywhere

I know exactly when it happened.

There I was, after a busy day working for you, oh loyal reader, digging through the mountainous stacks of CD's that cover every square inch of floor space here at the Ripple office. From the middle of a random pile, I pulled out the promo copy of The Automatic's debut album, Not Accepted Anywhere.

Now, unbeknown to me, The Automatic, hailing from Wales, were all the shit in the U.K. (the guys are known by the ungainly mouthful of the Automatic Automatic here in the States and Canada.) Apparently they stormed up the charts in 2006 and ripped apart all the festivals during that wacky summer festival season that the brits do so well. But here, in the good old U.S. of A., if there was an Automatic furor, I missed it on my way to Starbucks.

So, in popped Not Accepted Anywhere, with absolutely no expectations. The first track, "That's What She Said," started pleasantly enough, a few tightly plucked electric guitar notes followed by an explosive flurry of vocals; a nicely rough-hewed lead vocal and a rather bizarre high-pitched ghosting vocal that sounded astonishingly like a young child stuck in a well. Not bad, kinda funky, a little different.

And then it happened.

55 seconds into that first track, I fell in love. Riding on the massive crescendo of punk guitar, vocals and noise that raged to the full-on shouting chorus, suddenly it all dropped out. What I was left with was a perfectly pitched solo bass throbbing out a few low slung notes before it dropped right into a downright funky-ass electropunk riff with sychizophrenic schisms of guitar slicing through that throbbing heartbeat of a bassline. Beautiful.

You see, one thing that's been lost in the post-Joy Division worship of '80's revisionists like Interpol, Snow Patrol and Bloc Party (as good as those bands are) is that not all post punk was dark and sombre, brooding and intense. Back then, we liked to rage and party as much as any other generation, we just liked our music to do it with an edge. Forget the mindless trance, we wanted punk energy and we wanted it dark and we wanted it funky and we wanted it fun. And that's what the Automatic figured out. For every Joy Division there was a Gang of Four. For every Bauhaus there was a Killing Joke. We had apb. Music that still carried that post-punk, this-is-a-whole-new-world vibe, but did it with a funky bass and filled the dance floor.

"Recover," the fourth track, encapsulates this ethic perfectly. Riding a fantastic post-punk bass vibe, directly inherited from Dave Allen, this is Gang of Four for the new millenium. This is their "I Love a Man in Uniform," an angular, stabbing slab of funk with an unforgettable call and response chorus. If these guys had been around when I was DJ'ing at KSPC, this would've been my signature song, played at the beginning of each show to wake the listener's ears the fuck up, warn them that something hard and heavy was coming their way and it's time to get their ass in gear. Once again, check out the composition at the 50 second mark. After riding that electroshock bassline with the guitar sitting on top, it suddenly drops out for the second verse, leaving the guitar to pick out the skeleton over the barebones drumming and vocals, finally scratching out the verse. Then the bass comes roaring back, stuttering through a counter bass line. Subtle, but fucking effective. My only complaint is that at 2:53, the song is way to short, ending just when it should be tearing off to orbit. Someone give me an 8 minute remix and I'll be in postpunk funk heaven.

"Monster," lives up to its billing as a monster of a tune. Starting with shimmering guitars and a high-picked bass, the song is more reminiscent of The Sound than Joy Division. But then it all erupts in a jet-fuel explosion of roaring punk guitar raging into the undeniably catchy chorus. While I have no idea what they're singing about, when they cry out, "what's that coming over the hill/is it a monster/is it a monster?" the chorus stuck in my head like bubblegum stuck to my brain. "Raoul," another hit in the U.K., follows suit, a rampaging stunt of funk fueled with quirky punk energy and prodigious pop hooks.

Is Not Accepted Anywhere a perfect album? Well, no. Some of the songs get repetitive and I still haven't decided if that ghosting high-pitched, kid-stuck-in-the-well vocal is an interesting, unique twist or an annoying contrivance. I'm sure many fans debate this point. But in the end, it doesn't detract from the fact that these Welsh lads got some serious chops and a load of talent. Let's give the guys some time to mature and develop, see where they want to go with their sound. Not just anyone could bring back that throbbing punk funk of Gang of Four, and the Automatic do it without ever looking back. I understand that they're in the studio right now, finishing up their new disc. We here at the Ripple can't wait to hear it. If they can build on the masterful work they poured out on "Recover," and "Monster," there will be a hell of a lot of pogo dancing bouncing on dance floors across the U.K. And the world.


