Sunday, February 21, 2010

Music from the Antipodes pt. 1

A fellow music-obsessive sent me an F150's worth of info, video, and infectious enthusiasm based on artists from New Zealand. I'm still wading through the joy, here's the first installment of many.

Dimmer is a band that features Shayne Carter, a fella who wrote great songs in Straitjacket Fits years ago...and I never knew what happened after that band imploded. Thanks, Dyan! Dimmer supposedly have some shows coming up in New York and LA, wish they'd come to my neck of the woods.

Dimmer - Cold Water (from 4th album Degrees of Existence)

Dimmer - Don't Even See Me

Something makes me think that this is a fan-created video, but the song shows a different side of the band, so here's Powerchord.

I'd say this one offers another view of the band, 'cos it's both live and a cover (of Machine Song by The Gordons).

One more live one for good measure, Drop You Off.

Straitjacket Fits - Down in Splendour

Straitjacket Fits - She Speeds

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Headbangers and Punks, Living in Harmony!?!

This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Hevy Metal and Punk by Steve Waksman. Published by University of California Press, 2009

It's not often you can read scholarly works on metal or punk; here you get both, as author Steve Waksman traces the origins of punk and metal cross-pollination and carries it through to the Lollapalooza that was termed Metalpalooza. Waksman is an Associate Professor of Music and American Studies at Smith College, and his take is often academic - sometimes too much so, such when explaining slamdancing:

"A seemingly chaotic act wherein dancers 'slammed' their bodies against each other, bouncing from one to the next, slam-dancing was in fact a highly ordered form of audience interaction. The crowd tended to move in a circle around a portion of the dance floor, known as the pit; as long as participants moved with the flow of the circle, they were likely to avoid significant harm."

That's all true, but it's kinda like singing about architecture, ain't it? Doesn't quite describe the frenzied energy, the heat, ripped clothes and bruises, and the andrenalin speeding through your veins and adding an extra pounding throughout your entire body as the music seems to be coming from everywhere.

Anyway, heavy metal seems to have become a genre it's cool or at least okay to like again these days. Bands like Mastodon make many critics' best-of lists, Stereogum debuts a serious metal column, and Sam Dunn's films Global Metal and Metal: A Headbanger's Journey both become popular and critically acclaimed. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that a serious scholastic analysis of crossover between metal and punk rates a 308-page book (well, 390 pages with index, bibliography, discography, and notes). But punk has always been more favoured by critics anyhow, as if punk was always more mature, or artier, more substantive, somehow more worthy, smelled better, looked better - even today, some people think Sid Vicious looks cool. Most of us don't think that spandex, athletic socks and a muscle shirt a la Steve Harris is cool. Do we?

So is Waksman a fan of both of those genres, or is he going to tell readers how great Iggy Pop was and make fun of metallic clothes and lyrics? Okay, he does tell us how great Iggy was, but he also recounts going to see artists such as Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Van Halen, The Scorpions, Helix, Whitesnake, Kiss, Bon Jovi, and Y & T, among others, in the mid-eighties, and he doesn't apologize for any of them. Well, boys and girls, I too went to see all of those bands in that approximate time period. Not all on purpose, I should admit - Bon Jovi and Y & T just happened to open for other bands, for example. But the idea that you should grow up and grow out of metal (an issue covered beautifully by Dunn's Headbanger's Journey) is something that I think a lot of people have encountered. I'm not going to say that I want to hear Whitesnake again, and when it comes down to it, classic rock radio has killed most popular metal for me. I'm also not going to get into what's "real heavy metal" and what isn't either, and neither does Waksman in his book. That's for another day.

But just because I began to broaden my horizons doesn't mean I started believing that all metal was for kids. The metal vs. punk argument may have been going on when I was a teenager, but I don't think I ever joined into that fray. Waksman recounts the amusing back-and-forth between Creem magazine readers as music junkies lined up on one side or the other. I don't know, I think I missed it. In the mid-eighties a kid gave me some D.O.A., Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, and Stretch Marks, so I thought that was punk. When older brother brought home The Dickies, I argued that it wasn't punk, it was just rock played at faster speeds.

