Posts Tagged ‘creepy creaky acid folk’

The Hazards of Love

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Revenge

It’s not very often I hear any new music that really excites me, partly because I don’t go out of my way to find it, and partly because there’s just too much of it. But I was recently introduced to The DecemberistsThe Hazards of Love album, and it completely knocked my socks off. I’ve long been a fan of creepy, creaky acid folk (since I heard the Lammas Night Laments CD series), and was certainly not expecting to hear anything new in that admittedly narrow genre. Well, not since The Eighteenth Day of May knocked it on the head, anyway.

The Hazards of Love has been compared to the music of hoary old long in the tooth prog folk rockers Jethro Tull, and I can hear that, but only in a couple of lurching moments of guitar and organ interplay. The thing is, a folk rock concept album (!) about a fair maiden, her shapeshifting lover (!!), infanticide(!!!) and a fairy queen (!!!!) is exactly the sort of thing people think the Tull got up to. However, they never did, and even in their explicit folk rock period of the late 70s, their songs were shot through with a sardonic air that never really took traditional music at face value.

Having said that, The Decemberists’ album is a fantastic piece of work, variously subtle, thrilling, and melancholic. Taking a look at their website I noticed that they have a “Fan Art” section, (which is a rather charming idea – I bet Buckcherry haven’t got one. Come to think of it, that’s probably a good thing). So I was sufficiently inspired to illustrate (this may be considered a spoiler) the spookiest bit of the record.  A fanboy I may be, but if there’s an opportunity to draw some dead children, I say go for it.

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Young Man Blues

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I have come to the realisation that all of my favourite music is immature. Prog, metal, glam and folk all have an inexorable appeal to dopey fourteen year old boys.

Prog is all explosive time signature changes and wonky surrealism, songs about cyborg armadillos and severed heads on croquet lawns. Metal is men with long hair and spiky guitars shrieking angrily about the devil, war, and psychopaths (or preferably all three). Glam rock falls broadly into blokes in make up being all weird and arty, blokes in makeup being intentionally daft (both of which are British bands in the 70s), and blokes in makeup singing about shagging strippers while riding Harleys up Sunset Boulevard (American bands in the 80s). Folk music aficionados will object that it’s a genre characterised by a will to continue an important cultural tradition, and its lack of pretension and image, therefore being sufficiently “grown up”, but  I only listen to folk music because 85% of it is songs about witches.

Even indieish types, hailed as brilliant songwriters, like Jarvis Cocker and Ben Folds have written a lot of songs about not growing up and feeling awkward in the face of responsibility.

We live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable for a grown man to buy himself toys (uh… collectables) and video games (er… they’re a rapidly developing media), and that’s fine by me (although I don’t really think my Dad would understand or approve), and gigs and music festivals the world over are crammed with people in their 30s and 40s who are desperate to prove they are still “down” with Little Boots and Black Kids (delete/replace with more current talking point as applicable).*

So what is “mature” music? Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan? I could never get into either of them. I actually think the most mature music I listen to is Marillion. Now say that name to most people and they’ll just look at you blankly or assume you are trying to say “Marilyn Manson” with a cleft palate). But those that remember them will no doubt sneer, scoff and guffaw, pointing out that they are the most emotionally retarded of bands, with their album covers featuring sad jesters, clunkier version of the standard prog rock widdly widdly instrumental style,  ridiculously verbose lyrics and murky concepts (1982’s Grendel was an 18 minute epic that would at least have found favour with Otto the bus driver, as it was from the monster’s point of view).

However, there’s the rub. Most people haven’t heard (or heard of) the If My Heart Were A Ball It Would Roll Uphill hitmakers since the 80s. Their more recent stuff rejects the histrionic and is sombre, melodic and heart on sleeve emotional. To me it sounds, I dunno, mature.

* I originally wrote Bat For Lashes, but I have checked wikipedia and deemed her not contemporary enough. Not only was she born in the 70s, but her first record was released in 2006! I might as well namecheck Status Quo!

Bat For Lashes and Black Kids
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Pump It

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

It’s Halloween once again – so here’s yet another picture of a creepy pumpkin. Enjoy!

If you are having some kind of party this weekend, or simply sitting alone carving the words “I will kill again” into the walls, maybe you need some suggestions as to what to listen to. Let’s be honest, Monster Mash is rubbish, so here are a few better spooky tunes

10. Alice Cooper – Feed My Frankenstein. Alice has, of course, made a career out of mixing theatrical horror and rock (“STEVEN!”), but I’m going for this one if only for the lyric “I ain’t evil, I’m just good lookin'”. Features Dream Theater’s Derek Sherinian on keyboards, fact fans!

9. Steve Harley – Mr Soft. Specifically the advert which this track was used on during the 80s, which my wife finds terrifying.

8. Alice In Chains – Frogs. Although grunge bands of the early 90s eschewed many of the tropes of metal, they all seemed to be duty bound to have at least one song about a serial killer. Alice In Chains were always totally metal anyway. I don’t know what this song is about, but it’s creepy as hell, especially on the Unplugged album.