Buy here: Not Accepted Anywhere

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Article A - Stay Now

What a cool album!

I’m excited about this one because, quite honestly, I didn’t expect much. I didn’t expect much because I’m not generally a fan of the power pop genre. And with that, Article A may have just exposed me for the ignorant swat that I am.

Stay Now is the debut album from this power pop, pop punk outfit from New Jersey, and if they can carry the strength of this album into their future offerings, Article A may very well blossom into a household name. The songs are infectious, melodic pieces of art that make it almost sound fun to have ones heart broken.

The lead track, “What’s the Point?” is one of those songs that’s destined to be on the radio. It opens with a fuzzed out guitar riff and the vocals have that kind of punked out vibe before they simply soar through the chorus. If you’re not bouncing along to this song and singing along at the chorus, then odds are you have no soul. Yes. You are a soulless child of the dark if the springs in your ass don’t have you bopping along with the rhythm of this tune. Should be a chart topper if people will take a moment or two listen with open ears.

The rest of the tracks range from poppy punk out bursts to sentimental mid tempo ditties, but what they all have in common is melody for days. Go ahead and let yourself go. Sway to the groove of “My Dedication” and “Find A Way.” Both tracks will have those hips moving back and forth, gyrating in a manner that you never thought you had in you. “Oh Yeah” and “My Way Back” have a more aggressive, up tempo punk vibe going on, but ultimately comes back to great multi-layered vocal harmonies at the chorus.

“When You’re Gone” is the closest thing that Stay Now offers as a ballad. Just as we’re thinking that we’re going to be cried to sleep, the boys of Article A throw in another great hook at the chorus. These guys are damn good songwriters, and I stand by my earlier statement, in that these guys could have the same successful careers as recent blockbuster hit makers like Matchbox 20, or the more entrenched veteran acts like U2. Along with the solid songwriting, these guys are good musicians. The vocals are sentimental without being sappy. The guitar and bass work in conjunction with each other and add their own textures. The drums pop as if they were tiny firecrackers in my speakers. The performances on this disc are damn near flawless. How much of that has to do with production editing is beyond me, and quite frankly, something I don’t care too much about. The music sounds good . . . the music moves me . . . that’s really all that matters.

Stay Now is a fun listen and deserves the attention of more people than just me and the bands friends. It very well could sit on the top of the charts with it’s catchy, non-vanilla blend of rock. Real music being written and performed by real musicians. What a novel concept! Thanks for a fun listen, guys! - Pope JTE

Buy here: Stay Now

Monday, April 14, 2008

Cortina - Been a Long Time

Sometimes, you just gotta chill.

Every once in while, life just seems to catch up with you. Know what I mean? The job, the bills, school, the family. Whatever. Sometimes it all just seems like a little too much to handle.

When that mood overcomes me, which (thankfully, isn't very often) what I like to do is jump in my Ripple mobile, a'67 Ghia convertible, drop the top, pull out of our grand office parking lot and head on down to my favorite stretch of beach just south of Del Mar. Somehow, when the sun is shinning on your shiny bald head, the waves crashing a mini-symphony to your side and open road up ahead, it all just falls back into perspective.

Of course, for a journey of release and rediscovery, you gotta have the perfect soundtrack. And more often than not recently, that soundtrack has been provided by my favorite Norwegian purveyors of classic Americana, Cortina, and their debut disc, Been a Long Time.

Now if the sound of Norwegian Americana stumbles off your tongue as gracefully as Mike Tyson dancing Swan Lake, take a moment and catch your breath. These guys know what their doing. Alternately, haunting and moving, other times soaring and inspiring, Cortina have been kicking around in their native land for over 6 years, plucking out their acoustic guitars, adding in some stand-up bass, and the occasional piano and desperate violin. Think of them as the Norse Eagles back before the Eagles lost their country roots. The Viking Crosby, Stills and Nash.

