Posts Tagged ‘90s coming back’

Gig Review: Extreme + Hot Leg, Leeds Academy 14 Nov 2008

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

As someone who loved The Darkness, I was made up at the chance to see Justin Hawkins’ new band Hot Leg. He has teamed up with a bloke from a band called Anchorhead (who play what they describe as “Darth Metal“, which it would appear is what I’ve been waiting to hear my whole life), to continue the legacy of riffs, awesome guitar solos and high pitched vocals. Sentimentally, it made me happy to see Justin looking and sounding so good, not to mention having such a good time, seeing as he’d been a bit fucked up for a few years. I can’t wait to see them again once their album is out, as I had only heard two of their songs previously (including Trojan Guitar, the title of which should let you know the sort of thing you’re in for.)


We Are Hot Leg

We Are Hot Leg


There aren’t many bands that had the rug pulled out from beneath them as spectacularly as Extreme. After the massive one-two punch of the throbbing cock rock Get The Funk Out and the swoonsome romantic ballad More Than Words in 1990, the world was at their feet (although I always preferred the acoustic 12 string stompalong Hole Hearted). They then went ahead with their Big Statement, which, as they had clearly grown up not only in thrall to the tight trousered histrionics of Van Halen and Kiss, but also the meticulously constructed fantasies of the likes of Queen and Yes, resulted in a triple (!) concept album. However, it was now 1992 and the public no longer had time for either raucous metal anthems or twenty minute orchestrally augmented song suites. Grunge had arrived.

This led the band to follow up with a raw sounding album full of angry, bitter songs, such as No Respect, Cynical Fuck and Hip Today (“You’ll be gone tomorrow” etc etc). And then they split up.

But they’re back back back baby, with a new album (the implausibly named Saudades De Rock) and tour, and good grief they’re pretty much the same as when I saw them back in ’90. Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt are practically unchanged, Cherone resembling an Easter Island moai, and Bettencourt being possibly the most ridiculously beautiful man I’ve ever seen. Surely being that talented should be enough, and some universal justice would kick in and make him look like a guitar toting Joseph Merrick, but no. How utterly unfair.

I had initially been taken aback that the tickets were a credit crunch baiting thirty quid, a bit cheeky for a band that have been absent for so many years, but my god, they gave it their all, and it was worth every penny. I think the rest of the audience were in agreement with me (for once), considering how mental they were going. Usually these nostalgic shows tend to be a little subdued, but the band and the audience acted as if the early 90s had never ended. The new songs were pretty good too,?my only grumble being that they didn’t play the hilarious King of the Ladies. I even sang along with More Than Words. Well, you have to, don’t you?


Nuno. And some other blokes

Nuno. And some other blokes


Now, when are Living Colour coming back?



Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Faith No More are Back Back Back and frankly it’s like they’ve never been gone. Performing at The Download Festival over the weekend, on a stage set that made them look like the house band in The Black Lodge from Twin Peaks, they delivered a storming run through their back catalogue, allaying all fears that their comeback would be nothing more than a cash fuelled disappointment (particularly when you consider how tired and bored they sounded on their last tour, in 1998).


Never a massive commercial success  – Amazingly they are considered to be a 1 hit wonder in the US. Like Sparks, with whom they briefly collaborated, they were much more appreciated in Europe than in their home country, undoubtedly for their similarly wonky sense of humour. Nevertheless they managed to influence a handful of great bands, like Incubus and System of a Down, along with a great many more crappy ones (throw a rock into the air during the late 90s Nu Metal era and you’d hit some half assed rap rocker). When they broke through in 1989 with The Real Thing (and specifically the single Epic) they were described as “Funk Metal” and lumped in with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but this was never really an adequate description. By the time they released their next album in 1992 , the world was well and truly ruled by grunge, and long haired scruffy bastards were the order of the day, but Angel Dust was not only unlike anything else in the charts, but also such a weird amalgam of musical styles that it was difficult to ascertain any primary influence on the band.

Even now their songs have a baffling quality to them, which I always equated to Progressive Rock, but they always combined a sense of humour – not to mention real melodies – with their experimental impulses. Their best stuff has a wide eyed drama to it. Ashes To Ashes and Just a Man are the sort of songs that you can imagine The Silver Surfer listening to as he rides the cosmic winds, while Land of Sunshine and A Small Victory sound even weirder 17 years on. Now that I have heard more music I realise how bizarre they really were.