7. HP Lovecraft – The White Ship. Based on the story by HP Lovecraft, but not the same HP Lovecraft. Sure they ripped off the folk-psych bolero of Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, but they did it so well, who’s to argue?

6. Faith No More – Zombie Eaters. This is probably the only song that’s (possibly) inspired by The Small Assassin by Ray Bradbury

5. David Bowie – Please Mr Gravedigger. Like Alice, Bowie has many spooky songs in his canon… Ashes To Ashes, Scary Monsters, Diamond Dogs, that one about the telly that eats his girlfriend… but here’s one of his earlier pieces, which doesn’t feature any music, but has a shit ton of sound effects, and a convincing theatrical sneeze from the future Thin White Duke

4. Tool – No Quarter. Everything Tool does is awesome and creepy. Everything Led Zeppelin ever did was awesome (except All My Love). Tool + Zeppelin = maximum awesomeitude. I will now stop talking like a fourteen year old YouTube Comment writer.

3. Fairport Convention – Tam Lin. There’s witches, ghosts and murder aplenty in traditional folk music, and this is the tale of some fairies getting up to some shit. I’ve never quite understood it, but it’s dramatic and creepy, and it takes place at Halloween. Everyone and his dog have done this song, but extra points if you go for the super obscure Pentangle version!

2. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath from the album Black Sabbath. METAL! Yes, yes there are plenty of horror themed metal songs. Iron Maiden did Killers, Rush did The Necromancer, and Slayer did their own unique take on The Weather Girls’ classic with It’s Rainin’ Blood. But this is the Ur Text of metal, replete with the sound of pouring rain, doomy bells and Ozzy being menaced by a figure in black (Tony Iommi?).

1. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – Creeple People. The ex Jellyfish and Imperial Drag guy does the best song never to be in an episode of Scooby Doo. But should’ve been. According to Last.FM, this is my most listened to song ever, or something

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Music To Watch Gnolls By

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

I ran a Dungeons & Dragons game a while back, after a short role playing hiatus of about twenty five years. It was ok, but I think I may have gone for the wrong tone. At the time I had a real bee in my bonnet about Wolf People‘s amazingly grungy acid folk prog rock and I wanted to get some of that feel – a kind of bleak, Dark Ages Englishness. I probably should have aimed more for that light hearted, colourful D&D world that I used to see in the pages of White Dwarf magazine in the 80s. Turns out there’s a ton of music that fits perfectly. Now, I love creaky, maudlin acoustic ballads about floods, witch hunts and incest, but the brash, unsubtle American version of Fantasyland is seemingly better served by hard rock bands that occasionally dabbled in prog.

 

Here’s a list of Dungeons & Dragons rock – note that On A Storyteller’s Night by Magnum is not included. No matter how much they got Rodney Matthews to do their album covers, I’m still not going to listen to them. Harsh but fair. Now let’s rock (troll)!

 

  • Wishbone Ash, A King Will Come  – or indeed pretty much anything on The Ash’s Argus album. The fact that the cover features some sort of mystical warrior is your first clue
  • It Bites, Calling All The Heroes – 80s prog! I’m fairly sure this was in the charts while I was fully entrenched in playing Lords Of Midnight on the Spectrum – which is why, in my mind it goes “Corleth All The Heroes”
  • Dream Theater, The Killing Hand – it’s basically One For The Vine but with loads of screaming and pinched harmonics
  • Iron Maiden, Moonchild – Surprisingly, England’s greatest metal based export never  really explored straight fantasy themes in their songs. Their stuff seems like it should all be about paladins fighting wights, but they’re mostly based (loosely, it has to be said) on historical or literary sources. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son was their concept album, and while it’s a bit vague as to its setting,  it has prophets and magic and shit, so I think it counts.
  • Rainbow, Stargazer – Ronnie James Dio regularly fought dragons on stage, so it should come as no surprise that most of his songs were a bit sword and sorceryey. Stargazer is the tale of a wizard who commands a legion of slaves to build a tower from which he can fly to the stars. If he could fly, you’d think he wouldn’t need to waste time with a tower – he could just take off from the ground. As it turns out he can’t fly at all, he just drops to his death. Pretty dopey, but utterly metal.
  • Heart, Dream Of The Archer – saying Heart were influenced by Led Zeppelin is a bit like saying that Star Wars is a western in space. They loved that semi acoustic semi mystical shit. I can’t be certain, but I have an inkling this song is about Hank The Ranger
  • Rush, The Necromancer – Many of Rush’s song titles sound like they could actually be Dungeons & Dragons modules - The Fountain Of Lamneth, By-Tor & The Snow Dog, A Farewell To Kings and so forth. The Necromancer sounds like the actual text of one – “Stealthily attacking/ By-Tor slays his foe/ The men are free to run now/ From labyrinths below” – gain 300 XP
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