"Been a Long Time," starts this affair off with an upbeat, jaunty tune, perfectly created for that seaside drive. In fact, the lyrics even start off with a hopeful "The sun is shining/It's a lovely day," followed with some delicate country guitar picking. But honestly, for me the album really picks up with the second track. "Falling Star," is a mournful, soul-filled song of longing and wishfullness. Paul Hansen's vocals soar over the melancholy, at times sounding astonishingly like a young Van Morrison. The chorus soars and falls like clouds floating across the sky.

"Here I Stand," comes back a victorious, I'll-be-back song, celebrating the perseverance of the human spirit to rise after one too many knock downs. Gentle violin and harmonica add texture without being overpowering, lilting behind the acoustic strumming and occasional slide guitar. For me, this song takes me back to Laurel Canyon in the mid 70's when American roots-pop purveyors were digging communal living and feeding off each other in a creative feast of energy. I don't know exactly where Laurel Canyon is in Norway. Perhaps the boys will show me some day.

"Lift Me Up," tells just the opposite tale, a desperate plea for help when you life is "fading day by day." Spiritual uplifting, and beautiful in its melody, sometimes we all just need that little extra boost to make it through. " The standout track of the disc though is definitely "Don't Leave Me." Check it out on the band's myspace page. Starting off with an absolutely haunting violin line mourning over a delicately picked guitar intro, "Don't Leave Me," blends into a begging tale of lost love and betrayal of the heart. A perfect song to accompany your morning coffee. For me, this is when I climb out of the Ghia, perch myself on the door frame and face the west, watching the sun slowly drop into the ocean beyond.

In the end, Been a Long Time is a beautiful, easy listen in mostly melancholy Americana with the odd glimpe of a bountiful and hopeful future. Some of these ballads hold up against the best of the bands I mentioned before. At times, I feel the songs could use a little more variety in pacing and mood, but there's no denying the craft. These fierce Vikings have dropped their battle axes, picked up the harmonica and violin and found their own salvation deep in the heartland of America. Try it for your next chillout trip. You won't be disappointed.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Sixth - For Hate and Heritage

I remember when I started listening to metal, it was well before the speed metal of Slayer and the Bay area thrash sounds of Metallica. Iron Maiden had been around for awhile, Judas Preist were becoming living legends, Dio was singing about the stripes on a tiger being clean and then having the audacity to ask if we knew what he meant. To this day . . . I still have no idea what he means.

But, I digress . . . metal has changed some from those glory days of leather clad, long haired men clammoring on of demons and dragons. No longer are these guys looking like a bunch of biker gang rejects with a flair for fashion accessories and well groomed manes. Today, we have guys who look like guys . . . except that most are pierced like a hooked flounder. The tattoos are much more apparent as well. What hasn’t changed though, is the attitude. Metal still sounds mean and conveys the frustrations of the working class male. And The Sixth? Well, they convey that attitude and frustration about as well as anybody.

“Concussion Wave” opens For Hate and Heritage with the subtlety of being repeatedly impaled in the forehead with a prison shiv. Heavy, grinding, and aggessive, The Sixth hammer away at the senses with a mid tempo assault on the senses. Tempered with some guitar virtuosity, the overall sound of the tune is an over powering ode to fighting for ones self. The theme carries on through the second track, “Let the Blood Flow.” Again, we’re treated to some nifty guitar work at the solo. No outrageous noodling . . . just a simple, melodic barrage of notes that do more for the song than scales played so damn fast that the notes get lost. I believe the word I’m looking for is “tasteful.”

“Thief” was the first song that I heard from these guys, and it grabbed my attention enough to give For Hate and Heritage a full spin. That full spin turned into a good week or so of constant rotation before I set to the task of recording my thoughts. It’s a heavy groove track calling out those who simply leach off of the good natures of others. Great break downs that flow back into the main groove . . . yeah, this will get the bodies moving and keep them moving. The same can be said for “Poison in the Water.” The beat propels the listener into a head bobbing frenzy while the vocals of Joe Rodriguez convey the frustrations of not meeting up to expectations. When those expectaions are raised so damn high that we’re set up for failure, yeah . . . it’s fucking frustrating! I’m feelin’ it . . . solid work!

