Posts Tagged ‘Metal’

Every Time I See “Heavy Plant Crossing” I Think of Ents

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

So I saw that trailer for the new Narnia film. It looks okay, pretty much like any one of the other 5,700,391 fantasy epics that have been made since Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings movies were such a massive success. But something occurred to me between all those shots of griffins and pounding war drums. Why the fuck hasn’t anyone made a fantasy movie with Led Zeppelin on the soundtrack? That trailer would have been immeasurably superior if it had an ear shatteringly loud version of Kashmir instead of the cod John Williams shenanigans that these things invariably rattle to the sound of.

My theory is everyone likes rock, even if they say they don’t, and by extension everyone likes Led Zep. Pretty much every band ever (with the possible exception of Belle and Sebastian) has done a version of Kashmir. It’s so monolithically awesome that not even Puff Daddy/P. Diddy could fuck it up. Rage Against The Machine’s Wake Up (the defacto Nu Metal Kashmir) even made The Matrix seem good. Come on, this stuff’s not rocket science!

Of course Peter Jackson missed a trick with those Hobbit movies. He could’ve gone with the triple whammy of Battle of Evermore, Misty Mountain Hop and Ramble On. He could have even cheated a bit and used The Immigrant Song (for scenes of extreme goblin violence) and No Quarter (for creepy ghost shit ie. the bit with The Dead Men of Dunharrow). Apparently Jackson is making an adaptation of The Hobbit (along with The Hobbit 2: Tokyo Drift or something), so hopefully this situation can be rectified.

Anyway, screw Prince Caspian. The only thing I remember in that book was a good bit with a werewolf. I want to see The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. Suggested soundtrack A Salty Dog by Procol Harum.

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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?

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I don’t know what “Diamond Head” is, but it looks cool!

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

A constant bugbear of mine is the ironic rock T shirt, a phenomenon that refuses to die, like a particularly fetid revenant. In relation to this, here we have a story ripped from the headlines (of August 2007). Namely, David Beckhams wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt.

So, David Beckhams has chosen Killers. Possibly he appreciates the chaotic clatter of Another Life, or the atypical (semi-) acoustic (semi-) ballad Prodigal Son. Or maybe it’s the classic stomper Wrathchild that gets a regular airing in the Beckhams household. Maybe he enjoys the gritty rasping vocals of Paul Di’Anno (soon to be replaced by the human foghorn, Bruce Dickinson). I’m sure “Becks” has strong feelings about the “punk” sound of the early albums, quickly abandoned in favour of the more operatic, vaguely prog metal style that they developed with Lord Iffy Boatrace. One wonders what Beckhams’ thoughts are on ’ver Maiden’s decision to replace long serving cover artist Derek Riggs, for a series of inferior covers on the later albums (like Dance of Death – urgh! – Poser!). He obviously prefers the work of Riggs, why else would he choose the earlier album cover?

On the other hand that T-shirt was probably just chosen for him at random by some coke addled stylist.

Wannabe hipsters regularly write in to Hate magazine asking where they might find such t-shirts. They should go to Leeds’ Rock of Ages, cos there’s fucking millions of them!

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Uncool Britannia

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I have recently been playing Guitar Hero a lot. No, stick with me, I’m going somewhere with this. The game, if you are unaware, involves tapping buttons on a toy guitar, in time with renditions of popular rock tracks. That makes it sound boring, pointless and, frankly, ludicrous, but it’s actually great fun and after a while you really feel like you are, uh, rocking out, no matter how stupid you look.

Listen to that video crowd!

The fact that the Guitar Hero franchise is on it’s fourth release is proof of it’s success. Everybody loves it, even musicians (the original game featured mostly copycat cover versions of its songs, the recent iterations feature mostly original recordings). However, I suspect that if the same game had been released fifteen years ago (not impossible, as it is based on an extremely simple gameplay system) it would not have been half as successful, at least not in this country. This is because, at that time, Britain was in the vice like grip of a cancer, a vile, fetid abomination known as Britpop. And it was not OK to rock under Britpop.

