Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Over the Hill (Halfway): My Life in Records According to 1996 (Part 1)

I haven't written one of these "fond remembrance" type entries lately, having skipped all of 1995.  But, after going through the albums I'd acquired in 1996, my sophomore year in art school, I thought a couple releases would be worth addressing.  Others not so much, but I'll address them anyway.

NOFXHeavy Petting Zoo
I first saw NOFX at the Trocadero the year Heavy Petting Zoo was released, the farm-animal-as-fuck-puppet theme of the album further explored via blow-up sheep, ("There's even a hole for your cock!", as I remember singer/bassist Fat Mike excitedly putting it), being volleyed and bounced throughout the audience.  And of course there was the raunchy banner of the greasy-haired 1950s looking dude on the cover in a 69 with a sheep acting as a backdrop for the band's performance.  At the time, sure it was funny.  Now?  Eh, whatever.

I can't deny that NOFX was actually a solid live band and that those shows were a lot of fun.  But, the novelty has certainly worn off.

Heavy Petting Zoo had NOFX's celebratory ode to the passing of Jerry Garcia, "August 8th," which, being a self-proclaimed, hippie-dismissive punk rawker, (even if I didn't realize I was of the mall variety at the time), was something I could get behind.  I remain largely anti-Grateful Dead, though NOFX has nothing to do with that.  Deadheads made it clear the band wasn't for me.  

And there was also "What's the Matter with Kids Today?," which took the very adult, generationally constant, fear-baiting sentiment and turned it around so as to address the good deeds children were doing as problematic, (i.e., "There's something wrong with the kids in my neighborhood/They always listen to your mom/They disregard civil disobedience/They'd rather do what they're told...").  Very clever.

Like I've said before, most Epitaph bands haven't aged well for me.  Pretty sure I traded this one for store credit.  

The Fugees – The Score
My horizons widened considerably once I didn't have to prove how hardcore I was to my peers in high school and I allowed myself the liberty of meeting new people in my college surroundings.  As a result, I began to appreciate hip-hop a lot more.  I think '96 was the year I really got into Wu-Tang, cutting myself off from a lot of what was also going on at the time.   

When The Fugees released The Score, much of its strength had been built upon the group's cover of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," (Lauryn Hill's beautiful rendering somewhat dated now), which I'd heard through secondhand testimony was the weakest track on the album.  That didn't turn out to be completely true, Wyclef Jean's "No Woman, No Cry" cover wound up one of the more laughable inclusions on the album, (though, perfect for the Sublime era).

I was, though, a fan of The Score.  "How Many Mics" caught me completely off guard the first time I'd heard it, that effective bass rhythm thumping beneath synthesized notes, verses spilling from the mouths of Hill, Wyclef, and Pras with a syllabic flow like I'd never heard at the time.  I loved the layered vocal melody that gave "Ready Or Not" that haunting presence and the melodic flute sampled for "Fu-Gee-La" is such a lush device.  And "Zealots," Flamingos sample and all, was a perfect head-knocking track that I still find captivating.

It's a pity that, with exception of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, nothing this crew did afterwards came close to being as noteworthy.


Man, I really played this one out.

When Sepultura's Roots was released, I immediately purchased a copy, still all in with the group's direction on Chaos A.D. and expecting the same level of percussive and rhythmic exploration.  Roots wound up providing (for better or for worse but mostly worse) vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera with somewhat of a blueprint for his follow-up group, Soulfly, this being his last outing as Sepultura’s frontman.

I don’t remember the term “nü metal” ever being spoken at this point in time, but it was apparent that Korn’s influence dominated a significant portion of the material herein, down to Sepultura’s choice of producer being Ross Robinson, the man who not only produced Korn’s first two albums, but was also at the knobs for Vanilla Ice’s attempted resurgence as a rap-metal guy.  Also, Korn’s vocalist Jonathan Davis (“Lookaway”) and drummer David Silveria (“Ratamahatta”) both had guest spots, as did House Of Pain’s DJ Lethal pre-Limp Biskit.  The family tree at play is absurd.  And Mike Patton also guests, which he may want to forget since he’s largely unhappy to be associated with the development of this subgenre.     