“A Fate Unfortunate” offers a bit of a change in course, in that Rodriguez sets his guttural vocal work aside for a more melodic approach at the chorus. It’s a welcome change. Let’s face it . . . I’m too old to handle someone yelling at me for an hour. I need to be soothed once in awhile, get myself relaxed a bit, then when I’m yelled at again . . . well, it has more impact. It’s that kind of dynamic shift that keeps metal interesting and allows it to grow. And it goes the other way as well. Take the following track, “Needle Point Hemorrhage”, for instance. Rather than going down a more melodic path, Rodriguez takes it the opposite direction and belts out one of the most horrific screams this side of the black metal genre. This approach works well with his normal diaphragm shuddering vocal style.

For Hate and Heritage is a good metal album. Though not terribly diverse stylistically, it warrants some attention because it’s a good representation of metal aggressiveness and captures the tensions of the misunderstood youth. The world’s an ugly place these days, and The Sixth are simply expressing the pent up dissatisfaction and hopelessness that seems to surround them. We feel ya’, brothers . . . we fell ya’. And really, that’s all we at The Ripple Effect ask . . . move us with your expression. Don’t make us scratch our heads pondering the cleanliness of a tigers stripes. At the end of the day, that just makes us feel stupid. - Pope JTE

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Max Webster - Universal Juveniles

I can't help it. I'm fascinated with madness.

And it seems that every decade has it own; some whacked out mad genius whose brain has been wiped clean by some grey-matter devastating tsunami. A victim of too many free rides on the acid express.

But it's not just loonies were talking about. The world is full of those. No, these mad souls have prodigious talent, mad geniuses of instrument, voice and melody, and they're so far left of center that the whole fricking see-saw is in free fall.

From the 2000's, it's Buckethead (unless you believe wearing a KFC bucket on your head and believing your parents are chickens is normal). The 90's had that wacky genius of bass, Les Claypool and the Primus funksters. The 80's had the master-fried druid, Julian Cope. And for the seventies, while a case could certainly be made for Arthur Lee and his band Love, I'll nominate the loony prog rock of guitarist Kim Mitchell and his creation, Max Webster.

In particular, we're going to talk about Unviversal Juveniles, a beautiful encapsulation of the heaviness, progness and weirdness that came from the fertile minds of these Cannuck madmen. Try to get past the cover, with Mitchell's scarecrow body draped in the full-length yellow spandex bodysuit and dare if you will to venture into the far north of whacked-out rock.

But again, it's not just the madness that appeals to me, but the mixing of that not quite operating on normal speed brain with this freaking Mount Rushmore of talent. Just plop the disc in and dash right into "In the World of Giants," and the frenzied schizophrenic rush of guitar shredding that rips across the intro. The guy can play. Mitchell was in league with Yngwie Malmsteen while Yngwie was still learning how to hold a guitar pick. But what makes Max Webster so freakishly fun was their ability to sculpt Mitchell's mountain of craziness into some absolutely devastating heavy albums with layers of prog exploration and massive pop accessibility. Mitchell's shredding is firmly rooted in and around the melody and "In the World of Giants" is a giant of a song. Through it all, Mitchell's voice wails and grunts but is actually much more traditional than you might think by the oddball lyrics, usually contributed by lyricist Pye Dubois.

"Check" launches off the soundcheck intro, all 70's stadium metal, piercing leads, feedback and harmonics, with the rhythm section pounding away like mad accomplishes to Mitchell's escape from institutionalization. When Mitchell bellows out the lyrics, "You better bet/ that what you hear/ is what you hear," there's just no denying it. Thanks Kim for clarifying that for me.

"April in Toledo," with its funk/rock bass riff, changes pace just enough for a brief cool-down and contains the all time classic lyric of romantic distress, "She's hiding out at Lake Louise/Says she's taking a break from my face." "Juveniles Don't Stop," roars back the metal with the harmonic guitar lines and Mitchell's call for teenage rebellion. "There's no harm in leaving your mind wide open," Mitchell sings. "You're not the first to get it in the rear/Oh, we want to rock/so blow it out your ear."----um, yeah. Maybe the mind shouldn't be quite so wide open, Kim.