So are they still relevant? I’m not even sure what that means but as they were always so individual they never fit into any particular scene or genre so they don’t sound dated. And We Care A Lot specifically parodies plenty of late 80s trash culture – so with Michael Bay’s pretentiously named Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots fest in cinemas, even “ver kids” will get the reference to Transformers, although the shout out to The Garbage Pail Kids may prove a little more obtuse.


Everything’s Jackanory

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

In the recently completed tale It’s About Time Lee outlines the hypothesis that all Britpop was shit. He’s wrong of course, but what can you expect from someone whose brain has been addled by the three pronged attack of metal, alcohol and pornography? You’d have to be pretty cloth eared to not acknowledge that the likes of Supergrass and The Bluetones released some terrific records at the time. To this end I have created another Spotify playlist: Mid 90s Non Stop Indie Disco a Go Go.

While I often claim that I fought in The Indie Wars, I wasn’t a wholehearted enthusiast, so my knowledge of the scene/era/genre doesn’t go particularly deep. In fact this playlist has the whiff of a bog standard compilation of obvious choice “Best Indie Anthems in The World Ever”, possibly advertised on telly by Egg off of This Life.

It’s with some mixed feelings that I added a track by Menswear. Not quite the nadir of the genre (that “honour” could go to anyone from Cast to Northern Uproar) but they weren’t far off. I remember this song being pretty good. It really isn’t, but has been added to give a sense of perspective. Most of these songs are pretty good. And I still like Kula Shaker.


The Ascent of Fan

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

So I finally saw Fanboys thanks to a competition that ran on The ForceCast. I think I read about this movie back in the 90s on Ain’t It Cool News, and it has taken this long to (barely) get a release, a wait of almost Chinese Democracyesque proportions. There’s still no sign of it getting an official release in the UK but those of us who remember the early days of DVD and hung onto our multi region players have at least got the option to get hold of the US DVD.

While it’s a relief to finally get to see the movie that people have been talking about for so long, it only appeared in a handful of American cinemas, and the DVD release has been pretty low key. Coupled with a rather negative critical response, it seems that relatively few people will see it , and that’s a shame as, while it’s far from perfect, it has a massive untapped potential audience that is bound to take it to their hearts.


The film is a story of a group of friends in 1998 who decide to travel across country to break into Skywalker Ranch, so that they can get to see the unreleased Star Wars Episode I before one of them pegs it. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in the fact that this idea occurred to me many times in the run up to the release of what was surely the most anticipated movie of all time.

At this point, of course, a million AICN Talkbackers will routinely pipe up that when those guys eventually see it they’ll wish they hadn’t bothered. But Fanboys is about the journey, and the characters’ relationships more than the eventual outcome. Along the way there are a few slightly undercooked comedic episodes, some evidence of the studio’s interference, and some fairly unnecessary stunt casting, but the thing that carries the movie along is the terrific chemistry between the central cast. Adding to this is the attention to detail, making it feel like these guys are real friends and real fans. Weirdly, it feels like it actually was made in the late 90s (a side effect of its low budget), and it’s interesting to compare it to 1998’s Free Enterprise, a story about Star Trek fans told with more sophistication, but less charm.

Definitely recommended viewing for fans of Star Wars. And Rush.


Sleep Now In The Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The Christmas #1 Single is dead. I know I go on about this every year, but The Darkness’, Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) was a great tune (wretched title pun aside) that’s not only about Christmas (unlike 85% of the songs on Xmas compilation albums) but also has a direct lineage to the fun spirit of Merry Xmas Everybody and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. But it couldn’t even make it to the top spot (pipped at the post by that gloomy version of Mad World from Donnie Darko). And if that couldn’t do it, nothing can.

In recent years, the charts at Christmas have been dominated by the just released X Factor winners’ single. Last year, if you recall, it was a horrendous cover version of Jeff Buckley’s cover version of John Cale’s cover version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  Add a key change and a choir, and suddenly the song is “Hallelujah, I’ve won a TV talent show” rather than whatever that lecherous old rake laughing Len was on about. Being tied to a kitchen chair is just something that you do at Christmas, then. Nothing weird about that.

A campaign on Facebook and Twitter to get Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name to number one ahead of it was announced recently, and although this was quite clearly a jokey dig at The X Factor in general and musical nazi Simon Cowell in particular, a lot of people didn’t see the funny side. In fact there was a massive amount of pomposity on both sides of the fence. It’s a 17 year old rock track! RATM’s records are distributed by Sony! It’s not Christmassy! The appropriate reponses to these comments are so? so? and so?

My immediate thought was as long as they rerecord it with sleighbells and a children’s choir, they’re a  shoo in, although it’s unlikely that Zack de la Rocha, the angriest man in rock would cooperate. Tom Morello might have though. I reckon he’s a laugh. His squeaky windscreen guitar solos prove he has an appreciation for the ridiculous.