I’m being overly dramatic of course (it’s fun, you should try it). Obviously there is good music as well as bad in every era, and genre. But Britpop brought with it, or at least walked hand in hand with a deeply unpleasant attitude. The movement grew out of indie (as useless a description of a musical genre as “prog”, but you all know what I mean), which was characterised by introspection, a modicum of pretentiousness, and generally low expectations, particularly with regards to commercial success. But indie bands started to sell records in great numbers and became the musical mainstream, and there was an attendant arrogance, and this coincided with the rise of “lad culture”, typified by Chris Evans’ TFI Friday and Loaded magazine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but the problem with ironic sexism, ironic racism, and ironic loutishness is that they are virtually indistinguishable from actual sexism, actual racism and actual loutishness.

The beginnings of the movement were clearly an attempt to reject the overwhelming cultural stranglehold that “Grunge” had in the early nineties. Hosting a one off TV special featuring British bands at the time, Blur’s Damon Albarn bemoaned the band’s lack of success in their earlier years: “Unless you were Nirvana, or a diet Nirvana, you were nothing”. Presumably, now it was de rigeur to be a bargain Beatles, a cut-price Kinks or a second rate Small Faces. 

I remember a particularly stupid NME review of sarcastic US rockers Ugly Kid Joe’s album Motel California (what wags eh?) in which the writer pronounced that it was useless because “we don’t even have motels in Britain”. Of course, it is only natural that after the hegemony of American music was over, British musicians, writers and commentators would be slightly full of themselves but it annoyed me no end (at the time I remember being late for a night out because I was at home watching Alice in Chains Unplugged on MTV. My indie kid pals were not amused).

The Bluetones: they look like any old mimsy shimsy indie wasters, but they wrote some brilliant tunes

The era’s most memorable, and idiotic moment, was the (largely media created) competition between Oasis’ Roll With It and Blur’s Country House. It didn’t really help that these were both fairly awful, self parodic records (although, it could’ve been worse, it could’ve been Stereotypes), and the “conflict” escalated from being merely about record sales and (supposedly) divided the nation into North versus South, Working Class versus Middle Class, Stupid versus Clever. Blur won the battle, but Oasis won the war by selling more albums. Blur had the last laugh by retreating and changing their sound (ironically, to more resemble the American alt rock that they had earlier affected to despise), while Noel Gallagher bought himself a very big house in the country (true).

For an entertaining overview of the period, check out John Harris’ The Last Party: Britpop, Blair and the Demise of English Rock. Although I can summarise it here: Suede and Blur hated eachother, Elastica took loads of heroin, and Pulp wrote all the best songs. Less comprehensive, but just as enjoyable is Alex James’ autobiography Bit of a Blur, which is full of floppy fringed charm (sample line: “Famous people are just the same as normal people, except a bit more famous”) -and he even remembers to mention Me Me Me.

However, Britpop eventually faded away (I blame Northern Uproar and Cast), and we were faced with the atrocities of Nu Metal. Now, Limp Bizkit are all very well if you’re drunk and Rollin’ is playing at ribcage shattering volume in your local dirty rock club, but it’s hardly music for the ages is it? I think the idea was to ransack the work of Rage Against the Machine and that Judgement Night album, which is as good a goal as any I suppose, but the trouble is you got stuff like Crazy Town (Chili Peppers aping oafs), Linkin Park (anime obsessed whiny rap metallers with “I hate you mum & dad” songs) and Papa Roach (someone shouting over the top of old Iron Maiden riffs).

Fuckin' kick it with a tasty groove!

However, at this point every successful band was keen to point out how brilliant and what a big influence Black Sabbath were. Sabbath were The Beatles of the late nineties. Weirdly enough, up until that point, throughout a thirty odd year career, Sabbath had always been severely underrated. To all intents and purposes, they invented metal, and I suppose critics never forgave them. Now they were being praised left right and centre, and covered by everyone from Elbow to Mercury Rev, and sort of went from being underrated to overrated. And rock gradually became acceptable for mainstream audiences once again. I think The Darkness and Tenacious D are also partly responsible – although ostensibly parodic, both were deeply rooted in a love of classic rock. We even now have bands like The Answer and Wolfmother who appear to be completely without irony. Of course, for a lot of people this meant just wearing ironic rock t-shirts, but rock, proper rock, seemed to be a lot more popular. And continues to be, if all the hoo ha about Zeppelin’s recent reunion is anything to go by.

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FNM = FTW!

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).

FNM

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.


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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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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_against_the_machine_rage_again

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!

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