But as stigmatizing as that association can be following the era from whence all that awful, horrible shit came, Roots was a powerful album.  Yes, there's muddy low end and amplified groove, two factors that had more or less been wrung of any worth by the time Y2K rolled around, but Sepultura’s deep engagement with their “roots” (for lack of a better, more appropriate term) resulted in some fascinating percussive textures (“Ratamahatta”), moments that were genuinely moving (“Jasco”) and spirited (“Itsári”), and purely relentless (“Attitude,” “Cut-Throat”).

I remember really being into “Straighthate.” 

Bad Religion
The Gray Race

"A Walk" was the bullet for this one.

Big points worth noting for Bad Religion's The Gray Race was that longtime guitarist/songwriter Brett Gurewitz left the band and that Minor Threat's Brian Baker picked up the slack.  This is another product of the Epitaph contingent whose albums I no longer have the patience or desire to revisit, which is kind of sad since it's actually not a bad album.  "Parallel," in particular, was for me one of the album's best inclusions, the air of desperation conveyed through hyper-speed and melody quite a draw. I threw that track onto more than a few mixtapes. 

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Singles: Kaada/Patton, Dälek, So Pitted, Gorod, Kyson, Hooded Fang

Kaada/Patton: "Immodium" (via Rarely Unable/YouTube)

Dälek: "Guaranteed Struggle" (via Rarely Unable/Vimeo)

Dälek - Guaranteed Struggle (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from deadverse recordings on Vimeo.

So Pitted: "feed me" (via Sub Pop/Live Nation TV/YouTube)

Gorod: "Inner Alchemy" (via Earsplit PR/MetalSucks/YouTube)

Kyson: "You" (via Friends of Friends/YouTube)

Hooded Fang: "A Final Hello" (via Force Field PR/Under The Radar/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

George Martin (1926-2016)

Today, the world lost the essential component to the most essential rock group:

Photo from The Beatles Rarity.
Sir George Martin has passed away at the age of 90.  He was the visionary producer who'd signed The Beatles to Parlophone Records, and acted as the band's chief collaborator, arranger, and producer.  His remarkable ear and brilliance as a composer enabled him to act as The Beatles' guide through their well-documented evolution as artists and songwriters, the vast knowledge and understanding of the studio he possessed critical to the development of what are some of the greatest albums ever recorded.  To him, we owe many, many thanks.

Here's a clip of Sir Martin talking about the making of "Strawberry Fields Forever:"

As fascinating as he is when describing his process and how he and The Beatles were able to achieve what were, for their time, very innovative feats in sound through experimentation and educated trickery, the work itself remains breathtaking.  In the documentary film, All Together Now, which documents the genesis of Cirque Du Soleil's Beatles-themed show, LOVE, Sir Martin and his son, Giles, reworked the Beatles' catalogue into a mashup LP of the same name.  There's a moment in particular that I love in the film when Sir Martin is leading an orchestra over a demo version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."  Once the music ends, he takes a moment, considers what he'd just heard, and quietly expresses his delight. 

R.I.P., Sir George Martin. 

Letters From A Tapehead

No Ripcord: So Pitted

So Pitted
Sub Pop
Released: 2.19.16

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

What I Heard This Morning: SUZISUZI

Suzisuzi is a wildly aggro Japanese metal act comprised of ex-members of the bands Yellow Machinegun and Abnormals.  Apparently 7 years in the making, Suzisuzi is releasing its debut LP this week, Scream Addict.  I would rate the band's title track, which you can sample below, alongside Naked City and Boredoms in terms of its sideways, jazz-infused concept and Cripple Bastards for presentation, i.e. its calculated, relentless and thoroughly battering incursions of scream and beat.