Rage’s self titled debut album is apparently mostly about imprisoned activist Leonard Peltier. I always though it was about monster riffs and shouting. I suspect most of their fans throughout the years have shrugged at the “politics” and just got off on the fact that they rocked like a bastard. Rather than Killing In The Name, Know Your Enemy is actually the key track from that record. It has everything you remember about Rage: the off kilter stop-start intro, the killer riff, the rather clumsy lyric “forward into ’92,/still in a room without a view!”, the scrap of proper old school metal vocal from Maynard James Keenan of Tool, and that bit at the end where de la Rocha screams “ALL OF WHICH ARE AMERICAN DREAMS!!” over and over again.

Unfortunately the lasting legacy of RATM is that they inspired that most oafish of musical genres, Nu Metal. I bet that made de la Rocha even angrier.

The band split, and three quarters of them formed the okay-ish Audioslave with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. During this time Morello worked on the soundtrack to Dodgeball and appeared in Guitar Hero III. De la Rocha’s promised hip hop album never emerged, as he was obviously too angry to actually get it done. Eventually though, like every other band ever, Rage Against The Machine reformed for a comeback tour. Sell outs to the very machine they were raging against? Maybe. But if a bunch of Generation Xers want to go out and nostalgically punch the air to Renegades of Funk, why should anyone begrudge them that?

A campaign for Shelter, related the the RATM4Xmas Campaign has so far raised £30000, miraculous when you consider the self absorbtion of the average Twitter user, so without question the whole enterprise has at least done some good.

I finally decided to download Killing In The Name, as I realised that I’ve never legally owned it. I guess I owe those boys something. Maybe a Christmas number one would make Tom Morello smile (and make Zack de la Rocha furious), and that’s the least I can do for all the hours of fun I’ve had playing air guitar along to them in a thousand rock clubs. And if some kid hears it and realises there’s something beyond the impossibly narrow view of music that The X Factor presents, then so much for the better.

Merry Christmas I Won’t Do What You Tell Me!


Twenty Years Of Getting Used To It

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Twenty years ago, Marillion released a double concept album about child abuse, incest, mental illness and suicide. SUPER FUN GOOD TIMES! As someone who still refers to the 90s as “recently”, I am having difficulty accepting the fact that it was that long ago. Almost as much as my housemates at the time had difficulty with the fact that I listened to Brave at a ridiculously high volume, every single day.

The band had decided to ditch their unsuccessful attempt to produce a radio friendly record, and go the whole prog hog. Recorded at a chateau in France, for a whopping nine months, it’s considered by many fans to be their masterpiece. Whilst invoking such serious themes for the purposes of entertainment is a cheap trick, it’s a very nineties trope (in fact pretty much every comic that Vertigo produced at the time seemed to have at least one character that had been the victim of child abuse).

One of my favourite things about Brave is its alternate ending. On the main version of the album, (spoiler alert) the girl on the bridge is rescued at the last moment by some dude, or possibly another aspect of her personality (hedging your bets ambiguity is another good concept album trope), and the song The Great Escape flourishes into an almost Broadway style emotional crescendo, followed by the “new, brighter dawn” payoff of the epilogue Made Again.

If you bought the vinyl album, however, the final side of the album was double grooved, so half the time you got the standard happy ending, but the other half of the time, The Great Escape would not reach its climax, and the music would drop down into an altogether more hopeless, defeated tone, signifying that the girl does in fact throw herself off the bridge, and falls to her death.

That would have been the best idea ever, had people been buying vinyl in 1994. Of course, in 1994, no one was buying prog albums, so it hardly mattered. The music industry was riding the Britpop train, and EMI, fresh from the success of Blur in particular, dropped Marillion like a shitty stick. Blur’s Parklife, was a we’re cleverer than you romp through British musical heritage (they had a “punk” song called Bank Holiday, what wags, eh?), although they never touched on at the time desperately unfashionable 70s rock. Pink Floyd’s bleak interrogations of modern life were just as much a part of the pop continuum as poncing around pretending to be The Kinks, and I’m convinced Brave is the best album that The Floyd never recorded. Marillion were always slated by the press as Genesis copyists, although they never much sounded like the Supper’s Ready hitmakers, even when they were trying to (“Grendel!”). Steve Rothery’s guitar technique always lent  more towards David Gilmour, and here, along with the more subtle keyboard work and “atmospheres”, the band basically produced The Wall, with better tunes but without the misogyny.