When an acquaintance quit his metal cover band, shaved his head, and professed a love for punk, I talked him into going to see D.O.A. A lot of people seem to think that grunge killed off hair metal, but bands like D.O.A. shoved it out of the way as fas as I was concerned. Let's face it, Joey Shithead was more entertaining than anyone out there. Still is.

Without giving away too much, Waksman posits that there are way more links between metal and punk than most people have ever realized. It's a bit of a strange narrative, going from Grand Funk Railroad to Jane's Addiction, but there are certainly some original ideas put forth. The author offers Iggy and Alice Cooper as forerunners, hands up The Dictators and The Runaways as Exhibits A and B for a punk-metal crossover, trumpets Motorhead as furthering the cause, and throws down the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as another signpost. Here's a spot where Waksman allows a bit of humour to creep in. Waksman quotes Def Leppard's Rick Savage as respnding to why the band wasn't playing punk.

"Basically, it's just down to the fact that we're all fucking posers. We all want to go out onstage, pose, wear dinky white boots, tight trousers and have all the girls looking at our bollocks."

Waksman further delves into SST, Metal Blade and Sub Pop as growing a metal-punk cross-pollination. It's good read, if sometimes a little dry and technical for a non-musician such as myself, but certainly an interesting an original look at genr4es that were seemingly antithetical. Here's some videos of artists featured, I'll let you guess or get the book if you want to figure out how they fit in to Waksman's thesis.

The Dictators - (I Live For) Cars and Girls

The Dictators cover Search and Destroy circa 1977.

The Dictators - California Sun

A movie about The Runaways seemed unthinkable even in recent years, but maybe some have already read this book and agree that the band was a forerunner.

Runaways - School Days (after Cherie Currie left)

The book's cover was taken from this vid or a still, one of my favourite archival pieces of footage; the straight announcer kill me - "That's peanut butter!"

The Stooges - TV Eye/1970

Alice Cooper - I'm Eighteen

Motorhead - Iron Fist

Early Maiden always had some punk energy to me, with Paul Dianno's tough vocals and the speedy musicianship. My fave is Women in Uniform.

Def Leppard - look at those costumes! Amazing!
Rock Brigade

Hello America

Mudhoney - Touch Me I'm Sick

Mudhoney - Here comes Sickness

These last few don't figure into Waksman's book, but D.O.A. will always represent punk to me, and Bad Brains really melded metal and punk as well as reggae into an amazing stew. Suicidal Tendencies made some pretty metallic punk records, but went off on the wrong track after that.

DOA - World War 3

Bad Brains - Soul Craft

Suicidal Tendencies - Possesed to Skate

Suicidal Tendencies - Institutionalized

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Thermals Do Canada

It's not patriotic Olympic jingoism, the The Thermals are from Portland. The band just really digs the land to the North. As the band's label, Kill Rock Stars, eloquently explains, "CANADA! Where everyone is funny, friendly and ready to have a beer or seven with you. CANADA!" Now available on iTunes.

The Thermals - Canada by killrockstars

In case you've forgotten, here's some older stuff you should love too. Hooky, rockin', melodic-as-hell, very nutritious, and warm to boot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shout Out Louds Fall Hard

Haven't had the time to blog lately, but all of you lazy buggers haven't been giving me many tips lately, either. But I was sent the following video, and I'm liking it. I didn't know Shout Out Louds until now, but the band seems to be based in Stockholm, and their third album Work will be out on Feb. 23 in North America. The Fall Hard ep is available now from merge records. If you like Red Riders, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Lloyd Cole and Prefab Sprout, you may fall hard for this band like I did. The single for the first video below is out on iTunes now. You can download the song Walls for free by going here, and when you do, give a listen to Very Loud as well, you won't be disappointed.

Shout Out Louds - Fall Hard from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Shout Out Louds - Walls from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Shout Out Louds should not be confused with Edmonton's Shout Out Out Out Out, who sound kinda like the video below.