The centerpiece of the album is without a doubt "Battle Scar," a monumental, sci-fi rebellion epic. With a war drum beat pounding out the cry to arms, Max Webster teamed up with their long-time friends and 70's touring mates, Rush to take on this tale of a futuristic prison/slave camp revolt. And when I say Rush, I mean the whole band teamed up, as in two guitarists, two bass players and two drummers to plow through this riot of a song. After a dual lead bass intro, Mitchell and Geddy Lee team up to trade off vocal parts, and its immediately clear how much chemistry these two Canadian bands had developed over the years, and how much damn fun they had recording together. Far from simply phoning in his vocals, Geddy digs deep and belts out one of his all-time great vocal performances, his voice squeaking and shrieking with more passion than found on some of his own songs.

While the second half of the album does slow down a bit, quality songs like "Chalkers," with its funk vibe and the pop hooks of "Drive and Desire," keep the energy flowing clear to the end.

Universal Juveniles is a lost classic, a freakishly fun, oddball of an album of 70's metal and prog from one of the world's great lost madmen. With the hovering shadow of corporate rock hanging heavier than ever over the music industry, songs created only for the twenty second ringtone download, we could sure use Mitchell's unique brand of weirdness right now to wipe away the sterility of rock and bring back some long lost creativity.

Kim, where are you, my man? You've got a whole new generation of juveniles to lead on your freakish rebellion. Their minds are wide open and waiting.

What you hear is what you hear, indeed. Amen.


Buy here: Universal Juveniles

Kim Mitchell -

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Waking - Blue Screen

The day I first played Blue Screen from The Waking, I immediately felt like I flew back in time and landed face first in the middle of a pit. Boots, missing my head by mere inches, stomp in time. A sea of humanity writhing past my mortal form. My mind fighting off the first pangs of fear, for I knew that with inaction came termination. My only savior being the rush of adrenalin I needed to push myself to my feet and blend with the rolling ocean of flailing limbs.

Happy days are here again!

Equal parts hardcore to metal, The Waking make the call to pretty much every right wing idealist to pack up their wagons and set off on an interplanetary migration. Through a wall of metal muscle, vocalist Mike Wooly, in fine hardcore fashion, fires off a diatribe on the wrongs of the world. The title track, “Sorry”, and “Diseased and Denied” are good examples of the socio/political lyrics that ought to have you stop and think a moment or two before you hop back in the mix and deliver a forearm shiver to your dance partner. As much as I’d like to pour some gravel down his throat to roughen things up, Wooly’s voice works well to convey the passion of his convictions.

“My Last Call” and “Bleeding Principle” have great energy and just the right dose of dynamics to make the intensity last over multiple listens. Great hook at the chorus of “Bleeding Principle” . . . you should find yourself unconsciously singing it in the middle of the day. In fact, there are a few times throughout Blue Screen that the band utilize vocal harmonies, which always makes for a good sing along in the work place. At times, they’re off key, but in a hardcore manner of speaking, that off key howling works. Their street cred would be destroyed if they sounded too pretty!

“Souls at Zero” is a bit reminiscient of A Perfect Circle with some damn dark lyrics. Fantasy or all-too-reality, it doesn’t really matter. The lyrical imagery is vivid and compelling, and ultimately had chills running up my spine. I’m not gonna’ give away the theme of this one . . . you need to hear for yourself.

Along with “Bleeding Principle”, “Blue Screen” is one of the highlights from the disc. It’s a cry out for everybody to wake the fuck up and stop taking the information that’s being fed to us as the be all, end all answer to everything. We, as an intelligent species, need to make informed decisions that are our own rather than following the popular view, or that which is being forced on us. Remember: the media is going to tell you to do something based on the beliefs of those who are stuffing the media owners pockets full of cash. Think responsibly!

This public service announcement was brought to you by the folks in The Waking.