Scream Addict will be out on CD and digitally March 11th via Pure Evil.  The single, information on the release, and links were supplied by the always excellent people at Us/Them Group. 

Japanese punk-metal band Suzisuzi premiere first track from forthcoming debut
Dual female vocalists, ex-members of Yellow Machinegun, Abnormals

Japanese punk-metal quartet SUZISUZI (featuring ex-Yellow Machinegun and Abnormals members) premiere the title track from their forthcoming debut album Scream Addict (Pure Evil label) today via Echoes & Dust. The song "Scream Addict" features, not surprisingly, dual screaming vocalists over fast & fun metallic punk: hear and share HERE. (Direct Soundcloud).

SUZISUZI ("suzi" in Japanese means "vein") formed after 2 bands -- Yellow Machinegun and Abnormals -- met 15 years ago and became good friends. Yellow Machinegun was an all-girl band that debuted in 1996 in Osaka, Japan. They made a huge impact with their screaming vocal styles, not only in Japan but also among the international hardcore/metal scene, leading to tours with Slayer, Motorhead and S.O.D. (with whom they also released a split album.)

Abnormals are from Tokyo, Japan and have been attracting punk fans with their dark view of the world since the late 1980s.

Through a chance encounter, the two bands collaborated together to release a split album in 2000, followed by a tour throughout Japan. Since then, the members of Yellow Machinegun and Abnormals have become good friends, and eventually created SUZISUZI.

Abnormals guitarist IxSxO and drummer Murochin asked Yellow Machinegun bassist/vocalist Kaori to start the band together when her band announced a short break. IxSxO was keen to use a girl's name for their band, and Kaori liked the sound of "Susie". Murochin suggested the word "SUZI" (meaning "vein" in Japanese) after the veins that appears on their necks when the band members scream. Thus, SUZISUZI was born.

In 2011, SUZISUZI did their first gig in Tokyo and decided to add another female vocal. Kaori called and asked K♠ of the Pure Evil record label to join. She is an old friend of Kaori's who has helped her out with lyrics over the years. The full 4-piece band's debut was in Tokyo in May 2015 and shocked fans... in good way.

After 7 years of playing together, SUZISUZI finally releases their debut album this year. Scream Addict will be available on CD and download on March 11th, 2016.

On The Web:

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, March 07, 2016

Singles: Mayflower Madame, Tacocat, Lake Ruth, Yardsss, Jerkagram, TOMBS, Rangda

Mayflower Madame: "Weightless" (via Big Mouth Publicity/YouTube)

Tacocat: "I Hate the Weekend" (via Hardly Art/YouTube)

Lake Ruth: "The Inconsolable Jean-Claude" (via Lake Ruth/The Great Pop Supplement/Soundcloud)

Yardsss: "Granfalloons II" (via Us-Them Group/SELF Group/Soundcloud)

Jerkagram: "Cloud Builder" (via Us-Them Group/Noisey/YouTube)

TOMBS: "V" (via Relapse Records/YouTube)

Rangda: "The Sin Eaters" (via Rarely Unable PR/Drag City/YouTube)

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

What I Heard This Morning: Dietrich & Barnes

I'm finally on board with something Neutral Milk Hotel related.

Dietrich & Barnes is the work of John Dieterich (Deerhoof) and Jeremy Barnes (the aforementioned Neutral Milk Hotel and A Hawk & a Hacksaw).  A new single from the duo's upcoming LP, The Coral Casino, was just issued today called "Out and About."

It's a jovial experiment, a combination of Samba-inspired rhythms met with a hyper melody and repetition akin to a group like Can.

Listen below:

The Coral Casino is scheduled to release via LM Duplication on May 6th.  The track and info were provided by Kinsman and Meng.

Letters From A Tapehead

Judy Garland: "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

April 16, 1961 - December 6, 2014 Sincerely, Letters From A Tapehead