And, as all of the social commentary is going on, the rest of the band are relentlessly kicking out the jams. A little double bass drum action here and there, classic metal riffdom, and some dynamic breaks give credence to their metal background, but it’s all tempered with that streetwise hardcore simplicity and sensibility. At moments, The Waking are simply pummeling you with a wall of sound, and then suddenly corral the noise into a tight space of musicality. “The Forgotten” is a good example of the juxtaposed moods.

Interestingly enough, besides Ryan McGuire, one of the executive producers on Blue Screen is Louis Svitek, who was at one time the guitarist for Mind Funk, Ministry, and M.O.D. with Billy Milano (S.O.D.) Not all at the same moment . . . only Warren Haynes can be in sixty bands at any given time and that’s only because he’s from another planet all together. Blue Screen was released on Wuli Records and is readily available by following those nifty little links at the end of the review . . . so, surf away, Waveriders. And if you find anything cool . . . don’t bogart all the goods! - Pope JTE

Friday, April 4, 2008

Jane's Addiction - Trip Away 11/25/88

Note – with the advent of the digital age: data can be endlessly copied without generational loss, and freely traded via database sites, “blanks and postage”, torrent sites et al, the bootleg is hardly the domain of the shady audiojunkie these days. Readily available if one knows where to look, the fearless rock iguana believes it is worth reviewing performances that, while in the grey area, should be, must be heard by fans of the band/artist.

It all begins with a dreamy “Oh Yeah” from the mike in Perry Farrell’s hand, in a few seconds the band slides into the song "Kettle Whistle," a song that while a staple of certain tours, would not show up on an official Jane’s release until 1997. Jane’s Addiction – Trip Away live at the Cabaret Metro, Chicago 11/25/88 was captured by a legendary taper, and sounds better than some of the soundboards from the same era. Best, it captures Jane’s, the legendary incendiary foursome that helped to made rock dangerous again, on a cohesive night.

"Obvious" flows organically from Perkins tribal drumming, and the band rides the beat through the whole song. It sounds so much more organic, while technically not that different, from the version of Ritual de lo Habitual. "Whores" puts us front and center with Perry, even as it is led by Eric Avery’s great bass, as he sings "Way down low where the streets are littered, I find my fun with the freaks and the niggers." Should we make more of it, Perry starts the song with the exhortation, “Take me home!” As Dave Navarro launches into an early solo, you might find yourself wanting to move over to his side of the stage. His playing is solid and tasteful, his tone beautiful.

"Ted, Just Admit it," about serial killer Ted Bundy, has a trancy menace to it that equals the fury that was captured on the Nothings Shocking album. With Perkins drums high in the sound, "Standing in the shower… Thinking" and the amazing "Had A Dad" take on a more percussive and tribal feel. Dave’s guitar gets cranked up for the waves of power chords on the astonishing "Had A Dad" here. Its one of the highlights of the night in a night of great performances. Even Perry takes a backseat to the powerhouse drumming of Steven Perkins before pronouncing "God is Dead”. Only on the Bob Dylan/Bauhaus cover "Bobhause" would I have gone looking for another beer or two to spill.

"Ocean Size" has all the dynamics from the album opener but has a jazzier feel on the breakdowns in the middle, making hearing them a delight for someone who has heard the original a hundred times: now you can find something new in this version to pick. "I Would For You" has a quiet beauty even in a club, and certainly brings the crowd in for a collective lighter lift and group hug. Which is why it makes the crash of "Ocean Size" all the more like a one ton wall of water.

"Trip Away," never officially recorded, is tight and powerful, and even at the end of the show, you can imagine why sometimes the band would open with it. It carries the Jane’s blueprint: tight rhythm to open, and trancy middle that leads to a breakneck Navarro solo and Perry’s scat singing before careening back into the chorus. Followed up by the sledgehammer "Mountain Song" one can only imagine the patrons walking out of the club looking like they had been hit by the band of the century. In the post-Zeppelin universe, maybe they had.

Ending with the jam "Chip Away"as the encore, my copy of the show has demos for "Had A Dad" and "Pigs in Zen" that would have been pre-Nothing's Shocking recordings. Not as polished or as well recorded, they provide a great glimpse into what got them their Warner contract.

- the fearless rock iguana

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Hellacopters - Rock and Roll is Dead

Time for a road trip.

Nothing like it is there? Horsepower under the hood, the open road up ahead. No time pressure, no bosses or deadlines. Just that distant horizon line beckoning you on like a freaking siren, speeding down the highway like a 21st century vagabond.

All you need is that perfect soundtrack. And the Hellacopters are here to comply.

Any one who's a fan of modern garage rock, tossed in with a heaping dose of punk energy and a bucketload of melody will already be familiar with The Hellacopters and their version of a modern day MC5 meets the Stooges. They're huge in Europe, especially their native Sweden where they started off as a side-project for members of Entombed and the Backyard Babies. But if you think you know all that these guys are about, you may be in for a surprise. They still have a few cards hidden up their collective sleeve. After ironically naming their album "Rock and Roll is Dead,"(real irony, not the Alanis Morissette moronic definition of irony) The Hellacopters go on for the next 40 or so minutes to prove that they were wrong.

This album is a road trip in and of itself, an excursion through the detritus of rock and roll, searching for that which hasn't been bastardized, commercialized beyond recognition and prostituted to the ad agencies. The aptly titled "Before the Fall," starts off with a distorted Chuck Berry riff, recalling that long lost time when rock music was energized, fresh and dangerous, long before the corporate bald-heads got their greedy hands onto it. After the intro, the song explodes into a full on punk frenzy, powering through with dynamic energy and vitality. This is balls out, foot to the pedal rock and roll, just what we need to get our heads clear as he strike out onto the road.

The road trip continues through the forgotten lands of diverse musical styles. Look out your window to your left. "Everything's on TV," blasts out, all swaggering street punk/garage rock and riff heavy with lyrics that are so firmly tongue planted in cheek it would take surgical resection to remove them. Just check out the couplet, "No I don't need to go out/I just stay inside it doesn't bother me/I have all I need/ because everything's on TV," and you'll see their not so subtle observation of modern society.

Up ahead, lurking behind the skinny ties and boot pants you'll find "Monkey boy," classic power pop, bringing back the best of that glorious time when songs still punched with rock power brimming underneath sweet hummable melodies. This is the Knack done right. The Plimsouls roaring back to life. "No Angle to Lay Me Away," is my favorite track on this rock and roll road trip, laying down a shocking riff on top of shimmering Byrds-esque guitars. Classic 70's rock strutting right into that soaring chorus. The song is so infectious it makes the ebola virus look like the common cold. Guaranteed to seep directly into your skull where it'll embed itself forever into your grey matter. Play it loud. Play it often.

As our tour continues, "Bring it On Home," rages classic Ramones punk, three chords played at 100 mph. The road whisks by in a blur or roaring guitar, honky tonk piano and stuttering drums. Torn jeans flash by to your left, leather jackets to your right. Then, from out of nowhere, your Hellacopters mobile, veers hard at the junction, leading you down the classic Rolling Stones inspired "Leave it Alone." Slide guitars sound on top of a bluesy, funky rhythm track. The addition of female backing vocals takes us all back to our exile on mainstreet. Then "Murder on My Mind," chimes in, rekindling the classic power pop of yesteryear. With lyrics of potential homicide undermined by a sweet Beach Boys melody and a distinctly singable chorus, this is the Rubinoos on prison furlow. Squeeze on a work release program.

Turn the wheel and our road trip takes us past the Boston rocking of "I'm in the Band," (forever immortalized as a bonus song on Guitar Hero III) the Raspberries pop rock of "Put Out the Fire,"right to the Phil Spectre bubblegum punk of "I Might Come See You Tonight," all the way to the raving closer of "Time Got No Time To Wait For Me."

Now catch your breath. The road trip is complete. You've reached your destination. Rock and roll nirvana.

Sadly, word is that the Hellacopters have called it a day, victims of too much time on the very road they so effortlessly guided us down. Now, us folks at the Ripple just won't accept their resignation and we'll do everything in our power to rebuild this amazing rock and roll machine. Get them out to our garage festival with The Thieves and Mardo. They're far too essential to become just another lost band on the rock and roll highway.

So fire up your engines, boys. It's our turn to guide you back out to the freeway. We got lots more road trips to make.


Buy here: Rock & Roll Is Dead

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...